5 open source personal finance tools for Linux

Looking to get a better handle on your personal finances? These five Linux-friendly open source tools will help you achieve your financial goals.
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Editor's note: This article was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated to add two great additional tools.

When asked about personal goals, getting a better handle on personal finances is high on most people's list. 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 personal finance is dependent on having a good idea of the numbers inside a person's bank accounts, where they come from, and where they go.

 

Determining which tools allow you to best organize your finances depends a little bit on your situation. Do you primarily make purchases electronically, or do you rely heavily on cash? Is archiving and organizing receipts important for you come tax time? Do you operate a small business and need a more powerful tool that 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 no single personal finance tool that works best for everybody. For some, automation and simplicity are their main goals; for others, customization and having lots of features matter most; while still others would benefit most from a large community to provide support. Let's take a look at five popular options for open source financial software tools, and a sixth option as well—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 that is suitable for both personal use and 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, handles multiple currencies, helps create budgets, prints checks, creates custom reports in Scheme, and can import from online banks and pull stock quotes 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 that complements, rather than emulates, its desktop companion. The mobile app makes it easy for you to track expenses on the go and import them into the desktop version for more detailed management (although, unfortunately, it does not provide 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 that is both easy to use and 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: import from Quicken, Microsoft Money, or other common formats; duplicate-transaction detection; multiple account types; split transactions; budgeting tools; and more. HomeBank also sports translation into 56 languages, so it's probably available in a language you speak.

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

 

HomeBank

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 offer some of the small business features found in GnuCash or other personal finance managers, this 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

Money Manager Ex

Money Manager Ex is a cross-platform, open source personal finance manager. In addition to running on the typical platforms (Windows, Linux, and MacOS), there's also a mobile application, and cloud synchronization allows you to track your finances across devices. If you'd rather not install the software on your computer, you can run it directly from a USB key. Financial data is stored in a non-proprietary SQLite Database protected with AES encryption.

It also offers the key money management features you'd find in similar applications. For example, you can use it to track checking, savings, credit card, and stock accounts, as well as fixed assets and recurring transactions; generate financial reports; and create budgets. It imports and exports QIF and CSV data, and also exports to HTML. It's available in 24 languages and supports multiple currencies.

Money Manager Ex's source code is available on GitHub. It's available as open source under the GPL version 2.

 

Money Manager Ex

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Skrooge

Skrooge is another KDE-powered personal finance management application. It can import data in a wide variety of formats; the usual QIF and CSV, but also QFX and other formats used by banks, as well as KMY (KMyMoney), SQLITE, GNC (GnuCash), GSB (Grisbi), XHB (Homebank), MMB (Money Manager Ex), and MNY (Microsoft Money). Data can be exported in QIF and CSV, as well as KMY, JSON, and XML. This makes it easy to migrate to Skrooge from other money management software (and vice versa).

Because it's KDE-based, it can run on Linux, BSD, Solaris, and MacOS, and possibly on Windows. It offers the usual features you'd look for in an application to track your expenses, income, and investments, and allows you to view your data in tables and a variety of charts.

Skrooge's source code is available in its Git repository, and it's made open source under the GPL version 3.

 

Skrooge

opensource.com

Spreadsheets

While all five of these options are well-supported and regularly updated, my final pitch is to not 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 back up 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, particularly 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 this information to see my exact cost per mile for every trip. Or I can pair restaurant spending with the personal health metrics I collect to see the correlation between how often I eat out and how my weight fluctuates.

So how do you choose? Most of the five personal finance managers here (as well as less-frequently updated options Economizzer and Grisbi) offer similar feature sets; the devil is in the details. Sometimes, your personal preferences will dictate a particular killer feature that only one of the options hosts. 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.

Whichever tool you decide to use, why not make open source the way to get control of your financial picture?

Jason Baker
Former Red Hatter. Now a consultant and aspiring entrepreneur. Map nerd, maker, and enthusiastic installer of open source desktop and self-hosted software.

34 Comments

+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.

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

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

In reply to by Chris Hermansen

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.

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!

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.

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.

In reply to by Jason B

I've used Gnucash for a number of years. I like the one line register entry. All the others force an entry form at bottom of the page with differing tabs for debit/credit/transfer. It allows me to split the main accounts into sub/sub accounts which hold the budgeted accumulations.
Budgeting itself is done with a one page spreadsheet which breaks income down to required split per pay cycle. This split is set up in gnucash so one transaction recording accumulates the sub accounts.
I tried most of the others mentioned here but they were lacking in some way for the way I work.
I don't download from the bank just print off the transactions and enter them manually. Its not onerous only takes about 10 mins at the end of the month.
When I ran a small business and used it for that I did as the vol was too much.
I've tried getting my daughter to use some form of budgeting/recording tool as looking in the bank account the day after payday and saying "oooh I can buy that dress" is NOT budgeting. sigh! At the least I've managed to get her to open several savings accounts and split her pay then only spend out of each.
Lately our local bank has been having a discussion on FB about the future of banking and what do people want it be like. It's been interesting to see what others use/not use. Mostly they want the bank to be more interactive, quicker with transactions including interbank, more recording with expenses. More mobile tech for transacting on the go.

To the admins: is there a way to add a feature that allows us to pin a post that we really liked and get back to it later?

An often overlooked alternative: command line ledger (http://ledger-cli.org/). Nothing speaks linux like text files and command line :-)

I like Kali linux is the best open source.

As a long term Linux user for all my personal devices, and a former Quicken user in my Windows life, I really wanted a finance app to replace Quicken. I did give GnuCash a real try but its big drawback (for me) was its inability to connect directly with my bank(s) and import transactions directly.

In frustration I tried some online financial apps and settled on Mint. Yes, it's ironic, Mint is by Intuit (Quicken), but it is free and does everything I need and runs on any device with a browser. The budgeting feature is strong as is customization for categorizing your spending. The weak point is reporting. I don't need printed reports so that's not a factor for me.

Security is always a concern, whether online or on your device, you'll have to make the right choice for you.

I've tried all the personal finance tools but I always end up back in a simple spreadsheet.

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

I just tried Home Bank, but it was incapable of importing a QIF file. I would have had to make 25,000 mouse movements and 50,000 mouse clicks to import my Quicken 2015 QIF file. I gave up after 20.

Are there only US citizens here?
Is there no one that actually tried to import a European formatted data file (csv or xml) into the crappy gnucash application?

Our readers, authors, and moderators here are from many countries and locations around the world. But you might get a better response from the GNUCash mailing lists. I subscribe to them and they provide a wealth of information. Go to https://www.gnucash.org/ and click on "Getting help." You will find many GNUCash users willing to help using the mailing lists as well as IRC chat.

In reply to by Robert Voje (not verified)

Does any of those offer online banking? it can be through the use of extensions/add-ons.

GnuCash has apparently been broken for some time and errors out after trying to import a QIF file, with no real reason why. It just "Error importing QIF file." quite literally. I've found a list of other saying the same thing on multiple sites. I would not recommend it until that is fixed up!

Thanks for the suggestions.
I am an opensource enthusiast. But I find a big problem with Open Source Sw. They are usually aesthetically unpleasing.
How can we do that better?

I've been using HomeBank for several months now. Very useful. Designed well too.

Hey guys!
What a great post! I'm currently building a small and simple tool for
visualizing certain investment scenarios in advance. I wonder if this is
something you would like to use and would be very happy, if you check
it out at: https://returncharts.com/! What do you think?

Thanks,
Thomas

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