Efficiently Manage Your Finances With GnuCash [Windows, Mac, Linux]

gnucash alt logo   Efficiently Manage Your Finances With GnuCash [Windows, Mac, Linux]Admittedly, there are plenty of different software tools that help you manage personal finances. However, a huge portion of those that are worthwhile cost money (sometimes a lot).

The solution, obviously, would be to use a worthwhile tool that doesn’t cost any money. But where can you find something like that? Usually the best way is to look for an open source alternative, which thankfully exists. Let me introduce you to GnuCash.

About GnuCash

GnuCash was mentioned a couple times before in certain articles here at MakeUseOf, but we’ve never had a full-feature review of the software. It’s even in our list of the best Linux programs. It is an open source tool to manage your money, packed with plenty of features that help you plan and visualize your finances. GnuCash prides itself by using the double-entry accounting system to reduce the number of accounting errors, but it seems to confuse a few home users. Treating the expense and income “accounts” like categories will help you understand the program a lot better.

Installation

Installation is simple, just like any other application. Windows and Mac OS X users can get the necessary setup file from their website, while Linux users can search for “gnucash” in their package managers. GnuCash is a very common application in Linux, so the chance that your distribution doesn’t carry it is highly unlikely. Once installation has completed, go ahead and launch it!

Setup

gnucash first run prompt   Efficiently Manage Your Finances With GnuCash [Windows, Mac, Linux]
While the application loads, you’ll be shown a “Tip of the Day”, which you can disable if you like. However, these tips are good at telling you about certain application features that you may not have known about. When it’s ready to go, it’ll ask you whether you’d like to create a new set of accounts, import QIF files, or go through the tutorial. I recommend that you look at the tutorial, but I’ll let you do that on your own time.

gnucash choose accounts   Efficiently Manage Your Finances With GnuCash [Windows, Mac, Linux]
For this article we’ll go through making a new set of accounts. You’ll first be asked what currency to use, and then be presented with multiple account presets. For most people, I recommend the default choice and it covers all main needs, although you can enable multiple presets at the same time. Finally, you can set opening balances for your accounts before you’re all set up.

Before you can get to work, you’ll be asked to save so that a file exists for your accounts and GnuCash has a place to autosave any changes. I recommend you do this, but GnuCash will still run if you decide to cancel the save window. You can now work with your accounts!

Features

gnucash main   Efficiently Manage Your Finances With GnuCash [Windows, Mac, Linux]
You can do everything you’d expect to do in other programs, such as entering transactions, scheduling transactions, and importing bank account information in many different formats (primarily Quicken).

gnucash graph   Efficiently Manage Your Finances With GnuCash [Windows, Mac, Linux]
You can also pull up multiple different charts, graphs, and tables to show information about your finances. All those graphs and other visual info can be tweaked in many ways to get exactly what you want.

There are even some tools that help you determine payments for different loans. GnuCash also includes a few tools that are useful for small businesses, such as invoices.

Conclusion

GnuCash is a fantastic way to manage your money for free, no matter if it’s for you or your small business. There’s still plenty of potential in GnuCash for improvements, but it is already a very capable application as it is. If you have nothing else to use to manage your money, I highly recommend GnuCash!

What’s your favorite free money management tool? How does it compare to GnuCash? Let us know in the comments!

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9 Comments -

0 votes

Henry Ho

That’s so old school.  I prefer Mint.com

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Yeah, I’ve used GnuCash in the past. It’s crazy old school.
After trying Mint, I can’t go back to anything that requires entering transactions manually.

Still, if someone’s not comfortable with Mint, GnuCash is solid.

0 votes

Wladimir Dianim

Mint.com is good, but not for those outside America and Canada. For us, what do you suggest? Thanks!

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Ouch, I’m not sure. I feel your pain — we didn’t have access to Mint in Canada for quite a while.
There are lots of solid desktop and web apps for budgeting and money management, but I don’t know of anything that automatically grabs your transactions and works as slickly as Mint.

It’s possible some banks may offer something like this — one of my banks offers an (inferior) Mint-like service.

0 votes

Sam

I have used Mint and sad to say it does not have a good way of distinguishing transactions. It has given me countless headaches trying to figure out how it would be able to understand that money being reported after a sale of stock inside of a 401K is NOT “Income”. Additionally the income portion should only be the “profit” generated, not the whole transaction amount. Other than the fact that it does automate the entering of transactions, I think it is pretty useless since I simpy cannot get a true picture of my “net worth” at any point in time.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I definitely have my issues with Mint, but it’s a great way to review transactions across several accounts and get alerts. Even though it doesn’t support one of my accounts.

As a tool for long-term statistics, I’ve run into bumps that make me not want to rely on it.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Yes, GnuCash is pretty old school, just like Microsoft Money probably is now-a-days. However, it still works well, you can import your information from your bank, and keep your data on your own computer.

I haven’t tried Mint.com yet, primarily because I only have a single checking account (about to change soon), and because of initial privacy concerns. I might change my mind if more of my MUO coworkers recommend it, like Chris.

0 votes

Philharmania

I always find GnuCash a bit hard to use but I will probably try it (again) some time in the future. Currently, I use Money Manager Ex to manage my finance. It’s easier to comprehend, open-source and cross-platform as well.

Never used any online service for this. The idea of recording my income and expense in a stranger’s database on the internet is beyond my understanding.
 

0 votes

Edwin

GNU Cash is also very US specific. Tax reports (I’m not referring to tax file exports, which seems a very US related thing) won’t print unless you use dollars!