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I have 3 accounts - savings, outgoing, and loan.

I have $100 in savings. I then receive $50 into savings. so far, so good.

Then I want to 'borrow' $25 from savings with the intention of paying it back. so I debit savings and credit loan for $25.

Then I want to spend this $25, so I transfer from savings to outgoing, but if I do this, I end up with transactions all over the place, or otherwise the loan account ends up being $0, or the outgoing account has double $25.

I'm not sure where I'm going wrong. I just want the loan account to total $25, the savings account to be $25 less, and the outgoing to be $25 more.

Can someone help instruct me which accounts I should be crediting and debiting and in what order?

I'm using gnucash.

  • 2
    where to you record your liabilities? – mhoran_psprep May 28 at 12:27
  • This is why I like my two home-rolled spreadsheets instead of other packages. – RonJohn May 28 at 17:44
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    Where did the $50 come from? I think you need at least one more account: "income". – TTT May 28 at 18:08
  • @mhoran_psprep in a subaccount in liabilities from the default template – user86554 May 29 at 1:38
  • @TTT i do have an income account, sorry, forgot to include that, but that's not where the problem is – user86554 May 29 at 1:39
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Gnucash is an accounting tool, and accounting-wise the concept of a "loan to myself" doesn't really make any sense. A loan in accounting-speak is either a liability (if it's money you owe somebody else) or an asset (if it's money that somebody else owes you). Gnucash (and double-entry accounting in general) doesn't really work well with the "budgeting envelope" approach of having a bucket of money but pretending to yourself that it isn't there.

The closest thing you can get is subaccounts. So, rather than your asset accounts strictly matching up exactly with your actual bank accounts, you can divide them in subaccounts, with an account structure like:

  • Assets
    • Checking
    • Savings
      • Long-term Savings
      • Short-term Savings
      • Free to spend

And the various subaccounts of "Savings" would add up to be the amount that's actually in your bank savings account. You can transfer money between the various "buckets" that you've set up in your own transactions that your bank knows nothing about. In your example, you could transfer $25 from "Long-term Savings" to "Free to spend", and then transfer further from there to your Expense accounts.

It makes a bit trickier to reconcile with your bank statement, but it's doable if you really want to approach it like that. If you want to figure out a total of how much you have transferred out of "Long-term Savings" to other savings accounts, you can create a Transaction Report on that category, which might be the closest thing to figuring out "how much you need to pay yourself back".

But it sounds like the way you want to approach your accounting is more of an envelope-based approach than a double-entry-based approach, so you may want to (1) explore if some other personal finance tool is more to your liking, or (2) rethink how you want to frame your finance in a more double-entry-friendly way.

  • Loan-to-self makes perfect sense, even in double accounting systems. Just move money from an asset to a liability. After all a negative liability is an asset. The only issue is physically moving the money somewhere (e.g. from checking or savings into an envelope). – Andy May 28 at 17:43
  • this isn't quite the answer i was expecting, however it's informative. i may need to explore other accounting software, however unless @Andy can help me solve my $0 balance problem, i will eventually mark this as the answer – user86554 May 29 at 2:17
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then i want to spend this $25, so i transfer from savings to outgoing...

This is where you went wrong. You credited $25 to the loan but spent the money from savings. You instead need to spend from the loan account. Once you do this, everything will match up. This will look like a credit to the loan account and a debit from an expense account (rather than savings).

  • Is checking the loan account? – RonJohn May 28 at 17:36
  • I presume it's a liability account setup separately from assets. – Andy May 28 at 17:41
  • Then how does the cash get into checking so it can actually be spent? – RonJohn May 28 at 17:42
  • It doesn't. Move it out of checking somewhere else - like an envelope. – Andy May 28 at 17:45
  • But that only works if he can pay cash for "it", and that's not guaranteed. – RonJohn May 28 at 17:46

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