hledger

NAME

hledger - a robust, friendly plain text accounting app (command line version).

SYNOPSIS

hledger
or
hledger COMMAND [OPTS] [ARGS]
or
hledger ADDONCMD [OPTS] -- [ADDONOPTS] [ADDONARGS]

DESCRIPTION

hledger is a robust, user-friendly, cross-platform set of programs for tracking money, time, or any other commodity, using double-entry accounting and a simple, editable file format. hledger is inspired by and largely compatible with ledger(1), and largely interconvertible with beancount(1).

This manual is for hledger's command line interface, version 1.34.99. It also describes the common options, file formats and concepts used by all hledger programs. It might accidentally teach you some bookkeeping/accounting as well! You don't need to know everything in here to use hledger productively, but when you have a question about functionality, this doc should answer it. It is detailed, so do skip ahead or skim when needed. You can read it on hledger.org, or as an info manual or man page on your system. You can also open a built-in copy, at a point of interest, by running
hledger --man [CMD], hledger --info [CMD] or hledger help [TOPIC].

(And for shorter help, try hledger --tldr [CMD].)

The main function of the hledger CLI is to read plain text files describing financial transactions, crunch the numbers, and print a useful report on the terminal (or save it as HTML, CSV, JSON or SQL). Many reports are available, as subcommands. hledger will also detect other hledger-* executables as extra subcommands.

hledger usually reads from (and appends to) a journal file specified by the LEDGER_FILE environment variable (defaulting to $HOME/.hledger.journal); or you can specify files with -f options. It can also read timeclock files, timedot files, or any CSV/SSV/TSV file with a date field.

Here is a small journal file describing one transaction:

2015-10-16 bought food
  expenses:food          $10
  assets:cash

Transactions are dated movements of money (etc.) between two or more accounts: bank accounts, your wallet, revenue/expense categories, people, etc. You can choose any account names you wish, using : to indicate subaccounts. There must be at least two spaces between account name and amount. Positive amounts are inflow to that account (debit), negatives are outflow from it (credit). (Some reports show revenue, liability and equity account balances as negative numbers as a result; this is normal.)

hledger's add command can help you add transactions, or you can install other data entry UIs like hledger-web or hledger-iadd. For more extensive/efficient changes, use a text editor: Emacs + ledger-mode, VIM + vim-ledger, or VS Code + hledger-vscode are some good choices (see https://hledger.org/editors.html).

To get started, run hledger add and follow the prompts, or save some entries like the above in $HOME/.hledger.journal, then try commands like:

$ hledger print -x
$ hledger aregister assets
$ hledger balance
$ hledger balancesheet
$ hledger incomestatement

Run hledger to list the commands. See also the "Starting a journal file" and "Setting opening balances" sections in PART 5: COMMON TASKS.

PART 1: USER INTERFACE

Input

hledger reads one or more data files, each time you run it. You can specify a file with -f, like so

$ hledger -f FILE print

Files are most often in hledger's journal format, with the .journal file extension (.hledger or .j also work); these files describe transactions, like an accounting general journal.

When no file is specified, hledger looks for .hledger.journal in your home directory.

But most people prefer to keep financial files in a dedicated folder, perhaps with version control. Also, starting a new journal file each year is common (it's not required, but helps keep things fast and organised). So we usually configure a different journal file, by setting the LEDGER_FILE environment variable, to something like ~/finance/2023.journal. For more about how to do that on your system, see Common tasks > Setting LEDGER_FILE.

Text encoding

Data files containing non-ascii characters must use UTF-8 encoding. An optional byte order mark (BOM) is allowed, at the beginning of the file (only).

Also, your system should be configured with a locale that can decode UTF-8 text. On some unix systems, you may need set the LANG environment variable, eg. You can read more about this in Unicode characters, below.

On unix systems you can check a file's encoding with the file command. If you need to import from a UTF-16-encoded CSV file, say, you can convert it to UTF-8 with the iconv command.

Data formats

Usually the data file is in hledger's journal format, but it can be in any of the supported file formats, which currently are:

Reader:Reads:Automatically used for files with extensions:
journalhledger journal files and some Ledger journals, for transactions.journal .j .hledger .ledger
timeclocktimeclock files, for precise time logging.timeclock
timedottimedot files, for approximate time logging.timedot
csvComma or other character separated values, for data import.csv
ssvSemicolon separated values.ssv
tsvTab separated values.tsv
rulesCSV/SSV/TSV/other separated values, alternate way.rules

These formats are described in more detail below.

hledger detects the format automatically based on the file extensions shown above. If it can't recognise the file extension, it assumes journal format. So for non-journal files, it's important to use a recognised file extension, so as to either read successfully or to show relevant error messages.

You can also force a specific reader/format by prefixing the file path with the format and a colon. Eg, to read a .dat file containing tab separated values:

$ hledger -f tsv:/some/file.dat stats

Standard input

The file name - means standard input:

$ cat FILE | hledger -f- print

If reading non-journal data in this way, you'll need to write the format as a prefix, like timeclock: here:

$ echo 'i 2009/13/1 08:00:00' | hledger print -f timeclock:-

Multiple files

You can specify multiple -f options, to read multiple files as one big journal. When doing this, note that certain features (described below) will be affected:

  • Balance assertions will not see the effect of transactions in previous files. (Usually this doesn't matter as each file will set the corresponding opening balances.)
  • Some directives will not affect previous or subsequent files.

If needed, you can work around these by using a single parent file which includes the others, or concatenating the files into one, eg: cat a.journal b.journal | hledger -f- CMD.

Strict mode

hledger checks input files for valid data. By default, the most important errors are detected, while still accepting easy journal files without a lot of declarations:

  • Are the input files parseable, with valid syntax ?
  • Are all transactions balanced ?
  • Do all balance assertions pass ?

With the -s/--strict flag, additional checks are performed:

You can use the check command to run individual checks -- the ones listed above and some more.

Commands

hledger provides various subcommands for getting things done. Most of these commands do not change the journal file; they just read it and output a report. A few commands assist with adding data and file management.

To show the commands list, run hledger with no arguments. The commands are described in detail in PART 4: COMMANDS, below.

To use a particular command, run hledger CMD [CMDOPTS] [CMDARGS],

  • CMD is the full command name, or its standard abbreviation shown in the commands list, or any unambiguous prefix of the name.

  • CMDOPTS are command-specific options, if any. Command-specific options must be written after the command name. Eg: hledger print -x.

  • CMDARGS are additional arguments to the command, if any. Most hledger commands accept arguments representing a query, to limit the data in some way. Eg: hledger reg assets:checking.

To list a command's options, arguments, and documentation in the terminal, run hledger CMD -h. Eg: hledger bal -h.

Add-on commands

In addition to the built-in commands, you can install add-on commands: programs or scripts named "hledger-SOMETHING", which will also appear in hledger's commands list. If you used the hledger-install script, you will have several add-ons installed already. Some more can be found in hledger's bin/ directory, documented at https://hledger.org/scripts.html.

More precisely, add-on commands are programs or scripts in your shell's PATH, whose name starts with "hledger-" and ends with no extension or a recognised extension (".bat", ".com", ".exe", ".hs", ".js", ".lhs", ".lua", ".php", ".pl", ".py", ".rb", ".rkt", or ".sh"), and (on unix and mac) which has executable permission for the current user.

You can run add-on commands using hledger, much like built-in commands: hledger ADDONCMD [-- ADDONCMDOPTS] [ADDONCMDARGS]. But note the double hyphen argument, required before add-on-specific options. Eg: hledger ui -- --watch or hledger web -- --serve. If this causes difficulty, you can always run the add-on directly, without using hledger: hledger-ui --watch or hledger-web --serve.

Options

Run hledger -h to see general command line help. The following general options are common to most hledger commands. General options can be written either before or after the command name.

General input/data transformation flags:
  -f --file=FILE            Read data from FILE, or from stdin if -. Can be
                            specified more than once. If not specified, reads
                            from $LEDGER_FILE or $HOME/.hledger.journal.
     --rules-file=RULEFILE  Use conversion rules from this file for
                            converting subsequent CSV/SSV/TSV files. If not
                            specified, uses FILE.rules for each such FILE.
     --alias=A=B|/RGX/=RPL  transform account names from A to B, or by
                            replacing regular expression matches
     --auto                 generate extra postings by applying auto posting
                            rules ("=") to all transactions
     --forecast[=PERIOD]    Generate extra transactions from periodic rules
                            ("~"), from after the latest ordinary transaction
                            until 6 months from now. Or, during the specified
                            PERIOD (the equals is required). Auto posting rules
                            will also be applied to these transactions. In
                            hledger-ui, also make future-dated transactions
                            visible at startup.
  -I --ignore-assertions    don't check balance assertions by default
     --infer-costs          infer conversion equity postings from costs
     --infer-equity         infer costs from conversion equity postings
     --infer-market-prices  infer market prices from costs
     --pivot=TAGNAME        use a different field or tag as account names
  -s --strict               do extra error checks (and override -I)
     --verbose-tags         add tags indicating generated/modified data

General output/reporting flags (supported by some commands):
  -b --begin=DATE           include postings/transactions on/after this date
  -e --end=DATE             include postings/transactions before this date
                            (with a report interval, will be adjusted to
                            following subperiod end)
  -D --daily                multiperiod report with 1 day interval
  -W --weekly               multiperiod report with 1 week interval
  -M --monthly              multiperiod report with 1 month interval
  -Q --quarterly            multiperiod report with 1 quarter interval
  -Y --yearly               multiperiod report with 1 year interval
  -p --period=PERIODEXP     set begin date, end date, and/or report interval,
                            with more flexibility
     --today=DATE           override today's date (affects relative dates)
     --date2                match/use secondary dates instead (deprecated)
  -U --unmarked             include only unmarked postings/transactions
  -P --pending              include only pending postings/transactions
  -C --cleared              include only cleared postings/transactions
                            (-U/-P/-C can be combined)
  -R --real                 include only non-virtual postings
     --depth=NUM            or -NUM: show only top NUM levels of accounts
  -E --empty                Show zero items, which are normally hidden.
                            In hledger-ui & hledger-web, do the opposite.
  -B --cost                 show amounts converted to their cost/sale amount
  -V --market               Show amounts converted to their value at period
                            end(s) in their default valuation commodity.
                            Equivalent to --value=end.
  -X --exchange=COMM        Show amounts converted to their value at period
                            end(s) in the specified commodity.
                            Equivalent to --value=end,COMM.
     --value=WHEN[,COMM]    show amounts converted to their value on the
                            specified date(s) in their default valuation
                            commodity or a specified commodity. WHEN can be:
                            'then':     value on transaction dates
                            'end':      value at period end(s)
                            'now':      value today
                            YYYY-MM-DD: value on given date
  -c --commodity-style=S    Override a commodity's display style.
                            Eg: -c '.' or -c '1.000,00 EUR'
     --color=YN --colour    Use ANSI color codes in text output? Can be
                            'y'/'yes'/'always', 'n'/'no'/'never' or 'auto'.
     --pretty[=YN]          Use box-drawing characters in text output? Can be
                            'y'/'yes' or 'n'/'no'.
                            If YN is specified, the equals is required.
     --debug=[1-9]          show this level of debug output (default: 1)

General help flags:
  -h --help                 show command line help
     --tldr                 show command examples with tldr
     --info                 show the manual with info
     --man                  show the manual with man
     --version              show version information

Usually hledger accepts any unambiguous flag prefix, eg you can write --tl instead of --tldr or --dry instead of --dry-run.

If the same option appears more than once in a command, usually the last (right-most) wins.

With most commands, arguments are interpreted as a hledger query which filter the data. Some queries can be expressed either with options or with arguments.

Below are more tips for using the command line interface - feel free to skip these until you need them.

Special characters

Single escaping (shell metacharacters)

In shell command lines, characters significant to your shell - such as spaces, <, >, (, ), |, $ and \ - should be "shell-escaped" if you want hledger to see them. This is done by enclosing them in single or double quotes, or by writing a backslash before them. Eg to match an account name containing a space:

$ hledger register 'credit card'

or:

$ hledger register credit\ card

Windows users should keep in mind that cmd treats single quote as a regular character, so you should be using double quotes exclusively. PowerShell treats both single and double quotes as quotes.

Double escaping (regular expression metacharacters)

Characters significant in regular expressions (described below) - such as ., ^, $, [, ], (, ), |, and \ - may need to be "regex-escaped" if you don't want them to be interpreted by hledger's regular expression engine. This is done by writing backslashes before them, but since backslash is typically also a shell metacharacter, both shell-escaping and regex-escaping will be needed. Eg to match a literal $ sign while using the bash shell:

$ hledger balance cur:'\$'

or:

$ hledger balance cur:\\$

Triple escaping (for add-on commands)

When you use hledger to run an external add-on command (described below), one level of shell-escaping is lost from any options or arguments intended for by the add-on command, so those need an extra level of shell-escaping. Eg to match a literal $ sign while using the bash shell and running an add-on command (ui):

$ hledger ui cur:'\\$'

or:

$ hledger ui cur:\\\\$

If you wondered why four backslashes, perhaps this helps:

unescaped:$
escaped:\$
double-escaped:\\$
triple-escaped:\\\\$

Or, you can avoid the extra escaping by running the add-on executable directly:

$ hledger-ui cur:\\$

Less escaping

Options and arguments are sometimes used in places other than the shell command line, where shell-escaping is not needed, so there you should use one less level of escaping. Those places include:

  • an @argumentfile
  • hledger-ui's filter field
  • hledger-web's search form
  • GHCI's prompt (used by developers).

Unicode characters

hledger is expected to handle non-ascii characters correctly:

  • they should be parsed correctly in input files and on the command line, by all hledger tools (add, iadd, hledger-web's search/add/edit forms, etc.)

  • they should be displayed correctly by all hledger tools, and on-screen alignment should be preserved.

This requires a well-configured environment. Here are some tips:

  • A system locale must be configured, and it must be one that can decode the characters being used. In bash, you can set a locale like this: export LANG=en_US.UTF-8. There are some more details in Troubleshooting. This step is essential - without it, hledger will quit on encountering a non-ascii character (as with all GHC-compiled programs).

  • Your terminal software (eg Terminal.app, iTerm, CMD.exe, xterm..) must support unicode. On Windows, you may need to use Windows Terminal and/or enable UTF-8 support.

  • The terminal must be using a font which includes the required unicode glyphs.

  • The terminal should be configured to display wide characters as double width (for report alignment).

  • On Windows, for best results you should run hledger in the same kind of environment in which it was built. Eg hledger built in the standard CMD.EXE environment (like the binaries on our download page) might show display problems when run in a cygwin or msys terminal, and vice versa. (See eg #961).

Regular expressions

A regular expression (regexp) is a small piece of text where certain characters (like ., ^, $, +, *, (), |, [], \) have special meanings, forming a tiny language for matching text precisely - very useful in hledger and elsewhere. To learn all about them, visit regular-expressions.info.

hledger supports regexps whenever you are entering a pattern to match something, eg in query arguments, account aliases, CSV if rules, hledger-web's search form, hledger-ui's / search, etc. You may need to wrap them in quotes, especially at the command line (see Special characters above). Here are some examples:

Account name queries (quoted for command line use):

Regular expression:  Matches:
-------------------  ------------------------------------------------------------
bank                 assets:bank, assets:bank:savings, expenses:art:banksy, ...
:bank                assets:bank:savings, expenses:art:banksy
:bank:               assets:bank:savings
'^bank'              none of those ( ^ matches beginning of text )
'bank$'              assets:bank   ( $ matches end of text )
'big \$ bank'        big $ bank    ( \ disables following character's special meaning )
'\bbank\b'           assets:bank, assets:bank:savings  ( \b matches word boundaries )
'(sav|check)ing'     saving or checking  ( (|) matches either alternative )
'saving|checking'    saving or checking  ( outer parentheses are not needed )
'savings?'           saving or savings   ( ? matches 0 or 1 of the preceding thing )
'my +bank'           my bank, my  bank, ... ( + matches 1 or more of the preceding thing )
'my *bank'           mybank, my bank, my  bank, ... ( * matches 0 or more of the preceding thing )
'b.nk'               bank, bonk, b nk, ... ( . matches any character )

Some other queries:

desc:'amazon|amzn|audible'  Amazon transactions
cur:EUR              amounts with commodity symbol containing EUR
cur:'\$'             amounts with commodity symbol containing $
cur:'^\$$'           only $ amounts, not eg AU$ or CA$
cur:....?            amounts with 4-or-more-character symbols
tag:.=202[1-3]       things with any tag whose value contains 2021, 2022 or 2023

Account name aliases: accept . instead of : as account separator:

alias /\./=:         replaces all periods in account names with colons

Show multiple top-level accounts combined as one:

--alias='/^[^:]+/=combined'  ( [^:] matches any character other than : )

Show accounts with the second-level part removed:

--alias '/^([^:]+):[^:]+/ = \1'
                     match a top-level account and a second-level account
                     and replace those with just the top-level account
                     ( \1 in the replacement text means "whatever was matched
                     by the first parenthesised part of the regexp"

CSV rules: match CSV records containing dining-related MCC codes:

if \?MCC581[124]

Match CSV records with a specific amount around the end/start of month:

if %amount \b3\.99
&  %date   (29|30|31|01|02|03)$

hledger's regular expressions

hledger's regular expressions come from the regex-tdfa library. If they're not doing what you expect, it's important to know exactly what they support:

  1. they are case insensitive
  2. they are infix matching (they do not need to match the entire thing being matched)
  3. they are POSIX ERE (extended regular expressions)
  4. they also support GNU word boundaries (\b, \B, \<, \>)
  5. backreferences are supported when doing text replacement in account aliases or CSV rules, where backreferences can be used in the replacement string to reference capturing groups in the search regexp. Otherwise, if you write \1, it will match the digit 1.
  6. they do not support mode modifiers ((?s)), character classes (\w, \d), or anything else not mentioned above.

Some things to note:

  • In the alias directive and --alias option, regular expressions must be enclosed in forward slashes (/REGEX/). Elsewhere in hledger, these are not required.

  • In queries, to match a regular expression metacharacter like $ as a literal character, prepend a backslash. Eg to search for amounts with the dollar sign in hledger-web, write cur:\$.

  • On the command line, some metacharacters like $ have a special meaning to the shell and so must be escaped at least once more. See Special characters.

Argument files

You can save a set of command line options and arguments in a file, and then reuse them by writing @FILENAME as a command line argument. Eg: hledger bal @foo.args.

Inside the argument file, each line should contain just one option or argument. Don't use spaces except inside quotes (or you'll see a confusing error); write = (or nothing) between a flag and its argument. For the special characters mentioned above, use one less level of quoting than you would at the command prompt.

Output

Output destination

hledger commands send their output to the terminal by default. You can of course redirect this, eg into a file, using standard shell syntax:

$ hledger print > foo.txt

Some commands (print, register, stats, the balance commands) also provide the -o/--output-file option, which does the same thing without needing the shell. Eg:

$ hledger print -o foo.txt
$ hledger print -o -        # write to stdout (the default)

Output format

Some commands offer other kinds of output, not just text on the terminal. Here are those commands and the formats currently supported:

-txtcsv/tsvhtmljsonsql
aregisterYYYY
balanceY 1Y 1Y 1,2Y
balancesheetY 1Y 1Y 1Y
balancesheetequityY 1Y 1Y 1Y
cashflowY 1Y 1Y 1Y
incomestatementY 1Y 1Y 1Y
printYYYY
registerYYY
  • 1 Also affected by the balance commands' --layout option.
  • 2 balance does not support html output without a report interval or with --budget.

The output format is selected by the -O/--output-format=FMT option:

$ hledger print -O csv    # print CSV on stdout

or by the filename extension of an output file specified with the -o/--output-file=FILE.FMT option:

$ hledger balancesheet -o foo.csv    # write CSV to foo.csv

The -O option can be combined with -o to override the file extension, if needed:

$ hledger balancesheet -o foo.txt -O csv    # write CSV to foo.txt

Some notes about the various output formats:

CSV output

  • In CSV output, digit group marks (such as thousands separators) are disabled automatically.

HTML output

  • HTML output can be styled by an optional hledger.css file in the same directory.

JSON output

  • hledger represents quantities as Decimal values storing up to 255 significant digits, eg for repeating decimals. Such numbers can arise in practice (from automatically-calculated transaction prices), and would break most JSON consumers. So in JSON, we show quantities as simple Numbers with at most 10 decimal places. We don't limit the number of integer digits, but that part is under your control. We hope this approach will not cause problems in practice; if you find otherwise, please let us know. (Cf #1195)

SQL output

  • This is not yet much used; real-world feedback is welcome.

  • SQL output is expected to work at least with SQLite, MySQL and Postgres.

  • For SQLite, it will be more useful if you modify the generated id field to be a PRIMARY KEY. Eg:

    $ hledger print -O sql | sed 's/id serial/id INTEGER PRIMARY KEY AUTOINCREMENT NOT NULL/g' | ...
    
  • SQL output is structured with the expectations that statements will be executed in the empty database. If you already have tables created via SQL output of hledger, you would probably want to either clear tables of existing data (via delete or truncate SQL statements) or drop tables completely as otherwise your postings will be duped.

Commodity styles

When displaying amounts, hledger infers a standard display style for each commodity/currency, as described below in Commodity display style.

If needed, this can be overridden by a -c/--commodity-style option (except for cost amounts and amounts displayed by the print command, which are always displayed with all decimal digits). For example, the following will force dollar amounts to be displayed as shown:

$ hledger print -c '$1.000,0'

This option can repeated to set the display style for multiple commodities/currencies. Its argument is as described in the commodity directive.

In some cases hledger will adjust number formatting to improve their parseability (such as adding trailing decimal marks when needed).

Colour

In terminal output, some commands can produce colour when the terminal supports it:

  • if the --color/--colour option is given a value of yes or always (or no or never), colour will (or will not) be used;
  • otherwise, if the NO_COLOR environment variable is set, colour will not be used;
  • otherwise, colour will be used if the output (terminal or file) supports it.

Box-drawing

In terminal (text) output, to minimise the risk of display problems, table borders are drawn using only ascii characters by default.

To see tables with prettier unicode box-drawing characters, add the --pretty flag. This will also show outer borders and inter-column borders.

Paging

When showing long output in the terminal, hledger will try to use the pager specified by the PAGER environment variable, or less, or more. (A pager is a helper program that shows one page at a time rather than scrolling everything off screen). Currently it does this only for help output, not for reports; specifically,

  • when listing commands, with hledger
  • when showing help with hledger [CMD] --help,
  • when viewing manuals with hledger help or hledger --man.

Note the pager is expected to handle ANSI codes, which hledger uses eg for bold emphasis. For the common pager less (and its more compatibility mode), we add R to the LESS and MORE environment variables to make this work. If you use a different pager, you might need to configure it similarly, to avoid seeing junk on screen (let us know). Otherwise, you can set the NO_COLOR environment variable to 1 to disable all ANSI output (see Colour).

Debug output

We intend hledger to be relatively easy to troubleshoot, introspect and develop. You can add --debug[=N] to any hledger command line to see additional debug output. N ranges from 1 (least output, the default) to 9 (maximum output). Typically you would start with 1 and increase until you are seeing enough. Debug output goes to stderr, and is not affected by -o/--output-file (unless you redirect stderr to stdout, eg: 2>&1). It will be interleaved with normal output, which can help reveal when parts of the code are evaluated. To capture debug output in a log file instead, you can usually redirect stderr, eg:

hledger bal --debug=3 2>hledger.log

Environment

These environment variables affect hledger:

COLUMNS This is normally set by your terminal; some hledger commands (register) will format their output to this width. If not set, they will try to use the available terminal width.

LEDGER_FILE The main journal file to use when not specified with -f/--file. Default: $HOME/.hledger.journal.

NO_COLOR If this environment variable exists (with any value, including empty), hledger will not use ANSI color codes in terminal output, unless overridden by an explicit --color=y/--colour=y option.

PART 2: DATA FORMATS

Journal

hledger's usual data source is a plain text file containing journal entries in hledger journal format. If you're looking for a quick reference, jump ahead to the journal cheatsheet (or use the table of contents at https://hledger.org/hledger.html).

This file represents an accounting General Journal. The .journal file extension is most often used, though not strictly required. The journal file contains a number of transaction entries, each describing a transfer of money (or any commodity) between two or more named accounts, in a simple format readable by both hledger and humans.

hledger's journal format is compatible with most of Ledger's journal format, but not all of it. The differences and interoperation tips are described at hledger and Ledger. With some care, and by avoiding incompatible features, you can keep your hledger journal readable by Ledger and vice versa. This can useful eg for comparing the behaviour of one app against the other.

You can use hledger without learning any more about this file; just use the add or web or import commands to create and update it.

Many users, though, edit the journal file with a text editor, and track changes with a version control system such as git. Editor addons such as ledger-mode or hledger-mode for Emacs, vim-ledger for Vim, and hledger-vscode for Visual Studio Code, make this easier, adding colour, formatting, tab completion, and useful commands. See Editor configuration at hledger.org for the full list.

A hledger journal file can contain three kinds of thing: comment lines, transactions, and/or directives (including periodic transaction rules and auto posting rules). Understanding the journal file format will also give you a good understanding of hledger's data model. Here's a quick cheatsheet/overview, followed by detailed descriptions of each part.

Journal cheatsheet

# Here is the main syntax of hledger's journal format
# (omitting extra Ledger compatibility syntax).

###############################################################################

# 1. These are comment lines, for notes or temporarily disabling things.
; They begin with # or ;

comment
Or, lines can be enclosed within "comment" / "end comment".
This is a block of 
commented lines.
end comment

# Some journal entries can have semicolon comments at end of line  ; like this
# Some of them require 2 or more spaces before the semicolon.

