Envelope Budgeting for GnuCash

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This is an essay about potential development of GnuCash to address the frequently discussed topic of "Envelope Budgeting".

The idea of "envelope method" usage in budgeting is an attractive one within the GnuCash community, and has engendered numerous discussions and at least one request for programming to be done.

Simple Envelope Budgeting using Cash

Can be done with no accounting, ever.


  • write down expense amount on envelope, collect receipts in envelope

May be useful as a gentle introduction to realm of accounting and budgeting, leading towards adoption of a full accounting and budgeting software such as GnuCash

May be useful as a short-term exercise

Some have found it worthwhile for permanent practice

How could GnuCash support

Virtual Envelope Budgeting for an individual user, using an app

How could GnuCash support

Equivalence of data for traditional "Budget vs. Actual" reporting and for Envelope Budgeting?

It may just be a matter of report presentation. So, behind the scenes, internal recording can just be as expenses.

Some demand for Envelope Budgeting features may be driven by shortcomings of GnuCash's traditional budgeting features, or documentation thereof

Envelope Budgeting for multiple users, using an app

How could GnuCash support

Implementation of envelope budget-related entries

Use multiple equity or liability accounts?

Use multiple asset accounts

Use GnuCash's existing Budget features


  • Example a
  • Example b



  • Relatively minor development of GnuCash could offer some features of Envelope Budgeting
    • Offer an "Envelope Budget" report as an alternative to existing "Budget vs. Actual" report
  • Without major changes, GnuCash will not significantly help single-user or multiple-user "user instances"(?)
    • Offer a report
  • GnuCash will not itself develop an app
  • If technical specifications can be sorted out, GnuCash could/should provide interface which supports the use of external "Envelope Budget"-style apps
  • Documentation should be developed in a new chapter within GnuCash Concept Guide and Tutorial? Or, as a non-mainstream approach, should it be separate, as a non-mainstream approach?

See also