Firefly III has several types of accounts. This goes beyond your own bank accounts and credit cards; there's more to finance than those two.
These different account types exist because my Googling into accounting has learned me that you should split these up. Internally too, even accounts with the same name but different types are split up. For example, if you shop at the place you work at, you will have a revenue account called "Albert Heijn" from which your salary is drawn but also an expense account called "Albert Heijn" where you pay your groceries.
A note on your opening balance
When you define an account's opening balance, you also have to set the date. Keep in mind that the opening balance is a transaction too. Let's say you set your opening balance to be 270,-- on December 1st. Trick question. What was your balance the week before, in November 27th? And assume no other transactions have been made.
The correct answer is: 0.00. Because the opening balance was posted one week later, the balance of the account before the opening balance is zero.
So if you set an opening balance for an account and create transactions from before the opening balance, the running balance may not be what you expect.
These are the account types in Firefly III.
Asset accounts are normal bank accounts. They hold your own money. Your bank account is an asset account. Your savings account is an asset account. They would be called "Savings account" or "Checking account". These accounts can be created with an initial (negative) balance, which is useful since you won't be entering your entire financial history.
Asset accounts come in a few flavours. These are all cosmetic by the way, there is no technical difference.
As for the roles that are available:
Default asset accounts
This is the default kind of asset account.
Shared asset accounts
Shared asset accounts are shared with a partner, roommate or spouse. Use this to indicate that both (all) of you have access to this account. In Firefly III itself, you won't be able to actually share access between accounts, so this indication is purely for you.
A type to indicate it's a savings account.
Can be used to track cash expenses, which I personally don't recommend.
Used to indicate the asset account belongs to a credit card. Firefly III does not (yet) respond to this, it's for your administration.
Note: Credit cards are not liabilities. You should use them as if they weren't a way to borrow money, but rather a way to use money that you have stored elsewhere (and that you will move to this account later). This is not how most financial tools handle credit cards and I'm well aware.
When you spend money, you do so at a store, online or maybe using cash. Each of these places gets its own expense account.
If you want to track your cash expenses specifically, use a cash wallet asset account, as you can read under "asset accounts". In most cases, cash money is different from "normal" money. When you withdraw money from an ATM and register it in Firefly III, don't register an expense account. Leave the field empty. This will make Firefly III fall back to a specially designed "cash account".
Likewise, if you deposit cash into an asset account, don't mention a revenue account (see below).
Another type of account is the revenue account. A revenue account belongs to anyone or any company that sends you money. These may be your employer, parents or friends. Possibly these are clients or the government.
Firefly III supports liabilities such as debts and loans, that you can track using Firefly III. The idea is pretty simple, but it isn't 100% accountant approved. So beware. Firefly III has three types of liabilities:
There are two "directions" for liabilities. When you are the debtor you must pay it back. If you are the creditor the money will be paid back to you. Two easy examples are:
- You are the debtor to your student loans.
- You are the creditor when you borrowed a friend money to buy a new PC.
Although you can set the interest rate for a liability, Firefly III will not automatically calculate the interest due.
Once created Firefly III keeps track of the amounts for you. Here are the two scenarios (debtor and creditor) and how they work in Firefly III.
This is the most common format. You take out student loans or a mortgage and you keep track of paying it back in Firefly III. You may optional set the amount due as the start amount but this is not necessary. You can also start with an empty loan and (see option number 3 ahead) transfer money away from the loan to pay for stuff. Here are a few scenario's:
- Every transaction from your asset account to the liability means you're paying back your debts.
- When you transfer money from the liability to your asset account you're borrowing more money.
- If you transfer money from the liability to an expense account, this is like interest or fees.
- If money is put into the liability from a revenue they are waiving fees or paying the loan back for you.
This is less common but can be useful to track money. You give your friend 1000,- euro's for a new PC. Obviously you're not a charity so you want the money back. Here are the scenario's:
- Your friend pays off the loan with a deposit from a revenue account into the liability.
- If you spend the money of your friends loan (you buy the PC) it's an expense from the liability.
Firefly III keeps track of the "balance" of the liability and the "amount due". Ideally, the balance is zero and the "amount due" is the exact amount you're still owed.
You need two transactions when your friend pays you back the money. If you do not do this, you'll never be able to use the money.
- A deposit into the liability from your friend (a revenue account).
- A deposit from the liability into your own asset account.
The first transaction is your friend paying your back. This will lower the "amount due" amount. It will also raise the balance, which means this money is now available to you. When you transfer the money from the liability to your own account, the balance is zero again but the "amount due" will not change.
If you want to borrow your friend more money, you also need two transactions:
- A withdrawal from your asset account into the liability.
- A withdrawal from the liability to your friend (an expense account).
First, you need to move money to the liability. This will not increase the "amount due" but will increase the balance. You must then send the money to your friend, which will increase the amount due. The balance will be back at zero.
If you delete an account, any associated transactions will be removed as well. If you're deleting an asset account and you've transferred money between the current asset account and other asset accounts, you might see changed balances all around. Remember to correct this, if necessary. You can move the transactions to a new account if you wish to preserve them.
Unique account numbers and IBANs
Firefly III will not let you create multiple accounts with the same IBAN or account number. They have to be unique.
One exception exists for expense accounts and revenue accounts. As you have read, expense and revenue accounts are used as the opposing accounts for your transactions. But you may run into the situation where you have an expense account with the same name as a revenue account. For example, "Government Tax Department" which both pays you money and gives you money (but probably a lot less often).
Such accounts can share an IBAN or an account number. They don't need to have the same name.
Asset accounts can't use an IBAN or an account number if it's taken by either an expense account a revenue account.