###############################################################################

# 2. Directives customise processing or output in some way.
# You don't need any directives to get started.
# But they can add more error checking, or change how things are displayed.
# They begin with a word, letter, or symbol. 
# They are most often placed at the top, before transactions.

account assets             ; Declare valid account names and display order.
account assets:savings     ; A subaccount. This one represents a bank account.
account assets:checking    ; Another. Note, 2+ spaces after the account name.
account assets:receivable  ; Accounting type is inferred from english names,
account passifs            ; or declared with a "type" tag, type:L
account expenses           ; type:X
                           ; A follow-on comment line, indented.
account expenses:rent      ; Expense and revenue categories are also accounts.
                           ; Subaccounts inherit their parent's type.

commodity $0.00         ; Declare valid commodities and their display styles.
commodity 1.000,00 EUR

decimal-mark .          ; The decimal mark used in this file (if ambiguous).

payee Whole Foods       ; Declare a valid payee name.

tag trip                ; Declare a valid tag name.

P 2024-03-01 AAPL $179  ; Declare a market price for AAPL in $ on this date.

include other.journal   ; Include another journal file here.

# Declare a recurring "periodic transaction", for budget/forecast reports
~ monthly  set budget goals  ; <- Note, 2+ spaces before the description.
    (expenses:rent)      $1000
    (expenses:food)       $500

# Declare an auto posting rule, to modify existing transactions in reports
= revenues:consulting
    liabilities:tax:2024:us          *0.25  ; Add a tax liability & expense
    expenses:tax:2024:us            *-0.25  ; for 25% of the revenue.

###############################################################################

# 3. Transactions are what it's all about.
# They are dated events, usually movements of money between 2 or more accounts.
# They begin with a numeric date.
# Here is their basic shape:
#
# DATE DESCRIPTION    ; The transaction's date and optional description.
#   ACCOUNT1  AMOUNT  ; A posting of an amount to/from this account, indented.
#   ACCOUNT2  AMOUNT  ; A second posting, balancing the first.
#   ...               ; More if needed. Amounts must sum to zero.
#                     ; Note, 2+ spaces between account names and amounts.

2024-01-01 opening balances         ; At the start, declare pre-existing balances this way.
    assets:savings          $10000  ; Account names can be anything. lower case is easy to type.
    assets:checking          $1000  ; assets, liabilities, equity, revenues, expenses are common.
    liabilities:credit card  $-500  ; liabilities, equity, revenues balances are usually negative.
    equity:start                    ; One amount can be left blank. $-10500 is inferred here.
                                    ; Some of these accounts we didn't declare above,
                                    ; so -s/--strict would complain.

2024-01-03 ! (12345) pay rent
    ; Additional transaction comment lines, indented.
    ; There can be a ! or * after the date meaning "pending" or "cleared".
    ; There can be a parenthesised (code) after the date/status.
                                    ; Amounts' sign shows direction of flow.
    assets:checking          $-500  ; Minus means removed from this account (credit).
    expenses:rent             $500  ; Plus means added to this account (debit).

; Keeping transactions in date order is optional (but helps error checking).

2024-01-02 Gringott's Bank | withdrawal  ; Description can be PAYEE | NOTE
    assets:bank:gold       -10 gold
    assets:pouch            10 gold

2024-01-02 shopping
    expenses:clothing        1 gold
    expenses:wands           5 gold
    assets:pouch            -6 gold

2024-01-02 receive gift
    revenues:gifts          -3 "Chocolate Frogs"  ; Complex commodity symbols
    assets:pouch             3 "Chocolate Frogs"  ; must be in double quotes.

2024-01-15 buy some shares, in two lots                 ; Cost can be noted.
    assets:investments:2024-01-15     2.0 AAAA @ $1.50  ; @  means per-unit cost
    assets:investments:2024-01-15-02  3.0 AAAA @@ $4    ; @@ means total cost
                      ; ^ Per-lot subaccounts are sometimes useful.
    assets:checking                 $-7

2024-01-15 assert some account balances on this date
    ; Balances can be asserted in any transaction, with =, for extra error checking.
    ; Assertion txns like this one can be made with hledger close --assert --show-costs
    ;
    assets:savings                    $0                   = $10000
    assets:checking                   $0                   =   $493
    assets:bank:gold                   0 gold              =    -10 gold
    assets:pouch                       0 gold              =      4 gold
    assets:pouch                       0 "Chocolate Frogs" =      3 "Chocolate Frogs"
    assets:investments:2024-01-15      0.0 AAAA            =      2.0 AAAA @  $1.50
    assets:investments:2024-01-15-02   0.0 AAAA            =      3.0 AAAA @@ $4
    liabilities:credit card           $0                   =  $-500

2024-02-01 note some event, or a transaction not yet fully entered, on this date
    ; Postings are not required.

; Some other date formats are allowed (but, consistent YYYY-MM-DD is useful).
2024.01.01
2024/1/1

Comments

Lines in the journal will be ignored if they begin with a hash (#) or a semicolon (;). (See also Other syntax.) hledger will also ignore regions beginning with a comment line and ending with an end comment line (or file end). Here's a suggestion for choosing between them:

  • # for top-level notes
  • ; for commenting out things temporarily
  • comment for quickly commenting large regions (remember it's there, or you might get confused)

Eg:

# a comment line
; another commentline
comment
A multi-line comment block,
continuing until "end comment" directive
or the end of the current file.
end comment

Some hledger entries can have same-line comments attached to them, from ; (semicolon) to end of line. See Transaction comments, Posting comments, and Account comments below.

Transactions

Transactions are the main unit of information in a journal file. They represent events, typically a movement of some quantity of commodities between two or more named accounts.

Each transaction is recorded as a journal entry, beginning with a simple date in column 0. This can be followed by any of the following optional fields, separated by spaces:

  • a status character (empty, !, or *)
  • a code (any short number or text, enclosed in parentheses)
  • a description (any remaining text until end of line or a semicolon)
  • a comment (any remaining text following a semicolon until end of line, and any following indented lines beginning with a semicolon)
  • 0 or more indented posting lines, describing what was transferred and the accounts involved (indented comment lines are also allowed, but not blank lines or non-indented lines).

Here's a simple journal file containing one transaction:

2008/01/01 income
  assets:bank:checking   $1
  income:salary         $-1

Dates

Simple dates

Dates in the journal file use simple dates format: YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY/MM/DD or YYYY.MM.DD, with leading zeros optional. The year may be omitted, in which case it will be inferred from the context: the current transaction, the default year set with a Y directive, or the current date when the command is run. Some examples: 2010-01-31, 2010/01/31, 2010.1.31, 1/31.

(The UI also accepts simple dates, as well as the more flexible smart dates documented in the hledger manual.)

Posting dates

You can give individual postings a different date from their parent transaction, by adding a posting comment containing a tag (see below) like date:DATE. This is probably the best way to control posting dates precisely. Eg in this example the expense should appear in May reports, and the deduction from checking should be reported on 6/1 for easy bank reconciliation:

2015/5/30
    expenses:food     $10  ; food purchased on saturday 5/30
    assets:checking        ; bank cleared it on monday, date:6/1
$ hledger -f t.j register food
2015-05-30                      expenses:food                  $10           $10
$ hledger -f t.j register checking
2015-06-01                      assets:checking               $-10          $-10

DATE should be a simple date; if the year is not specified it will use the year of the transaction's date.
The date: tag must have a valid simple date value if it is present, eg a date: tag with no value is not allowed.

Status

Transactions (or individual postings within a transaction) can have a status mark, which is a single character before the transaction description (or posting account name), separated from it by a space, indicating one of three statuses:

mark  status
 unmarked
!pending
*cleared

When reporting, you can filter by status with the -U/--unmarked, -P/--pending, and -C/--cleared flags (and you can combine these, eg -UP to match all except cleared things). Or you can use the status:, status:!, and status:* queries, or the U, P, C keys in hledger-ui.

(Note: in Ledger the "unmarked" state is called "uncleared"; in hledger we renamed it to "unmarked" for semantic clarity.)

Status marks are optional, but can be helpful eg for reconciling with real-world accounts. Some editor modes provide highlighting and shortcuts for working with status. Eg in Emacs ledger-mode, you can toggle transaction status with C-c C-e, or posting status with C-c C-c.

What "uncleared", "pending", and "cleared" actually mean is up to you. Here's one suggestion:

statusmeaning
unclearedrecorded but not yet reconciled; needs review
pendingtentatively reconciled (if needed, eg during a big reconciliation)
clearedcomplete, reconciled as far as possible, and considered correct

With this scheme, you would use -PC to see the current balance at your bank, -U to see things which will probably hit your bank soon (like uncashed checks), and no flags to see the most up-to-date state of your finances.

Code

After the status mark, but before the description, you can optionally write a transaction "code", enclosed in parentheses. This is a good place to record a check number, or some other important transaction id or reference number.

Description

After the date, status mark and/or code fields, the rest of the line (or until a comment is begun with ;) is the transaction's description. Here you can describe the transaction (called the "narration" in traditional bookkeeping), or you can record a payee/payer name, or you can leave it empty.

Transaction descriptions show up in print output and in register reports, and can be listed with the descriptions command.

You can query by description with desc:DESCREGEX, or pivot on description with --pivot desc.

Payee and note

Sometimes people want a dedicated payee/payer field that can be queried and checked more strictly. If you want that, you can write a | (pipe) character in the description. This divides it into a "payee" field on the left, and a "note" field on the right. (Either can be empty.)

You can query these with payee:PAYEEREGEX and note:NOTEREGEX, list their values with the payees and notes commands, or pivot on payee or note.

Note: in transactions with no | character, description, payee, and note all have the same value. Once a | is added, they become distinct. (If you'd like to change this behaviour, please propose it on the mail list.)

If you want more strict error checking, you can declare the valid payee names with payee directives, and then enforce these with hledger check payees. (Note: because of the above, for this you'll need to ensure every transaction description contains a | and therefore a checkable payee name, even if it's empty.)

Transaction comments

Text following ;, after a transaction description, and/or on indented lines immediately below it, form comments for that transaction. They are reproduced by print but otherwise ignored, except they may contain tags, which are not ignored.

2012-01-01 something  ; a transaction comment
    ; a second line of transaction comment
    expenses   1
    assets

Postings

A posting is an addition of some amount to, or removal of some amount from, an account. Each posting line begins with at least one space or tab (2 or 4 spaces is common), followed by:

  • (optional) a status character (empty, !, or *), followed by a space
  • (required) an account name (any text, optionally containing single spaces, until end of line or a double space)
  • (optional) two or more spaces (or tabs) followed by an amount.

If the amount is positive, it is being added to the account; if negative, it is being removed from the account.

The posting amounts in a transaction must sum up to zero, indicating that the inflows and outflows are equal. We call this a balanced transaction. (You can read more about the nitty-gritty details of "sum up to zero" in Transaction balancing below.)

As a convenience, you can optionally leave one amount blank; hledger will infer what it should be so as to balance the transaction.

Debits and credits

The traditional accounting concepts of debit and credit of course exist in hledger, but we represent them with numeric sign, as described above. Positive and negative posting amounts represent debits and credits respectively.

You don't need to remember that, but if you would like to - eg for helping newcomers or for talking with your accountant - here's a handy mnemonic:

debit / plus / left / short words
credit / minus / right / longer words

The two space delimiter

Be sure to notice the unusual separator between the account name and the following amount. Because hledger allows account names with spaces in them, you must separate the account name and amount (if any) by two or more spaces (or tabs). It's easy to forget at first. If you ever see the amount being treated as part of the account name, you'll know you probably need to add another space between them.

Account names

Accounts are the main way of categorising things in hledger. As in Double Entry Bookkeeping, they can represent real world accounts (such as a bank account), or more abstract categories such as "money borrowed from Frank" or "money spent on electricity".

You can use any account names you like, but we usually start with the traditional accounting categories, which in english are assets, liabilities, equity, revenues, expenses. (You might see these referred to as A, L, E, R, X for short.)

For more precise reporting, we usually divide the top level accounts into more detailed subaccounts, by writing a full colon between account name parts. For example, from the account names assets:bank:checking and expenses:food, hledger will infer this hierarchy of five accounts:

assets
assets:bank
assets:bank:checking
expenses
expenses:food

Shown as an outline, the hierarchical tree structure is more clear:

assets
 bank
  checking
expenses
 food

hledger reports can summarise the account tree to any depth, so you can go as deep as you like with subcategories, but keeping your account names relatively simple may be best when starting out.

Account names may be capitalised or not; they may contain letters, numbers, symbols, or single spaces. Note, when an account name and an amount are written on the same line, they must be separated by two or more spaces (or tabs).

Parentheses or brackets enclosing the full account name indicate virtual postings, described below. Parentheses or brackets internal to the account name have no special meaning.

Account names can be altered temporarily or permanently by account aliases.

Amounts

After the account name, there is usually an amount. (Remember: between account name and amount, there must be two or more spaces.)

hledger's amount format is flexible, supporting several international formats. Here are some examples. Amounts have a number (the "quantity"):

1

..and usually a currency symbol or commodity name (more on this below), to the left or right of the quantity, with or without a separating space:

$1
4000 AAPL
3 "green apples"

Amounts can be preceded by a minus sign (or a plus sign, though plus is the default), The sign can be written before or after a left-side commodity symbol:

-$1
$-1

One or more spaces between the sign and the number are acceptable when parsing (but they won't be displayed in output):

+ $1
$-      1

Scientific E notation is allowed:

1E-6
EUR 1E3

Decimal marks

A decimal mark can be written as a period or a comma:

1.23
1,23

Both of these are common in international number formats, so hledger is not biased towards one or the other. Because hledger also supports digit group marks (eg thousands separators), this means that a number like 1,000 or 1.000 containing just one period or comma is ambiguous. In such cases, hledger by default assumes it is a decimal mark, and will parse both of those as 1.

To help hledger parse such ambiguous numbers more accurately, if you use digit group marks, we recommend declaring the decimal mark explicitly. The best way is to add a decimal-mark directive at the top of each data file, like this:

decimal-mark .

Or you can declare it per commodity with commodity directives, described below.

hledger also accepts numbers like 10. with no digits after the decimal mark (and will sometimes display numbers that way to disambiguate them - see Trailing decimal marks).

Digit group marks

In the integer part of the amount quantity (left of the decimal mark), groups of digits can optionally be separated by a digit group mark - a comma or period (whichever is not used as decimal mark), or a space (several Unicode space variants, like no-break space, are also accepted). So these are all valid amounts in a journal file:

     $1,000,000.00
  EUR 2.000.000,00
INR 9,99,99,999.00
      1 000 000.00   ; <- ordinary space  
      1 000 000.00   ; <- no-break space

Commodity

Amounts in hledger have both a "quantity", which is a signed decimal number, and a "commodity", which is a currency symbol, stock ticker, or any word or phrase describing something you are tracking.

If the commodity name contains non-letters (spaces, numbers, or punctuation), you must always write it inside double quotes ("green apples", "ABC123").

If you write just a bare number, that too will have a commodity, with name ""; we call that the "no-symbol commodity".

Actually, hledger combines these single-commodity amounts into more powerful multi-commodity amounts, which are what it works with most of the time. A multi-commodity amount could be, eg: 1 USD, 2 EUR, 3.456 TSLA. In practice, you will only see multi-commodity amounts in hledger's output; you can't write them directly in the journal file.

By default, the format of amounts in the journal influences how hledger displays them in output. This is explained in Commodity display style below.

Costs

After a posting amount, you can note its cost (when buying) or selling price (when selling) in another commodity, by writing either @ UNITPRICE or @@ TOTALPRICE after it. This indicates a conversion transaction, where one commodity is exchanged for another.

(You might also see this called "transaction price" in hledger docs, discussions, or code; that term was directionally neutral and reminded that it is a price specific to a transaction, but we now just call it "cost", with the understanding that the transaction could be a purchase or a sale.)

Costs are usually written explicitly with @ or @@, but can also be inferred automatically for simple multi-commodity transactions. Note, if costs are inferred, the order of postings is significant; the first posting will have a cost attached, in the commodity of the second.

As an example, here are several ways to record purchases of a foreign currency in hledger, using the cost notation either explicitly or implicitly:

  1. Write the price per unit, as @ UNITPRICE after the amount:

    2009/1/1
      assets:euros     €100 @ $1.35  ; one hundred euros purchased at $1.35 each
      assets:dollars                 ; balancing amount is -$135.00
    
  2. Write the total price, as @@ TOTALPRICE after the amount:

    2009/1/1
      assets:euros     €100 @@ $135  ; one hundred euros purchased at $135 for the lot
      assets:dollars
    
  3. Specify amounts for all postings, using exactly two commodities, and let hledger infer the price that balances the transaction. Note the effect of posting order: the price is added to first posting, making it €100 @@ $135, as in example 2:

    2009/1/1
      assets:euros     €100          ; one hundred euros purchased
      assets:dollars  $-135          ; for $135
    

Amounts can be converted to cost at report time using the -B/--cost flag; this is discussed more in the Cost reporting section.

Note that the cost normally should be a positive amount, though it's not required to be. This can be a little confusing, see discussion at --infer-market-prices: market prices from transactions.

Balance assertions

hledger supports Ledger-style balance assertions in journal files. These look like, for example, = EXPECTEDBALANCE following a posting's amount. Eg here we assert the expected dollar balance in accounts a and b after each posting:

2013/1/1
  a   $1 =  $1
  b      = $-1

2013/1/2
  a   $1 =  $2
  b  $-1 = $-2

After reading a journal file, hledger will check all balance assertions and report an error if any of them fail. Balance assertions can protect you from, eg, inadvertently disrupting reconciled balances while cleaning up old entries. You can disable them temporarily with the -I/--ignore-assertions flag, which can be useful for troubleshooting or for reading Ledger files. (Note: this flag currently does not disable balance assignments, described below).

Assertions and ordering

hledger calculates and checks an account's balance assertions in date order (and when there are multiple assertions on the same day, in parse order). Note this is different from Ledger, which checks assertions always in parse order, ignoring dates.

This means in hledger you can freely reorder transactions, postings, or files, and balance assertions will usually keep working. The exception is when you reorder multiple postings on the same day, to the same account, which have balance assertions; those will likely need updating.

Assertions and multiple included files

Multiple files included with the include directive are processed as if concatenated into one file, preserving their order and the posting order within each file. It means that balance assertions in later files will see balance from earlier files.

And if you have multiple postings to an account on the same day, split across multiple files, and you want to assert the account's balance on that day, you'll need to put the assertion in the right file - the last one in the sequence, probably.

Assertions and multiple -f files

Unlike include, when multiple files are specified on the command line with multiple -f/--file options, balance assertions will not see balance from earlier files. This can be useful when you do not want problems in earlier files to disrupt valid assertions in later files.

If you do want assertions to see balance from earlier files, use include, or concatenate the files temporarily.

Assertions and costs

Balance assertions ignore costs, and should normally be written without one:

2019/1/1
  (a)     $1 @ €1 = $1

We do allow costs to be written in balance assertion amounts, however, and print shows them, but they don't affect whether the assertion passes or fails. This is for backward compatibility (hledger's close command used to generate balance assertions with costs), and because balance assignments do use costs (see below).

Assertions and commodities

The balance assertions described so far are "single commodity balance assertions": they assert and check the balance in one commodity, ignoring any others that may be present. This is how balance assertions work in Ledger also.

If an account contains multiple commodities, you can assert their balances by writing multiple postings with balance assertions, one for each commodity:

2013/1/1
  usd   $-1
  eur   €-1
  both

2013/1/2
  both    0 = $1
  both    0 = €1

In hledger you can make a stronger "sole commodity balance assertion" by writing two equals signs (== EXPECTEDBALANCE). This also asserts that there are no other commodities in the account besides the asserted one (or at least, that their current balance is zero):

2013/1/1
  usd   $-1  == $-1  ; these sole commodity assertions succeed
  eur   €-1  == €-1
  both      ;==  $1  ; this one would fail because 'both' contains $ and €

It's less easy to make a "sole commodities balance assertion" (note the plural) - ie, asserting that an account contains two or more specified commodities and no others. It can be done by

  1. isolating each commodity in a subaccount, and asserting those
  2. and also asserting there are no commodities in the parent account itself:
2013/1/1
  usd       $-1
  eur       €-1
  both        0 == 0   ; nothing up my sleeve
  both:usd   $1 == $1  ; a dollar here
  both:eur   €1 == €1  ; a euro there

Assertions and subaccounts

All of the balance assertions above (both = and ==) are "subaccount-exclusive balance assertions"; they ignore any balances that exist in deeper subaccounts.

In hledger you can make "subaccount-inclusive balance assertions" by adding a star after the equals (=* or ==*):

2019/1/1
  equity:start
  assets:checking  $10
  assets:savings   $10
  assets            $0 ==* $20  ; assets + subaccounts contains $20 and nothing else

Assertions and virtual postings

Balance assertions always consider both real and virtual postings; they are not affected by the --real/-R flag or real: query.

Assertions and auto postings

Balance assertions are affected by the --auto flag, which generates auto postings, which can alter account balances. Because auto postings are optional in hledger, accounts affected by them effectively have two balances. But balance assertions can only test one or the other of these. So to avoid making fragile assertions, either:

  • assert the balance calculated with --auto, and always use --auto with that file
  • or assert the balance calculated without --auto, and never use --auto with that file
  • or avoid balance assertions on accounts affected by auto postings (or avoid auto postings entirely).

Assertions and precision

Balance assertions compare the exactly calculated amounts, which are not always what is shown by reports. Eg a commodity directive may limit the display precision, but this will not affect balance assertions. Balance assertion failure messages show exact amounts.

Posting comments

Text following ;, at the end of a posting line, and/or on indented lines immediately below it, form comments for that posting. They are reproduced by print but otherwise ignored, except they may contain tags, which are not ignored.

2012-01-01
    expenses   1  ; a comment for posting 1
    assets
    ; a comment for posting 2
    ; a second comment line for posting 2

Transaction balancing

How exactly does hledger decide when a transaction is balanced ? The general goal is that if you look at the journal entry and calculate the amounts' sum perfectly with pencil and paper, hledger should agree with you.

Real world transactions, especially for investments or cryptocurrencies, often involve imprecise costs, complex decimals, and/or infinitely-recurring decimals, which are difficult or inconvenient to handle on a computer. So to be a practical accounting system, hledger allows some imprecision when checking transaction balancedness. The question is, how much imprecision should be allowed ?

hledger currently decides it based on the commodity display styles: if the postings' sum would appear to be zero when displayed with the standard display precisions, the transaction is considered balanced.

Or equivalently: if the journal entry is displayed with amounts rounded to the standard display precisions (with hledger print --round=hard), and a human with pencil and paper would agree that those displayed amounts add up to zero, the transaction is considered balanced.

This has some advantages: it is fairly intuitive, general not hard-coded, yet configurable when needed. On the downside it means that transaction balancedness is related to commodity display precisions, so eg when using -c/--commodity-style to display things with more than usual precision, you might need to fix some of your journal entries (ie, add decimal digits to make them balance more precisely).

Other PTA tools (Ledger, Beancount..) have their own ways of doing it. Possible improvements are discussed at #1964.

Note: if you have multiple journal files, and are relying on commodity directives to make imprecise journal entries balance, the directives' placement might be important - see commodity directive.

Tags

Tags are a way to add extra labels or data fields to transactions, postings, or accounts, which you can then search or pivot on.

A tag is a word, optionally hyphenated, immediately followed by a full colon, in the comment of a transaction, a posting, or an account directive. Eg: 2024-01-01 a transaction ; foo: Note this is an exception to the usual rule that things in comments are ignored.

You can write multiple tags on one line, separated by comma. Or you can write each tag on its own comment line (no comma needed in this case).

For example, here are five different tags: one on the assets:checking account, two on the transaction, and two on the expenses:food posting:

account assets:checking         ; accounttag:

2017/1/16 bought groceries      ; transactiontag-1:
    ; transactiontag-2:
    assets:checking        $-1
    expenses:food           $1  ; postingtag:, another-posting-tag:

Postings also inherit tags from their transaction and their account. And transactions also acquire tags from their postings (and postings' accounts). So in the example above, the expenses posting effectively has all five tags (by inheriting from the account and transaction), and the transaction also has all five tags (by acquiring from the expenses posting).

Tag names

Most non-whitespace characters are allowed in tag names. Eg 😀: is a valid tag.

You can list the tag names used in your journal with the tags command:
hledger tags [NAMEREGEX]

In commands which use a query, you can match by tag name. Eg:
hledger print tag:NAMEREGEX

You can declare valid tag names with the tag directive and then check them with the check command.

Special tags

Some tag names have special significance to hledger. There's not much harm in using them yourself, but some could produce an error message, particularly the date: and type: tags. They are explained elsewhere, but here is a quick list for reference:

Tags you can set to influence hledger's behaviour:

 date                   -- overrides a posting's date
 date2                  -- overrides a posting's secondary date
 type                   -- declares an account's type

Tags hledger adds to indicate generated data:

 t                      -- appears on postings generated by timedot letters
 assert                 -- appears on txns generated by close --assert
 retain                 -- appears on txns generated by close --retain
 start                  -- appears on txns generated by close --migrate/--close/--open/--assign
 generated-transaction  -- appears on generated periodic txns (with --verbose-tags)
 generated-posting      -- appears on generated auto postings (with --verbose-tags)
 modified               -- appears on txns which have had auto postings added (with --verbose-tags)
Not displayed, but queryable:
 _generated-transaction -- exists on generated periodic txns (always)
 _generated-posting     -- exists on generated auto postings (always)
 _modified              -- exists on txns which have had auto postings added (always)

Tags hledger uses internally:

 _conversion-matched    -- exists on postings which have been matched with a nearby @/@@ cost annotation

Tag values

Tags can have a value, which is any text after the colon up until a comma or end of line, with surrounding whitespace removed. Ending at comma allows us to write multiple tags on one line, but also means that tag values can not contain commas.

