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Beancount is a Python double entry accounting command line tool similar to ledger.


pip3 install beancount


beancount is the core component, it's a declarative language. It parses a text file, and produces reports from the resulting data structures.


bean-check is the program you use to verify that your input syntax and transactions work correctly. All it does is load your input file and run the various plugins you configured in it, plus some extra validation checks.

bean-check /path/to/file.beancount

If there are no errors, there should be no output, it should exit quietly.


This is the main tool used to extract specialized reports to the console in text or one of the various other formats.

For a graphic exploration of your data, use the fava web application instead.

bean-report /path/to/file.beancount {{ report_name }}

There are many reports available, to get a full list run bean-report --help-reports

Report names sometimes may accept arguments, if they do so use :

bean-report /path/to/file.beancount balances:Vanguard

To get the balances

bean-report {{ path/to/file.beancount }} balances | treeify

To get the journal

bean-report {{ path/to/file.beancount }} journal

To get the holdings

To get the aggregations for the total list of holdings

bean-report {{ path/to/file.beancount }} holdings

To get the accounts

bean-report {{ path/to/file.beancount }} accounts


bean-query is a command-line tool that acts like a client to that in-memory database in which you can type queries in a variant of SQL. It has it's own document

bean-query /path/to/file.beancount


Deprecated use fava instead

bean-web serves all the reports on a web server that runs on your computer

bean-web /path/to/file.beancount

It will serve on localhost:8080


This is a debugging tool used to perform various diagnostics and run debugging commands, and to help provide information for reporting bugs.


Pure text processing tool will reformat Beancount input to right-align all the numbers at the same, minimal column.


Generates an example Beancount input file.


Given a messy list of downloaded files automatically identify which of your configured importers is able to handle them and print them out. This is to be used for debugging and figuring out if your configuration is properly associating a suitable importer for each of the files you downloaded.


Extracts transactions and statement date from each file, if at all possible. This produces some Beancount input text to be moved to your input file.

bean-extract {{ path/to/config.config }} {{ path/to/source/files }}

The tool calls methods on importer objects. You must provide a list of such importers; this list is the configuration for the importing process.

For each file found, each of the importers is called to assert whether it can or cannot handle that file. If it deems that it can, methods can be called to produce a list of transactions extract a date, or produce a cleaned up filename for the downloaded file.

The configuration should be a python3 module in which you instantiate the importers and assign the list to the module-level "CONFIG" variable

#!/usr/bin/env python3
from import acmebank
from import chase



Writing an importer

Each of the importers must comply with a particular protocol and implement at least some of its methods. The full detail of the protocol is in the source of

"""Importer protocol.

All importers must comply with this interface and implement at least some of its
methods. A configuration consists in a simple list of such importer instances.
The importer processes run through the importers, calling some of its methods in
order to identify, extract and file the downloaded files.

Each of the methods accept a cache.FileMemo object which has a 'name' attribute
with the filename to process, but which also provides a place to cache
conversions. Use its convert() method whenever possible to avoid carrying out
the same conversion multiple times. See beancount.ingest.cache for more details.


 name(): Return a unique identifier for the importer instance.
 identify(): Return true if the identifier is able to process the file.
 extract(): Extract directives from a file's contents and return of list of entries.
 file_account(): Return an account name associated with the given file for this importer.
 file_date(): Return a date associated with the downloaded file (e.g., the statement date).
 file_name(): Return a cleaned up filename for storage (optional).

Just to be clear: Although this importer will not raise NotImplementedError
exceptions (it returns default values for each method), you NEED to derive from
it in order to do anything meaningful. Simply instantiating this importer will
not match not provide any useful information. It just defines the protocol for
all importers.
__copyright__ = "Copyright (C) 2016  Martin Blais"
__license__ = "GNU GPLv2"

from beancount.core import flags

class ImporterProtocol:
    "Interface that all source importers need to comply with."

