Except for Pocket Quicken on a really old PDA I once had, I’ve never used any personal finance software. So I was a bit unprepared for the complexity of GnuCash, another personal finance app in the Ubuntu Linux repositories.
HomeBank, by Maxime Doyen, is the other popular personal finance app I saw for Ubuntu. It bills itself as “Free, Easy Personal Accounting for Everyone,” but does it live up to that? Let’s find out.
Unlike “name brand” personal finance apps for Windows and Mac, like Quicken, HomeBank doesn’t connect to your bank account. You can’t use it to pay bills, or to view in real-time what your bank statement is.
What it does do is act like a ledger, or an accounting notebook. You write down in it how much you have, and when you spend or receive money you click the “Add Transaction” button and make a note of it. You can tell HomeBank when you made the transaction, how much it was for, and who the receiving party was, and you can use categories and tags to organize your transactions. You can also schedule recurring transactions, like paychecks and car payments. It keeps a running total of how much you should have in your bank account, and it can keep track of multiple accounts if you have more than one.
Perhaps because I’d never used a personal accounting app before, for Ubuntu or anything else except that one PDA, it took me a few minutes to figure HomeBank out. I had to experiment a bit to see what each option did, and how they affected the bottom line statement. After I figured it out, though, it was easy to use to keep track of my personal finances. I just clicked “Add Transaction” whenever I bought something, then entered the date and amount shown on the receipt. A few other details, like selecting a category, let me keep track of where all my money was going using the pie charts that HomeBank automatically generated. I’d been spending more on electronics than I’d expected!
Best (and most-needed) features
The best thing about HomeBank is that it does all the math for me, and then shows me visually how much money I have on hand and what I’ve been spending it all on. The pie charts and bar graphs are easy to understand, and together with the running total that HomeBank keeps they give me a good “big picture” view of my finances.
The worst, or least convenient, thing about HomeBank is that it can’t connect to the bank’s computers and tell me how much I really have on hand. I checked my bank statement to find that not only had I lost track of a few dollars of spending, I’d been hit with a fee that I hadn’t even known about. If you decide to use HomeBank for Linux, you’ll still want to check with your bank every now and again to make sure everything adds up.
Finally, HomeBank is only available for Ubuntu, and for other flavors of Linux. If you’re still using Windows or Mac OS X, you may be stuck with Quicken (or Mint) for the time being. HomeBank can import and export data from older versions of Quicken and Microsoft Money, though, so if you’ve been using another personal finance app you may not have to start over again.
If you’re on Ubuntu or another version of Linux, give HomeBank a try! It’s free, and it’s easy to use because it’s so simple and elegant. If you’re used to more fully-featured personal finance apps you might want to try GnuCash instead, but if this is your first then you may just like what you see.
Either way, good luck with it and have fun out there! And click here to check out my other articles, if you’d like to see more about Linux software (including how to make your Linux PC more like a Mac)!