Most of us have a love-hate relationship when it comes to keeping a tab on the finances that flow through our lives. It's a complicated task especially when we start considering the various sources of income, expense, assets, liabilities – and a ton of terms that become greek and latin as the list goes on. But keeping a track of our finances is essential. If you are a GNU/Linux user, then it's easier, too.
Thanks to the developers of HomeBank, we now have an application that allows us to that complex task in a neat and simple way. Unlike GNUCash, the setup and use of HomeBank is far simpler.
According to the website HomeBank is free software. Use it to manage your personal accounts. It is designed to easy to use. Analyse your finances in detail using powerful filtering tools and graphs.”
Features of HomeBank:
Track income and expenses
Quick and Easy GUI
Import/Export to QIF
Visual status cues
Color coded text
A PC/Mac with Ubuntu (though HomeBank supports a whole lot of platforms)
The installation of HomeBank is simple. In Ubuntu, fire up Synaptic by pointing to System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager. Click the 'Search' button and enter 'homebank' (without quotes) and hit Search. Select the homebank package from the results and hit Apply in Synaptic. It will install itself and dependencies if any. Now we are ready to explore this neat application.
For all you command line enthusiasts, type in the following command in the Terminal (which can be started from Applications > Accessories > Terminal):
sudo apt-get homebank
The First Time
To start HomeBank go to Applications > Office > HomeBank. You will be greeted by the cool splash screen which wont be visible for too long, thanks to the quick loading time. The window that comes us shows us a clean and neat interface. Not too many lines or tools populate the toolbar. The icons are simple and easy to infer. The menubar too, suprisingly for a finance application is containing a very few menu options. Overall, a good first impression that doesn't repel the user. You can go into Edit > Preferences and set the currency and prefix symbol. Default is none.
We will first need to create an accounts file. Before that lets fill in the Owner's name, i.e. My (or your) name. Go to File > Properties. Enter your name in the Owner field and click OK. Now File > Save As and save the file in a safe location. All your financial records will sit in this one file. So, its easier to backup (and easier to lose if you're not careful).
This can be done by pointing to Manage > Accounts. Here Click the Add button and enter the account details. An account can be a Bank account, Asset, Liability, Cash or a Credit Card. An Asset is something that increases value of your worth (or in simple terms, is a form of income) and a liability decreases your worth (or is a form of expense).
Payees are parties (no not where you go dancing) or people or companies whom you pay when you spend or get paid when there is an income. You can add payees in a similar way like accounts using Manage > Payees. If the payee is a source of income, make sure you check the Income box.
Where does the money come from and where does it go? To simplify matters, we create categories like Food, Groceries, Salary which are various categories under which money comes in or goes out. Add categories from the Manage > Categories menu.
We can draw up budgets and allocate our funds using the budget window. The window can be brought up by Manage > Budget. This will work only if you have funds in your account. Otherwise the option of Budget remains frozen.
Our First Transaction
Click the Add button to bring up the Add Transaction window. Enter the details. If it is an expense, click the +/- button to make the amount a negative one. Select the account where the money would go (or get deducted). Check “Validated” if the transaction is confirmed. Else, the money wont be added/subtracted. You can Validate later after creating the transaction too. The balance will be update only once the transaction is Validated.
You can also view all transactions that occurred in an account by double clicking on the account in the main window:
This is another important aspect of accounting. Reports. If we want to see the reports of our incomes and expenses, HomeBank makes is quick and easy: Click the little pie-chart button beside the Add transaction button and voila! HomeBank brings up the Report window. You can now select the type of report, date ranges, views (bar graphs, list view, pie charts), etc. Also, you can zoom the view using the Zoom slider. There is a Details view too that allows viewing the detailed report. The report modes include Income, Expense, Income + Expense.
This is a unique feature to HomeBank. It helps in budgeting and tracking expenses related to your car or vehicle. It includes fuel costs and gives a good view of your motor vehicle expenditures.
Overall a very decent tool which emphasizes on simplicity of the UI for such a complex set of operations. Accounting suites and software are known to be boring and intimidating for the plain user, but not this one for sure. Go give it a ride and let me know how you liked it. Enjoy!