    # A flag to use on new transaction. Override this flag in derived classes if
    # you prefer to create your imported transactions with a different flag.
    FLAG = flags.FLAG_OKAY

    def name(self):
        """Return a unique id/name for this importer.

          A string which uniquely identifies this importer.
        cls = self.__class__
        return '{}.{}'.format(cls.__module__, cls.__name__)

    __str__ = name

    def identify(self, file):
        """Return true if this importer matches the given file.

          file: A cache.FileMemo instance.
          A boolean, true if this importer can handle this file.

    def extract(self, file):
        """Extract transactions from a file.

          file: A cache.FileMemo instance.
          A list of new, imported directives (usually mostly Transactions)
          extracted from the file.

    def file_account(self, file):
        """Return an account associated with the given file.

        Note: If you don't implement this method you won't be able to move the
        files into its preservation hierarchy; the bean-file command won't work.

        Also, normally the returned account is not a function of the input
        file--just of the importer--but it is provided anyhow.

          file: A cache.FileMemo instance.
          The name of the account that corresponds to this importer.

    def file_name(self, file):
        """A filter that optionally renames a file before filing.

        This is used to make tidy filenames for filed/stored document files. The
        default implementation just returns the same filename. Note that a
        simple RELATIVE filename must be returned, not an absolute filename.

          file: A cache.FileMemo instance.
          The tidied up, new filename to store it as.

    def file_date(self, file):
        """Attempt to obtain a date that corresponds to the given file.

          file: A cache.FileMemo instance.
          A date object, if successful, or None if a date could not be extracted.
          (If no date is returned, the file creation time is used. This is the

A summary of the methods you need to, or may want to implement:

  • name(): Provides a unique id for each importer instance. It's convenient to be able to refer to your importers with a unique name; it gets printed out by the identification process.

  • identify(): This method just returns true if this importer can handle the given file. You must implement this method, and all the tools invoke it ot figure out the list of (file, importer) pairs.

  • extract(): This is called to attempt to extract some Beancount directives from the file contents. It must create the directives by instatiating the objects define in and return them.

from beancount.ingest import importer

class Importer(importer.ImporterProtocol):

  def identify(self, file):
  # Override other methods…

Some importer examples:


  • bean-file filing documents. It si able to identify which document belongs to which account, it can move the downloaded file to the documents archive automatically.

Basic concepts

Beancount transaction

2014-05-23 * "CAFE MOGADOR NEW YO" "Dinner with Caroline"
  Liabilities:US:BofA:CreditCard -98.32 USD
  • Currencies must be entirely in capital letters.
  • Account names do not admit spaces.
  • Description strings must be quoted.
  • Dates are only parsed in YYYY-MM-DD format.
  • Tags must begin with # and links with ^.

Beancount Operators


All accounts need to be declared open in order to accept amounts posted to them.

YYYY-MM-DD open {{ account_name }} [{{ ConstrainCurrency }}]


YYYY-MM-DD close {{ account_name }}

It's useful to insert a balance of 0 units just before closing an account, just to make sure its contents are empty as you close it.


It can be used to declare currencies, financial instruments, commodities... It's optional

YYYY-MM-DD commodity {{ currency_name }}


YYYY-MM-DD txn "[{{ payee }}]"  "{{ Comment }}"
  {{ Account1 }} {{ value}}
  [{{ Accountn-1 }} {{ value }}]
  {{ Accountn }}

Payee is a string that represents an external entity that is involved in the transaction. Payees are sometimes useful on transactions that post amounts to Expense accounts, whereby the account accumulates a category of expenses from multiple business

As transactions is the most common, you can substitute txn for a flag, by default : * *: Completed transaction, known amounts, "this looks correct" * !: Incomplete transaction, needs confirmation or revision, "this looks incorrect"

You can also attach flags to the postings themselves, if you want to flag one of the transaction's legs in particular:

2014-05-05 * "Transfer from Savings account"
  Assets:MyBank:Checking     -400.00 USD
  ! Assets:MyBank:Savings

This is useful in the intermediate stage of de-duping transactions

Tags vs Payee

You can tag your transactions with #{{tag_name}}, so you can later filter or generate reports based on that tag. Therefore the Payee could be used as whom or who pays and the tag for the context. For example, for a trip I could use the tag #34C3

To mark a series of transactions with tags use the following syntax

pushtag #berlin-trip-2014

2014-04-23 * "Flight to Berlin"
  Expenses:Flights -1230.27 USD


poptag #berlin-trip-2014

Transactions can also be linked together. You may think of the link as a special kind of tag that can be used to group together a set of financially related transactions over time.

