3 open source alternatives to Mint and Quicken for personal finance

3 open source personal finance tools for Linux

Personal finance for Linux
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With the start of the new year, many people take this time to resolve to get a better handle on their personal finances. Whether this means making and sticking to a budget, reducing unnecessary expenses, or simply getting a better understanding of their financial situation, pretty much any approach to person finance is dependent on having a good idea of the numbers inside their bank accounts, where they come, and where they go.

Which tools allow you to take the best to approach organizing your finances depends a little bit on your situation. Do you primarily make purchases electronically, or do you rely heavily on cash? Is the archiving and organization of receipts going to be important for you come tax time? Do you operate a small business and need a more powerful tool which can manage the more complex finances of sales, customers, employees, and business expenses? Or do you use multiple currencies (perhaps BitCoin?) and want to keep track of those values as well?

Just as no two people have identical bank accounts, there's not one single personal finance tool which works best for everybody. For some, automation and simplicity are their main goals, and for others, customization and having lots of features matter most, while still others would benefit most from a large community to help provide support. Let's take a look at three popular options for open source financial software tools, and a fourth option as well—just using old fashioned spreadsheets. Each of these tools was designed with Linux in mind, but there are builds for other operating systems as well.

GnuCash

First up, let's take a look at GnuCash. GnuCash is a reasonably full featured accounting application which is suitable for both personal use and for managing a small business. First released in 1998, GnuCash is a stable option packaged for most major Linux distributions with Windows and Mac ports available. It features multi-entry bookkeeping, can import from a wide range of formats, handle multiple currencies, help you create budgets, print checks, create custom reports in Scheme, and can import from online banks and pull stock quotes for you directly. While not the kitchen sink, it can handle most financial needs readily out of the box.

One reason I particularly like GnuCash as an option is the availability of a mobile application which complements, rather than emulates, its desktop companion. The mobile app makes it easy for you to track expenses on the go, and allows you to import these into the desktop version for more detailed management (although, unfortunately, it does not provide for direct syncing).

GnuCash hosts a public mirror of its source code, which is primarily written in C, on GitHub. Given its long and complex history, portions of the code are made available under a number of mutually-compatible licenses, primarily the GPL, but the code repository has the full details.

GnuCash

HomeBank

HomeBank is another personal financial management option which is both easy to use but full of charting and reporting options. Most Linux users can find a packaged version in their usual repositories, and Windows users can install via a direct download. There are other unsupported ports available as well.

HomeBank has a similar feature set to what you might expect from other tools as well: import from Quicken and Microsoft Money or other common formats, the ability to detect duplicate transactions, multiple account types, split transactions, budgeting tools, and more. HomeBank also sports translation into 56 languages, so chances are it is available in a language you speak.

HomeBank's source code is available in Launchpad, and is licensed as open source under the GPL version 2.

HomeBank

KMyMoney

The final dedicated personal finance tools we'll look at here is KMyMoney. KMyMoney is a member of the KDE family of applications, and touts three main goals: accuracy, which is of the utmost importance for a financial tool; ease of use, to ensure you start and keep using it; and familiar features, designed to made KMyMoney a simple transition if you are coming over from one of its proprietary alternatives.

To achieve these goals, KMyMoney hosts a number of features that you would expect from a modern money manager: institution and account management, tagging, QIF import, reconciliation, scheduling, ledger management, investment tracking, forecasting, and multiple currencies. While it doesn't host some of the small business features found in GnuCash or other personal finance managers, these removed options might actually make it easier for an individual who doesn't want to be overwhelmed with unneeded options.

KMyMoney manages a git repository where you can find its code base, and it is made available as open source under the GPL version 2. While designed for Linux, it has been successfully ported to Windows and Mac OS as well.

KMyMoney

Spreadsheets

While all three of these options are well-supported and regularly updated, my fourth and final pitch is not to even use a personal finance tool at all, but instead, to use spreadsheets to manage your financial data. Yes, there's a lot to be said for having a dedicated budgeting tool. There's less reinventing of the wheel involved, and you don't have to worry as much about messing up complex formulas. You also have the peace of mind of knowing that there are others out there who have exactly the same setup and can help you out when you get stuck. And you also need to be careful to not store personally identifiable information like account numbers in plain text, particularly if you store or backup your data to a shared location.

But the vanilla spreadsheet isn't a terrible tool either. In terms of the ease of customization, it can't be beat. Custom charts and graphs are easy to generate, and you can track additional data alongside your accounts to get a clearer picture of your spending. Open source tools like LibreOffice Calc or Gnumetric offer great functionality and expandability to track your finances your way.

Personally, I use a mix of tools. I use a personal finance tool to store the raw data and for getting an idea of what my accounts look like at a glance. But for more complex operations, I turn to a trusty spreadsheet to drill down to exactly what I want to know, particular when I want to pair the data with other personal information I collect. For example, I have a device in my car that tracks trips via GPS; by pulling out gasoline purchases, I can pair it with this information to see my exact cost per mile for every trip. Or pair restaurant spending with personal health metrics I collect to see what the correlation is between how often I eat out and how my weight fluctuates.