Eg in the following posting, the three tags' values are "value 1", "value 2", and "" (empty) respectively:

    expenses:food   $10    ; foo, tag1: value 1 , tag2:value 2, bar tag3: , baz

Multiple tags with the same name are additive rather than overriding: when the same tag name is seen again with a new value, the new name:value pair is added to the tags. It is not possible to override a previous tag's value or remove a tag.

You can list all the values used for a particular tag in the journal with
hledger tags TAGNAME --values

You can match on tag values with a query like tag:NAMEREGEX=VALUEREGEX

Directives

Besides transactions, there is something else you can put in a journal file: directives. These are declarations, beginning with a keyword, that modify hledger's behaviour. Some directives can have more specific subdirectives, indented below them. hledger's directives are similar to Ledger's in many cases, but there are also many differences. Directives are not required, but can be useful. Here are the main directives:

purposedirective
READING DATA:
Rewrite account namesalias
Comment out sections of the filecomment
Declare file's decimal mark, to help parse amounts accuratelydecimal-mark
Include other data filesinclude
GENERATING DATA:
Generate recurring transactions or budget goals~
Generate extra postings on existing transactions=
CHECKING FOR ERRORS:
Define valid entities to provide more error checkingaccount, commodity, payee, tag
REPORTING:
Declare accounts' type and display orderaccount
Declare commodity display stylescommodity
Declare market pricesP

Directives and multiple files

Directives vary in their scope, ie which journal entries and which input files they affect. Most often, a directive will affect the following entries and included files if any, until the end of the current file - and no further. You might find this inconvenient! For example, alias directives do not affect parent or sibling files. But there are usually workarounds; for example, put alias directives in your top-most file, before including other files.

The restriction, though it may be annoying at first, is in a good cause; it allows reports to be stable and deterministic, independent of the order of input. Without it, reports could show different numbers depending on the order of -f options, or the positions of include directives in your files.

Directive effects

Here are all hledger's directives, with their effects and scope summarised - nine main directives, plus four others which we consider non-essential:

directivewhat it doesends at file end?
accountDeclares an account, for checking all entries in all files;
and its display order and type.
Subdirectives: any text, ignored.
N
aliasRewrites account names, in following entries until end of current file or end aliases.
Command line equivalent: --alias
Y
commentIgnores part of the journal file, until end of current file or end comment.Y
commodityDeclares up to four things:
1. a commodity symbol, for checking all amounts in all files
2. the display style for all amounts of this commodity
3. the decimal mark for parsing amounts of this commodity, in the rest of this file and its children, if there is no decimal-mark directive
4. the precision to use for balanced-transaction checking in this commodity, in this file and its children.
Takes precedence over D.
Subdirectives: format (ignored).
Command line equivalent: -c/--commodity-style
N,
N,
Y,
Y
decimal-markDeclares the decimal mark, for parsing amounts of all commodities in following entries until next decimal-mark or end of current file. Included files can override. Takes precedence over commodity and D.Y
includeIncludes entries and directives from another file, as if they were written inline.
Command line alternative: multiple -f/--file
N
payeeDeclares a payee name, for checking all entries in all files.N
PDeclares the market price of a commodity on some date, for value reports.N
~ (tilde)Declares a periodic transaction rule that generates future transactions with --forecast and budget goals with balance --budget.N
Other syntax:
apply accountPrepends a common parent account to all account names, in following entries until end of current file or end apply account.Y
DSets a default commodity to use for no-symbol amounts;
and, if there is no commodity directive for this commodity: its decimal mark, balancing precision, and display style, as above.
Y,
Y,
N,
N
YSets a default year to use for any yearless dates, in following entries until end of current file.Y
= (equals)Declares an auto posting rule that generates extra postings on matched transactions with --auto, in current, parent, and child files (but not sibling files, see #1212).partly
Other Ledger directivesOther directives from Ledger's file format are accepted but ignored.

account directive

account directives can be used to declare accounts (ie, the places that amounts are transferred from and to). Though not required, these declarations can provide several benefits:

  • They can document your intended chart of accounts, providing a reference.
  • They can store additional account information as comments, or as tags which can be used to filter or pivot reports.
  • They can restrict which accounts may be posted to by transactions, eg in strict mode, which helps prevent errors.
  • They influence account display order in reports, allowing non-alphabetic sorting (eg Revenues to appear above Expenses).
  • They can help hledger know your accounts' types (asset, liability, equity, revenue, expense), enabling reports like balancesheet and incomestatement.
  • They help with account name completion (in hledger add, hledger-web, hledger-iadd, ledger-mode, etc.)

They are written as the word account followed by a hledger-style account name. Eg:

account assets:bank:checking

Ledger-style indented subdirectives are also accepted, but ignored:

account assets:bank:checking
  format subdirective  ; currently ignored

Account comments

Text following two or more spaces and ; at the end of an account directive line, and/or following ; on indented lines immediately below it, form comments for that account. They are ignored except they may contain tags, which are not ignored.

The two-space requirement for same-line account comments is because ; is allowed in account names.

account assets:bank:checking    ; same-line comment, at least 2 spaces before the semicolon
  ; next-line comment
  ; some tags - type:A, acctnum:12345

Account error checking

By default, accounts need not be declared; they come into existence when a posting references them. This is convenient, but it means hledger can't warn you when you mis-spell an account name in the journal. Usually you'll find that error later, as an extra account in balance reports, or an incorrect balance when reconciling.

In strict mode, enabled with the -s/--strict flag, hledger will report an error if any transaction uses an account name that has not been declared by an account directive. Some notes:

  • The declaration is case-sensitive; transactions must use the correct account name capitalisation.
  • The account directive's scope is "whole file and below" (see directives). This means it affects all of the current file, and any files it includes, but not parent or sibling files. The position of account directives within the file does not matter, though it's usual to put them at the top.
  • Accounts can only be declared in journal files, but will affect included files of all types.
  • It's currently not possible to declare "all possible subaccounts" with a wildcard; every account posted to must be declared.

Account display order

Account directives also cause hledger to display accounts in a particular order, not just alphabetically. Eg, here is a conventional ordering for the top-level accounts:

account assets
account liabilities
account equity
account revenues
account expenses

Now hledger displays them in that order:

$ hledger accounts
assets
liabilities
equity
revenues
expenses

If there are undeclared accounts, those will be displayed last, in alphabetical order.

Sorting is done within each group of sibling accounts, at each level of the account tree. Eg, a declaration like account parent:child influences child's position among its siblings.

Note, it does not affect parent's position; for that, you need an account parent declaration.

Sibling accounts are always displayed together; hledger won't display x:y in between a:b and a:c.

An account directive both declares an account as a valid posting target, and declares its display order; you can't easily do one without the other.

Account types

hledger knows that accounts come in several types: assets, liabilities, expenses and so on. This enables easy reports like balancesheet and incomestatement, and filtering by account type with the type: query.

As a convenience, hledger will detect these account types automatically if you are using common english-language top-level account names (described below). But it's more robust to declare accounts' types explicitly, by adding type: tags to their account directives. The tag's value should be one of the five main account types:

  • A or Asset (things you own)
  • L or Liability (things you owe)
  • E or Equity (investment/ownership; balanced counterpart of assets & liabilities)
  • R or Revenue (what you received money from, AKA income; technically part of Equity)
  • X or Expense (what you spend money on; technically part of Equity)

or, it can be (these are used less often):

Subaccounts inherit their parent's type, or they can override it. Here is a typical set of account type declarations:

account assets             ; type: A
account liabilities        ; type: L
account equity             ; type: E
account revenues           ; type: R
account expenses           ; type: X

account assets:bank        ; type: C
account assets:cash        ; type: C

account equity:conversion  ; type: V

Here are some tips for working with account types.

  • The rules for inferring types from account names are as follows. These are just a convenience that sometimes help new users get going; if they don't work for you, just ignore them and declare your account types. See also Regular expressions.

    If account's name contains this (CI) regular expression:            | its type is:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------|-------------
    ^assets?(:.+)?:(cash|bank|che(ck|que?)(ing)?|savings?|current)(:|$) | Cash
    ^assets?(:|$)                                                       | Asset
    ^(debts?|liabilit(y|ies))(:|$)                                      | Liability
    ^equity:(trad(e|ing)|conversion)s?(:|$)                             | Conversion
    ^equity(:|$)                                                        | Equity
    ^(income|revenue)s?(:|$)                                            | Revenue
    ^expenses?(:|$)                                                     | Expense
    
  • If you declare any account types, it's a good idea to declare an account for all of the account types, because a mixture of declared and name-inferred types can disrupt certain reports.

  • Certain uses of account aliases can disrupt account types. See Rewriting accounts > Aliases and account types.

  • As mentioned above, subaccounts will inherit a type from their parent account. More precisely, an account's type is decided by the first of these that exists:

    1. A type: declaration for this account.
    2. A type: declaration in the parent accounts above it, preferring the nearest.
    3. An account type inferred from this account's name.
    4. An account type inferred from a parent account's name, preferring the nearest parent.
    5. Otherwise, it will have no type.
  • For troubleshooting, you can list accounts and their types with:

    $ hledger accounts --types [ACCTPAT] [-DEPTH] [type:TYPECODES]
    

alias directive

You can define account alias rules which rewrite your account names, or parts of them, before generating reports. This can be useful for:

  • expanding shorthand account names to their full form, allowing easier data entry and a less verbose journal
  • adapting old journals to your current chart of accounts
  • experimenting with new account organisations, like a new hierarchy
  • combining two accounts into one, eg to see their sum or difference on one line
  • customising reports

Account aliases also rewrite account names in account directives. They do not affect account names being entered via hledger add or hledger-web.

Account aliases are very powerful. They are generally easy to use correctly, but you can also generate invalid account names with them; more on this below.

See also Rewrite account names.

Basic aliases

To set an account alias, use the alias directive in your journal file. This affects all subsequent journal entries in the current file or its included files (but note: not sibling or parent files). The spaces around the = are optional:

alias OLD = NEW

Or, you can use the --alias 'OLD=NEW' option on the command line. This affects all entries. It's useful for trying out aliases interactively.

OLD and NEW are case sensitive full account names. hledger will replace any occurrence of the old account name with the new one. Subaccounts are also affected. Eg:

alias checking = assets:bank:wells fargo:checking
; rewrites "checking" to "assets:bank:wells fargo:checking", or "checking:a" to "assets:bank:wells fargo:checking:a"

Regex aliases

There is also a more powerful variant that uses a regular expression, indicated by wrapping the pattern in forward slashes. (This is the only place where hledger requires forward slashes around a regular expression.)

Eg:

alias /REGEX/ = REPLACEMENT

or:

$ hledger --alias '/REGEX/=REPLACEMENT' ...

Any part of an account name matched by REGEX will be replaced by REPLACEMENT. REGEX is case-insensitive as usual.

If you need to match a forward slash, escape it with a backslash, eg /\/=:.

If REGEX contains parenthesised match groups, these can be referenced by the usual backslash and number in REPLACEMENT:

alias /^(.+):bank:([^:]+):(.*)/ = \1:\2 \3
; rewrites "assets:bank:wells fargo:checking" to  "assets:wells fargo checking"

REPLACEMENT continues to the end of line (or on command line, to end of option argument), so it can contain trailing whitespace.

Combining aliases

You can define as many aliases as you like, using journal directives and/or command line options.

Recursive aliases - where an account name is rewritten by one alias, then by another alias, and so on - are allowed. Each alias sees the effect of previously applied aliases.

In such cases it can be important to understand which aliases will be applied and in which order. For (each account name in) each journal entry, we apply:

  1. alias directives preceding the journal entry, most recently parsed first (ie, reading upward from the journal entry, bottom to top)
  2. --alias options, in the order they appeared on the command line (left to right).

In other words, for (an account name in) a given journal entry:

  • the nearest alias declaration before/above the entry is applied first
  • the next alias before/above that will be be applied next, and so on
  • aliases defined after/below the entry do not affect it.

This gives nearby aliases precedence over distant ones, and helps provide semantic stability - aliases will keep working the same way independent of which files are being read and in which order.

In case of trouble, adding --debug=6 to the command line will show which aliases are being applied when.

Aliases and multiple files

As explained at Directives and multiple files, alias directives do not affect parent or sibling files. Eg in this command,

hledger -f a.aliases -f b.journal

account aliases defined in a.aliases will not affect b.journal. Including the aliases doesn't work either:

include a.aliases

2023-01-01  ; not affected by a.aliases
  foo  1
  bar

This means that account aliases should usually be declared at the start of your top-most file, like this:

alias foo=Foo
alias bar=Bar

2023-01-01  ; affected by aliases above
  foo  1
  bar

include c.journal  ; also affected

end aliases directive

You can clear (forget) all currently defined aliases (seen in the journal so far, or defined on the command line) with this directive:

end aliases

Aliases can generate bad account names

Be aware that account aliases can produce malformed account names, which could cause confusing reports or invalid print output. For example, you could erase all account names:

2021-01-01
  a:aa     1
  b
$ hledger print --alias '/.*/='
2021-01-01
                   1

The above print output is not a valid journal. Or you could insert an illegal double space, causing print output that would give a different journal when reparsed:

2021-01-01
  old    1
  other
$ hledger print --alias old="new  USD" | hledger -f- print
2021-01-01
    new             USD 1
    other

Aliases and account types

If an account with a type declaration (see Declaring accounts > Account types) is renamed by an alias, normally the account type remains in effect.

However, renaming in a way that reshapes the account tree (eg renaming parent accounts but not their children, or vice versa) could prevent child accounts from inheriting the account type of their parents.

Secondly, if an account's type is being inferred from its name, renaming it by an alias could prevent or alter that.

If you are using account aliases and the type: query is not matching accounts as you expect, try troubleshooting with the accounts command, eg something like:

$ hledger accounts --alias assets=bassetts type:a

commodity directive

The commodity directive performs several functions:

  1. It declares which commodity symbols may be used in the journal, enabling useful error checking with strict mode or the check command. See Commodity error checking below.

  2. It declares how all amounts in this commodity should be displayed, eg how many decimals to show. See Commodity display style above.

  3. (If no decimal-mark directive is in effect:) It sets the decimal mark to expect (period or comma) when parsing amounts in this commodity, in this file and files it includes, from the directive until end of current file. See Decimal marks above.

  4. It declares the precision with which this commodity's amounts should be compared when checking for balanced transactions, anywhere in this file and files it includes, until end of current file.

Declaring commodities solves several common parsing/display problems, so we recommend it.

Note that effects 3 and 4 above end at the end of the directive's file, and will not affect sibling or parent files. So if you are relying on them (especially 4) and using multiple files, placing your commodity directives in a top-level parent file might be important. Or, keep your decimal marks unambiguous and your entries well balanced and precise.

(Related: #793)

Commodity directive syntax

A commodity directive is normally the word commodity followed by a sample amount (and optionally a comment). Only the amount's symbol and format is significant. Eg:

commodity $1000.00
commodity 1.000,00 EUR
commodity 1 000 000.0000   ; the no-symbol commodity

Commodities do not have tags (tags in the comment will be ignored).

A commodity directive's sample amount must always include a period or comma decimal mark (this rule helps disambiguate decimal marks and digit group marks). If you don't want to show any decimal digits, write the decimal mark at the end:

commodity 1000. AAAA       ; show AAAA with no decimals

Commodity symbols containing spaces, numbers, or punctuation must be enclosed in double quotes, as usual:

commodity 1.0000 "AAAA 2023"

Commodity directives normally include a sample amount, but can declare only a symbol (ie, just function 1 above):

commodity $
commodity INR
commodity "AAAA 2023"
commodity ""               ; the no-symbol commodity

Commodity directives may also be written with an indented format subdirective, as in Ledger. The symbol is repeated and must be the same in both places. Other subdirectives are currently ignored:

; display indian rupees with currency name on the left,
; thousands, lakhs and crores comma-separated,
; period as decimal point, and two decimal places.
commodity INR
  format INR 1,00,00,000.00
  an unsupported subdirective  ; ignored by hledger

Commodity error checking

In strict mode (-s/--strict) (or when you run hledger check commodities), hledger will report an error if an undeclared commodity symbol is used. (With one exception: zero amounts are always allowed to have no commodity symbol.) It works like account error checking (described above).

decimal-mark directive

You can use a decimal-mark directive - usually one per file, at the top of the file - to declare which character represents a decimal mark when parsing amounts in this file. It can look like

decimal-mark .

or

decimal-mark ,

This prevents any ambiguity when parsing numbers in the file, so we recommend it, especially if the file contains digit group marks (eg thousands separators).

include directive

You can pull in the content of additional files by writing an include directive, like this:

include FILEPATH

Only journal files can include, and only journal, timeclock or timedot files can be included (not CSV files, currently).

If the file path does not begin with a slash, it is relative to the current file's folder.

A tilde means home directory, eg: include ~/main.journal.

The path may contain glob patterns to match multiple files, eg: include *.journal.

There is limited support for recursive wildcards: **/ (the slash is required) matches 0 or more subdirectories. It's not super convenient since you have to avoid include cycles and including directories, but this can be done, eg: include */**/*.journal.

The path may also be prefixed to force a specific file format, overriding the file extension (as described in Data formats): include timedot:~/notes/2023*.md.

P directive

The P directive declares a market price, which is a conversion rate between two commodities on a certain date. This allows value reports to convert amounts of one commodity to their value in another, on or after that date. These prices are often obtained from a stock exchange, cryptocurrency exchange, the or foreign exchange market.

The format is:

P DATE COMMODITY1SYMBOL COMMODITY2AMOUNT

DATE is a simple date, COMMODITY1SYMBOL is the symbol of the commodity being priced, and COMMODITY2AMOUNT is the amount (symbol and quantity) of commodity 2 that one unit of commodity 1 is worth on this date. Examples:

# one euro was worth $1.35 from 2009-01-01 onward:
P 2009-01-01 € $1.35

# and $1.40 from 2010-01-01 onward:
P 2010-01-01 € $1.40

The -V, -X and --value flags use these market prices to show amount values in another commodity. See Value reporting.

payee directive

payee PAYEE NAME

This directive can be used to declare a limited set of payees which may appear in transaction descriptions. The "payees" check will report an error if any transaction refers to a payee that has not been declared. Eg:

payee Whole Foods    ; a comment

Payees do not have tags (tags in the comment will be ignored).

To declare the empty payee name, use "".

payee ""

Ledger-style indented subdirectives, if any, are currently ignored.

tag directive

tag TAGNAME

This directive can be used to declare a limited set of tag names allowed in tags. TAGNAME should be a valid tag name (no spaces). Eg:

tag  item-id

Any indented subdirectives are currently ignored.

The "tags" check will report an error if any undeclared tag name is used. It is quite easy to accidentally create a tag through normal use of colons in comments; if you want to prevent this, you can declare and check your tags .

Periodic transactions

The ~ directive declares a "periodic rule" which generates temporary extra transactions, usually recurring at some interval, when hledger is run with the --forecast flag. These "forecast transactions" are useful for forecasting future activity. They exist only for the duration of the report, and only when --forecast is used; they are not saved in the journal file by hledger.

Periodic rules also have a second use: with the --budget flag they set budget goals for budgeting.

Periodic rules can be a little tricky, so before you use them, read this whole section, or at least the following tips:

  1. Two spaces accidentally added or omitted will cause you trouble - read about this below.
  2. For troubleshooting, show the generated transactions with hledger print --forecast tag:generated or hledger register --forecast tag:generated.
  3. Forecasted transactions will begin only after the last non-forecasted transaction's date.
  4. Forecasted transactions will end 6 months from today, by default. See below for the exact start/end rules.
  5. period expressions can be tricky. Their documentation needs improvement, but is worth studying.
  6. Some period expressions with a repeating interval must begin on a natural boundary of that interval. Eg in weekly from DATE, DATE must be a monday. ~ weekly from 2019/10/1 (a tuesday) will give an error.
  7. Other period expressions with an interval are automatically expanded to cover a whole number of that interval. (This is done to improve reports, but it also affects periodic transactions. Yes, it's a bit inconsistent with the above.) Eg:
    ~ every 10th day of month from 2023/01, which is equivalent to
    ~ every 10th day of month from 2023/01/01, will be adjusted to start on 2019/12/10.

Periodic rule syntax

A periodic transaction rule looks like a normal journal entry, with the date replaced by a tilde (~) followed by a period expression (mnemonic: ~ looks like a recurring sine wave.):

# every first of month
~ monthly
    expenses:rent          $2000
    assets:bank:checking

# every 15th of month in 2023's first quarter:
~ monthly from 2023-04-15 to 2023-06-16
    expenses:utilities          $400
    assets:bank:checking

The period expression is the same syntax used for specifying multi-period reports, just interpreted differently; there, it specifies report periods; here it specifies recurrence dates (the periods' start dates).

Periodic rules and relative dates

Partial or relative dates (like 12/31, 25, tomorrow, last week, next quarter) are usually not recommended in periodic rules, since the results will change as time passes. If used, they will be interpreted relative to, in order of preference:

  1. the first day of the default year specified by a recent Y directive
  2. or the date specified with --today
  3. or the date on which you are running the report.

They will not be affected at all by report period or forecast period dates.

Two spaces between period expression and description!

If the period expression is followed by a transaction description, these must be separated by two or more spaces. This helps hledger know where the period expression ends, so that descriptions can not accidentally alter their meaning, as in this example:

; 2 or more spaces needed here, so the period is not understood as "every 2 months in 2023"
;               ||
;               vv
~ every 2 months  in 2023, we will review
    assets:bank:checking   $1500
    income:acme inc

So,

  • Do write two spaces between your period expression and your transaction description, if any.
  • Don't accidentally write two spaces in the middle of your period expression.

Auto postings

The = directive declares an "auto posting rule", which adds extra postings to existing transactions. (Remember, postings are the account name & amount lines below a transaction's date & description.)

In the journal, an auto posting rule looks quite like a transaction, but instead of date and description it has = (mnemonic: "match") and a query, like this:

= QUERY
    ACCOUNT    AMOUNT
    ...

Queries are just like command line queries; an account name substring is most common. Query terms containing spaces should be enclosed in single or double quotes.

Each = rule works like this: when hledger is run with the --auto flag, wherever the QUERY matches a posting in the journal, the rule's postings are added to that transaction, immediately below the matched posting. Note these generated postings are temporary, existing only for the duration of the report, and only when --auto is used; they are not saved in the journal file by hledger.

Generated postings' amounts can depend on the matched posting's amount. So auto postings can be useful for, eg, adding tax postings with a standard percentage. AMOUNT can be:

  • a number with no commodity symbol, like 2. The matched posting's commodity symbol will be added to this.

  • a normal amount with a commodity symbol, like $2. This will be used as-is.

  • an asterisk followed by a number, like *2. This will multiply the matched posting's amount (and total price, if any) by the number.

  • an asterisk followed by an amount with commodity symbol, like *$2. This multiplies and also replaces the commodity symbol with this new one.

Some examples:

; every time I buy food, schedule a dollar donation
= expenses:food
    (liabilities:charity)   $-1

; when I buy a gift, also deduct that amount from a budget envelope subaccount
= expenses:gifts
    assets:checking:gifts  *-1
    assets:checking         *1

2017/12/1
  expenses:food    $10
  assets:checking

2017/12/14
  expenses:gifts   $20
  assets:checking
$ hledger print --auto
2017-12-01
    expenses:food              $10
    assets:checking
    (liabilities:charity)      $-1

2017-12-14
    expenses:gifts             $20
    assets:checking
    assets:checking:gifts     -$20
    assets:checking            $20

Note that depending fully on generated data such as this has some drawbacks - it's less portable, less future-proof, less auditable by others, and less robust (eg your balance assertions will depend on whether you use or don't use --auto). An alternative is to use auto postings in "one time" fashion - use them to help build a complex journal entry, view it with hledger print --auto, and then copy that output into the journal file to make it permanent.

Auto postings and multiple files

An auto posting rule can affect any transaction in the current file, or in any parent file or child file. Note, currently it will not affect sibling files (when multiple -f/--file are used - see #1212).

Auto postings and dates

A posting date (or secondary date) in the matched posting, or (taking precedence) a posting date in the auto posting rule itself, will also be used in the generated posting.

Auto postings and transaction balancing / inferred amounts / balance assertions

Currently, auto postings are added:

Note this means that journal entries must be balanced both before and after auto postings are added. This changed in hledger 1.12+; see #893 for background.

This also means that you cannot have more than one auto-posting with a missing amount applied to a given transaction, as it will be unable to infer amounts.

Auto posting tags

Automated postings will have some extra tags:

  • generated-posting:= QUERY - shows this was generated by an auto posting rule, and the query
  • _generated-posting:= QUERY - a hidden tag, which does not appear in hledger's output. This can be used to match postings generated "just now", rather than generated in the past and saved to the journal.

Also, any transaction that has been changed by auto posting rules will have these tags added:

  • modified: - this transaction was modified
  • _modified: - a hidden tag not appearing in the comment; this transaction was modified "just now".
Auto postings on forecast transactions only

Tip: you can can make auto postings that will apply to forecast transactions but not recorded transactions, by adding tag:_generated-transaction to their QUERY. This can be useful when generating new journal entries to be saved in the journal.

Other syntax

hledger journal format supports quite a few other features, mainly to make interoperating with or converting from Ledger easier. Note some of the features below are powerful and can be useful in special cases, but in general, features in this section are considered less important or even not recommended for most users. Downsides are mentioned to help you decide if you want to use them.

