From the monthly archives:

February 2009

You may have noticed I have changed my theme yet again. I am trying to find something that is clean and works with what I am trying to accomplish. This theme seems to be where I want things and allows me to easily make the little changes I want. I apologize if something is broken or doesn’t seem right. Leave me a comment or drop me an email if you find something wrong.  I accidentally deleted a key file this week which resulted in some issues with viewing posts, luckily I am still working to establish a good sized reader base so not a lot of people should have been affected. Let me know what you think of the new theme and leave me a comment with suggestions on what you think could improve this site and make it more usuable for you.

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This is Part 3 of a 3 part series on GNUCash. In Part 1 we discussed installing GNUCash in Windows, setting up your initial accounts, and importing data from your bank. Part 2 covered setting up investment accounts and configuring the update services, Today we will discuss other tips, tricks, and hacks to get the most out of your GNUCash installation.

Scheduled Transaction Editor

Scheduling Transactions

Under the actions menu you can find the Scheduled Transaction Editor. This editor allows you to schedule future transactions to be entered into your registers at a later date. Each transaction has three option tabs, the first allows you to set how far ahead you want to be notified of the transaction, how far ahead you want it entered in the register, whether or not you want it entered automatically, and how long you want the transaction to continue to be repeated. The second tab allows you to set the frequency of occurrence, and the third is for the template transaction. Typically I use this to setup recurring bills and paychecks, I configure it to automatically enter it in my register five days ahead of the the actual date. This allows me to make sure it really gets paid and account for that bill early to ensure there is money to pay it.

Budgeting in GNUCash

GNUCash has a built in budgeting feature, you can create a new budget under the File->New->New Budget option.  This will allow you to enter budgeted amounts for each category of expenses on a month by month basis. You can then compare your budget to your actual spending by using the Budget Report under the Reports->Income&Expense->Budget Report option. Personally I don’t use this functionality because it just doesn’t work well for me, I like to see the variance’s in red and it doesn’t track my loan expenses the way I want. The best method I have found for budgeting in GNUCash is to create a custom CashFlow report which shows me all moneys in and all moneys out of my accounts for the month, I then plug those numbers into a spreadsheet which acts as my budget.

Mortgage and Loan Repayment Druid

GNUCash includes a mortgage and loan repayment druid. This druid, or wizard for windows folks, allows you to enter the parameters of your loan, i.e. term, amount, and interest rate, and automatically have GNUCash create the scheduled transactions to payoff your loan, including the interest calculations for each payment. I haven’t personally tried this but I am sure it could be useful.

Other Useful GNUCash Tools

GNUCash includes many other useful tools, including a financial calculator which will allow you to calculate your earnings to your hearts content. One major feature of GNUCash that I have not touched on is the abilitiy to manage business expenses and income using the business tools provided. You can manage invoices and customers, AR and AP, etc etc. This program is a great tool for the individual but can also be used to manage the accounting for a small business as well.

One of the best things about GNUCash is it is free, it is maintained, and you don’t have to RENEW or buy new software every few years. So if you are looking for robust method of mainting your personal or business accoutning, check it out and give a try.

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wealthybarberIn the realm of personal finance books it is hard to ignore “The Wealthy Barber” it is on every list of must read books for financial well-being out there. In fact this book is the all-time best selling book in Canada. “The Wealthy Barber” centers around Dave who has decided to get his financial affairs in order but isn’t sure how. In trying to find the answer to being financially savvy he receives an unlikely referral, he is told to talk to the local barber. The story progresses from there into monthly visits to the barber shop, with his sister Cathy and friend Tom, for a haircut and personal finance lessons from the barber, Roy Miller. Each chapter of the book represents a different month and a different visit to the barber where discussions occur on Paying yourself first, Life insurance and Wills, Planning for retirement, owning/buying a home, Saving, and Investing and Income Tax. It is not hard to understand why everyone seems to love this book.

  1. It is easy to read
  2. the concepts presented are simple, and
  3. it puts saving in a context everyone can relate to

This is a story, not just a how to guide on personal finance. It has three main characters Dave, a financially inept school teacher, Cathy, an independently wealthy entrepreneur, and Tom, a hard working auto plant employee. The barber, Roy, attempts to explain personal finance to the group while providing specific advice based on each of three’s individual situations. For instance he points out that while Tom can invest in a 401(k) provided by his employer, Dave will have to see if he has a 403(b) available since he is a teacher and Cathy will need to consider a Keogh or SEP plan since she is self employed. The book presents simple concepts such as “Pay yourself first” in a way that helps the reader understand how it is going to benefit them now and in the future. The author presents dry topics such as Life Insurance and wills in a way which makes the reader think, why haven’t I done this already it sounds so simple and easy.

Cons: The only true Con I found with this book was the lack of coverage of debt reduction. I would love to pay myself 10% first, but I have debt I need to pay down first and I think that paying down my unsecured debt is more important than that 10% going into an investment vehicle. I fully intend to implement the 10% plan, but not until I get my student loans, and car paid for.

About the Author: David Barr Chilton is an economics graduate who resides in Canada. He is currently involved in a new venture which is creating low-fat, complete meal kits. They are being sold at A&P banner supermarkets. Other Books: None, really no other ones. He was the publisher on the following LooneySpoons Crazy Plates


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Using a Programmable Thermostat to Save Money

February 25, 2009

Programmable thermostats can save you a pile of money throughout their lifetime, according to the energy star website you can save up to $180 a year by using an Energy Star thermostat set to the default settings and maintaining them throughout the year.  A programmable thermostat allows you set the temperature in your house to […]

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Review – ING Direct Savings Account

February 24, 2009

I recently signed up for an ING Direct savings account with a $25 sign-up bonus. My main reason for picking ING was the ability to easily create sub accounts within the system. I plan to use this account for at least two savings goals and want to be able to track them separately. About the […]

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