Mike Kasberg

Husband. Father. Software engineer. Ubuntu Linux user.

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Monitoring Gross Income with Lunch Money

19 Sep 2022

Lunch Money is a great tool for tracking your personal finances. I wrote about it a couple months ago in my comparison of personal finance tools. However, the way most people use it, it will track finances from your net income. That is, it will track your finances for the portion of your paycheck that hits your bank account – because it uses your bank and credit card transaction history to track your finances. And that’s fine for a lot of people, but it won’t give you a complete view of your finances. In particular, if you’re only tracking finances from your net paycheck, you’re probably not tracking your 401(k) contributions, taxes, and other paycheck deductions.

It might not seem terribly important to track your paycheck deductions at first, but in reality you could be blind to a large chunk of your financial picture if you don’t. You won’t be able to track your true savings rate over time if you don’t track how much you contribute to your 401(k). And you won’t have a complete view of your finances if you don’t know how much money you’re spending on taxes and other deductions. So, how can you track your gross paycheck in Lunch Money or similar financial tools (like Mint)? The concept is relatively simple. Each month, in addition to your net paycheck (that you’re already tracking via deposit into your bank account), you want to add these transactions:

  • Each paycheck deduction (401(k) contribution, HSA contribution, etc.), as an expense
  • The sum of all the above deductions, as income

By adding these transactions each time you receive a paycheck, you can track paycheck deductions the same way you track all your other expenses. You’ll see your gross income in Lunch Money (or other financial app), and you’ll be able to track things like 401(k) contributions and taxes even though they never went through one of your automatically tracked acounts. To illustrate, let’s work through an example. Suppose you get paid twice a month on the first and the fifteenth and your paycheck looks like this:

Transaction Amount
Gross Pay $3,000
Tax Withholding $(450)
401(k) Contribution $(300)
Net Pay $2,250

You’d create these transactions (manually) on the first and fifteenth:

Transaction Amount
Tax Withholding $(450)
401(k) Contribution $(300)
Paycheck Deductions Income $750

Manually creating those transactions each month is a little tedious, but we can work around that. In Lunch Money, I use recurring transactions to make it easier to recreate these transactions each paycheck. Unfortunately the process isn’t fully automated, but recurring transactions make it quick to manually add transactions each time I get a paycheck. To do this, I set up a recurring transaction as described above (one for each expense, and one income transaction for the sum of all the deductions) in Lunch Money. Then, each time I get a paycheck, I select Create From Recurring from the Add To Cash dropdown menu on the Transactions page in Lunch Money, and I check the boxes for my paycheck transactions. It would be great if Lunch Money could automatically create these each month, but using recurring transactions isn’t too bad.

An example of recurring transactions in Lunch Money

By adding these transactions to Lunch Money, I’m able to track my gross income. That’s great because it helps me build a complete understanding of how much I’m saving (including 401(k) contributions) and how much I’m spending (including on things like health insurance and taxes).

I wasn’t compensated to write this article, and the views and opinions expressed above are my own. As I’ve said before on this blog, I just enjoy writing about great software. For this particular article, however, I am using referral links for Lunch Money above. Lunch Money is great software that I actually use myself, and the referral links help offset some of the cost of running this blog!

About the Author

Mike Kasberg

👋 Hi, I'm Mike! I'm a husband, I'm a father, and I'm a senior software engineer at Strava. I use Ubuntu Linux daily at work and at home. And I enjoy writing about Linux, open source, programming, 3D printing, tech, and other random topics.


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