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In previous humble attempts to learning-the-ropes of household accounting (in conventional spreadsheet software) I used to have a column to hold the name of the counter-party, e.g. the supermarket chain or cafe or retail store etc.

In gnucash, options seem to be limited to what's already given (version 2.4.10 in Sept. 2013), namely and mainly

  • date
  • description
  • transfer
  • "amount" and the optional
  • num

see, for instance, here. As I don't have any practical use for the num column, I intend to use it as my name-of-counterparty column: luckily, it accepts alphanumeric characters, so it seems to do the trick.

Otherwise, I could open sub-accounts for my regular cafes and the chuck all occassional one-off cafes into a common account. But that seems over the top...

By making use of the (dormant) num column I can instead keep track of the cafes in which I drank most coffee (beancounters' delight! ;).

  • Can you see anything wrong with my reasoning?
  • Or would you say this is a legitimate / good use of the num column?
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2 Answers 2

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I use the description column for that. The good thing is GnuCash remembers your account-description-account combinations. So every time I add a transaction in my 'Cash in Hand' account with a description 'coffee', GnuCash automatically picks a transfer account based on last transaction history. Ofcourse, can change this to other as you wish but for me, it is a very good productivity feature.

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  • In what way does this answer my question, which is explicitly about the num column?
    – shoyu
    Jan 21, 2014 at 6:09
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    Well, all I am saying is for naming counter-party, description column serves better. I am not sure either of what the num column is intended to do. hope it helps Jan 21, 2014 at 7:04
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    @shoyu The num column is used to write down the number of the check/invoice related to the transaction. While technically you can use it as you describe, it will not be as helpful as using the description/transfer combination - as Atif described in his answer. In fact, the way Atif described is the right way to do what you want to do.
    – littleadv
    Jan 21, 2014 at 7:59
  • @littleadv Respectfully disagree.
    – shoyu
    Jan 21, 2014 at 16:15
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    @shoyu i agree with you and i have the same issue. what others do not get it is we require some sort of tagging our transaction.. and Num field should be able to be used for that. I also agree with others about the ease of data entry using desc column as gnucash remembers and autofills amount, account, etc. Nevertheless, shoyu you can use Num field to be used for any way you please like a hashtag. one good use of num tag is to order things when it is the same date for multiple transactions.. enterting 1, 2, 3 will sort it in that order when the dates are same. hope this helps
    – ihightower
    May 18 at 17:32
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I agree with you and i have the same issue, what others do not get it is we require some sort of tagging our transaction.

Num field should be able to be used for that. I also agree with others about the ease of data entry using desc column as gnucash remembers and autofills amount, account, etc. Nevertheless, you can use Num field to be used for any way you please like a hashtag. One good use of num tag is to order things when it is the same date for multiple transactions.. enterting 1, 2, 3 will sort it in that order when the dates are same.

Here are some excerpt from the book: Gnucash 2.4 Small Business Accounting

Transaction number

You can use the Num field for Transaction Number, Check Number, Receipt Number, or another similar purpose. You can enter alpha-numeric text, as needed. Using the Num field for sorting transactions You can use the Num field to enter a serial number for all transactions in an account within a given date. By default, the account register sorts the transactions by date and, within a given date, by the Num filed. This is one possible way of using the Num field

Split action

The Action field is only available when you expand the transaction using the "Split" button or in Auto-split Ledger and Transaction Journal views. The action field has a drop-down list of suggested entries for different account types. However, you need not be restricted to this list. If the list doesn't meet your needs, go ahead and enter other text as desired.

Example of using Action field

For example, you might want to keep track of Auto:Gas expenses marking Action as 'Local', 'Richmond', and 'Other'. This will help you filter transactions and create reports for gas expenses incurred on trips to Richmond. If the gas expenses under this category exceed a particular threshold, you intend to consider moving your offices to Richmond

Please note you cannot search transactions by Num or Action. However you can use Find in edit menu. Also most if not all of the reports, you cannot filter by Num or Action. Only by Desc, Memo and Notes field, you can do any of the filters.

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