Balance assignments

Ledger-style balance assignments are also supported. These are like balance assertions, but with no posting amount on the left side of the equals sign; instead it is calculated automatically so as to satisfy the assertion. This can be a convenience during data entry, eg when setting opening balances:

; starting a new journal, set asset account balances
2016/1/1 opening balances
  assets:checking            = $409.32
  assets:savings             = $735.24
  assets:cash                 = $42
  equity:opening balances

or when adjusting a balance to reality:

; no cash left; update balance, record any untracked spending as a generic expense
2016/1/15
  assets:cash    = $0
  expenses:misc

The calculated amount depends on the account's balance in the commodity at that point (which depends on the previously-dated postings of the commodity to that account since the last balance assertion or assignment).

Downsides: using balance assignments makes your journal less explicit; to know the exact amount posted, you have to run hledger or do the calculations yourself, instead of just reading it. Also balance assignments' forcing of balances can hide errors. These things make your financial data less portable, less future-proof, and less trustworthy in an audit.

Balance assignments and costs

A cost in a balance assignment will cause the calculated amount to have that cost attached:

2019/1/1
  (a)             = $1 @ €2
$ hledger print --explicit
2019-01-01
    (a)         $1 @ €2 = $1 @ €2
Balance assignments and multiple files

Balance assignments handle multiple files like balance assertions. They see balance from other files previously included from the current file, but not from previous sibling or parent files.

Bracketed posting dates

For setting posting dates and secondary posting dates, Ledger's bracketed date syntax is also supported: [DATE], [DATE=DATE2] or [=DATE2] in posting comments. hledger will attempt to parse any square-bracketed sequence of the 0123456789/-.= characters in this way. With this syntax, DATE infers its year from the transaction and DATE2 infers its year from DATE.

Downsides: another syntax to learn, redundant with hledger's date:/date2: tags, and confusingly similar to Ledger's lot date syntax.

D directive

D AMOUNT

This directive sets a default commodity, to be used for any subsequent commodityless amounts (ie, plain numbers) seen while parsing the journal. This effect lasts until the next D directive, or the end of the current file.

For compatibility/historical reasons, D also acts like a commodity directive (setting the commodity's decimal mark for parsing and display style for output). So its argument is not just a commodity symbol, but a full amount demonstrating the style. The amount must include a decimal mark (either period or comma). Eg:

; commodity-less amounts should be treated as dollars
; (and displayed with the dollar sign on the left, thousands separators and two decimal places)
D $1,000.00

1/1
  a     5  ; <- commodity-less amount, parsed as $5 and displayed as $5.00
  b

Interactions with other directives:

For setting a commodity's display style, a commodity directive has highest priority, then a D directive.

For detecting a commodity's decimal mark during parsing, decimal-mark has highest priority, then commodity, then D.

For checking commodity symbols with the check command, a commodity directive is required (hledger check commodities ignores D directives).

Downsides: omitting commodity symbols makes your financial data less explicit, less portable, and less trustworthy in an audit. It is usually an unsustainable shortcut; sooner or later you will want to track multiple commodities. D is overloaded with functions redundant with commodity and decimal-mark. And it works differently from Ledger's D.

apply account directive

This directive sets a default parent account, which will be prepended to all accounts in following entries, until an end apply account directive or end of current file. Eg:

apply account home

2010/1/1
    food    $10
    cash

end apply account

is equivalent to:

2010/01/01
    home:food           $10
    home:cash          $-10

account directives are also affected, and so is any included content.

Account names entered via hledger add or hledger-web are not affected.

Account aliases, if any, are applied after the parent account is prepended.

Downsides: this can make your financial data less explicit, less portable, and less trustworthy in an audit.

Y directive

Y YEAR

or (deprecated backward-compatible forms):

year YEAR apply year YEAR

The space is optional. This sets a default year to be used for subsequent dates which don't specify a year. Eg:

Y2009  ; set default year to 2009

12/15  ; equivalent to 2009/12/15
  expenses  1
  assets

year 2010  ; change default year to 2010

2009/1/30  ; specifies the year, not affected
  expenses  1
  assets

1/31   ; equivalent to 2010/1/31
  expenses  1
  assets

Downsides: omitting the year (from primary transaction dates, at least) makes your financial data less explicit, less portable, and less trustworthy in an audit. Such dates can get separated from their corresponding Y directive, eg when evaluating a region of the journal in your editor. A missing Y directive makes reports dependent on today's date.

Secondary dates

A secondary date is written after the primary date, following an equals sign: DATE1=DATE2. If the year is omitted, the primary date's year is assumed. When running reports, the primary (left side) date is used by default, but with the --date2 flag (--aux-date or--effective also work, for Ledger users), the secondary (right side) date will be used instead.

The meaning of secondary dates is up to you. Eg it could be "primary is the bank's clearing date, secondary is the date the transaction was initiated, if different".

In practice, this feature usually adds confusion:

  • You have to remember the primary and secondary dates' meaning, and follow that consistently.
  • It splits your bookkeeping into two modes, and you have to remember which mode is appropriate for a given report.
  • Usually your balance assertions will work with only one of these modes.
  • It makes your financial data more complicated, less portable, and less clear in an audit.
  • It interacts with every feature, creating an ongoing cost for implementors.
  • It distracts new users and supporters.
  • Posting dates are simpler and work better.

So secondary dates are officially deprecated in hledger, remaining only as a Ledger compatibility aid; we recommend using posting dates instead.

Star comments

Lines beginning with * (star/asterisk) are also comment lines. This feature allows Emacs users to insert org headings in their journal, allowing them to fold/unfold/navigate it like an outline when viewed with org mode.

Downsides: another, unconventional comment syntax to learn. Decreases your journal's portability. And switching to Emacs org mode just for folding/unfolding meant losing the benefits of ledger mode; nowadays you can add outshine mode to ledger mode to get folding without losing ledger mode's features.

Valuation expressions

Ledger allows a valuation function or value to be written in double parentheses after an amount. hledger ignores these.

Virtual postings

A posting with parentheses around the account name, like (some:account) 10, is called an unbalanced virtual posting. These postings do not participate in transaction balancing. (And if you write them without an amount, a zero amount is always inferred.) These can occasionally be convenient for special circumstances, but they violate double entry bookkeeping and make your data less portable across applications, so many people avoid using them at all.

A posting with brackets around the account name ([some:account]) is called a balanced virtual posting. The balanced virtual postings in a transaction must add up to zero, just like ordinary postings, but separately from them. These are not part of double entry bookkeeping either, but they are at least balanced. An example:

2022-01-01 buy food with cash, update budget envelope subaccounts, & something else
  assets:cash                    $-10  ; <- these balance each other
  expenses:food                    $7  ; <-
  expenses:food                    $3  ; <-
  [assets:checking:budget:food]  $-10  ;   <- and these balance each other
  [assets:checking:available]     $10  ;   <-
  (something:else)                 $5  ;     <- this is not required to balance

Ordinary postings, whose account names are neither parenthesised nor bracketed, are called real postings. You can exclude virtual postings from reports with the -R/--real flag or a real:1 query.

Other Ledger directives

These other Ledger directives are currently accepted but ignored. This allows hledger to read more Ledger files, but be aware that hledger's reports may differ from Ledger's if you use these.

apply fixed COMM AMT
apply tag   TAG
assert      EXPR
bucket / A  ACCT
capture     ACCT REGEX
check       EXPR
define      VAR=EXPR
end apply fixed
end apply tag
end apply year
end tag
eval / expr EXPR
python
  PYTHONCODE
tag         NAME
value       EXPR
--command-line-flags

See also https://hledger.org/ledger.html for a detailed hledger/Ledger syntax comparison.

Other cost/lot notations

A slight digression for Ledger and Beancount users. Ledger has a number of cost/lot-related notations:

  • @ UNITCOST and @@ TOTALCOST
    • expresses a conversion rate, as in hledger
    • when buying, also creates a lot than can be selected at selling time
  • (@) UNITCOST and (@@) TOTALCOST (virtual cost)
    • like the above, but also means "this cost was exceptional, don't use it when inferring market prices".

Currently, hledger treats the above like @ and @@; the parentheses are ignored.

  • {=FIXEDUNITCOST} and {{=FIXEDTOTALCOST}} (fixed price)
    • when buying, means "this cost is also the fixed price, don't let it fluctuate in value reports"
  • {UNITCOST} and {{TOTALCOST}} (lot price)
    • can be used identically to @ UNITCOST and @@ TOTALCOST, also creates a lot
    • when selling, combined with @ ..., specifies an investment lot by its cost basis; does not check if that lot is present
  • and related: [YYYY/MM/DD] (lot date)
    • when buying, attaches this acquisition date to the lot
    • when selling, selects a lot by its acquisition date
  • (SOME TEXT) (lot note)
    • when buying, attaches this note to the lot
    • when selling, selects a lot by its note

Currently, hledger accepts any or all of the above in any order after the posting amount, but ignores them. (This can break transaction balancing.)

For Beancount users, the notation and behaviour is different:

  • @ UNITCOST and @@ TOTALCOST
    • expresses a cost without creating a lot, as in hledger
    • when buying (augmenting) or selling (reducing) a lot, combined with {...}: documents the cost/selling price (not used for transaction balancing)
  • {UNITCOST} and {{TOTALCOST}}
    • when buying (augmenting), expresses the cost for transaction balancing, and also creates a lot with this cost basis attached
    • when selling (reducing),
      • selects a lot by its cost basis
      • raises an error if that lot is not present or can not be selected unambiguously (depending on booking method configured)
      • expresses the selling price for transaction balancing

Currently, hledger accepts the {UNITCOST}/{{TOTALCOST}} notation but ignores it.

  • variations: {}, {YYYY-MM-DD}, {"LABEL"}, {UNITCOST, "LABEL"}, {UNITCOST, YYYY-MM-DD, "LABEL"} etc.

Currently, hledger rejects these.

CSV

hledger can read CSV files (Character Separated Value - usually comma, semicolon, or tab) containing dated records, automatically converting each record into a transaction.

(To learn about writing CSV, see CSV output.)

For best error messages when reading CSV/TSV/SSV files, make sure they have a corresponding .csv, .tsv or .ssv file extension or use a hledger file prefix (see File Extension below).

Each CSV file must be described by a corresponding rules file.
This contains rules describing the CSV data (header line, fields layout, date format etc.), how to construct hledger transactions from it, and how to categorise transactions based on description or other attributes.

By default, hledger expects this rules file to be named like the CSV file, with an extra .rules extension added, in the same directory. Eg when asked to read foo/FILE.csv, hledger looks for foo/FILE.csv.rules. You can specify a different rules file with the --rules-file option.

At minimum, the rules file must identify the date and amount fields, and often it also specifies the date format and how many header lines there are. Here's a simple CSV file and a rules file for it:

Date, Description, Id, Amount
12/11/2019, Foo, 123, 10.23
# basic.csv.rules
skip         1
fields       date, description, , amount
date-format  %d/%m/%Y
$ hledger print -f basic.csv
2019-11-12 Foo
    expenses:unknown           10.23
    income:unknown            -10.23

There's an introductory Importing CSV data tutorial on hledger.org, and more CSV rules examples below, and a larger collection at https://github.com/simonmichael/hledger/tree/master/examples/csv.

CSV rules cheatsheet

The following kinds of rule can appear in the rules file, in any order. (Blank lines and lines beginning with # or ; or * are ignored.)

sourceoptionally declare which file to read data from
separatordeclare the field separator, instead of relying on file extension
skipskip one or more header lines at start of file
date-formatdeclare how to parse CSV dates/date-times
timezonedeclare the time zone of ambiguous CSV date-times
newest-firstimprove txn order when: there are multiple records, newest first, all with the same date
intra-day-reversedimprove txn order when: same-day txns are in opposite order to the overall file
decimal-markdeclare the decimal mark used in CSV amounts, when ambiguous
fields listname CSV fields for easy reference, and optionally assign their values to hledger fields
Field assignmentassign a CSV value or interpolated text value to a hledger field
if blockconditionally assign values to hledger fields, or skip a record or end (skip rest of file)
if tableconditionally assign values to hledger fields, using compact syntax
balance-typeselect which type of balance assertions/assignments to generate
includeinline another CSV rules file

Working with CSV tips can be found below, including How CSV rules are evaluated.

source

If you tell hledger to read a csv file with -f foo.csv, it will look for rules in foo.csv.rules. Or, you can tell it to read the rules file, with -f foo.csv.rules, and it will look for data in foo.csv (since 1.30).

These are mostly equivalent, but the second method provides some extra features. For one, the data file can be missing, without causing an error; it is just considered empty. And, you can specify a different data file by adding a "source" rule:

source ./Checking1.csv

If you specify just a file name with no path, hledger will look for it in your system's downloads directory (~/Downloads, currently):

source Checking1.csv

And if you specify a glob pattern, hledger will read the most recent of the matched files (useful with repeated downloads):

source Checking1*.csv

See also "Working with CSV > Reading files specified by rule".

separator

You can use the separator rule to read other kinds of character-separated data. The argument is any single separator character, or the words tab or space (case insensitive). Eg, for comma-separated values (CSV):

separator ,

or for semicolon-separated values (SSV):

separator ;

or for tab-separated values (TSV):

separator TAB

If the input file has a .csv, .ssv or .tsv file extension (or a csv:, ssv:, tsv: prefix), the appropriate separator will be inferred automatically, and you won't need this rule.

skip

skip N

The word skip followed by a number (or no number, meaning 1) tells hledger to ignore this many non-empty lines at the start of the input data. You'll need this whenever your CSV data contains header lines. Note, empty and blank lines are skipped automatically, so you don't need to count those.

skip has a second meaning: it can be used inside if blocks (described below), to skip one or more records whenever the condition is true. Records skipped in this way are ignored, except they are still required to be valid CSV.

date-format

date-format DATEFMT

This is a helper for the date (and date2) fields. If your CSV dates are not formatted like YYYY-MM-DD, YYYY/MM/DD or YYYY.MM.DD, you'll need to add a date-format rule describing them with a strptime-style date parsing pattern - see https://hackage.haskell.org/package/time/docs/Data-Time-Format.html#v:formatTime. The pattern must parse the CSV date value completely. Some examples:

# MM/DD/YY
date-format %m/%d/%y
# D/M/YYYY
# The - makes leading zeros optional.
date-format %-d/%-m/%Y
# YYYY-Mmm-DD
date-format %Y-%h-%d
# M/D/YYYY HH:MM AM some other junk
# Note the time and junk must be fully parsed, though only the date is used.
date-format %-m/%-d/%Y %l:%M %p some other junk

timezone

timezone TIMEZONE

When CSV contains date-times that are implicitly in some time zone other than yours, but containing no explicit time zone information, you can use this rule to declare the CSV's native time zone, which helps prevent off-by-one dates.

When the CSV date-times do contain time zone information, you don't need this rule; instead, use %Z in date-format (or %z, %EZ, %Ez; see the formatTime link above).

In either of these cases, hledger will do a time-zone-aware conversion, localising the CSV date-times to your current system time zone. If you prefer to localise to some other time zone, eg for reproducibility, you can (on unix at least) set the output timezone with the TZ environment variable, eg:

$ TZ=-1000 hledger print -f foo.csv  # or TZ=-1000 hledger import foo.csv

timezone currently does not understand timezone names, except "UTC", "GMT", "EST", "EDT", "CST", "CDT", "MST", "MDT", "PST", or "PDT". For others, use numeric format: +HHMM or -HHMM.

newest-first

hledger tries to ensure that the generated transactions will be ordered chronologically, including same-day transactions. Usually it can auto-detect how the CSV records are ordered. But if it encounters CSV where all records are on the same date, it assumes that the records are oldest first. If in fact the CSV's records are normally newest first, like:

2022-10-01, txn 3...
2022-10-01, txn 2...
2022-10-01, txn 1...

you can add the newest-first rule to help hledger generate the transactions in correct order.

# same-day CSV records are newest first
newest-first

intra-day-reversed

If CSV records within a single day are ordered opposite to the overall record order, you can add the intra-day-reversed rule to improve the order of journal entries. Eg, here the overall record order is newest first, but same-day records are oldest first:

2022-10-02, txn 3...
2022-10-02, txn 4...
2022-10-01, txn 1...
2022-10-01, txn 2...
# transactions within each day are reversed with respect to the overall date order
intra-day-reversed

decimal-mark

decimal-mark .

or:

decimal-mark ,

hledger automatically accepts either period or comma as a decimal mark when parsing numbers (cf Amounts). However if any numbers in the CSV contain digit group marks, such as thousand-separating commas, you should declare the decimal mark explicitly with this rule, to avoid misparsed numbers.

fields list

fields FIELDNAME1, FIELDNAME2, ...

A fields list (the word fields followed by comma-separated field names) is optional, but convenient. It does two things:

  1. It names the CSV field in each column. This can be convenient if you are referencing them in other rules, so you can say %SomeField instead of remembering %13.

  2. Whenever you use one of the special hledger field names (described below), it assigns the CSV value in this position to that hledger field. This is the quickest way to populate hledger's fields and build a transaction.

Here's an example that says "use the 1st, 2nd and 4th fields as the transaction's date, description and amount; name the last two fields for later reference; and ignore the others":

fields date, description, , amount, , , somefield, anotherfield

In a fields list, the separator is always comma; it is unrelated to the CSV file's separator. Also:

  • There must be least two items in the list (at least one comma).
  • Field names may not contain spaces. Spaces before/after field names are optional.
  • Field names may contain _ (underscore) or - (hyphen).
  • Fields you don't care about can be given a dummy name or an empty name.

If the CSV contains column headings, it's convenient to use these for your field names, suitably modified (eg lower-cased with spaces replaced by underscores).

Sometimes you may want to alter a CSV field name to avoid assigning to a hledger field with the same name. Eg you could call the CSV's "balance" field balance_ to avoid directly setting hledger's balance field (and generating a balance assertion).

Field assignment

HLEDGERFIELD FIELDVALUE

Field assignments are the more flexible way to assign CSV values to hledger fields. They can be used instead of or in addition to a fields list (see above).

To assign a value to a hledger field, write the field name (any of the standard hledger field/pseudo-field names, defined below), a space, followed by a text value on the same line. This text value may interpolate CSV fields, referenced either by their 1-based position in the CSV record (%N) or by the name they were given in the fields list (%CSVFIELD), and regular expression match groups (\N).

Some examples:

# set the amount to the 4th CSV field, with " USD" appended
amount %4 USD

# combine three fields to make a comment, containing note: and date: tags
comment note: %somefield - %anotherfield, date: %1

Tips:

  • Interpolation strips outer whitespace (so a CSV value like " 1 " becomes 1 when interpolated) (#1051).
  • Interpolations always refer to a CSV field - you can't interpolate a hledger field. (See Referencing other fields below).

Field names

Note the two kinds of field names mentioned here, and used only in hledger CSV rules files:

  1. CSV field names (CSVFIELD in these docs): you can optionally name the CSV columns for easy reference (since hledger doesn't yet automatically recognise column headings in a CSV file), by writing arbitrary names in a fields list, eg:

    fields When, What, Some_Id, Net, Total, Foo, Bar
    
  2. Special hledger field names (HLEDGERFIELD in these docs): you must set at least some of these to generate the hledger transaction from a CSV record, by writing them as the left hand side of a field assignment, eg:

    date        %When
    code        %Some_Id
    description %What
    comment     %Foo %Bar
    amount1     $ %Total
    

    or directly in a fields list:

    fields date, description, code, , amount1, Foo, Bar
    currency $
    comment  %Foo %Bar
    

Here are all the special hledger field names available, and what happens when you assign values to them:

date field

Assigning to date sets the transaction date.

date2 field

date2 sets the transaction's secondary date, if any.

status field

status sets the transaction's status, if any.

code field

code sets the transaction's code, if any.

description field

description sets the transaction's description, if any.

comment field

comment sets the transaction's comment, if any.

commentN, where N is a number, sets the Nth posting's comment.

You can assign multi-line comments by writing literal \n in the code. A comment starting with \n will begin on a new line.

Comments can contain tags, as usual.

account field

Assigning to accountN, where N is 1 to 99, sets the account name of the Nth posting, and causes that posting to be generated.

Most often there are two postings, so you'll want to set account1 and account2. Typically account1 is associated with the CSV file, and is set once with a top-level assignment, while account2 is set based on each transaction's description, in conditional rules.

If a posting's account name is left unset but its amount is set (see below), a default account name will be chosen (like "expenses:unknown" or "income:unknown").

amount field

There are several ways to set posting amounts from CSV, useful in different situations.

  1. amount is the oldest and simplest. Assigning to this sets the amount of the first and second postings. In the second posting, the amount will be negated; also, if it has a cost attached, it will be converted to cost.

  2. amount-in and amount-out work exactly like the above, but should be used when the CSV has two amount fields (such as "Debit" and "Credit", or "Inflow" and "Outflow"). Whichever field has a non-zero value will be used as the amount of the first and second postings. Here are some tips to avoid confusion:

    • It's not "amount-in for posting 1 and amount-out for posting 2", it is "extract a single amount from the amount-in or amount-out field, and use that for posting 1 and (negated) for posting 2".
    • Don't use both amount and amount-in/amount-out in the same rules file; choose based on whether the amount is in a single CSV field or spread across two fields.
    • In each record, at most one of the two CSV fields should contain a non-zero amount; the other field must contain a zero or nothing.
    • hledger assumes both CSV fields contain unsigned numbers, and it automatically negates the amount-out values.
    • If the data doesn't fit these requirements, you'll probably need an if rule (see below).
  3. amountN (where N is a number from 1 to 99) sets the amount of only a single posting: the Nth posting in the transaction. You'll usually need at least two such assignments to make a balanced transaction. You can also generate more than two postings, to represent more complex transactions. The posting numbers don't have to be consecutive; with if rules, higher posting numbers can be useful to ensure a certain order of postings.

  4. amountN-in and amountN-out work exactly like the above, but should be used when the CSV has two amount fields. This is analogous to amount-in and amount-out, and those tips also apply here.

  5. Remember that a fields list can also do assignments. So in a fields list if you name a CSV field "amount", that counts as assigning to amount. (If you don't want that, call it something else in the fields list, like "amount_".)

  6. The above don't handle every situation; if you need more flexibility, use an if rule to set amounts conditionally. See "Working with CSV > Setting amounts" below for more on this and on amount-setting generally.

currency field

currency sets a currency symbol, to be prepended to all postings' amounts. You can use this if the CSV amounts do not have a currency symbol, eg if it is in a separate column.

currencyN prepends a currency symbol to just the Nth posting's amount.

balance field

balanceN sets a balance assertion amount (or if the posting amount is left empty, a balance assignment) on posting N.

balance is a compatibility spelling for hledger <1.17; it is equivalent to balance1.

You can adjust the type of assertion/assignment with the balance-type rule (see below).

See the Working with CSV tips below for more about setting amounts and currency.

if block

Rules can be applied conditionally, depending on patterns in the CSV data. This allows flexibility; in particular, it is how you can categorise transactions, selecting an appropriate account name based on their description (for example). There are two ways to write conditional rules: "if blocks", described here, and "if tables", described below.

An if block is the word if and one or more "matcher" expressions (can be a word or phrase), one per line, starting either on the same or next line; followed by one or more indented rules. Eg,

if MATCHER
 RULE

or

if
MATCHER
MATCHER
MATCHER
 RULE
 RULE

If any of the matchers succeeds, all of the indented rules will be applied. They are usually field assignments, but the following special rules may also be used within an if block:

  • skip - skips the matched CSV record (generating no transaction from it)
  • end - skips the rest of the current CSV file.

Some examples:

# if the record contains "groceries", set account2 to "expenses:groceries"
if groceries
 account2 expenses:groceries
# if the record contains any of these phrases, set account2 and a transaction comment as shown
if
monthly service fee
atm transaction fee
banking thru software
 account2 expenses:business:banking
 comment  XXX deductible ? check it
# if an empty record is seen (assuming five fields), ignore the rest of the CSV file
if ,,,,
 end

Matchers

There are two kinds:

  1. A record matcher is a word or single-line text fragment or regular expression (REGEX), which hledger will try to match case-insensitively anywhere within the CSV record.
    Eg: whole foods

  2. A field matcher is preceded with a percent sign and CSV field name (%CSVFIELD REGEX). hledger will try to match these just within the named CSV field.
    Eg: %date 2023

The regular expression is (as usual in hledger) a POSIX extended regular expression, that also supports GNU word boundaries (\b, \B, \<, \>), and nothing else. If you have trouble, see "Regular expressions" in the hledger manual (https://hledger.org/hledger.html#regular-expressions).

What matchers match

With record matchers, it's important to know that the record matched is not the original CSV record, but a modified one: separators will be converted to commas, and enclosing double quotes (but not enclosing whitespace) are removed. So for example, when reading an SSV file, if the original record was:

2023-01-01; "Acme, Inc.";  1,000

the regex would see, and try to match, this modified record text:

2023-01-01,Acme, Inc.,  1,000

Combining matchers

When an if block has multiple matchers, they are combined as follows:

  • By default they are OR'd (any of them can match)
  • When a matcher is preceded by ampersand (&, at the start of the line) it will be AND'ed with the previous matcher (all in the AND'ed group must match)
  • Added in 1.32 When a matcher is preceded by an exclamation mark (!), it is negated (it must not match).

Note currently there is a limitation: you can't use both & and ! on the same line (you can't AND a negated matcher).

Match groups

Added in 1.32

Matchers can define match groups: parenthesised portions of the regular expression which are available for reference in field assignments. Groups are enclosed in regular parentheses (( and )) and can be nested. Each group is available in field assignments using the token \N, where N is an index into the match groups for this conditional block (e.g. \1, \2, etc.).

