Creating a household budget using Actual

If you’re a household budgeter, like me, you’ve probably come across awesome apps and methods for budgeting that use the Envelope Method. One of the most well known of these is YNAB - it’s got a lot of features and does the job really well, but is very US-centric and costs a fair bit.

Fortunately there is a fantastic service called Actual and amongst the many reasons why it’s awesome is because:

  • it’s actively being developed
  • it’s free and open source
  • it runs locally on your machine
  • it can run as an Add-On to your Home Assistant

At time of writing, some downsides include that it has limited functionality in regards to bank-syncing (automatically importing transactions), or useful integrations with Home Assistant. (At the moment, none, apart from it can also run on your Home Assistant server.)

What is Envelope Budgeting
Envelope budgeting is a method where you take all the money you currently have (and later earn as income) and categorise it to how you want to spend it. Imagine you’ve got $1000 in your wallet, and you need to $300 of that for rent. You can take the $300 and put it in an envelope. Another envelope might have your food money. Another envelope might have your savings etc… When applied in budgeting software, it helps you understand how to budget for upcoming transactions & create a really useful household budget.

I only came across Actual a day or so ago. There are lots of ways to install Actual (remind you of something?) but fortunately it’s made extra simple for us as there is an HA add-on already available. Thank you @sztupy you legend.

Personally I have a Cloudflare Tunnel, so when I installed the add-on, I simply made sure the add-on was installed and didn’t worry about NGINX, or DuckDNS etc… I just updated my Cloudflare Tunnel dashboard and now I have a tunnel also pointing to localhost:5006, in addition the the one pointing to localhost:8123.

Lots of people envelope budget in different ways. I personally like to create broad categories called ‘Annual Expenses’, ‘Quarterly Expenses’, ‘Monthly Expenses’, ‘Weekly Expenses’, Other Expenses etc… And under annual, I’ll have a category for my home and car insurance, and under weekly I’ll have a category for my groceries etc…
I reckon, and this is cheating, if it’s new to you, to read some of the YNAB tutorials (many resources are available). The good news is it’s entirely up to you.

Very cool
One thing that I think is super cool about Actual, and this is better than YNAB, is an upcoming feature (currently Experimental) called ‘Goal Templates’.
When I use a simple syntax, I can have Actual figure out how much money I need to set aside:

Integrations with HA
I reckon the integrations with HA would be awesome. Imagine being able to budget for things like how much electricity you’ll be up for based upon how much energy you’ve drawn from the grid?

Hope this is helpful. I wrote this because although Actual has been around for a while, and although I’d done my best to find an alternative to YNAB, I had never stumbled upon it before. With luck, we’ll find a few eager fans here. Happy budgeting.

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It seems really great! I wish I can check my budget about living.