2014-02-05 * "Invoice for January" ^invoice-acme-studios-jan14
  Income:Clients:ACMEStudios   -8450.00 USD


2014-02-20 * "Check deposit - payment from ACME" ^invoice-acme-studios-jan14
  Assets:BofA:Checking         8450.00 USD


A balance assertion is a way for you to input your statement balance into the flow of transactions. It tells Beancount to verify that the number of units of a particular commodity in some account should equal some expected value at some point in time.

If no error is reported, you should have some confidence that the list of transactions that precedes it in this account is highly likely to be correct. This is useful in practice because in many cases some transactions can get imported separately from the accounts of each of their postings.

As all other non-transaction directives, it applies at the beginning of it's date. Just imagine that the balance checks occurs right after midnight on that day.

YYYY-MM-DD balance {{ account_name }} {{ amount }}


A padding directive automatically inserts a transaction that will make the subsequent balance assertion succeed, if it is needed. It inserts the difference needed to fulfill that balance assertion.

Being subsequent in date order, not in the order of the declarations in the file.

YYYY-MM-DD pad {{ account_name }} {{ account_name_to_pad }}

The first account is the account to credit the automatically calculated amount to. This is the account that should have a balance assertion following it. The second leg is the source where the funds will come from, and this is almost always some Equity account.

1990-05-17 open Assets:Cash EUR
1990-05-17 pad Assets:Cash Equity:Opening-Balances
2017-12-26 balance Assets:Cash 250 EUR

You could also insert pad entries between balance assertions so as to fix un registered transactions


A note directive is simply used to attach a dated comment to the journal of a particular account.

this can be useful to record facts and claims associated with a financial event.

YYYY-MM-DD note {{ account_name }} {{ comment }}


A Document directive can be used to attach an external file to the journal of an account.

The filename gets rendered as a browser link in the journals of the web interface for the corresponding account and you should be able to click on it to view the contents of the file itself.

YYYY-MM-DD {{ account_name }} {{ path/to/document }}


This allows you to split up large input files into multiple files.

include {{ path/to/file.beancount }}

The path could be relative or absolute.


Any text on a line after the character ; is ignored, text like this:

; I paid and left the taxi, forgot to take change, it was cold.
2015-01-01 * "Taxi home from concert in Brooklyn"
  Assets:Cash      -20 USD  ; inline comment

Library usage

Beancount can also be used as a Python library.

There are some articles in the documentation where you can start seeing how to use it: scripting plugins , external contributions and the api reference. Although I found it more pleasant to read the source code itself as it's really well documented (both by docstrings and type hints).

Building your own dashboards

I was wondering whether to create fava dashboards or to create them directly in grafana.

Pros of fava dashboards: - They are integrated in fava so it would be easy to browse other beancount data. Although this could be done as well in another window if I used grafana. - There is no need to create the beancount grafana data source logic. - It's already a working project, I would need just to tweak an existent example.

Cons: - I may need to learn echarts and write JavaScript to tweak some of the dashboards. - I wouldn't have all my dashboards in the same place. - It only solves part of the problem, I'd still need to write the bean-sql queries. But using beanql is probably the best way to extract data from beancount anyway. - It involves more magic than using grafana. - grafana dashboards are prettier. - I wouldn't use the grafana knowledge. - I'd learn a new tool only to use it here instead of taking the chance to improve my grafana skillset.

I'm going to try with fava dashboards and see how it goes