Example: Warp credit card payment postings to the beginning of the billing period (Month start), to match how they are presented in statements, using posting dates:

if %date (....-..)-..
  comment2 date:\1-01

Another example: Read the expense account from the CSV field, but throw away a prefix:

if %account1 liabilities:family:(expenses:.*)
    account1 \1

if table

"if tables" are an alternative to if blocks; they can express many matchers and field assignments in a more compact tabular format, like this:

if,HLEDGERFIELD1,HLEDGERFIELD2,...
MATCHERA,VALUE1,VALUE2,...
MATCHERB,VALUE1,VALUE2,...
; Comment line that explains MATCHERC
MATCHERC,VALUE1,VALUE2,...
<empty line>

The first character after if is taken to be this if table's field separator. It is unrelated to the separator used in the CSV file. It should be a non-alphanumeric character like , or | that does not appear anywhere else in the table (it should not be used in field names or matchers or values, and it cannot be escaped with a backslash).

Each line must contain the same number of separators; empty values are allowed. Whitespace can be used in the matcher lines for readability (but not in the if line, currently). You can use the comment lines in the table body. The table must be terminated by an empty line (or end of file).

An if table like the above is interpreted as follows: try all of the matchers; whenever a matcher succeeds, assign all of the values on that line to the corresponding hledger fields; If multiple lines match, later lines will override fields assigned by the earlier ones - just like the sequence of if blocks would behave.

If table presented above is equivalent to this sequence of if blocks:

if MATCHERA
  HLEDGERFIELD1 VALUE1
  HLEDGERFIELD2 VALUE2
  ...

if MATCHERB
  HLEDGERFIELD1 VALUE1
  HLEDGERFIELD2 VALUE2
  ...

; Comment line which explains MATCHERC
if MATCHERC
  HLEDGERFIELD1 VALUE1
  HLEDGERFIELD2 VALUE2
  ...

Example:

if,account2,comment
atm transaction fee,expenses:business:banking,deductible? check it
%description groceries,expenses:groceries,
;; Comment line that desribes why this particular date is special
2023/01/12.*Plumbing LLC,expenses:house:upkeep,emergency plumbing call-out

balance-type

Balance assertions generated by assigning to balanceN are of the simple = type by default, which is a single-commodity, subaccount-excluding assertion. You may find the subaccount-including variants more useful, eg if you have created some virtual subaccounts of checking to help with budgeting. You can select a different type of assertion with the balance-type rule:

# balance assertions will consider all commodities and all subaccounts
balance-type ==*

Here are the balance assertion types for quick reference:

=    single commodity, exclude subaccounts
=*   single commodity, include subaccounts
==   multi commodity,  exclude subaccounts
==*  multi commodity,  include subaccounts

include

include RULESFILE

This includes the contents of another CSV rules file at this point. RULESFILE is an absolute file path or a path relative to the current file's directory. This can be useful for sharing common rules between several rules files, eg:

# someaccount.csv.rules

## someaccount-specific rules
fields   date,description,amount
account1 assets:someaccount
account2 expenses:misc

## common rules
include categorisation.rules

Working with CSV

Some tips:

Rapid feedback

It's a good idea to get rapid feedback while creating/troubleshooting CSV rules. Here's a good way, using entr from eradman.com/entrproject:

$ ls foo.csv* | entr bash -c 'echo ----; hledger -f foo.csv print desc:SOMEDESC'

A desc: query (eg) is used to select just one, or a few, transactions of interest. "bash -c" is used to run multiple commands, so we can echo a separator each time the command re-runs, making it easier to read the output.

Valid CSV

Note that hledger will only accept valid CSV conforming to RFC 4180, and equivalent SSV and TSV formats (like RFC 4180 but with semicolon or tab as separators). This means, eg:

  • Values may be enclosed in double quotes, or not. Enclosing in single quotes is not allowed. (Eg 'A','B' is rejected.)
  • When values are enclosed in double quotes, spaces outside the quotes are not allowed. (Eg "A", "B" is rejected.)
  • When values are not enclosed in quotes, they may not contain double quotes. (Eg A"A, B is rejected.)

If your CSV/SSV/TSV is not valid in this sense, you'll need to transform it before reading with hledger. Try using sed, or a more permissive CSV parser like python's csv lib.

File Extension

To help hledger choose the CSV file reader and show the right error messages (and choose the right field separator character by default), it's best if CSV/SSV/TSV files are named with a .csv, .ssv or .tsv filename extension. (More about this at Data formats.)

When reading files with the "wrong" extension, you can ensure the CSV reader (and the default field separator) by prefixing the file path with csv:, ssv: or tsv:: Eg:

$ hledger -f ssv:foo.dat print

You can also override the default field separator with a separator rule if needed.

Reading CSV from standard input

You'll need the file format prefix when reading CSV from stdin also, since hledger assumes journal format by default. Eg:

$ cat foo.dat | hledger -f ssv:- print

Reading multiple CSV files

If you use multiple -f options to read multiple CSV files at once, hledger will look for a correspondingly-named rules file for each CSV file. But if you use the --rules-file option, that rules file will be used for all the CSV files.

Reading files specified by rule

Instead of specifying a CSV file in the command line, you can specify a rules file, as in hledger -f foo.csv.rules CMD. By default this will read data from foo.csv in the same directory, but you can add a source rule to specify a different data file, perhaps located in your web browser's download directory.

This feature was added in hledger 1.30, so you won't see it in most CSV rules examples. But it helps remove some of the busywork of managing CSV downloads. Most of your financial institutions's default CSV filenames are different and can be recognised by a glob pattern. So you can put a rule like source Checking1*.csv in foo-checking.csv.rules, and then periodically follow a workflow like:

  1. Download CSV from Foo's website, using your browser's defaults
  2. Run hledger import foo-checking.csv.rules to import any new transactions

After import, you can: discard the CSV, or leave it where it is for a while, or move it into your archives, as you prefer. If you do nothing, next time your browser will save something like Checking1-2.csv, and hledger will use that because of the * wild card and because it is the most recent.

Valid transactions

After reading a CSV file, hledger post-processes and validates the generated journal entries as it would for a journal file - balancing them, applying balance assignments, and canonicalising amount styles. Any errors at this stage will be reported in the usual way, displaying the problem entry.

There is one exception: balance assertions, if you have generated them, will not be checked, since normally these will work only when the CSV data is part of the main journal. If you do need to check balance assertions generated from CSV right away, pipe into another hledger:

$ hledger -f file.csv print | hledger -f- print

Deduplicating, importing

When you download a CSV file periodically, eg to get your latest bank transactions, the new file may overlap with the old one, containing some of the same records.

The import command will (a) detect the new transactions, and (b) append just those transactions to your main journal. It is idempotent, so you don't have to remember how many times you ran it or with which version of the CSV. (It keeps state in a hidden .latest.FILE.csv file.) This is the easiest way to import CSV data. Eg:

# download the latest CSV files, then run this command.
# Note, no -f flags needed here.
$ hledger import *.csv [--dry]

This method works for most CSV files. (Where records have a stable chronological order, and new records appear only at the new end.)

A number of other tools and workflows, hledger-specific and otherwise, exist for converting, deduplicating, classifying and managing CSV data. See:

Setting amounts

Continuing from amount field above, here are more tips for amount-setting:

  1. If the amount is in a single CSV field:

    a. If its sign indicates direction of flow:
    Assign it to amountN, to set the Nth posting's amount. N is usually 1 or 2 but can go up to 99.

    b. If another field indicates direction of flow:
    Use one or more conditional rules to set the appropriate amount sign. Eg:

    # assume a withdrawal unless Type contains "deposit":
    amount1  -%Amount
    if %Type deposit
      amount1  %Amount
    
  2. If the amount is in two CSV fields (such as Debit and Credit, or In and Out):

    a. If both fields are unsigned:
    Assign one field to amountN-in and the other to amountN-out. hledger will automatically negate the "out" field, and will use whichever field value is non-zero as posting N's amount.

    b. If either field is signed:
    You will probably need to override hledger's sign for one or the other field, as in the following example:

    # Negate the -out value, but only if it is not empty:
    fields date, description, amount1-in, amount1-out
    if %amount1-out [1-9]
     amount1-out -%amount1-out
    

    c. If both fields can contain a non-zero value (or both can be empty):
    The -in/-out rules normally choose the value which is non-zero/non-empty. Some value pairs can be ambiguous, such as 1 and none. For such cases, use conditional rules to help select the amount. Eg, to handle the above you could select the value containing non-zero digits:

    fields date, description, in, out
    if %in [1-9]
     amount1 %in
    if %out [1-9]
     amount1 %out
    
  3. If you want posting 2's amount converted to cost:
    Use the unnumbered amount (or amount-in and amount-out) syntax.

  4. If the CSV has only balance amounts, not transaction amounts:
    Assign to balanceN, to set a balance assignment on the Nth posting, causing the posting's amount to be calculated automatically. balance with no number is equivalent to balance1. In this situation hledger is more likely to guess the wrong default account name, so you may need to set that explicitly.

Amount signs

There is some special handling making it easier to parse and to reverse amount signs. (This only works for whole amounts, not for cost amounts such as COST in amount1 AMT @ COST):

  • If an amount value begins with a plus sign:
    that will be removed: +AMT becomes AMT

  • If an amount value is parenthesised:
    it will be de-parenthesised and sign-flipped: (AMT) becomes -AMT

  • If an amount value has two minus signs (or two sets of parentheses, or a minus sign and parentheses):
    they cancel out and will be removed: --AMT or -(AMT) becomes AMT

  • If an amount value contains just a sign (or just a set of parentheses):
    that is removed, making it an empty value. "+" or "-" or "()" becomes "".

It's not possible (without preprocessing the CSV) to set an amount to its absolute value, ie discard its sign.

Setting currency/commodity

If the currency/commodity symbol is included in the CSV's amount field(s):

2023-01-01,foo,$123.00

you don't have to do anything special for the commodity symbol, it will be assigned as part of the amount. Eg:

fields date,description,amount
2023-01-01 foo
    expenses:unknown         $123.00
    income:unknown          $-123.00

If the currency is provided as a separate CSV field:

2023-01-01,foo,USD,123.00

You can assign that to the currency pseudo-field, which has the special effect of prepending itself to every amount in the transaction (on the left, with no separating space):

fields date,description,currency,amount
2023-01-01 foo
    expenses:unknown       USD123.00
    income:unknown        USD-123.00

Or, you can use a field assignment to construct the amount yourself, with more control. Eg to put the symbol on the right, and separated by a space:

fields date,description,cur,amt
amount %amt %cur
2023-01-01 foo
    expenses:unknown        123.00 USD
    income:unknown         -123.00 USD

Note we used a temporary field name (cur) that is not currency - that would trigger the prepending effect, which we don't want here.

Amount decimal places

When you are reading CSV data, eg with a command like hledger -f foo.csv print, hledger will infer each commodity's decimal precision (and other commodity display styles) from the amounts - much as when reading a journal file without commodity directives (see the link).

Note, the commodity styles are not inferred from the numbers in the original CSV data; rather, they are inferred from the amounts generated by the CSV rules.

When you are importing CSV data with the import command, eg hledger import foo.csv, there's another step: import tries to make the new entries conform to the journal's existing styles. So for each commodity - let's say it's EUR - import will choose:

  1. the style declared for EUR by a commodity directive in the journal
  2. otherwise, the style inferred from EUR amounts in the journal
  3. otherwise, the style inferred from EUR amounts generated by the CSV rules.

TLDR: if import is not generating the precisions or styles you want, add a commodity directive to specify them.

Referencing other fields

In field assignments, you can interpolate only CSV fields, not hledger fields. In the example below, there's both a CSV field and a hledger field named amount1, but %amount1 always means the CSV field, not the hledger field:

# Name the third CSV field "amount1"
fields date,description,amount1

# Set hledger's amount1 to the CSV amount1 field followed by USD
amount1 %amount1 USD

# Set comment to the CSV amount1 (not the amount1 assigned above)
comment %amount1

Here, since there's no CSV amount1 field, %amount1 will produce a literal "amount1":

fields date,description,csvamount
amount1 %csvamount USD
# Can't interpolate amount1 here
comment %amount1

When there are multiple field assignments to the same hledger field, only the last one takes effect. Here, comment's value will be be B, or C if "something" is matched, but never A:

comment A
comment B
if something
 comment C

How CSV rules are evaluated

Here's how to think of CSV rules being evaluated (if you really need to). First,

  • include - all includes are inlined, from top to bottom, depth first. (At each include point the file is inlined and scanned for further includes, recursively, before proceeding.)

Then "global" rules are evaluated, top to bottom. If a rule is repeated, the last one wins:

  • skip (at top level)
  • date-format
  • newest-first
  • fields - names the CSV fields, optionally sets up initial assignments to hledger fields

Then for each CSV record in turn:

  • test all if blocks. If any of them contain a end rule, skip all remaining CSV records. Otherwise if any of them contain a skip rule, skip that many CSV records. If there are multiple matched skip rules, the first one wins.
  • collect all field assignments at top level and in matched if blocks. When there are multiple assignments for a field, keep only the last one.
  • compute a value for each hledger field - either the one that was assigned to it (and interpolate the %CSVFIELD references), or a default
  • generate a hledger transaction (journal entry) from these values.

This is all part of the CSV reader, one of several readers hledger can use to parse input files. When all files have been read successfully, the transactions are passed as input to whichever hledger command the user specified.

Well factored rules

Some things than can help reduce duplication and complexity in rules files:

  • Extracting common rules usable with multiple CSV files into a common.rules, and adding include common.rules to each CSV's rules file.

  • Splitting if blocks into smaller if blocks, extracting the frequently used parts.

CSV rules examples

Bank of Ireland

Here's a CSV with two amount fields (Debit and Credit), and a balance field, which we can use to add balance assertions, which is not necessary but provides extra error checking:

Date,Details,Debit,Credit,Balance
07/12/2012,LODGMENT       529898,,10.0,131.21
07/12/2012,PAYMENT,5,,126
# bankofireland-checking.csv.rules

# skip the header line
skip

# name the csv fields, and assign some of them as journal entry fields
fields  date, description, amount-out, amount-in, balance

# We generate balance assertions by assigning to "balance"
# above, but you may sometimes need to remove these because:
#
# - the CSV balance differs from the true balance,
#   by up to 0.0000000000005 in my experience
#
# - it is sometimes calculated based on non-chronological ordering,
#   eg when multiple transactions clear on the same day

# date is in UK/Ireland format
date-format  %d/%m/%Y

# set the currency
currency  EUR

# set the base account for all txns
account1  assets:bank:boi:checking
$ hledger -f bankofireland-checking.csv print
2012-12-07 LODGMENT       529898
    assets:bank:boi:checking         EUR10.0 = EUR131.2
    income:unknown                  EUR-10.0

2012-12-07 PAYMENT
    assets:bank:boi:checking         EUR-5.0 = EUR126.0
    expenses:unknown                  EUR5.0

The balance assertions don't raise an error above, because we're reading directly from CSV, but they will be checked if these entries are imported into a journal file.

Coinbase

A simple example with some CSV from Coinbase. The spot price is recorded using cost notation. The legacy amount field name conveniently sets amount 2 (posting 2's amount) to the total cost.

# Timestamp,Transaction Type,Asset,Quantity Transacted,Spot Price Currency,Spot Price at Transaction,Subtotal,Total (inclusive of fees and/or spread),Fees and/or Spread,Notes
# 2021-12-30T06:57:59Z,Receive,USDC,100,GBP,0.740000,"","","","Received 100.00 USDC from an external account"
# coinbase.csv.rules
skip         1
fields       Timestamp,Transaction_Type,Asset,Quantity_Transacted,Spot_Price_Currency,Spot_Price_at_Transaction,Subtotal,Total,Fees_Spread,Notes
date         %Timestamp
date-format  %Y-%m-%dT%T%Z
description  %Notes
account1     assets:coinbase:cc
amount       %Quantity_Transacted %Asset @ %Spot_Price_at_Transaction %Spot_Price_Currency
$ hledger print -f coinbase.csv
2021-12-30 Received 100.00 USDC from an external account
    assets:coinbase:cc    100 USDC @ 0.740000 GBP
    income:unknown                 -74.000000 GBP

Amazon

Here we convert amazon.com order history, and use an if block to generate a third posting if there's a fee. (In practice you'd probably get this data from your bank instead, but it's an example.)

"Date","Type","To/From","Name","Status","Amount","Fees","Transaction ID"
"Jul 29, 2012","Payment","To","Foo.","Completed","$20.00","$0.00","16000000000000DGLNJPI1P9B8DKPVHL"
"Jul 30, 2012","Payment","To","Adapteva, Inc.","Completed","$25.00","$1.00","17LA58JSKRD4HDGLNJPI1P9B8DKPVHL"
# amazon-orders.csv.rules

# skip one header line
skip 1

# name the csv fields, and assign the transaction's date, amount and code.
# Avoided the "status" and "amount" hledger field names to prevent confusion.
fields date, _, toorfrom, name, amzstatus, amzamount, fees, code

# how to parse the date
date-format %b %-d, %Y

# combine two fields to make the description
description %toorfrom %name

# save the status as a tag
comment     status:%amzstatus

# set the base account for all transactions
account1    assets:amazon
# leave amount1 blank so it can balance the other(s).
# I'm assuming amzamount excludes the fees, don't remember

# set a generic account2
account2    expenses:misc
amount2     %amzamount
# and maybe refine it further:
#include categorisation.rules

# add a third posting for fees, but only if they are non-zero.
if %fees [1-9]
 account3    expenses:fees
 amount3     %fees
$ hledger -f amazon-orders.csv print
2012-07-29 (16000000000000DGLNJPI1P9B8DKPVHL) To Foo.  ; status:Completed
    assets:amazon
    expenses:misc          $20.00

2012-07-30 (17LA58JSKRD4HDGLNJPI1P9B8DKPVHL) To Adapteva, Inc.  ; status:Completed
    assets:amazon
    expenses:misc          $25.00
    expenses:fees           $1.00

Paypal

Here's a real-world rules file for (customised) Paypal CSV, with some Paypal-specific rules, and a second rules file included:

"Date","Time","TimeZone","Name","Type","Status","Currency","Gross","Fee","Net","From Email Address","To Email Address","Transaction ID","Item Title","Item ID","Reference Txn ID","Receipt ID","Balance","Note"
"10/01/2019","03:46:20","PDT","Calm Radio","Subscription Payment","Completed","USD","-6.99","0.00","-6.99","[email protected]","[email protected]","60P57143A8206782E","MONTHLY - $1 for the first 2 Months: Me - Order 99309. Item total: $1.00 USD first 2 months, then $6.99 / Month","","I-R8YLY094FJYR","","-6.99",""
"10/01/2019","03:46:20","PDT","","Bank Deposit to PP Account ","Pending","USD","6.99","0.00","6.99","","[email protected]","0TU1544T080463733","","","60P57143A8206782E","","0.00",""
"10/01/2019","08:57:01","PDT","Patreon","PreApproved Payment Bill User Payment","Completed","USD","-7.00","0.00","-7.00","[email protected]","[email protected]","2722394R5F586712G","Patreon* Membership","","B-0PG93074E7M86381M","","-7.00",""
"10/01/2019","08:57:01","PDT","","Bank Deposit to PP Account ","Pending","USD","7.00","0.00","7.00","","[email protected]","71854087RG994194F","Patreon* Membership","","2722394R5F586712G","","0.00",""
"10/19/2019","03:02:12","PDT","Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.","Subscription Payment","Completed","USD","-2.00","0.00","-2.00","[email protected]","[email protected]","K9U43044RY432050M","Monthly donation to the Wikimedia Foundation","","I-R5C3YUS3285L","","-2.00",""
"10/19/2019","03:02:12","PDT","","Bank Deposit to PP Account ","Pending","USD","2.00","0.00","2.00","","[email protected]","3XJ107139A851061F","","","K9U43044RY432050M","","0.00",""
"10/22/2019","05:07:06","PDT","Noble Benefactor","Subscription Payment","Completed","USD","10.00","-0.59","9.41","[email protected]","[email protected]","6L8L1662YP1334033","Joyful Systems","","I-KC9VBGY2GWDB","","9.41",""
# paypal-custom.csv.rules

# Tips:
# Export from Activity -> Statements -> Custom -> Activity download
# Suggested transaction type: "Balance affecting"
# Paypal's default fields in 2018 were:
# "Date","Time","TimeZone","Name","Type","Status","Currency","Gross","Fee","Net","From Email Address","To Email Address","Transaction ID","Shipping Address","Address Status","Item Title","Item ID","Shipping and Handling Amount","Insurance Amount","Sales Tax","Option 1 Name","Option 1 Value","Option 2 Name","Option 2 Value","Reference Txn ID","Invoice Number","Custom Number","Quantity","Receipt ID","Balance","Address Line 1","Address Line 2/District/Neighborhood","Town/City","State/Province/Region/County/Territory/Prefecture/Republic","Zip/Postal Code","Country","Contact Phone Number","Subject","Note","Country Code","Balance Impact"
# This rules file assumes the following more detailed fields, configured in "Customize report fields":
# "Date","Time","TimeZone","Name","Type","Status","Currency","Gross","Fee","Net","From Email Address","To Email Address","Transaction ID","Item Title","Item ID","Reference Txn ID","Receipt ID","Balance","Note"

fields date, time, timezone, description_, type, status_, currency, grossamount, feeamount, netamount, fromemail, toemail, code, itemtitle, itemid, referencetxnid, receiptid, balance, note

skip  1

date-format  %-m/%-d/%Y

# ignore some paypal events
if
In Progress
Temporary Hold
Update to
 skip

# add more fields to the description
description %description_ %itemtitle

# save some other fields as tags
comment  itemid:%itemid, fromemail:%fromemail, toemail:%toemail, time:%time, type:%type, status:%status_

# convert to short currency symbols
if %currency USD
 currency $
if %currency EUR
 currency E
if %currency GBP
 currency P

# generate postings

# the first posting will be the money leaving/entering my paypal account
# (negative means leaving my account, in all amount fields)
account1 assets:online:paypal
amount1  %netamount

# the second posting will be money sent to/received from other party
# (account2 is set below)
amount2  -%grossamount

# if there's a fee, add a third posting for the money taken by paypal.
if %feeamount [1-9]
 account3 expenses:banking:paypal
 amount3  -%feeamount
 comment3 business:

# choose an account for the second posting

# override the default account names:
# if the amount is positive, it's income (a debit)
if %grossamount ^[^-]
 account2 income:unknown
# if negative, it's an expense (a credit)
if %grossamount ^-
 account2 expenses:unknown

# apply common rules for setting account2 & other tweaks
include common.rules

# apply some overrides specific to this csv

# Transfers from/to bank. These are usually marked Pending,
# which can be disregarded in this case.
if
Bank Account
Bank Deposit to PP Account
 description %type for %referencetxnid %itemtitle
 account2 assets:bank:wf:pchecking
 account1 assets:online:paypal

# Currency conversions
if Currency Conversion
 account2 equity:currency conversion
# common.rules

if
darcs
noble benefactor
 account2 revenues:foss donations:darcshub
 comment2 business:

if
Calm Radio
 account2 expenses:online:apps

if
electronic frontier foundation
Patreon
wikimedia
Advent of Code
 account2 expenses:dues

if Google
 account2 expenses:online:apps
 description google | music
$ hledger -f paypal-custom.csv  print
2019-10-01 (60P57143A8206782E) Calm Radio MONTHLY - $1 for the first 2 Months: Me - Order 99309. Item total: $1.00 USD first 2 months, then $6.99 / Month  ; itemid:, fromemail:[email protected], toemail:[email protected], time:03:46:20, type:Subscription Payment, status:Completed
    assets:online:paypal          $-6.99 = $-6.99
    expenses:online:apps           $6.99

2019-10-01 (0TU1544T080463733) Bank Deposit to PP Account for 60P57143A8206782E  ; itemid:, fromemail:, toemail:[email protected], time:03:46:20, type:Bank Deposit to PP Account, status:Pending
    assets:online:paypal               $6.99 = $0.00
    assets:bank:wf:pchecking          $-6.99

2019-10-01 (2722394R5F586712G) Patreon Patreon* Membership  ; itemid:, fromemail:[email protected], toemail:[email protected], time:08:57:01, type:PreApproved Payment Bill User Payment, status:Completed
    assets:online:paypal          $-7.00 = $-7.00
    expenses:dues                  $7.00

2019-10-01 (71854087RG994194F) Bank Deposit to PP Account for 2722394R5F586712G Patreon* Membership  ; itemid:, fromemail:, toemail:[email protected], time:08:57:01, type:Bank Deposit to PP Account, status:Pending
    assets:online:paypal               $7.00 = $0.00
    assets:bank:wf:pchecking          $-7.00

2019-10-19 (K9U43044RY432050M) Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Monthly donation to the Wikimedia Foundation  ; itemid:, fromemail:[email protected], toemail:[email protected], time:03:02:12, type:Subscription Payment, status:Completed
    assets:online:paypal             $-2.00 = $-2.00
    expenses:dues                     $2.00
    expenses:banking:paypal      ; business:

2019-10-19 (3XJ107139A851061F) Bank Deposit to PP Account for K9U43044RY432050M  ; itemid:, fromemail:, toemail:[email protected], time:03:02:12, type:Bank Deposit to PP Account, status:Pending
    assets:online:paypal               $2.00 = $0.00
    assets:bank:wf:pchecking          $-2.00

2019-10-22 (6L8L1662YP1334033) Noble Benefactor Joyful Systems  ; itemid:, fromemail:[email protected], toemail:[email protected], time:05:07:06, type:Subscription Payment, status:Completed
    assets:online:paypal                       $9.41 = $9.41
    revenues:foss donations:darcshub         $-10.00  ; business:
    expenses:banking:paypal                    $0.59  ; business:

Timeclock

The time logging format of timeclock.el, as read by hledger.

hledger can read time logs in timeclock format. As with Ledger, these are (a subset of) timeclock.el's format, containing clock-in and clock-out entries as in the example below. The date is a simple date. The time format is HH:MM[:SS][+-ZZZZ]. Seconds and timezone are optional. The timezone, if present, must be four digits and is ignored (currently the time is always interpreted as a local time). Lines beginning with # or ; or *, and blank lines, are ignored.

i 2015/03/30 09:00:00 some account  optional description after 2 spaces ; optional comment, tags:
o 2015/03/30 09:20:00
i 2015/03/31 22:21:45 another:account
o 2015/04/01 02:00:34

hledger treats each clock-in/clock-out pair as a transaction posting some number of hours to an account. Or if the session spans more than one day, it is split into several transactions, one for each day. For the above time log, hledger print generates these journal entries:

$ hledger -f t.timeclock print
2015-03-30 * optional description after 2 spaces   ; optional comment, tags:
    (some account)           0.33h

2015-03-31 * 22:21-23:59
    (another:account)           1.64h

2015-04-01 * 00:00-02:00
    (another:account)           2.01h

Here is a sample.timeclock to download and some queries to try:

$ hledger -f sample.timeclock balance                               # current time balances
$ hledger -f sample.timeclock register -p 2009/3                    # sessions in march 2009
$ hledger -f sample.timeclock register -p weekly --depth 1 --empty  # time summary by week

To generate time logs, ie to clock in and clock out, you could:

  • use emacs and the built-in timeclock.el, or the extended timeclock-x.el and perhaps the extras in ledgerutils.el

  • at the command line, use these bash aliases: cli alias ti="echo i `date '+%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S'` \$* >>$TIMELOG" alias to="echo o `date '+%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S'` >>$TIMELOG"

  • or use the old ti and to scripts in the ledger 2.x repository. These rely on a "timeclock" executable which I think is just the ledger 2 executable renamed.

