Travel Expense Advice...

Ian Waddington iwaddox at
Sat Jan 1 04:07:28 EST 2011


Classifications or tags would be by far the simplest and easiest way
of doing what you need; this is exactly what products like ms-money
have been doing for years.

Please join the debate and support the efforts of those trying to get
some development underway.

Having said this it can be done in GnuCash using a series of nested
accounts or by creating a series of transfers between business expense

My planned approach was posted under the 'Setting up a Business
Expense Account without MS-Money Classifications' thread, I am happy
to explain my ideas further if you think it would help.



On 31 Dec 2010, at 21:47, Alan Anderson <foilistforever at> wrote:

> David,
> Thanks for the prompt response.  I hadn't thought of using the Action field,
> but it certainly seems like a simple approach--depending on what is needed.
> The only catch might be that if the field is used for something else I
> cannot enter a new action--right?!  For example, if I write a check while on
> the trip, I would want to put the check number in the Action field, but I
> couldn't put both the check number and a trip identifier--correct me if I'm
> wrong.
> Anyway, it got me thinking about what exactly I want to accomplish;
> unfortunately, now I'm just more confused. ;)  There are two aspects of what
> I want to accomplish.  The first is to track expenses associated with this
> particular trip.  While I'm not getting directly reimbursed--I'm
> self-employed--I do need to know what expenses were associated with that
> trip.  In a former life, I would simply fill out an expense report and
> submit it to my employer.  Now, I just want to be able to give a similar
> expense report to my tax accountant--although it might be nice to see how it
> all fits together if I'm doing multiple trips per year.  I guess I was
> thinking of entering the transactions into GnuCash and then running a report
> that generated an expense report-like result.
> The second is to keep my bank balances reconciled.  Using a trip-specific
> account solves this problem, but it also changes all of my remembered
> transactions--and I have quite a few.  I could give each description an
> extra string of text, but that requires me to be very fastidious about
> entering the same string.
> Right now, I have 100 or more receipts to enter, so I'm a little daunted by
> the task.  I especially do not want to have to reenter all of the receipts
> if I decide there's a better approach later.  I'm also not that keen on
> entering them all as split transactions because that seems a little tedious
> as well.  Having said all of that, in the time I spent researching this, I
> could probably have entered all of the transactions and been done. ;)
> I didn't follow the Tag/Categories discussion too deeply, but in retrospect
> I could see how that might work.  I could tag each of the transactions with
> a trip-specific identifier, and then they would be easier to find later.
> This could make generating an expense report easier to because you would
> simply filter by tag and then sort/aggregate by account.
> Thanks again.
> Al
> On Fri, Dec 31, 2010 at 1:02 PM, David Reiser <dbreiser at>wrote:
>> On Dec 31, 2010, at 2:06 PM, Alan Anderson wrote:
>>> I'm looking for the best way to deal with transactions that have multiple
>>> purposes.  For example, I recently traveled for work, and I collected a
>> ton
>>> of receipts for gas, food, and groceries.  I want to enter them as I
>>> normally would--in both A:Checking and E:Auto:Gas, etc.  But, I also want
>> to
>>> be able to pull out those specific transactions as having been part of
>> that
>>> specific trip, so that I can itemize those expenses separately.  My
>> initial
>>> though was that I'd create a new account for that trip, e.g.
>> E:Travel:Fall
>>> 2010, and I would enter the transaction in the Checking register using
>> that
>>> account.  Then I'd have to go into the register for E:Travel:Fall 2010
>> and
>>> balance out those transactions by adding another transaction that
>> subtracts
>>> it from the E:Travel:Fall 2010 account and then puts it in the
>> appropriate
>>> expense account, e.g. E:Auto:Gas.
>>> I've tried a couple of test entries, and it appears to do what I want--at
>>> initial glance.  However, it seems a little tedious.  Is there a better
>> way
>>> to do this?  I also tried simply balancing the transaction in a split
>>> transaction when I initially enter it.  For example, the split
>> transaction
>>> in the A:Checking register would have
>>> A:Checking =                     -$10.00,
>>> E:Auto:Gas = $10.00,
>>> E:Travel:Fall 2010 =            -$10.00,
>>> E:Travel:Fall 2010 = $10.00.
>>> This eliminates some of the entry error because it's all done at once,
>> but
>>> it's still a little tedious.  Is there any way to make a template for
>> this
>>> split transaction, so that I only have to change the amount?
>>> How do most people deal with these types of tracking issues?  What are
>> the
>>> "best practices" for tracking travel expenses?
>>> Thanks in advance from a non-accounting person.
>>> Al
>> As long as it is just another categorization for you, you could add a tag
>> in the Action field. Then when you want to see those transactions, just
>> search for all Actions = to whatever your tag is.
>> If there is some reimbursement involved, I use a BusinessTravel asset
>> account to hold the splits for which I'll be reimbursed. That way I can just
>> transfer money from that asset to my checking account when I get reimbursed
>> rather than have to find a way to reconcile a bunch of scattered splits with
>> offsetting transactions. This plan does interfere with the concept of
>> finding out how much money was spent on gas for my car regardless of who
>> paid for it (but then I have a separate mileage tracker for gas purchases
>> and car maintenance).
>> By the way, you question seems to fit exactly the discussion on the mailing
>> list recently about implementing Categories/Tags (Categories is the term
>> Quicken uses to describe the use of additional categorization of
>> transactions beyond accounts associated with the cash flow). While it isn't
>> implemented in gnucash yet, there seems to be enough interest in it that
>> someone might do the programming in the foreseeable future.
>> Dave
>> --
>> David Reiser
>> dbreiser at
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