Money Management in Linux

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Personal finance programs have been popular in the DOS and windows environments for years, and so it is not surprising that until about a year ago, many new Linux users wished for a good personal finance program for Linux—but there simply wasn't one available. One creative user decided to do something about that.
Balance the Account

Now let's pretend you just received your bank statement in the mail and you want to reconcile your new CBB account. Let's also pretend that you didn't mess things up too badly while editing transactions...

  • Find the Balance button near the bottom right-hand corner of the CBB window and click on it. This will bring up a list of all “uncleared” transactions.

  • Enter a statement ending balance of $1740.00. (Leave the statement beginning balance as $0.00.)

  • Select the first four transactions as well as the sixth transaction. (Pretend these were the ones that showed up on your statement.) As you select transactions, watch the “Debits = n, Credits = m, Difference = i” line.

Figure 4. Reconciled Account

  • When the starting balance - withdrawals + deposits = ending balance, click on the Update button to mark all the selected transactions as cleared.

  • Congratulations: your account should be balanced.

When your next statement arrives and you run the balance routine again, you will only be presented with “uncleared” transactions to select. This is a good way to spot old checks that never were cashed, such as the mortgage payment that was “lost in the mail”. Note: By balancing your checkbook in this manner, two good things happen. First, when your brother finally cashes that check for $100.00—many months after you wrote it—your bank balance doesn't suddenly drop $100.00 from where you think it should be. Once that transaction was entered, the amount was subtracted from your bank balance. Second, it is easy to spot these situations—you can call up your brother and pester him to cash the check.

Reports and Graphs

Now that you have entered a bit of data, you may want to “understand” your data at a deeper level. CBB comes with several reports and graphs which can help you get a better idea of where and how your money is being spent. Feel free to generate and look at a few reports and graphs at this point.

Saving and Exiting

Wow! You've been slaving away for the last 10 minutes perfecting your demo account. Great job! That is about all there is to it. CBB isn't rocket science. It just boils down to “plus and minus”. Since this is not real data, you probably don't care to save it. However, if this had been an actual account, you most definitely would want to save your hard work.

If you want to save the changes you have made to an account, you must tell CBB to write the changes to a file. If you forget to save your work before you quit, CBB will remind you to do this. If you do something awful, like reboot your machine or log out without saving, you are not completely out of luck. CBB periodically saves a backup copy of your account with a file name such as #account.cbb#. Just rename this file to account.cbb and you will be back on track.

Additional Information

If you have made it this far, chances are you will be interested in some more information. I have a section devoted to CBB on my web page. Here you can find the complete CBB manual on-line, the readme file, the CBB FAQ, and several screen shots. You can even try running a live demo of CBB.

The URL for my home page is www.me.umn.edu/home/clolson/main.html.

It wouldn't be fair to end this article without mentioning two other free personal finance packages I am aware of. The first is Xfinans, another personal account manager. You can find out more about Xfinans at www.iesd.auc.dk/~lupus/xfinans.html. The second package is called Xinvest, a neat investment tracking application. Look for the source code at ftp://ftp.x.org/contrib/applications/.

Curt Olson works as a Unix systems administrator for the University of Minnesota, Department of Mechanical Engineering. He has been fascinated by computers from the time he first saw one:? Please enter your name: Curtis Olson Hello Curtis. I am thinking of a number between 1 and 100...“Ooohhh, I still get goose bumps thinking about how it remembered my name. Now, if only I could remember its name...”

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Great

Anonymous's picture

It's great to see there are new ways for people to get sound money management. It's unfortunate they don't teach people about personal finance in grade school.
reputation management

I think we need a lot more

gerry's picture

I think we need a lot more than personal finance problems, I think we actually need the basics in handling finances as there are plenty people complaining about debts, credit cards or even balance transfers . We need to learn how to face changes and turn things into our favor.

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