Timedot

timedot format is hledger's human-friendly time logging format. Compared to timeclock format, it is more convenient for quick, approximate, and retroactive time logging, and more human-readable (you can see at a glance where time was spent). A quick example:

2023-05-01
hom:errands          .... ....  ; two hours; the space is ignored
fos:hledger:timedot  ..         ; half an hour
per:admin:finance               ; no time spent yet

hledger reads this as a transaction on this day with three (unbalanced) postings, where each dot represents "0.25". No commodity symbol is assumed, but we typically interpret it as hours.

$ hledger -f a.timedot print   # .timedot file extension (or timedot: prefix) is required
2023-05-01 *
    (hom:errands)                    2.00  ; two hours
    (fos:hledger:timedot)            0.50  ; half an hour
    (per:admin:finance)                 0

A timedot file contains a series of transactions (usually one per day). Each begins with a simple date (Y-M-D, Y/M/D, or Y.M.D), optionally be followed on the same line by a transaction description, and/or a transaction comment following a semicolon.

After the date line are zero or more time postings, consisting of:

  • An account name - any hledger-style account name, optionally indented.

  • Two or more spaces - required if there is an amount (as in journal format).

  • A timedot amount, which can be

    • empty (representing zero)

    • a number, optionally followed by a unit s, m, h, d, w, mo, or y, representing a precise number of seconds, minutes, hours, days weeks, months or years (hours is assumed by default), which will be converted to hours according to 60s = 1m, 60m = 1h, 24h = 1d, 7d = 1w, 30d = 1mo, 365d = 1y.

    • one or more dots (period characters), each representing 0.25. These are the dots in "timedot". Spaces are ignored and can be used for grouping/alignment.

    • Added in 1.32 one or more letters. These are like dots but they also generate a tag t: (short for "type") with the letter as its value, and a separate posting for each of the values. This provides a second dimension of categorisation, viewable in reports with --pivot t.

  • An optional comment following a semicolon (a hledger-style posting comment).

There is some flexibility to help with keeping time log data and notes in the same file:

  • Blank lines and lines beginning with # or ; are ignored.

  • After the first date line, lines which do not contain a double space are parsed as postings with zero amount. (hledger's register reports will show these if you add -E).

  • Before the first date line, lines beginning with * (eg org headings) are ignored. And from the first date line onward, Emacs org mode heading prefixes at the start of lines (one or more *'s followed by a space) will be ignored. This means the time log can also be a org outline.

Timedot examples

Numbers:

2016/2/3
inc:client1   4
fos:hledger   3h
biz:research  60m

Dots:

# on this day, 6h was spent on client work, 1.5h on haskell FOSS work, etc.
2016/2/1
inc:client1   .... .... .... .... .... ....
fos:haskell   .... ..
biz:research  .

2016/2/2
inc:client1   .... ....
biz:research  .
$ hledger -f a.timedot print date:2016/2/2
2016-02-02 *
    (inc:client1)          2.00

2016-02-02 *
    (biz:research)          0.25
$ hledger -f a.timedot bal --daily --tree
Balance changes in 2016-02-01-2016-02-03:

            ||  2016-02-01d  2016-02-02d  2016-02-03d 
============++========================================
 biz        ||         0.25         0.25         1.00 
   research ||         0.25         0.25         1.00 
 fos        ||         1.50            0         3.00 
   haskell  ||         1.50            0            0 
   hledger  ||            0            0         3.00 
 inc        ||         6.00         2.00         4.00 
   client1  ||         6.00         2.00         4.00 
------------++----------------------------------------
            ||         7.75         2.25         8.00 

Letters:

# Activity types:
#  c cleanup/catchup/repair
#  e enhancement
#  s support
#  l learning/research

2023-11-01
work:adm  ccecces
$ hledger -f a.timedot print
2023-11-01
    (work:adm)  1     ; t:c
    (work:adm)  0.5   ; t:e
    (work:adm)  0.25  ; t:s
$ hledger -f a.timedot bal
                1.75  work:adm
--------------------
                1.75  
$ hledger -f a.timedot bal --pivot t
                1.00  c
                0.50  e
                0.25  s
--------------------
                1.75  

Org:

* 2023 Work Diary
** Q1
*** 2023-02-29
**** DONE
0700 yoga
**** UNPLANNED
**** BEGUN
hom:chores
 cleaning  ...
 water plants
  outdoor - one full watering can
  indoor - light watering
**** TODO
adm:planning: trip
*** LATER

Using . as account name separator:

2016/2/4
fos.hledger.timedot  4h
fos.ledger           ..
$ hledger -f a.timedot --alias '/\./=:' bal -t
                4.50  fos
                4.00    hledger:timedot
                0.50    ledger
--------------------
                4.50

PART 3: REPORTING CONCEPTS

Time periods

Report start & end date

Most hledger reports will by default show the full time period represented by the journal. The report start date will be the earliest transaction or posting date, and the report end date will be the latest transaction, posting, or market price date.

Often you will want to see a shorter period, such as the current month. You can specify a start and/or end date with the -b/--begin, -e/--end, or -p/--period options, or a date: query argument, described below. All of these accept the smart date syntax, also described below.

End dates are exclusive; specify the day after the last day you want to see in the report.

When dates are specified by multiple options, the last (right-most) option wins. And when date: queries and date options are combined, the report period will be their intersection.

Examples:

-b 2016/3/17 : beginning on St. Patrick's day 2016

-e 12/1 : ending at the start of December 1st in the current year

-p 'this month' : during the current month

-p thismonth : same as above, spaces are optional

-b 2023 : beginning on the first day of 2023

date:2023.. or date:2023- : same as above

-b 2024 -e 2025 -p '2000 to 2030' date:2020-01 date:2020 :
during January 2020 (the smallest common period, with the -p overriding -b and -e)

Smart dates

In hledger's user interfaces (though not in the journal file), you can optionally use "smart date" syntax. Smart dates can be written with english words, can be relative, and can have parts omitted. Missing parts are inferred as 1, when needed. Smart dates can be interpreted as dates or periods depending on context.

Examples:

2004-01-01, 2004/10/1, 2004.9.1, 20240504 :
Exact dates. The year must have at least four digits, the month must be 1-12, the day must be 1-31, the separator can be - or / or . or nothing.

2004-10 : start of month

2004 : start of year

10/1 or oct or october : October 1st in current year

21 : 21st day in current month

yesterday, today, tomorrow : -1, 0, 1 days from today

last/this/next day/week/month/quarter/year : -1, 0, 1 periods from the current period

in n days/weeks/months/quarters/years : n periods from the current period

n days/weeks/months/quarters/years ahead : n periods from the current period

n days/weeks/months/quarters/years ago : -n periods from the current period

20181201 : 8 digit YYYYMMDD with valid year month and day

201812 : 6 digit YYYYMM with valid year and month

Dates with no separators are allowed but might give surprising results if mistyped:

  • 20181301 (YYYYMMDD with an invalid month) is parsed as an eight-digit year
  • 20181232 (YYYYMMDD with an invalid day) gives a parse error
  • 201801012 (a valid YYYYMMDD followed by additional digits) gives a parse error

The meaning of relative dates depends on today's date. If you need to test or reproduce old reports, you can use the --today option to override that. (Except for periodic transaction rules, which are not affected by --today.)

Report intervals

A report interval can be specified so that reports like register, balance or activity become multi-period, showing each subperiod as a separate row or column.

The following standard intervals can be enabled with command-line flags:

  • -D/--daily
  • -W/--weekly
  • -M/--monthly
  • -Q/--quarterly
  • -Y/--yearly

More complex intervals can be specified using -p/--period, described below.

Date adjustment

When there is a report interval (other than daily), report start/end dates which have been inferred, eg from the journal, are automatically adjusted to natural period boundaries. This is convenient for producing simple periodic reports. More precisely:

  • an inferred start date will be adjusted earlier if needed to fall on a natural period boundary

  • an inferred end date will be adjusted later if needed to make the last period the same length as the others.

By contrast, start/end dates which have been specified explicitly, with -b, -e, -p or date:, will not be adjusted (since hledger 1.29). This makes it possible to specify non-standard report periods, but it also means that if you are specifying a start date, you should pick one that's on a period boundary if you want to see simple report period headings.

Period expressions

The -p/--period option specifies a period expression, which is a compact way of expressing a start date, end date, and/or report interval.

Here's a period expression with a start and end date (specifying the first quarter of 2009):

-p "from 2009/1/1 to 2009/4/1"

Several keywords like "from" and "to" are supported for readability; these are optional. "to" can also be written as ".." or "-". The spaces are also optional, as long as you don't run two dates together. So the following are equivalent to the above:

-p "2009/1/1 2009/4/1"
-p2009/1/1to2009/4/1
-p2009/1/1..2009/4/1

Dates are smart dates, so if the current year is 2009, these are also equivalent to the above:

-p "1/1 4/1"
-p "jan-apr"
-p "this year to 4/1"

If you specify only one date, the missing start or end date will be the earliest or latest transaction date in the journal:

-p "from 2009/1/1"everything after january 1, 2009
-p "since 2009/1"the same, since is a synonym
-p "from 2009"the same
-p "to 2009"everything before january 1, 2009

You can also specify a period by writing a single partial or full date:

-p "2009"the year 2009; equivalent to "2009/1/1 to 2010/1/1"
-p "2009/1"the month of january 2009; equivalent to "2009/1/1 to 2009/2/1"
-p "2009/1/1"the first day of 2009; equivalent to "2009/1/1 to 2009/1/2"

or by using the "Q" quarter-year syntax (case insensitive):

-p "2009Q1"first quarter of 2009, equivalent to "2009/1/1 to 2009/4/1"
-p "q4"fourth quarter of the current year

Period expressions with a report interval

A period expression can also begin with a report interval, separated from the start/end dates (if any) by a space or the word in:

-p "weekly from 2009/1/1 to 2009/4/1"
-p "monthly in 2008"
-p "quarterly"

More complex report intervals

Some more complex intervals can be specified within period expressions, such as:

  • biweekly (every two weeks)
  • fortnightly
  • bimonthly (every two months)
  • every day|week|month|quarter|year
  • every N days|weeks|months|quarters|years

Weekly on a custom day:

  • every Nth day of week (th, nd, rd, or st are all accepted after the number)
  • every WEEKDAYNAME (full or three-letter english weekday name, case insensitive)

Monthly on a custom day:

  • every Nth day [of month] (31st day will be adjusted to each month's last day)
  • every Nth WEEKDAYNAME [of month]

Yearly on a custom day:

  • every MM/DD [of year] (month number and day of month number)
  • every MONTHNAME DDth [of year] (full or three-letter english month name, case insensitive, and day of month number)
  • every DDth MONTHNAME [of year] (equivalent to the above)

Examples:

-p "bimonthly from 2008"
-p "every 2 weeks"
-p "every 5 months from 2009/03"
-p "every 2nd day of week"periods will go from Tue to Tue
-p "every Tue"same
-p "every 15th day"period boundaries will be on 15th of each month
-p "every 2nd Monday"period boundaries will be on second Monday of each month
-p "every 11/05"yearly periods with boundaries on 5th of November
-p "every 5th November"same
-p "every Nov 5th"same

Show historical balances at end of the 15th day of each month (N is an end date, exclusive as always):

$ hledger balance -H -p "every 16th day"

Group postings from the start of wednesday to end of the following tuesday (N is both (inclusive) start date and (exclusive) end date):

$ hledger register checking -p "every 3rd day of week"

Multiple weekday intervals

This special form is also supported:

  • every WEEKDAYNAME,WEEKDAYNAME,... (full or three-letter english weekday names, case insensitive)

Also, weekday and weekendday are shorthand for mon,tue,wed,thu,fri and sat,sun.

This is mainly intended for use with --forecast, to generate periodic transactions on arbitrary days of the week. It may be less useful with -p, since it divides each week into subperiods of unequal length, which is unusual. (Related: #1632)

Examples:

-p "every mon,wed,fri"dates will be Mon, Wed, Fri;
periods will be Mon-Tue, Wed-Thu, Fri-Sun
-p "every weekday"dates will be Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri;
periods will be Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri-Sun
-p "every weekendday"dates will be Sat, Sun;
periods will be Sat, Sun-Fri

Depth

With the --depth NUM option (short form: -NUM), reports will show accounts only to the specified depth, hiding deeper subaccounts. Use this when you want a summary with less detail. This flag has the same effect as a depth: query argument: depth:2, --depth=2 or -2 are equivalent.

Queries

One of hledger's strengths is being able to quickly report on a precise subset of your data. Most hledger commands accept query arguments, to restrict their scope. Multiple query terms can be provided to build up a more complex query.

  • By default, a query term is interpreted as a case-insensitive substring pattern for matching account names:

    car:fuel
    dining groceries

  • Patterns containing spaces or other special characters must be enclosed in single or double quotes:

    'personal care'

  • These patterns are actually regular expressions, so you can add regexp metacharacters for more precision (see "Regular expressions" above for details):

    '^expenses\b'
    'food$'
    'fuel|repair'
    'accounts (payable|receivable)'

  • To match something other than account name, add one of the query type prefixes described in "Query types" below:

    date:202312-
    status:
    desc:amazon
    cur:USD
    cur:\\$
    amt:'>0'

  • Add a not: prefix to negate a term:

    not:status:'*'
    not:desc:'opening|closing'
    not:cur:USD

  • Terms with different types are AND-ed, terms with the same type are OR-ed (mostly; see "Combining query terms" below). The following query:

    date:2022 desc:amazon desc:amzn

    is interpreted as:

    date is in 2022 AND ( transaction description contains "amazon" OR "amzn" )

Query types

Here are the types of query term available. Remember these can also be prefixed with not: to convert them into a negative match.

acct:REGEX or REGEX
Match account names containing this case insensitive regular expression. This is the default query type, so we usually don't bother writing the "acct:" prefix.

amt:N, amt:<N, amt:<=N, amt:>N, amt:>=N
Match postings with a single-commodity amount equal to, less than, or greater than N. (Postings with multi-commodity amounts are not tested and will always match.) The comparison has two modes: if N is preceded by a + or - sign (or is 0), the two signed numbers are compared. Otherwise, the absolute magnitudes are compared, ignoring sign.

code:REGEX
Match by transaction code (eg check number).

cur:REGEX
Match postings or transactions including any amounts whose currency/commodity symbol is fully matched by REGEX. (For a partial match, use .*REGEX.*). Note, to match special characters which are regex-significant, you need to escape them with \. And for characters which are significant to your shell you may need one more level of escaping. So eg to match the dollar sign:
hledger print cur:\\$.

desc:REGEX
Match transaction descriptions.

date:PERIODEXPR
Match dates (or with the --date2 flag, secondary dates) within the specified period. PERIODEXPR is a period expression with no report interval. Examples:
date:2016, date:thismonth, date:2/1-2/15, date:2021-07-27..nextquarter.

date2:PERIODEXPR
Match secondary dates within the specified period (independent of the --date2 flag).

depth:N
Match (or display, depending on command) accounts at or above this depth.

expr:"TERM AND NOT (TERM OR TERM)" (eg)
Match with a boolean combination of queries (which must be enclosed in quotes). See Combining query terms below.

note:REGEX
Match transaction notes (the part of the description right of |, or the whole description if there's no |).

payee:REGEX
Match transaction payee/payer names (the part of the description left of |, or the whole description if there's no |).

real:, real:0
Match real or virtual postings respectively.

status:, status:!, status:*
Match unmarked, pending, or cleared transactions respectively.

type:TYPECODES
Match by account type (see Declaring accounts > Account types). TYPECODES is one or more of the single-letter account type codes ALERXCV, case insensitive. Note type:A and type:E will also match their respective subtypes C (Cash) and V (Conversion). Certain kinds of account alias can disrupt account types, see Rewriting accounts > Aliases and account types.

tag:REGEX[=REGEX]
Match by tag name, and optionally also by tag value. (To match only by value, use tag:.=REGEX.)

When querying by tag, note that:

  • Accounts also inherit the tags of their parent accounts
  • Postings also inherit the tags of their account and their transaction
  • Transactions also acquire the tags of their postings.

(inacct:ACCTNAME
A special query term used automatically in hledger-web only: tells hledger-web to show the transaction register for an account.)

Combining query terms

When given multiple space-separated query terms, most commands select things which match:

  • any of the description terms AND
  • any of the account terms AND
  • any of the status terms AND
  • all the other terms.

The print command is a little different, showing transactions which:

  • match any of the description terms AND
  • have any postings matching any of the positive account terms AND
  • have no postings matching any of the negative account terms AND
  • match all the other terms.

We also support more complex boolean queries with the expr: prefix. This allows one to combine query terms using and, or, not keywords (case insensitive), and to group them by enclosing in parentheses.

Some examples:

  • Exclude account names containing 'food':

    expr:"not food" (not:food is equivalent)

  • Match things which have 'cool' in the description and the 'A' tag:

    expr:"desc:cool and tag:A" (expr:"desc:cool tag:A" is equivalent)

  • Match things which either do not reference the 'expenses:food' account, or do have the 'A' tag:

    expr:"not expenses:food or tag:A"

  • Match things which either do not reference the 'expenses:food' account, or which reference the 'expenses:drink' account and also have the 'A' tag:

    expr:"expenses:food or (expenses:drink and tag:A)"

expr: has a restriction: date: queries may not be used inside or expressions. That would allow disjoint report periods or disjoint result sets, with unclear semantics for our reports.

Queries and command options

Some queries can also be expressed as command-line options: depth:2 is equivalent to --depth 2, date:2023 is equivalent to -p 2023, etc. When you mix command options and query arguments, generally the resulting query is their intersection.

Queries and account aliases

When account names are rewritten with --alias or alias, acct: will match either the old or the new account name.

Queries and valuation

When amounts are converted to other commodities in cost or value reports, cur: and amt: match the old commodity symbol and the old amount quantity, not the new ones. (Except in hledger 1.22, #1625.)

Pivoting

Normally, hledger groups and sums amounts within each account. The --pivot FIELD option substitutes some other transaction field for account names, causing amounts to be grouped and summed by that field's value instead. FIELD can be any of the transaction fields acct, status, code, desc, payee, note, or a tag name. When pivoting on a tag and a posting has multiple values of that tag, only the first value is displayed. Values containing colon:separated:parts will be displayed hierarchically, like account names. Multiple, colon-delimited fields can be pivoted simultaneously, generating a hierarchical account name.

Some examples:

2016/02/16 Yearly Dues Payment
    assets:bank account                 2 EUR
    income:dues                        -2 EUR  ; member: John Doe, kind: Lifetime

Normal balance report showing account names:

$ hledger balance
               2 EUR  assets:bank account
              -2 EUR  income:dues
--------------------
                   0

Pivoted balance report, using member: tag values instead:

$ hledger balance --pivot member
               2 EUR
              -2 EUR  John Doe
--------------------
                   0

One way to show only amounts with a member: value (using a query):

$ hledger balance --pivot member tag:member=.
              -2 EUR  John Doe
--------------------
              -2 EUR

Another way (the acct: query matches against the pivoted "account name"):

$ hledger balance --pivot member acct:.
              -2 EUR  John Doe
--------------------
              -2 EUR

Hierarchical reports can be generated with multiple pivots:

$ hledger balance Income:Dues --pivot kind:member
              -2 EUR  Lifetime:John Doe
--------------------
              -2 EUR

Generating data

hledger can enrich the data provided to it, or generate new data, in a number of ways. Mostly, this is done only if you request it:

  • Missing amounts or missing costs in transactions are inferred automatically when possible.
  • The --infer-equity flag infers missing conversion equity postings from @/@@ costs.
  • The --infer-costs flag infers missing costs from conversion equity postings.
  • The --infer-market-prices flag infers P price directives from costs.
  • The --auto flag adds extra postings to transactions matched by auto posting rules.
  • The --forecast option generates transactions from periodic transaction rules.
  • The balance --budget report infers budget goals from periodic transaction rules.
  • Commands like close, rewrite, and hledger-interest generate transactions or postings.
  • CSV data is converted to transactions by applying CSV conversion rules.. etc.

Such generated data is temporary, existing only at report time. You can convert it to permanent recorded data by, eg, capturing the output of hledger print and saving it in your journal file. This can sometimes be useful as a data entry aid.

If you are curious what data is being generated and why, run hledger print -x --verbose-tags. -x/--explicit shows inferred amounts and --verbose-tags adds tags like generated-transaction (from periodic rules) and generated-posting, modified (from auto posting rules). Similar hidden tags (with an underscore prefix) are always present, also, so you can always match such data with queries like tag:generated or tag:modified.

Forecasting

Forecasting, or speculative future reporting, can be useful for estimating future balances, or for exploring different future scenarios.

The simplest and most flexible way to do it with hledger is to manually record a bunch of future-dated transactions. You could keep these in a separate future.journal and include that with -f only when you want to see them.

--forecast

There is another way: with the --forecast option, hledger can generate temporary "forecast transactions" for reporting purposes, according to periodic transaction rules defined in the journal. Each rule can generate multiple recurring transactions, so by changing one rule you can change many forecasted transactions.

Forecast transactions usually start after ordinary transactions end. By default, they begin after your latest-dated ordinary transaction, or today, whichever is later, and they end six months from today. (The exact rules are a little more complicated, and are given below.)

This is the "forecast period", which need not be the same as the report period. You can override it - eg to forecast farther into the future, or to force forecast transactions to overlap your ordinary transactions - by giving the --forecast option a period expression argument, like --forecast=..2099 or --forecast=2023-02-15... Note that the = is required.

Inspecting forecast transactions

print is the best command for inspecting and troubleshooting forecast transactions. Eg:

~ monthly from 2022-12-20    rent
    assets:bank:checking
    expenses:rent           $1000
$ hledger print --forecast --today=2023/4/21
2023-05-20 rent
    ; generated-transaction: ~ monthly from 2022-12-20
    assets:bank:checking
    expenses:rent                  $1000

2023-06-20 rent
    ; generated-transaction: ~ monthly from 2022-12-20
    assets:bank:checking
    expenses:rent                  $1000

2023-07-20 rent
    ; generated-transaction: ~ monthly from 2022-12-20
    assets:bank:checking
    expenses:rent                  $1000

2023-08-20 rent
    ; generated-transaction: ~ monthly from 2022-12-20
    assets:bank:checking
    expenses:rent                  $1000

2023-09-20 rent
    ; generated-transaction: ~ monthly from 2022-12-20
    assets:bank:checking
    expenses:rent                  $1000

Here there are no ordinary transactions, so the forecasted transactions begin on the first occurence after today's date. (You won't normally use --today; it's just to make these examples reproducible.)

Forecast reports

Forecast transactions affect all reports, as you would expect. Eg:

$ hledger areg rent --forecast --today=2023/4/21
Transactions in expenses:rent and subaccounts:
2023-05-20 rent                 as:ba:checking               $1000         $1000
2023-06-20 rent                 as:ba:checking               $1000         $2000
2023-07-20 rent                 as:ba:checking               $1000         $3000
2023-08-20 rent                 as:ba:checking               $1000         $4000
2023-09-20 rent                 as:ba:checking               $1000         $5000
$ hledger bal -M expenses --forecast --today=2023/4/21
Balance changes in 2023-05-01..2023-09-30:

               ||   May    Jun    Jul    Aug    Sep 
===============++===================================
 expenses:rent || $1000  $1000  $1000  $1000  $1000 
---------------++-----------------------------------
               || $1000  $1000  $1000  $1000  $1000 

Forecast tags

Forecast transactions generated by --forecast have a hidden tag, _generated-transaction. So if you ever need to match forecast transactions, you could use tag:_generated-transaction (or just tag:generated) in a query.

