5.1. Setting up Accounts

The first step in managing your checkbook is to set up the necessary accounts. You can either use the default GnuCash accounts or set up your own. For more detail on how to set up a new account, refer to Section 3.3.2, “The Basic Top Level Accounts”. For instructions on importing your accounts from another program, refer to the GnuCash manual.

Let’s start with the bank accounts you’ll need. You need one GnuCash bank type account for each physical bank account you wish to track. If you are setting up your own accounts or using the default GnuCash accounts, make sure that you have an opening balance transaction for each bank account you own. The easiest way to get this number is to use the balance from your last bank statement as your opening balance. You can enter this in the account information window automatically as part of the New Account Hierarchy Setup assistant, or you can enter a manual transaction directly in the account. To enter the transaction manually, enter a transfer from an Opening Balances account (type equity) to the bank account.

The typical bank accounts you might track include:

Common transactions that affect these bank accounts are payments and deposits. Payments are transfers of money out of the bank account, usually to an expense account. Deposits are transfers of money into the bank account, usually from an income account. You will need to set up income and expense accounts to track where that money comes from and where it goes. Remember that a balanced transaction requires a transfer of an equal sum of money from at least one account to at least one other account. So if you deposit money in your checking account, you must also enter the account that money comes from. If you pay a bill from your checking account, you must also enter the account where that money goes.