[GNC] Budget Questions and Observations

Tommy Trussell tommy.trussell at gmail.com
Thu Dec 12 02:05:17 EST 2019

Does anyone use the Budget features in GnuCash? I have been giving it a try
and am finding some aspects quite puzzling. I have never been trained in
budgets so maybe I need to read up on some particular methodology to make
better sense of it. Maybe someone can weigh in with some background.

A few weeks ago I asked about the lack of account codes in budgets and
budget reports and got no response. I wasn't surprised as I am sure very
few folks use account codes in GnuCash. I did open bug #797489.

My greatest astonishment with Budgets has been that all the INCOME numbers
on the budget show as NEGATIVE. Is this by design? I have concluded this
must be a bug, but maybe I'm doing something wrong, so I thought I would
ask here before reporting it.

As a result of the negative income figures, to project budgeted income I
have to enter income figures into the budget as negatives. Regardless the
budgeted and actuals (by default) "normally" get displayed RED. (!) Then
when I'm looking at the numbers, I have to tell myself that when looking at
incomes, negative (red) incomes and differences are "good" and positive
(black) income difference numbers are "bad." Is that right? I'm never
certain. But I'm easily confused. Well, needless to say budgeted income
numbers are darned hard to read.

I keep wanting a way to pair up particular income and expense accounts in a
budget so they offset each other. I realize this may be beyond the scope of
the budget feature, but that one thing would it a lot easier to track
encumbered or designated funds. (The budget I'm working with is for a
church.) While I'm wishing, maybe budget and actual income and expense
amounts could be grouped and added or subtracted usefully using some
additional factor, such as account codes or search strings.

When entering budget amounts it would sometimes be useful to be able to
enter one annual amount OR separate monthly budget amounts. But even with
the existing design, when entering budget figures over multiple months it
would be great if GnuCash could handle the math rather than having to
divide by 12 on a calculator. At the very least it could parse math
expressions like it does in the registers. I opened bug #727488 for this

GnuCash contains several specialized Budget reports... but I suspect most
haven't been fully implemented or tested. (I haven't opened any bugs for
the following.)

The "Budget Report" works pretty well, but if you turn on all the columns
and try to print it, you lose everything off the right side. (In other
words, the report paginates properly vertically, but not horizontally.)

Fortunately the Budget Report exports quite easily, so I can turn on as
many columns I want and export the report and import it into a spreadsheet.
With reformatting (like changing fonts and freezing column and row
headings), a spreadsheet is a great way to view the budget numbers.
Unfortunately copying and pasting into a spreadsheet from this report
doesn't work reliably. You have to use the export feature.

The Budget Chart report works, after a fashion. But its two chart options
are limited and inflexible. I suspect exporting the Budget Report to a
spreadsheet would be a better basis for generating charts.

I am not certain I understand the purpose of the "Budget Income Statement"
or "Budget Profit & Loss" They seem to show only budgeted amounts, not
actuals. Are they intended to "test" a proposed budget for sanity? My
negative budget amounts to workaround the negative income numbers (noted
above) are not compatible with these reports because they work just the
same as GnuCash's regular reports elsewhere.

The "Budget Balance Sheet" and "Budget Flow" reports ... I do not
understand how these reports could ever be used. What is the effective date
of the Balance Sheet? It's not labeled, nor is it adjustable (unless I
missed something). The flow report has no label to show the selected budget
period, and no labels over the columns, so even if it contains some useful
data, it's inscrutable. Furthermore, the flow report provides only a very
limited period display option -- just one period at a time, no multiple
period options.

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