For troubleshooting, you can add the --verbose-tags flag. Then, visible generated-transaction tags will be added also, so you can view them with the print command. Their value indicates which periodic rule was responsible.

Forecast period, in detail

Forecast start/end dates are chosen so as to do something useful by default in almost all situations, while also being flexible. Here are (with luck) the exact rules, to help with troubleshooting:

The forecast period starts on:

  • the later of
    • the start date in the periodic transaction rule
    • the start date in --forecast's argument
  • otherwise (if those are not available): the later of
    • the report start date specified with -b/-p/date:
    • the day after the latest ordinary transaction in the journal
  • otherwise (if none of these are available): today.

The forecast period ends on:

  • the earlier of
    • the end date in the periodic transaction rule
    • the end date in --forecast's argument
  • otherwise: the report end date specified with -e/-p/date:
  • otherwise: 180 days (~6 months) from today.

Forecast troubleshooting

When --forecast is not doing what you expect, one of these tips should help:

  • Remember to use the --forecast option.
  • Remember to have at least one periodic transaction rule in your journal.
  • Test with print --forecast.
  • Check for typos or too-restrictive start/end dates in your periodic transaction rule.
  • Leave at least 2 spaces between the rule's period expression and description fields.
  • Check for future-dated ordinary transactions suppressing forecasted transactions.
  • Try setting explicit report start and/or end dates with -b, -e, -p or date:
  • Try adding the -E flag to encourage display of empty periods/zero transactions.
  • Try setting explicit forecast start and/or end dates with --forecast=START..END
  • Consult Forecast period, in detail, above.
  • Check inside the engine: add --debug=2 (eg).

Budgeting

With the balance command's --budget report, each periodic transaction rule generates recurring budget goals in specified accounts, and goals and actual performance can be compared. See the balance command's doc below.

You can generate budget goals and forecast transactions at the same time, from the same or different periodic transaction rules: hledger bal -M --budget --forecast ...

See also: Budgeting and Forecasting.

Amount formatting

Commodity display style

For the amounts in each commodity, hledger chooses a consistent display style (symbol placement, decimal mark and digit group marks, number of decimal digits) to use in most reports. This is inferred as follows:

First, if there's a D directive declaring a default commodity, that commodity symbol and amount format is applied to all no-symbol amounts in the journal.

Then each commodity's display style is determined from its commodity directive. We recommend always declaring commodities with commodity directives, since they help ensure consistent display styles and precisions, and bring other benefits such as error checking for commodity symbols. Here's an example:

# Set display styles (and decimal marks, for parsing, if there is no decimal-mark directive)
# for the $, EUR, INR and no-symbol commodities:
commodity $1,000.00
commodity EUR 1.000,00
commodity INR 9,99,99,999.00
commodity 1 000 000.9455

But for convenience, if a commodity directive is not present, hledger infers a commodity's display styles from its amounts as they are written in the journal (excluding cost amounts and amounts in periodic transaction rules or auto posting rules). It uses

  • the symbol placement and decimal mark of the first amount seen
  • the digit group marks of the first amount with digit group marks
  • and the maximum number of decimal digits seen across all amounts.

And as fallback if no applicable amounts are found, it would use a default style, like $1000.00 (symbol on the left with no space, period as decimal mark, and two decimal digits).

Finally, commodity styles can be overridden by the -c/--commodity-style command line option.

Rounding

Amounts are stored internally as decimal numbers with up to 255 decimal places. They are displayed with their original journal precisions by print and print-like reports, and rounded to their display precision (the number of decimal digits specified by the commodity display style) by other reports. When rounding, hledger uses banker's rounding (it rounds to the nearest even digit). So eg 0.5 displayed with zero decimal digits appears as "0".

Trailing decimal marks

If you're wondering why your print report sometimes shows trailing decimal marks, with no decimal digits; it does this when showing amounts that have digit group marks but no decimal digits, to disambiguate them and allow them to be re-parsed reliably (see Decimal marks). Eg:

commodity $1,000.00

2023-01-02
    (a)      $1000
$ hledger print
2023-01-02
    (a)        $1,000.

If this is a problem (eg when exporting to Ledger), you can avoid it by disabling digit group marks, eg with -c/--commodity (for each affected commodity):

$ hledger print -c '$1000.00'
2023-01-02
    (a)          $1000

or by forcing print to always show decimal digits, with --round:

$ hledger print -c '$1,000.00' --round=soft
2023-01-02
    (a)      $1,000.00

Amount parseability

More generally, hledger output falls into three rough categories, which format amounts a little bit differently to suit different consumers:

1. "hledger-readable output" - should be readable by hledger (and by humans)

  • This is produced by reports that show full journal entries: print, import, close, rewrite etc.
  • It shows amounts with their original journal precisions, which may not be consistent.
  • It adds a trailing decimal mark when needed to avoid showing ambiguous amounts.
  • It can be parsed reliably (by hledger and ledger2beancount at least, but perhaps not by Ledger..)

2. "human-readable output" - usually for humans

  • This is produced by all other reports.
  • It shows amounts with standard display precisions, which will be consistent within each commodity.
  • It shows ambiguous amounts unmodified.
  • It can be parsed reliably in the context of a known report (when you know decimals are consistently not being shown, you can assume a single mark is a digit group mark).

3. "machine-readable output" - usually for other software

  • This is produced by all reports when an output format like csv, tsv, json, or sql is selected.
  • It shows amounts as 1 or 2 do, but without digit group marks.
  • It can be parsed reliably (if needed, the decimal mark can be changed with -c/--commodity-style).

Cost reporting

In some transactions - for example a currency conversion, or a purchase or sale of stock - one commodity is exchanged for another. In these transactions there is a conversion rate, also called the cost (when buying) or selling price (when selling). In hledger docs we just say "cost", for convenience; feel free to mentally translate to "conversion rate" or "selling price" if helpful.

Recording costs

We'll explore several ways of recording transactions involving costs. These are also summarised at hledger Cookbook > Cost notation.

Costs can be recorded explicitly in the journal, using the @ UNITCOST or @@ TOTALCOST notation described in Journal > Costs:

Variant 1

2022-01-01
  assets:dollars    $-135
  assets:euros       €100 @ $1.35   ; $1.35 per euro (unit cost)

Variant 2

2022-01-01
  assets:dollars    $-135
  assets:euros       €100 @@ $135   ; $135 total cost

Typically, writing the unit cost (variant 1) is preferable; it can be more effort, requiring more attention to decimal digits; but it reveals the per-unit cost basis, and makes stock sales easier.

Costs can also be left implicit, and hledger will infer the cost that is consistent with a balanced transaction:

Variant 3

2022-01-01
  assets:dollars    $-135
  assets:euros       €100

Here, hledger will attach a @@ €100 cost to the first amount (you can see it with hledger print -x). This form looks convenient, but there are downsides:

  • It sacrifices some error checking. For example, if you accidentally wrote €10 instead of €100, hledger would not be able to detect the mistake.

  • It is sensitive to the order of postings - if they were reversed, a different entry would be inferred and reports would be different.

  • The per-unit cost basis is not easy to read.

So generally this kind of entry is not recommended. You can make sure you have none of these by using -s (strict mode), or by running hledger check balanced.

Reporting at cost

Now when you add the -B/--cost flag to reports ("B" is from Ledger's -B/--basis/--cost flag), any amounts which have been annotated with costs will be converted to their cost's commodity (in the report output). Ie they will be displayed "at cost" or "at sale price".

Some things to note:

  • Costs are attached to specific posting amounts in specific transactions, and once recorded they do not change. This contrasts with market prices, which are ambient and fluctuating.

  • Conversion to cost is performed before conversion to market value (described below).

Equity conversion postings

There is a problem with the entries above - they are not conventional Double Entry Bookkeeping (DEB) notation, and because of the "magical" transformation of one commodity into another, they cause an imbalance in the Accounting Equation. This shows up as a non-zero grand total in balance reports like hledger bse.

For most hledger users, this doesn't matter in practice and can safely be ignored ! But if you'd like to learn more, keep reading.

Conventional DEB uses an extra pair of equity postings to balance the transaction. Of course you can do this in hledger as well:

Variant 4

2022-01-01
    assets:dollars      $-135
    assets:euros         €100
    equity:conversion    $135
    equity:conversion   €-100

Now the transaction is perfectly balanced according to standard DEB, and hledger bse's total will not be disrupted.

And, hledger can still infer the cost for cost reporting, but it's not done by default - you must add the --infer-costs flag like so:

$ hledger print --infer-costs
2022-01-01 one hundred euros purchased at $1.35 each
    assets:dollars       $-135 @@ €100
    assets:euros                  €100
    equity:conversion             $135
    equity:conversion            €-100
$ hledger bal --infer-costs -B
               €-100  assets:dollars                                                                                                                                              
                €100  assets:euros                                                                                                                                                
--------------------                                                                                                                                                              
                   0                                                                                                                                                              

Here are some downsides of this kind of entry:

  • The per-unit cost basis is not easy to read.

  • Instead of -B you must remember to type -B --infer-costs.

  • --infer-costs works only where hledger can identify the two equity:conversion postings and match them up with the two non-equity postings. So writing the journal entry in a particular format becomes more important. More on this below.

Inferring equity conversion postings

Can we go in the other direction ? Yes, if you have transactions written with the @/@@ cost notation, hledger can infer the missing equity postings, if you add the --infer-equity flag. Eg:

2022-01-01
  assets:dollars  -$135
  assets:euros     €100 @ $1.35
$ hledger print --infer-equity
2022-01-01
    assets:dollars                    $-135
    assets:euros               €100 @ $1.35
    equity:conversion:$-€:€           €-100
    equity:conversion:$-€:$         $135.00

The equity account names will be "equity:conversion:A-B:A" and "equity:conversion:A-B:B" where A is the alphabetically first commodity symbol. You can customise the "equity:conversion" part by declaring an account with the V/Conversion account type.

Combining costs and equity conversion postings

Finally, you can use both the @/@@ cost notation and equity postings at the same time. This in theory gives the best of all worlds - preserving the accounting equation, revealing the per-unit cost basis, and providing more flexibility in how you write the entry:

Variant 5

2022-01-01 one hundred euros purchased at $1.35 each
    assets:dollars      $-135
    equity:conversion    $135
    equity:conversion   €-100
    assets:euros         €100 @ $1.35

All the other variants above can (usually) be rewritten to this final form with:

$ hledger print -x --infer-costs --infer-equity

Downsides:

  • The precise format of the journal entry becomes more important. If hledger can't detect and match up the cost and equity postings, it will give a transaction balancing error.

  • The add command does not yet accept this kind of entry (#2056).

  • This is the most verbose form.

Requirements for detecting equity conversion postings

--infer-costs has certain requirements (unlike --infer-equity, which always works). It will infer costs only in transactions with:

  • Two non-equity postings, in different commodities. Their order is significant: the cost will be added to the first of them.

  • Two postings to equity conversion accounts, next to one another, which balance the two non-equity postings. This balancing is checked to the same precision (number of decimal places) used in the conversion posting's amount. Equity conversion accounts are:

    • any accounts declared with account type V/Conversion, or their subaccounts
    • otherwise, accounts named equity:conversion, equity:trade, or equity:trading, or their subaccounts.

And multiple such four-posting groups can coexist within a single transaction. When --infer-costs fails, it does not infer a cost in that transaction, and does not raise an error (ie, it infers costs where it can).

Reading variant 5 journal entries, combining cost notation and equity postings, has all the same requirements. When reading such an entry fails, hledger raises an "unbalanced transaction" error.

Infer cost and equity by default ?

Should --infer-costs and --infer-equity be enabled by default ? Try using them always, eg with a shell alias:

alias h="hledger --infer-equity --infer-costs"

and let us know what problems you find.

Value reporting

Instead of reporting amounts in their original commodity, hledger can convert them to cost/sale amount (using the conversion rate recorded in the transaction), and/or to market value (using some market price on a certain date). This is controlled by the --value=TYPE[,COMMODITY] option, which will be described below. We also provide the simpler -V and -X COMMODITY options, and often one of these is all you need:

-V: Value

The -V/--market flag converts amounts to market value in their default valuation commodity, using the market prices in effect on the valuation date(s), if any. More on these in a minute.

-X: Value in specified commodity

The -X/--exchange=COMM option is like -V, except you tell it which currency you want to convert to, and it tries to convert everything to that.

Valuation date

Market prices can change from day to day. hledger will use the prices on a particular valuation date (or on more than one date). By default hledger uses "end" dates for valuation. More specifically:

  • For single period reports (including normal print and register reports):
    • If an explicit report end date is specified, that is used
    • Otherwise the latest transaction date or P directive date is used (even if it's in the future)
  • For multiperiod reports, each period is valued on its last day.

This can be customised with the --value option described below, which can select either "then", "end", "now", or "custom" dates. (Note, this has a bug in hledger-ui <=1.31: turning on valuation with the V key always resets it to "end".)

Finding market price

To convert a commodity A to its market value in another commodity B, hledger looks for a suitable market price (exchange rate) as follows, in this order of preference:

  1. A declared market price or inferred market price: A's latest market price in B on or before the valuation date as declared by a P directive, or (with the --infer-market-prices flag) inferred from costs.

  2. A reverse market price: the inverse of a declared or inferred market price from B to A.

  3. A forward chain of market prices: a synthetic price formed by combining the shortest chain of "forward" (only 1 above) market prices, leading from A to B.

  4. Any chain of market prices: a chain of any market prices, including both forward and reverse prices (1 and 2 above), leading from A to B.

There is a limit to the length of these price chains; if hledger reaches that length without finding a complete chain or exhausting all possibilities, it will give up (with a "gave up" message visible in --debug=2 output). That limit is currently 1000.

Amounts for which no suitable market price can be found, are not converted.

--infer-market-prices: market prices from transactions

Normally, market value in hledger is fully controlled by, and requires, P directives in your journal. Since adding and updating those can be a chore, and since transactions usually take place at close to market value, why not use the recorded costs as additional market prices (as Ledger does) ? Adding the --infer-market-prices flag to -V, -X or --value enables this.

So for example, hledger bs -V --infer-market-prices will get market prices both from P directives and from transactions. If both occur on the same day, the P directive takes precedence.

There is a downside: value reports can sometimes be affected in confusing/undesired ways by your journal entries. If this happens to you, read all of this Value reporting section carefully, and try adding --debug or --debug=2 to troubleshoot.

--infer-market-prices can infer market prices from:

  • multicommodity transactions with explicit prices (@/@@)

  • multicommodity transactions with implicit prices (no @, two commodities, unbalanced). (With these, the order of postings matters. hledger print -x can be useful for troubleshooting.)

  • multicommodity transactions with equity postings, if cost is inferred with --infer-costs.

There is a limitation (bug) currently: when a valuation commodity is not specified, prices inferred with --infer-market-prices do not help select a default valuation commodity, as P prices would. So conversion might not happen because no valuation commodity was detected (--debug=2 will show this). To be safe, specify the valuation commmodity, eg:

  • -X EUR --infer-market-prices, not -V --infer-market-prices
  • --value=then,EUR --infer-market-prices, not --value=then --infer-market-prices

Signed costs and market prices can be confusing. For reference, here is the current behaviour, since hledger 1.25. (If you think it should work differently, see #1870.)

2022-01-01 Positive Unit prices
    a        A 1
    b        B -1 @ A 1

2022-01-01 Positive Total prices
    a        A 1
    b        B -1 @@ A 1


2022-01-02 Negative unit prices
    a        A 1
    b        B 1 @ A -1

2022-01-02 Negative total prices
    a        A 1
    b        B 1 @@ A -1


2022-01-03 Double Negative unit prices
    a        A -1
    b        B -1 @ A -1

2022-01-03 Double Negative total prices
    a        A -1
    b        B -1 @@ A -1

All of the transactions above are considered balanced (and on each day, the two transactions are considered equivalent). Here are the market prices inferred for B:

$ hledger -f- --infer-market-prices prices
P 2022-01-01 B A 1
P 2022-01-01 B A 1.0
P 2022-01-02 B A -1
P 2022-01-02 B A -1.0
P 2022-01-03 B A -1
P 2022-01-03 B A -1.0

Valuation commodity

When you specify a valuation commodity (-X COMM or --value TYPE,COMM):
hledger will convert all amounts to COMM, wherever it can find a suitable market price (including by reversing or chaining prices).

When you leave the valuation commodity unspecified (-V or --value TYPE):
For each commodity A, hledger picks a default valuation commodity as follows, in this order of preference:

  1. The price commodity from the latest P-declared market price for A on or before valuation date.

  2. The price commodity from the latest P-declared market price for A on any date. (Allows conversion to proceed when there are inferred prices before the valuation date.)

  3. If there are no P directives at all (any commodity or date) and the --infer-market-prices flag is used: the price commodity from the latest transaction-inferred price for A on or before valuation date.

This means:

  • If you have P directives, they determine which commodities -V will convert, and to what.

  • If you have no P directives, and use the --infer-market-prices flag, costs determine it.

Amounts for which no valuation commodity can be found are not converted.

--value: Flexible valuation

-V and -X are special cases of the more general --value option:

 --value=TYPE[,COMM]  TYPE is then, end, now or YYYY-MM-DD.
                      COMM is an optional commodity symbol.
                      Shows amounts converted to:
                      - default valuation commodity (or COMM) using market prices at posting dates
                      - default valuation commodity (or COMM) using market prices at period end(s)
                      - default valuation commodity (or COMM) using current market prices
                      - default valuation commodity (or COMM) using market prices at some date

The TYPE part selects cost or value and valuation date:

--value=then : Convert amounts to their value in the default valuation commodity, using market prices on each posting's date.

--value=end : Convert amounts to their value in the default valuation commodity, using market prices on the last day of the report period (or if unspecified, the journal's end date); or in multiperiod reports, market prices on the last day of each subperiod.

--value=now : Convert amounts to their value in the default valuation commodity using current market prices (as of when report is generated).

--value=YYYY-MM-DD : Convert amounts to their value in the default valuation commodity using market prices on this date.

To select a different valuation commodity, add the optional ,COMM part: a comma, then the target commodity's symbol. Eg: --value=now,EUR. hledger will do its best to convert amounts to this commodity, deducing market prices as described above.

Valuation examples

Here are some quick examples of -V:

; one euro is worth this many dollars from nov 1
P 2016/11/01 € $1.10

; purchase some euros on nov 3
2016/11/3
    assets:euros        €100
    assets:checking

; the euro is worth fewer dollars by dec 21
P 2016/12/21 € $1.03

How many euros do I have ?

$ hledger -f t.j bal -N euros
                €100  assets:euros

What are they worth at end of nov 3 ?

$ hledger -f t.j bal -N euros -V -e 2016/11/4
             $110.00  assets:euros

What are they worth after 2016/12/21 ? (no report end date specified, defaults to today)

$ hledger -f t.j bal -N euros -V
             $103.00  assets:euros

Here are some examples showing the effect of --value, as seen with print:

P 2000-01-01 A  1 B
P 2000-02-01 A  2 B
P 2000-03-01 A  3 B
P 2000-04-01 A  4 B

2000-01-01
  (a)      1 A @ 5 B

2000-02-01
  (a)      1 A @ 6 B

2000-03-01
  (a)      1 A @ 7 B

Show the cost of each posting:

$ hledger -f- print --cost
2000-01-01
    (a)             5 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             6 B

2000-03-01
    (a)             7 B

Show the value as of the last day of the report period (2000-02-29):

$ hledger -f- print --value=end date:2000/01-2000/03
2000-01-01
    (a)             2 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             2 B

With no report period specified, that shows the value as of the last day of the journal (2000-03-01):

$ hledger -f- print --value=end
2000-01-01
    (a)             3 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             3 B

2000-03-01
    (a)             3 B

Show the current value (the 2000-04-01 price is still in effect today):

$ hledger -f- print --value=now
2000-01-01
    (a)             4 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             4 B

2000-03-01
    (a)             4 B

Show the value on 2000/01/15:

$ hledger -f- print --value=2000-01-15
2000-01-01
    (a)             1 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             1 B

2000-03-01
    (a)             1 B

Interaction of valuation and queries

When matching postings based on queries in the presence of valuation, the following happens:

  1. The query is separated into two parts:
    1. the currency (cur:) or amount (amt:).
    2. all other parts.
  2. The postings are matched to the currency and amount queries based on pre-valued amounts.
  3. Valuation is applied to the postings.
  4. The postings are matched to the other parts of the query based on post-valued amounts.

Related: #1625

Effect of valuation on reports

Here is a reference for how valuation is supposed to affect each part of hledger's reports. (It's wide, you may need to scroll sideways.) It may be useful when troubleshooting. If you find problems, please report them, ideally with a reproducible example. Related: #329, #1083.

First, a quick glossary:

cost : calculated using price(s) recorded in the transaction(s).

value : market value using available market price declarations, or the unchanged amount if no conversion rate can be found.

report start : the first day of the report period specified with -b or -p or date:, otherwise today.

report or journal start : the first day of the report period specified with -b or -p or date:, otherwise the earliest transaction date in the journal, otherwise today.

report end : the last day of the report period specified with -e or -p or date:, otherwise today.

report or journal end : the last day of the report period specified with -e or -p or date:, otherwise the latest transaction date in the journal, otherwise today.

report interval : a flag (-D/-W/-M/-Q/-Y) or period expression that activates the report's multi-period mode (whether showing one or many subperiods).

Report type-B, --cost-V, -X--value=then--value=end--value=DATE, --value=now
print
posting amountscostvalue at report end or todayvalue at posting datevalue at report or journal endvalue at DATE/today
balance assertions/assignmentsunchangedunchangedunchangedunchangedunchanged

register
starting balance (-H)costvalue at report or journal endvalued at day each historical posting was madevalue at report or journal endvalue at DATE/today
starting balance (-H) with report intervalcostvalue at day before report or journal startvalued at day each historical posting was madevalue at day before report or journal startvalue at DATE/today
posting amountscostvalue at report or journal endvalue at posting datevalue at report or journal endvalue at DATE/today
summary posting amounts with report intervalsummarised costvalue at period endssum of postings in interval, valued at interval startvalue at period endsvalue at DATE/today
running total/averagesum/average of displayed valuessum/average of displayed valuessum/average of displayed valuessum/average of displayed valuessum/average of displayed values

balance (bs, bse, cf, is)
balance changessums of costsvalue at report end or today of sums of postingsvalue at posting datevalue at report or journal end of sums of postingsvalue at DATE/today of sums of postings
budget amounts (--budget)like balance changeslike balance changeslike balance changeslike balanceslike balance changes
grand totalsum of displayed valuessum of displayed valuessum of displayed valuedsum of displayed valuessum of displayed values

balance (bs, bse, cf, is) with report interval
starting balances (-H)sums of costs of postings before report startvalue at report start of sums of all postings before report startsums of values of postings before report start at respective posting datesvalue at report start of sums of all postings before report startsums of postings before report start
balance changes (bal, is, bs --change, cf --change)sums of costs of postings in periodsame as --value=endsums of values of postings in period at respective posting datesbalance change in each period, valued at period endsvalue at DATE/today of sums of postings
end balances (bal -H, is --H, bs, cf)sums of costs of postings from before report start to period endsame as --value=endsums of values of postings from before period start to period end at respective posting datesperiod end balances, valued at period endsvalue at DATE/today of sums of postings
budget amounts (--budget)like balance changes/end balanceslike balance changes/end balanceslike balance changes/end balanceslike balanceslike balance changes/end balances
row totals, row averages (-T, -A)sums, averages of displayed valuessums, averages of displayed valuessums, averages of displayed valuessums, averages of displayed valuessums, averages of displayed values
column totalssums of displayed valuessums of displayed valuessums of displayed valuessums of displayed valuessums of displayed values
grand total, grand averagesum, average of column totalssum, average of column totalssum, average of column totalssum, average of column totalssum, average of column totals

--cumulative is omitted to save space, it works like -H but with a zero starting balance.

PART 4: COMMANDS

Here are the standard commands, which you can list by running hledger. If you have installed more add-on commands, they also will be listed.

Help commands

  • help - show the hledger manual with info/man/pager
  • demo - show small hledger demos in the terminal

User interface commands

  • ui - (if installed) run hledger's terminal UI
  • web - (if installed) run hledger's web UI

Data entry commands

  • add - add transactions using terminal prompts
  • import - add new transactions from other files, eg CSV files

Basic report commands

  • accounts - show account names
  • codes - show transaction codes
  • commodities - show commodity/currency symbols
  • descriptions - show transaction descriptions
  • files - show input file paths
  • notes - show note parts of transaction descriptions
  • payees - show payee parts of transaction descriptions
  • prices - show market prices
  • stats - show journal statistics
  • tags - show tag names

Standard report commands

  • print - show transactions or export journal data
  • aregister (areg) - show transactions in a particular account
  • register (reg) - show postings in one or more accounts & running total
  • balancesheet (bs) - show assets, liabilities and net worth
  • balancesheetequity (bse) - show assets, liabilities and equity
  • cashflow (cf) - show changes in liquid assets
  • incomestatement (is) - show revenues and expenses

Advanced report commands

  • balance (bal) - show balance changes, end balances, budgets, gains..
  • roi - show return on investments

Chart commands

  • activity - show bar charts of posting counts per period

Data generation commands

  • close - generate balance-zeroing/restoring transactions
  • rewrite - generate auto postings, like print --auto

Maintenance commands

  • check - check for various kinds of error in the data
  • diff - compare account transactions in two journal files
  • test - run self tests

Next, these commands are described in detail.

Help commands

help

Show the hledger user manual with info, man, or a pager. With a (case insensitive) TOPIC argument, try to open it at that section heading.

