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Random financial thoughts
20 December 2003 02:00

So here's an idea to toss into the meme pool:

I keep pretty good track of my purchases using GnuCash, and the model I use there is that each expenditure 'category' (as you'd call it in Quicken) gets its own account. When I spend money, on say, dining out, I make an entry indicating that money was transfered from my checking account to the dining out expense account. When I want to make reports, I can tell in which areas I have been spending money. But what if I were to shift that model slightly, such that instead of tracking spending by category, to track spending by merchant. So instead of indicating a transfer from checking to dining out, I were to indicate a transfer from checking to the Carlos Backstreet Grill account. Yes, yes, I know I already can sort of do that, by looking at the memo field of the transaction.

So what if we take this one step further, and I went really crazy, and for each receipt I receive, I make a gargantuan split, and divvy up the funds involved into an account for each product? For dining out, we'd still have to just keep the restaurant account, but at Walmart, I could track the 2-liter of Sprite account, etc. Hmmm, for one-time purchases (a particular Lego set for my boy, say) that could get pretty ugly. There'd be a lot of those, with only one transaction. More useful for those products that we buy time and again, like diapers :-). Or maybe not so useful.

So in a dream world, I get a receipt, scan the handy barcode provided on it with my trusty barcode reader hooked up to my computer. Software on my computer links up to the merchant's Web Service, and provides GnuCash with a nice itemized transaction to manage all of this for me. Major privacy issues there? You bet.

In a sense, I guess what I could be looking at here are different 'views' (to borrow a term from the relational model), that could be applied to the set of transactions in my ledgers. In one view I want to see in which expense 'categories' I have been spending my money', in another, I want to see to which merchants I have been giving my business, and in yet a third view, I want to see the set of products for which I am spending money.

Just some thoughts.


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