I was wondering if anyone had tips on how to properly account for some of the situations listed below in your personal accounting / budgeting. I am asking because I find that they make it very hard to really know how much I’m spending in each category & at which time.
- I lend CHF X (or purchase something for someone else), and receive the money back 3 months later.
- I go on holidays with someone, and for convenience we take turns paying things. We write down each expense, but there’s only one big bank transfer at the end to settle the debt. The list of transactions in my bank account doesn’t reflect what I spent for myself at all.
- I have & use accounts in CHF, EUR and USD, and sometimes convert money from one to another other. But my tracking software only handles one currency…
- Some amount CHF X is automatically deducted from my salary every month to load a campus-specific payment method (mostly, but not only used for food at the campus cafeterias). Again, my account’s transaction list doesn’t reflect this spending.
Any tips would be appreciated if you encountered similar situations!
My 2 cents :
- Even if 1) is a cash outlay, it would not count as an expense from an accounting point of view (it is either an investment if you lend with interest, or no expense)
- For 2) there is a practical app called tricount that allows you to calculate simply who paid and who owes what, and as well how much every one spent in reality once everything is settled.
EDIT: In general your issue is that you base yourself on cash outlays to calculate expenses, which are not exactly the same thing. This is why in accounting, we have different reports: The “Income Statement” which presents income and real expenses, and the cash flow statement, which presents cash coming in and out of your wallet.
here is my way of dealing with such:
- in my accounting, i have a specific account for this, part of my assets, as long as i am sure i get paid back. otherwise i change it to expenses. I also use it for money i owe.
- as julianek points out, there are multiple free apps for it, totally convenient
- if your software doesnt handle it, it can’t. one (suboptimal) workaround is to make 3 separate projects, for each currency one. or look for a better software. i like gnucash, and i still want to look at beancount.
- In my software I book my brutto income and only then “pay” taxes, AHV, etc… in your case, i’d do the same with that campus funds.
quicken (popular personal accounting software) can manage all the currencies and categories you could ever need. Transferring from one account in currency x to another account in currency y is so easy. Software is not free but it is not necessary to upgrade each year is each new incremental feature does not make it worth it. Oh and although typically used in the US can be used anywhere. I manage accounts and investments from 4 countries in it.
Thanks for all your tips!
I think that the biggest improvement would come from adopting “proper” accounting as suggested by @Julianek:
So far I mostly used automatic tools that pull transaction lists from my bank accounts and semi-automatically categorizes expenses.
The second improvement would come from using a tool that supports multiple currencies (and maybe even my investment accounts). As a developer, Beancount looks particularly appealing
What tools are those?
I’m starting to use Beancount and it’s web interface, Fava, which is great. It let’s you solve all the problems you mentioned:
- Add a transaction for x CHF to the account
Liabilities:Person, for example. When you get paid back, you move x CHF from
Liabilities:Person back to your bank account.
- You pay for the hotel for two people: add a transaction from your bank account splitting the cost to two accounts:
- Beancount accounts can hold multiple currencies, or you can have different accounts per currency.
- For this you’ll have to import your campus transactions as well.
Beancount does have one serious side effect: it’s addictive. You’ll want to have all your entries balanced, which means you’ll end up importing more and more data, which ends up being a bit of work…
I have been using Linxo (a French Fintech startup), which was great when I had one account in one currency in one country. But now that I live and work in Switzerland, and have to manage different currencies and many accounts, it has reached its limits.
@Alex After seeing your post, I read around tutorials and documentation for Beancount + Fava, and it does look very promising. I’ll probably try it out, and open another topic for questions & tips.
Have you tried using Fava for budgeting?
No, I haven’t tried the budgeting feature yet.
where do you guys use fava/beancount? online?
As far as I know, there’s no “cloud” setup where you can directly use Fava+Beancount. You’d need to roll out your own hosting, which is probably not a bad idea for sensitive data like this.
This blog post details a free hosting solution using PythonAnywhere, but the sync aspect looks very convoluted.
This is maybe not exactly what you’re looking for, but I highly recommend Splitwise. They have a mobile app and a web app. It’s free and I use it to calculate daily expenses with my gf.