Michael Bach phaebz at
Wed Jun 26 14:52:41 EDT 2013

Hi Tommy,

sorry I am late catching up.

On 6/19/13 7:22 PM, Tommy Trussell wrote:
> You wrote two things that make me suspect you don't have complete 
> double-entry accounting going on.
Indeed, although I had some courses on double-entry accounting in 
university, I do not use it all the way.

> 1) You mentioned an amount in the "imbalance" account. You should 
> never see anything there. That means your transactions didn't balance. 
> Every expense should be offset by an equal amount of money from one or 
> more current assets. (For example, you might have given $10 at the 
> orphanage fund-raiser and entered the $10 under Expenses:Charity, but 
> the money came from your wallet, so that same transaction would have 
> drawn $10 from Assets:Current Assets:Cash in Wallet.)
I will use Cash in Wallet, good point.

> 2) You said you were doubling the "Rebate" amount in the "Expense" 
> column, requiring mental arithmetic. First of all, you can have 
> GnuCash do whatever arithmetic you need just by typing it... if you 
> need to divide a number by half you can just type the number and 
> append "*.5" (asterisk decimal five) to the end of the number and when 
> you leave the cell GnuCash will replace the number with the calculated 
> value. You can do pretty much all basic arithmetic, including 
> parentheses. Unlike a spreadsheet, no "equals" sign is required.
Well, good to know. I just figured: If I have to do repetitive work, I 
might as well do some mental exercise while doing it...

> HOWEVER If the numbers are not right I suspect the problem is not 
> arithmetic but that you're not drawing the money from the right place.
> You said "rebates," so I suspect you are trying to enter all the 
> expenses into the Expense accounts, rather than the Assets accounts. 
> (The column headings in the Expense accounts are by default named 
> Expense and Rebate, though you can choose to have them named Debit and 
> Credit as an accountant would prefer.)
> Believe me you will find it MUCH easier to think of all of this from 
> the "other side" of the transaction. Think about the way you SPENT the 
> money.
Will try that. My online banking account allows me to export stuff as 
.ofx and I read that gnucash can handle that. I could work from that 
Checking Account as you describe.
> Pick up your checkbook and see that you wrote three checks. One for 
> rent, one for electricity, one for groceries. Open up the account 
> Assets:Current Assets:BlueMoneyBank Checking (for example)
> Enter the information for each check you wrote, with the date, the 
> check number, to whom the check was payable, and in the TRANSFER 
> column, enter the expense account (Expenses:Rent  or 
> Expenses:Utilities  or Expenses:Groceries) and in the Withdrawal 
> column, enter the amount of the check. When you are through you will 
> see three transactions, one for each check, showing that you used that 
> particular asset (checking account) for three different transactions. 
> If you open each of those expense accounts, you will see the "other 
> side" of the transaction. (OR if you choose to you can see both sides 
> of each transaction in the check register using the View menu in GnuCash.)
> After entering your checks, you can do the same thing for all your 
> cash transactions -- look at your wallet and remember you gave $10 to 
> the nun for the orphanage, spent $5 on a cup of coffee and a pastry, 
> and fed $1.75 into a parking meter at the post office. That's three 
> entries reducing the amount in your Cash in Wallet account but the 
> transfers might come from three different expense accounts.
> NOTE that you do the same thing for your credit card transactions 
> EXCEPT credit cards are liabilities, so those transactions go under 
> Liabilities:Credit Card:GreenMoneyBank Credit (for example). You might 
> have a restaurant transaction, a car repair transaction, and the $2 
> per month the card company charges you and you don't remember what 
> it's for.
> NOTE When you PAY your credit card bill, it will probably be a single 
> transfer from an Asset account, such as the checking account 
> Assets:Current Assets:BlueMoneyBank Checking and transferring to 
> Liabilities:Credit Card:GreenMoneyBank Credit (for example).
> If you haven't done so, have a look at the Tutorial and Concepts 
> Guide. If it wasn't copied to your computer when you installed 
> GnuCash, you can find links to it from
Thanks for the pointer and your general advice - I will come back to 
check the examples when I dig more into gnucash. For now it is really 
"just" to get a rough overview of my expenses vs. income...


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