Dual Currencies

We live overseas, or we will in a few weeks, and I’m trying to figure out how to use GB to track our spending once we return. The problem is that our banks are in the US and most of our expenses are in the Philippines. We use cash for almost everything there, so I can’t enter the credit card amount in US dollars into the app.

Previously, we used GB to track our local expenses, but we didn’t keep track of our US accounts. While we have been in the States this past year, we’ve actually gotten ahead (We’re still not paying this month’s envelope’s from last month’s salary, but we’re also not last month’s credit card bill from next month’s paycheck!). I would love to keep using GB once we return, but I don’t have any idea how to make it work. Any advice?

Hi Kellie, thanks for asking. Unfortunately the short answer is there’s not a really elegant solution in Goodbudget for tracking multiple currencies, especially in a case like yours where it sounds like both currencies are in a single budget, rather than having two separate budgets, one for each currency.

In the latter case, the easiest way to track that is often to create two separate Goodbudget households/logins to track each currency’s budget. But it sounds like that might not work so well in your case.

I’m not certain this is the optimal solution, but I’m wondering if the best solution would be to just keep the bank accounts in USD and have a cash account you track in PHP. Obviously the “total” funds in your household wouldn’t give useful information, but at least it would give sensible numbers for each local amount. Then when you transfer money from your bank(s) to your cash, you can just make the adjustments as necessary for the exchange rate, and use this method to prevent the USD figures from accidentally entering your PHP budget.

…That’s really complicated, and would definitely take some extra monitoring, but that’s what I’m thinking right now…

Hi Kellie—
I’m managing budgets in both USD and GBP in a single household so I feel your pain!
I use envelopes to separate the currencies from each other, envelope transfers between currencies, and account balance edits (quite a bit).
It works for me, but as Alex said it’s not particularly elegant. Still, having used GB for a long while it’s fairly easy now.
If you’re interested in details let me know and I’ll try to summarize my process.

Let me see if I understand what you’re suggesting: I would have my paid account for all of my bank accounts and US dollar budget items and then a free account that was only cash and had my PH peso budget items? If that is what you mean, we could stay logged into the free account so that when we used cash, we’d be able to enter it immediately, and then I’d stay logged into our paid account on my computer. Would that work?

I meant that we would stay logged into the free account on our phones.

Yes, that should work well, and is roughly what others do also (although depending on people’s individual situations, sometimes both budgets are detailed or some more, some less, etc). There are even people who have 3 or even 4 households, all tracking different currencies.

In addition, if you’re on the annual Plus plan and choose this two household route, we’d be happy to give your extra currency household a complimentary upgrade that matches the duration of your main subscription, in case having the extra flexibility would be helpful there.

So isn’t the next obvious step to decompose “household” into separate “user” and “budget” entities? One user could manage multiple budgets in any currencies with a single login. You could even introduce a Premium subscription tier:

  • GB Basic: one budget, one account, limited envelopes
  • GB Plus: one budget, unlimited accounts and envelopes
  • GB Premium: unlimited budgets, accounts, and envelopes

This would also facilitate separate logins for different household members, i.e. children could be given their own budgets under parental supervision without having access to the parents’ budget(s), all kinds of possibilities open up.

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Your idea is something that’s been considered in the past and is an idea that we revisit to from time to time, but given that the vast majority of people using Goodbudget operate with one budget and one currency, it hasn’t been a priority compared to other things we could develop that would impact greater swathes of people.

As with all things, that’s not to say we won’t ever do it, but just to shed a little light on why we haven’t yet done something that might seem “obvious”.

I just don’t think this is going to work for me, as much as the Goodbudget app as been a blessing in the US. We have budget categories that are both peso and US dollar, like groceries and eating out. We use our credit card in the grocery store and cash in the market. I need the credit card expenses to show up on my peso budget AND to show up on my US credit card account so I know what the balance is. If anyone can solve that problem with the dual households, I’ll give it a try, but right now it looks like GB isn’t going to work for me in my situation.

I’ve just added a secondary household for our UK transactions because they’ve gotten more frequent and complex. Now my UK household has budget categories, our UK bank account and a US “mirrored” credit card. Those transactions are all recorded in GBP for budgetary reasons, so the CC is just a placeholder.
The US household has the “real” credit card transactions (duplicates but converted into $), all grouped into a “GBP Expenses/US Money” envelope. I pay that card from the US bank account and it’s as if we spent the money here.
I plan to manually “zero out” the CC balance in the secondary household on the first of the month since I’m not paying or reconciling it on that side anyway.
It’s a few extra steps and we’ll see how I feel in another month, but for now it seems to neatly solve the two-currency issue.

Tiffany, when you withdraw GBP, how do you record that on your USD account?

At first, I was just transferring it to cash, but then I’m not keeping track of the pesos I’m spending, so I started adding ATM withdrawals as a debit from my peso envelope. The problem with that is that I have a Cash Advance/Reimbursements envelope that have expenses both in pesos and credit card which get reimbursed in USD. So in order for me to list the pesos expenses under my cash advance, I need to have cash available. Or should I just not worry that my cash is always in the red since I’m not really keeping track of cash in the US GB acct?

Does that make sense?

I’m not 100% sure I can picture what you mean, but two things jump to mind—first, I don’t have any envelopes with expenses in two currencies, because the exchange rate makes that a mess. My envelopes are all either/or for GBP and USD.
If I’m spending from an account that requires repayment in USD, I record that amount even if I paid in the other. If I spend two quid on a coffee, I record it as $2.56 from my American credit card (and now I also record it as £2 in my new UK GB account in order to better stay on budget over there).
The other thing is how I convert currency; if you withdraw funds you have to put those expenses in some kind of envelope, but then you may double count expenses when you record them from the other denomination. A transfer can’t have different amounts on both sides, so that doesn’t work either. Instead, I Edit the balance of the account I’m pulling from and then add “new” income to the other, then rename the balance adjustment.
For example, if I convert $1,280 to £1,000 I would Edit to adjust down my USD account by $1,280 and then add new income of £1,000 to the GBP account.
I hope this makes sense and is helpful! I did find that once we were spending from both currencies frequently, a second Goodbudget account became a necessity.