Personal finance tracking

How much money do you have and how do you find out what you’re spending it on?


This is the question that irks me. The financial free software world is centred around GnuCash which is all about detailed tracking of your finances – well, as far as I’m concerned my bank already does this for me so all I need is the visualisation from that data.

What my bank (Barclay’s) actually allows me to do is download up to the last three months’ worth of data in OFX format.

So, right now I’m using ofx-parser, a Ruby library,  to process the data and import into into a sqlite database. I’m then using CodeIgniter to display a list of my transactions and the Yahoo! Charts library to graph them (the CodeIgniter PDO library needed some patching to support sqlite properly before I could make much progress).

Unfortunately Barclay’s don’t put a timestamp on the transactions, only a date, so the graphed balance isn’t always accurate – in the screenshot above you can see that it looks as though my account has twice dropped below zero although no such thing ever happened. Obviously this is part due to my woeful lack of graphing skills but the lack of time is still pretty annoying.

I can so far group and plot my expenditures and savings. The next set of features will be tagging by type and vendor recognition at which point I’ll be able to work out and plot exactly how much I’m spending on food over time and with which retailers.

This is all inspired by Wesabe which is an excellent application but despite their reassuring Data Bill of Rights I just don’t feel comfortable uploading all my bank details and transactions to an American company once every three months.

On eating good food

Not that I don’t think that just about every TED talk is great, but this one entitled “What’s wrong with what we eat” by Mark Bittman resonates with how I think about what my wife and I eat.

It turns out we eat around the recommended levels of meat a week (and certainly nothing like the average US figures) but the quality of what we do eat is quite low. I’ve been thinking about getting in to work earlier just so that I’ll have time when I get home to cook a better meal.

Enough of me, here’s the talk:

Opentech 2008

It’s been a long, long day, but at least I got to watch the final episode of Dr Who when I got home.

I wasn’t as inspired by the talks as other people seem to have been – the ones I attended seemed reasonably prosaic, although I did make a couple of notes to follow up on later. I think this means I need to change the criteria I use for choosing which talks I go to.

The social aspect was great though; the attendees, both speakers and audience alike, were awesome – a real cream of the crop. It might always be like that at London gatherings, I don’t know but it seemed great to me! Of couse, my view is probably tainted by the fact that I got to shake hands with Ben Goldacre (as I simpered like a girl).

Things I learned:

At the moment there are only two of the dozens of presentations on slideshare, but I hope they will be gathered together somewhere at some point soon.

Incidentally, Sir Bonar has written an excellent summary of the day.