So how do you choose? Most of the three personal finance managers here host similar feature sets; the devil is in the details. Sometimes, your personal preferences will dictate a particular killer feature which only one of the options will host. The best way to find out is to dive in and start using one, and if it's not working for you, migrate your accounts to another to see if it better meets your needs. If you're managing business transactions, or just need more powerful options, you might also look around at the variety of open source ERP solutions available which have better tools for managing complex business asset tracking and reporting needs.

Whatever the tool you decide to use, why not take this year and make it the one you use open source to get control of your financial picture?

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16 Comments

dboth

+1 for GnuCash. I have been using it for over 14 years and it has been very solid and flexible. I use it for my personal finances, including tracking stocks. I also used it for my small business until I closed that recently. It works well in both arenas and I am very happy with it.

It is nice to know that there are other options and I had not previously heard of HomeBank so I will look at that and see if it offers any features that I might need.

Thanks for this great article.

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marketingbuzz

this one KMyMoney my best tools thank you for this articles
I'll test the two other :)

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Luis Rojas

Thank you for that great article. I have been finding a software to manage my finance. All of this options are great. I will try first HomeBank, it seems to be a excellent tool.
Congratulations for such a great web page.

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bdoin

Another one to look at is skrooge (https://skrooge.org/). It is also part of the KDE Community.

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Junaid

I have been using GnuCash since 2011 for tracking my personal spending. It is doing great form. I love it.

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JRepin

How can you miss Skrooge? I find it the best of all options here. I used to use KMyMoney, bit switched to Skrroge about a year ago. It has a modern looking interface and is simple to use and yet has enough powerful features.

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clhermansen

Thanks for the great article, Jason!

I've been using GnuCash to track our family business for four years now. There are a lot of great things about it for a small business; for me one of the best was its "working out of the box" configuration. For someone like me, with only a vague idea of how to do book-keeping, that's a real plus; and it makes me look marginally competent when it's time to report to the real accountants at the end of the year. And, because the tool has been around for a long time, there are also a lot of questions and answers (good ones, too) "out there".

I haven't tried the mobile app, thanks for that pointer.

I notice you don't mention its ability to save to a database like PostgreSQL. Though I use PostgreSQL for lots of technical work, I haven't yet tried this out. Any comments on that?

Thanks again!

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Jason Baker

I haven't used the Postgres export feature before, because CSV snapshots are usually "good enough" for the level of additional data analysis I do. I have to admit, personally, I have an embarrassing amount of data analysis taking place in interdependent spreadsheets. I say it's partially because I appreciate being able to see the code and data in the same place, but more realistically, it's because most of the things I want to look at are pretty ad hoc at first, and then I realize I kind of want to keep the view.

I used Postgres a good bit in grad school (mostly for the PostGIS extensions), it's probably worth taking a look; it seems like more consistent solution than rsync / cloud storage for making the data accessible across multiple machines.

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DScott33

Well, if you ask me, the simplest way to reduce stress in your financial life is to build a sound plan with accurate projections. To this end, technology is immensely helpful. Whether you use a spreadsheet or a tool like ontrajectory.com or some other website -- you have to get everything out in front of you so you can make smarter decisions. Once you do that, then implementing your disciplined retirement strategy becomes critical.

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Printo86

I downloaded KMyMoney, HomeBank and GnuCash from the Ubunto repository. The first two started ok but GnuCash froze with the message: Found Finance::Quote version 1.18. Help required please!

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Jason Baker

Hi Owen, we don't provide support, but you might try the GnuCash IRC server (#gnucash on irc.gnome.org), mailing list (http://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/Mailing_Lists) or their subreddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/gnucash) for more help.

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Don Watkins

Thanks to your article I gave up a proprietary solution for my business and have switched to Gnucash. I'm impressed. Thanks for a great article and for helping me to make the switch.

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Jason Baker

That's awesome, thanks for sharing that Don! What is your impression so far?

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Don Watkins

I had been running a VM on my Mac to support a "Home & Business" version of the proprietary software and I want to eliminate that. I had looked at GnuCash when David Both wrote about it but at that time, I decided not to make a decision. Recently I was looking at a couple of cloud solutions and proprietary for Mac. Just yesterday I decided to actually read some documentation (not a strong suit of mine) and follow some YouTube tutorials and discovered in the process that GnuCash will work very well for my business invoicing and accounting. I'm excited by the potential and very impressed with the overall quality of the software and features. I installed it on my Linux laptop too which is the direction I really want to go. I'm moving further away from proprietary solutions too which tend to limit.

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Lucas

I still prefer a web version, for example: www.economizzer.org

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khohi

Another one to look at is skrooge (http://www.msaydati.com/). It is also part of the KDE Community

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