Using GNUCash to Manage Your Personal Finances – Part 2

This is Part 2 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. Todays article will cover setting up investment accounts and configuring the update services, Part 3 will discuss other tips, tricks, and hacks to get the most out of your GNUCash installation. Make sure you register for my free feed so you don’t miss the rest of this series.

Configure online price retrieval

activeperlsetupBefore we get started setting up our investment accounts lets configure our Windows installation of GNUCash for online price retrieval. If you don’t already have ActivePerl installed on you system, you are going to need it so hop on over to http://www.activestate.com/activeperl/ and download it. When you start the Installer you will need to accept their license agreement and all other program defaults, it takes a little while when it gets to generating the HTML documentation.

Now that our system is configured to run PERL scripts we can setup the online price retrieval feature within GNUCash. You will need to navigate to the Start Menu -> All Programs -> GNUCash -> Install Online Price Retrieval. The system will then download the appropriate Perl Modules that will allow it to update your stock and Mutual Fund Quotes for you.

installingonlinepriceretrieval

You can now update price quotes by accessing the Tools menu in GNUCash and going to the price editor and selecting update quotes. We can now add investment account information and setup our investments.

Under assets you should have an investments category which you had setup during Part 1 of this series. Under investments you have a brokerage account and a retirement account. We will focus on setting up  investments under the brokerage account but the same principals apply under the retirement accounts.

newsecurity-amznLets say we have a couple of stocks we own and want to track in GNUCash, under the brokerage account right click on the Stock item and click New Account. Lets say we currently own 150 shares of Amazon stock. Under the new account screen give the account a name I usually use the stock symbol, AMZN, and a description, Amazon Stock. Under security/currency click select, then click New. We fill in the full name, the symbol, and the type, in this case it would be NASDAQ. Make sure you check the “Get Online Quotes” box and select an update source, I use multiple. The resulting security would look like the picture to the right. Click ok, and then click OK.

Now under the tools menu go to the price editor and click Add, click select, select NASDAQ and then AMZN, click ok, click ok. It will show a 0.00 price, just click Get Quotes and it will grab the current price for the stock.

Now we have a security setup. We can then configure our initial balance by opening the AMZN account and creating a transaction as follows:

Description: Opening Balance
Transfer: Equity:Opening Balance
Shares: 150
Price: 62.35

We can leave the rest blank and it will auto fill the amount, you could also leave the price blank and put the dollar amount in Buy to auto calculate the price. You should now show a balance of 150 Amazon shares. From here on out your purchases should be transfers from your brokerage account, which is what would be in the transfer field.

GNUCash should automatically update your quotes every time you start, but it hasn’t seemed to work for me so you may have to go in and manually click get quotes to update your stock prices. GNUCash can easily handle your 401k and other investments, it also has tools for handling stock splits and other investment related activities. That is all there is to it, tune in next Friday for the tips tricks and hacks post.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 David April 8, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Your post is inaccurate with regards to automatic updates; Gnucash is NOT meant to download prices on start up (although that would be nice! 😉 The developers always say “Patches welcome”). If you read the Gnucash documents (http://svn.gnucash.org/docs/guide/invest-stockprice1.html#invest-stockprice-auto2) a little more closely, you will see that the process is “automatic” insofar as you can invoke the Get Online Quotes and it will retrieve prices without you having to enter them manually (which is what is described earlier on the page). Admittedly, the documentation is misleading, but Gnucash has never worked the way you expected it to.

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