Flags:
  -i            show the manual with info
  -m            show the manual with man
  -p            show the manual with $PAGER or less
                (less is always used if TOPIC is specified)

This command shows the hledger manual built in to your hledger executable. It can be useful when offline, or when you prefer the terminal to a web browser, or when the appropriate hledger manual or viewers are not installed properly on your system.

By default it chooses the best viewer found in $PATH, trying in this order: info, man, $PAGER, less, more, stdout. (If a TOPIC is specified, $PAGER and more are not tried.) You can force the use of info, man, or a pager with the -i, -m, or -p flags. If no viewer can be found, or if running non-interactively, it just prints the manual to stdout.

When using info, TOPIC can match either the full heading or a prefix. If your info --version is < 6, you'll need to upgrade it, eg with 'brew install texinfo' on mac.

When using man or less, TOPIC must match the full heading. For a prefix match, you can write 'TOPIC.*'.

Examples

$ hledger help -h                 # show the help command's usage
$ hledger help                    # show the manual with info, man or $PAGER
$ hledger help 'time periods'     # show the manual's "Time periods" topic
$ hledger help 'time periods' -m  # use man, even if info is installed

demo

Play demos of hledger usage in the terminal, if asciinema is installed.

Flags:
  -s --speed=SPEED  playback speed (1 is original speed, .5 is half, 2 is
                    double, etc (default: 2))

Run this command with no argument to list the demos. To play a demo, write its number or a prefix or substring of its title. Tips:

Make your terminal window large enough to see the demo clearly.

Use the -s/--speed SPEED option to set your preferred playback speed, eg -s4 to play at 4x original speed or -s.5 to play at half speed. The default speed is 2x.

Other asciinema options can be added following a double dash, eg -- -i.1 to limit pauses or -- -h to list asciinema's other options.

During playback, several keys are available: SPACE to pause/unpause, . to step forward (while paused), CTRL-c quit.

Examples:

$ hledger demo               # list available demos
$ hledger demo 1             # play the first demo at default speed (2x)
$ hledger demo install -s4   # play the "install" demo at 4x speed

User interface commands

ui

Runs hledger-ui (if installed).

web

Runs hledger-web (if installed).

Data entry commands

add

Record new transactions with interactive prompting in the console.

Flags:
     --no-new-accounts      don't allow creating new accounts

Many hledger users edit their journals directly with a text editor, or generate them from CSV. For more interactive data entry, there is the add command, which prompts interactively on the console for new transactions, and appends them to the main journal file (which should be in journal format). Existing transactions are not changed. This is one of the few hledger commands that writes to the journal file (see also import).

To use it, just run hledger add and follow the prompts. You can add as many transactions as you like; when you are finished, enter . or press control-d or control-c to exit.

Features:

  • add tries to provide useful defaults, using the most similar (by description) recent transaction (filtered by the query, if any) as a template.
  • You can also set the initial defaults with command line arguments.
  • Readline-style edit keys can be used during data entry.
  • The tab key will auto-complete whenever possible - accounts, payees/descriptions, dates (yesterday, today, tomorrow). If the input area is empty, it will insert the default value.
  • If the journal defines a default commodity, it will be added to any bare numbers entered.
  • A parenthesised transaction code may be entered following a date.
  • Comments and tags may be entered following a description or amount.
  • If you make a mistake, enter < at any prompt to go one step backward.
  • Input prompts are displayed in a different colour when the terminal supports it.

Notes:

  • If you enter a number with no commodity symbol, and you have declared a default commodity with a D directive, you might expect add to add this symbol for you. It does not do this; we assume that if you are using a D directive you prefer not to see the commodity symbol repeated on amounts in the journal.

Examples:

  • Record new transactions, saving to the default journal file:

    hledger add

  • Add transactions to 2024.journal, but also load 2023.journal for completions:

    hledger add --file 2024.journal --file 2023.journal

  • Provide answers for the first four prompts:

    hledger add today 'best buy' expenses:supplies '$20'

There is a detailed tutorial at https://hledger.org/add.html.

import

Import new transactions from one or more data files to the main journal.

Flags:
     --catchup              just mark all transactions as already imported
     --dry-run              just show the transactions to be imported

This command detects new transactions in each FILE argument since it was last run, and appends them to the main journal.

Or with --dry-run, it just print the transactions that would be added.

Or with --catchup, it just marks all of the FILEs' current transactions as already imported.

This is one of the few hledger commands that writes to the journal file (see also add). It only appends; existing data will not be changed.

The input files are specified as arguments, so to import one or more CSV files to your main journal, you will run hledger import bank.csv or perhaps hledger import *.csv.

Note you can import from any file format, though CSV files are the most common import source, and these docs focus on that case. The target file (main journal) should be in journal format.

Date skipping

import tries to import only the transactions which are new since the last import, ignoring any that it has seen in previous runs. So if your bank's CSV includes the last three months of data, you can download and import it every month (or week, or day) and only the new transactions will be imported each time.

It works as follows: for each imported FILE,

  • It tries to read the latest date previously seen, from .latest.FILE in the same directory
  • Then it processes FILE, ignoring transactions on or before that date

And after a successful import, unless --dry-run was used, it updates the .latest.FILE(s) for next time. This is a simple system that works for most real-world CSV files; it assumes the following are true, or true enough:

  1. the name of the input file is stable across successive downloads
  2. new items always have the newest dates
  3. item dates are stable across downloads
  4. the order of same-date items is stable across downloads.

Tips:

  • To help ensure a stable file name, remember you can use a CSV rules file as an input file.

  • If you have a bank whose CSV dates or ordering occasionally change, you can reduce the chance of this happening in new transactions by importing more often. (If it happens in old transactions, that's harmless.)

Note this is just one kind of "deduplication": not reprocessing the same dates across successive runs. import doesn't detect other kinds of duplication, such as the same transaction appearing multiple times within a single run, or a new transaction that looks identical to a transaction already in the journal. (Because these can happen legitimately in real-world data.)

Here's a situation where you need to run import with care: say you download but forget to import bank.1.csv, and a week later you download bank.2.csv with some overlapping data. You should not process both of these as a single import (hledger import bank.1.csv bank.2.csv), because the overlapping transactions would not be deduplicated. Instead, import one file at a time, using the same filename each time:

$ mv bank.1.csv bank.csv; hledger import bank.csv
$ mv bank.2.csv bank.csv; hledger import bank.csv

Normally you don't need to think about .latest.* files, but you can create or modify them to catch up to a certain date, or delete them to mark all transactions as new. Their format is a single ISO-format YYYY-MM-DD date, optionally repeated on multiple lines, meaning "I have seen the transactions before this date, and this many of them on this date".

hledger print --new also uses and updates these .latest.* files, but it is less often used.

Related: CSV > Working with CSV > Deduplicating, importing.

Import testing

With --dry-run, the transactions that will be imported are printed to the terminal, without updating your journal or state files. The output is valid journal format, like the print command, so you can re-parse it. Eg, to see any importable transactions which CSV rules have not categorised:

$ hledger import --dry bank.csv | hledger -f- -I print unknown

or (live updating):

$ ls bank.csv* | entr bash -c 'echo ====; hledger import --dry bank.csv | hledger -f- -I print unknown'

Note: when importing from multiple files at once, it's currently possible for some .latest files to be updated successfully, while the actual import fails because of a problem in one of the files, leaving them out of sync (and causing some transactions to be missed). To prevent this, do a --dry-run first and fix any problems before the real import.

Importing balance assignments

Entries added by import will have their posting amounts made explicit (like hledger print -x). This means that any balance assignments in imported files must be evaluated; but, imported files don't get to see the main file's account balances. As a result, importing entries with balance assignments (eg from an institution that provides only balances and not posting amounts) will probably generate incorrect posting amounts. To avoid this problem, use print instead of import:

$ hledger print IMPORTFILE [--new] >> $LEDGER_FILE

(If you think import should leave amounts implicit like print does, please test it and send a pull request.)

Import and commodity styles

Amounts in entries added by import will be formatted according to the journal's canonical commodity styles, as declared by commodity directives or inferred from the journal's amounts.

Related: CSV > Amount decimal places.

Basic report commands

accounts

List account names.

Flags:
  -u --used                 show only accounts used by transactions
  -d --declared             show only accounts declared by account directive
     --unused               show only accounts declared but not used
     --undeclared           show only accounts used but not declared
     --types                also show account types when known
     --positions            also show where accounts were declared
     --directives           show as account directives, for use in journals
     --find                 find the first account matched by the first
                            argument (a case-insensitive infix regexp or
                            account name)
  -l --flat                 show accounts as a flat list (default)
  -t --tree                 show accounts as a tree
     --drop=N               flat mode: omit N leading account name parts

This command lists account names. By default it shows all known accounts, either used in transactions or declared with account directives.

With query arguments, only matched account names and account names referenced by matched postings are shown.

Or it can show just the used accounts (--used/-u), the declared accounts (--declared/-d), the accounts declared but not used (--unused), the accounts used but not declared (--undeclared), or the first account matched by an account name pattern, if any (--find).

It shows a flat list by default. With --tree, it uses indentation to show the account hierarchy. In flat mode you can add --drop N to omit the first few account name components. Account names can be depth-clipped with depth:N or --depth N or -N.

With --types, it also shows each account's type, if it's known. (See Declaring accounts > Account types.)

With --positions, it also shows the file and line number of each account's declaration, if any, and the account's overall declaration order; these may be useful when troubleshooting account display order.

With --directives, it adds the account keyword, showing valid account directives which can be pasted into a journal file. This is useful together with --undeclared when updating your account declarations to satisfy hledger check accounts.

The --find flag can be used to look up a single account name, in the same way that the aregister command does. It returns the alphanumerically-first matched account name, or if none can be found, it fails with a non-zero exit code.

Examples:

$ hledger accounts
assets:bank:checking
assets:bank:saving
assets:cash
expenses:food
expenses:supplies
income:gifts
income:salary
liabilities:debts
$ hledger accounts --undeclared --directives >> $LEDGER_FILE
$ hledger check accounts

codes

List the codes seen in transactions, in the order parsed.

Flags:
no command-specific flags

This command prints the value of each transaction's code field, in the order transactions were parsed. The transaction code is an optional value written in parentheses between the date and description, often used to store a cheque number, order number or similar.

Transactions aren't required to have a code, and missing or empty codes will not be shown by default. With the -E/--empty flag, they will be printed as blank lines.

You can add a query to select a subset of transactions.

Examples:

2022/1/1 (123) Supermarket   
 Food       $5.00
 Checking    

2022/1/2 (124) Post Office
 Postage    $8.32
 Checking

2022/1/3 Supermarket
 Food      $11.23
 Checking 

2022/1/4 (126) Post Office
 Postage    $3.21
 Checking
$ hledger codes
123
124
126
$ hledger codes -E
123
124

126

commodities

List all commodity/currency symbols used or declared in the journal.

Flags:
no command-specific flags

descriptions

List the unique descriptions that appear in transactions.

Flags:
no command-specific flags

This command lists the unique descriptions that appear in transactions, in alphabetic order. You can add a query to select a subset of transactions.

Example:

$ hledger descriptions
Store Name
Gas Station | Petrol
Person A

files

List all files included in the journal. With a REGEX argument, only file names matching the regular expression (case sensitive) are shown.

Flags:
no command-specific flags

notes

List the unique notes that appear in transactions.

Flags:
no command-specific flags

This command lists the unique notes that appear in transactions, in alphabetic order. You can add a query to select a subset of transactions. The note is the part of the transaction description after a | character (or if there is no |, the whole description).

Example:

$ hledger notes
Petrol
Snacks

payees

List the unique payee/payer names that appear in transactions.

Flags:
     --declared             show payees declared with payee directives
     --used                 show payees referenced by transactions

This command lists unique payee/payer names which have been declared with payee directives (--declared), used in transaction descriptions (--used), or both (the default).

The payee/payer is the part of the transaction description before a | character (or if there is no |, the whole description).

You can add query arguments to select a subset of transactions. This implies --used.

Example:

$ hledger payees
Store Name
Gas Station
Person A

prices

Print the market prices declared with P directives. With --infer-market-prices, also show any additional prices inferred from costs. With --show-reverse, also show additional prices inferred by reversing known prices.

Flags:
     --show-reverse         also show the prices inferred by reversing known
                            prices

Price amounts are always displayed with their full precision, except for reverse prices which are limited to 8 decimal digits.

Prices can be filtered by a date:, cur: or amt: query.

Generally if you run this command with --infer-market-prices --show-reverse, it will show the same prices used internally to calculate value reports. But if in doubt, you can inspect those directly by running the value report with --debug=2.

stats

Show journal and performance statistics.

Flags:
  -v --verbose              show more detailed output
  -o --output-file=FILE     write output to FILE.

The stats command shows summary information for the whole journal, or a matched part of it. With a reporting interval, it shows a report for each report period.

The default output is fairly impersonal, though it reveals the main file name. With -v/--verbose, more details are shown, like file paths, included files, and commodity names.

It also shows some run time statistics:

  • elapsed time
  • throughput: the number of transactions processed per second
  • live: the peak memory in use by the program to do its work
  • alloc: the peak memory allocation from the OS as seen by GHC. Measuring this externally, eg with GNU time, is more accurate; usually that will be a larger number; sometimes (with swapping?) smaller.

The stats command's run time is similar to that of a balance report.

Example:

$ hledger stats -f examples/1ktxns-1kaccts.journal 
Main file           : .../1ktxns-1kaccts.journal
Included files      : 0
Txns span           : 2000-01-01 to 2002-09-27 (1000 days)
Last txn            : 2002-09-26 (7827 days ago)
Txns                : 1000 (1.0 per day)
Txns last 30 days   : 0 (0.0 per day)
Txns last 7 days    : 0 (0.0 per day)
Payees/descriptions : 1000
Accounts            : 1000 (depth 10)
Commodities         : 26
Market prices       : 1000
Runtime stats       : 0.12 s elapsed, 8266 txns/s, 4 MB live, 16 MB alloc

This command supports the -o/--output-file option (but not -O/--output-format).

tags

List the tags used in the journal, or their values.

Flags:
     --values               list tag values instead of tag names
     --parsed               show tags/values in the order they were parsed,
                            including duplicates

This command lists the tag names used in the journal, whether on transactions, postings, or account declarations.

With a TAGREGEX argument, only tag names matching this regular expression (case insensitive, infix matched) are shown.

With QUERY arguments, only transactions and accounts matching this query are considered. If the query involves transaction fields (date:, desc:, amt:, ...), the search is restricted to the matched transactions and their accounts.

With the --values flag, the tags' unique non-empty values are listed instead. With -E/--empty, blank/empty values are also shown.

With --parsed, tags or values are shown in the order they were parsed, with duplicates included. (Except, tags from account declarations are always shown first.)

Tip: remember, accounts also acquire tags from their parents, postings also acquire tags from their account and transaction, transactions also acquire tags from their postings.

Standard report commands

print

Show full journal entries, representing transactions.

Flags:
  -x --explicit             show all amounts explicitly
     --show-costs           show transaction prices even with conversion
                            postings
     --round=TYPE           how much rounding or padding should be done when
                            displaying amounts ?
                            none - show original decimal digits,
                                   as in journal
                            soft - just add or remove decimal zeros
                                   to match precision (default)
                            hard - round posting amounts to precision
                                   (can unbalance transactions)
                            all  - also round cost amounts to precision
                                   (can unbalance transactions)
     --new                  show only newer-dated transactions added in each
                            file since last run
  -m --match=DESC           fuzzy search for one recent transaction with
                            description closest to DESC
  -O --output-format=FMT    select the output format. Supported formats:
                            txt, beancount, csv, tsv, json, sql.
  -o --output-file=FILE     write output to FILE. A file extension matching
                            one of the above formats selects that format.

The print command displays full journal entries (transactions) from the journal file, sorted by date (or with --date2, by secondary date).

Directives and inter-transaction comments are not shown, currently. This means the print command is somewhat lossy, and if you are using it to reformat/regenerate your journal you should take care to also copy over the directives and inter-transaction comments.

Eg:

$ hledger print -f examples/sample.journal date:200806
2008/06/01 gift
    assets:bank:checking            $1
    income:gifts                   $-1

2008/06/02 save
    assets:bank:saving              $1
    assets:bank:checking           $-1

2008/06/03 * eat & shop
    expenses:food                $1
    expenses:supplies            $1
    assets:cash                 $-2

Normally, whether posting amounts are implicit or explicit is preserved. For example, when an amount is omitted in the journal, it will not appear in the output. Similarly, if a conversion cost is implied but not written, it will not appear in the output.

You can use the -x/--explicit flag to force explicit display of all amounts and costs. This can be useful for troubleshooting or for making your journal more readable and robust against data entry errors. -x is also implied by using any of -B,-V,-X,--value.

The -x/--explicit flag will cause any postings with a multi-commodity amount (which can arise when a multi-commodity transaction has an implicit amount) to be split into multiple single-commodity postings, keeping the output parseable.

Amounts are shown right-aligned within each transaction (but not aligned across all transactions; you can do that with ledger-mode in Emacs).

Amounts will be (mostly) normalised to their commodity display style: their symbol placement, decimal mark, and digit group marks will be made consistent. By default, decimal digits are shown as they are written in the journal.

With the --round (Added in 1.32) option, print will try increasingly hard to display decimal digits according to the commodity display styles:

  • --round=none show amounts with original precisions (default)
  • --round=soft add/remove decimal zeros in amounts (except costs)
  • --round=hard round amounts (except costs), possibly hiding significant digits
  • --round=all round all amounts and costs

soft is good for non-lossy cleanup, formatting amounts more consistently where it's safe to do so.

hard and all can cause print to show invalid unbalanced journal entries; they may be useful eg for stronger cleanup, with manual fixups when needed.

print's output is usually a valid hledger journal, and you can process it again with a second hledger command. This can be useful for certain kinds of search (though the same can be achieved with expr: queries now):

# Show running total of food expenses paid from cash.
# -f- reads from stdin. -I/--ignore-assertions is sometimes needed.
$ hledger print assets:cash | hledger -f- -I reg expenses:food

There are some situations where print's output can become unparseable:

With -B/--cost, amounts with costs are shown converted to cost.

With --new, print shows only transactions it has not seen on a previous run. This uses the same deduplication system as the import command. (See import's docs for details.)

With -m DESC/--match=DESC, print shows one recent transaction whose description is most similar to DESC. DESC should contain at least two characters. If there is no similar-enough match, no transaction will be shown and the program exit code will be non-zero.

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, beancount (Added in 1.32), csv, tsv (Added in 1.32), json and sql.

The beancount format tries to produce Beancount-compatible output, as follows:

  • Transaction and postings with unmarked status are converted to cleared (*) status.
  • Transactions' payee and note are backslash-escaped and double-quote-escaped and wrapped in double quotes.
  • Transaction tags are copied to Beancount #tag format.
  • Commodity symbols are converted to upper case, and a small number of currency symbols like $ are converted to the corresponding currency names.
  • Account name parts are capitalised and unsupported characters are replaced with -. If an account name part does not begin with a letter, or if the first part is not Assets, Liabilities, Equity, Income, or Expenses, an error is raised. (Use --alias options to bring your accounts into compliance.)
  • An open directive is generated for each account used, on the earliest transaction date.

Some limitations:

  • Balance assertions are removed.
  • Balance assignments become missing amounts.
  • Virtual and balanced virtual postings become regular postings.
  • Directives are not converted.

Here's an example of print's CSV output:

$ hledger print -Ocsv
"txnidx","date","date2","status","code","description","comment","account","amount","commodity","credit","debit","posting-status","posting-comment"
"1","2008/01/01","","","","income","","assets:bank:checking","1","$","","1","",""
"1","2008/01/01","","","","income","","income:salary","-1","$","1","","",""
"2","2008/06/01","","","","gift","","assets:bank:checking","1","$","","1","",""
"2","2008/06/01","","","","gift","","income:gifts","-1","$","1","","",""
"3","2008/06/02","","","","save","","assets:bank:saving","1","$","","1","",""
"3","2008/06/02","","","","save","","assets:bank:checking","-1","$","1","","",""
"4","2008/06/03","","*","","eat & shop","","expenses:food","1","$","","1","",""
"4","2008/06/03","","*","","eat & shop","","expenses:supplies","1","$","","1","",""
"4","2008/06/03","","*","","eat & shop","","assets:cash","-2","$","2","","",""
"5","2008/12/31","","*","","pay off","","liabilities:debts","1","$","","1","",""
"5","2008/12/31","","*","","pay off","","assets:bank:checking","-1","$","1","","",""
  • There is one CSV record per posting, with the parent transaction's fields repeated.
  • The "txnidx" (transaction index) field shows which postings belong to the same transaction. (This number might change if transactions are reordered within the file, files are parsed/included in a different order, etc.)
  • The amount is separated into "commodity" (the symbol) and "amount" (numeric quantity) fields.
  • The numeric amount is repeated in either the "credit" or "debit" column, for convenience. (Those names are not accurate in the accounting sense; it just puts negative amounts under credit and zero or greater amounts under debit.)

aregister

(areg)

Show the transactions and running balances in one account, with each transaction on one line.

Flags:
     --txn-dates            filter strictly by transaction date, not posting
                            date. Warning: this can show a wrong running
                            balance.
     --no-elide             don't show only 2 commodities per amount
  -w --width=N              set output width (default: terminal width or
                            $COLUMNS). -wN,M sets description width as well.
     --align-all            guarantee alignment across all lines (slower)
  -O --output-format=FMT    select the output format. Supported formats:
                            txt, html, csv, tsv, json.
  -o --output-file=FILE     write output to FILE. A file extension matching
                            one of the above formats selects that format.

aregister shows the overall transactions affecting a particular account (and any subaccounts). Each report line represents one transaction in this account. Transactions before the report start date are always included in the running balance (--historical mode is always on).

This is a more "real world", bank-like view than the register command (which shows individual postings, possibly from multiple accounts, not necessarily in historical mode). As a quick rule of thumb: - use aregister for reviewing and reconciling real-world asset/liability accounts - use register for reviewing detailed revenues/expenses.

aregister requires one argument: the account to report on. You can write either the full account name, or a case-insensitive regular expression which will select the alphabetically first matched account.

When there are multiple matches, the alphabetically-first choice can be surprising; eg if you have assets:per:checking 1 and assets:biz:checking 2 accounts, hledger areg checking would select assets:biz:checking 2. It's just a convenience to save typing, so if in doubt, write the full account name, or a distinctive substring that matches uniquely.

Transactions involving subaccounts of this account will also be shown. aregister ignores depth limits, so its final total will always match a balance report with similar arguments.

Any additional arguments form a query which will filter the transactions shown. Note some queries will disturb the running balance, causing it to be different from the account's real-world running balance.

An example: this shows the transactions and historical running balance during july, in the first account whose name contains "checking":

$ hledger areg checking date:jul

Each aregister line item shows:

  • the transaction's date (or the relevant posting's date if different, see below)
  • the names of all the other account(s) involved in this transaction (probably abbreviated)
  • the total change to this account's balance from this transaction
  • the account's historical running balance after this transaction.

Transactions making a net change of zero are not shown by default; add the -E/--empty flag to show them.

For performance reasons, column widths are chosen based on the first 1000 lines; this means unusually wide values in later lines can cause visual discontinuities as column widths are adjusted. If you want to ensure perfect alignment, at the cost of more time and memory, use the --align-all flag.

This command also supports the output destination and output format options. The output formats supported are txt, csv, tsv (Added in 1.32), and json.

aregister and posting dates

aregister always shows one line (and date and amount) per transaction. But sometimes transactions have postings with different dates. Also, not all of a transaction's postings may be within the report period. To resolve this, aregister shows the earliest of the transaction's date and posting dates that is in-period, and the sum of the in-period postings. In other words it will show a combined line item with just the earliest date, and the running balance will (temporarily, until the transaction's last posting) be inaccurate. Use register -H if you need to see the individual postings.

There is also a --txn-dates flag, which filters strictly by transaction date, ignoring posting dates. This too can cause an inaccurate running balance.

register

(reg)

Show postings and their running total.

Flags:
     --cumulative           show running total from report start date
                            (default)
  -H --historical           show historical running total/balance (includes
                            postings before report start date)
  -A --average              show running average of posting amounts instead
                            of total (implies --empty)
  -m --match=DESC           fuzzy search for one recent posting with
                            description closest to DESC
  -r --related              show postings' siblings instead
     --invert               display all amounts with reversed sign
  -w --width=N              set output width (default: terminal width or
                            $COLUMNS). -wN,M sets description width as well.
     --align-all            guarantee alignment across all lines (slower)
  -O --output-format=FMT    select the output format. Supported formats:
                            txt, csv, tsv, json.
  -o --output-file=FILE     write output to FILE. A file extension matching
                            one of the above formats selects that format.

The register command displays matched postings, across all accounts, in date order, with their running total or running historical balance. (See also the aregister command, which shows matched transactions in a specific account.)

register normally shows line per posting, but note that multi-commodity amounts will occupy multiple lines (one line per commodity).

It is typically used with a query selecting a particular account, to see that account's activity:

$ hledger register checking
2008/01/01 income               assets:bank:checking            $1           $1
2008/06/01 gift                 assets:bank:checking            $1           $2
2008/06/02 save                 assets:bank:checking           $-1           $1
2008/12/31 pay off              assets:bank:checking           $-1            0

With --date2, it shows and sorts by secondary date instead.

For performance reasons, column widths are chosen based on the first 1000 lines; this means unusually wide values in later lines can cause visual discontinuities as column widths are adjusted. If you want to ensure perfect alignment, at the cost of more time and memory, use the --align-all flag.

The --historical/-H flag adds the balance from any undisplayed prior postings to the running total. This is useful when you want to see only recent activity, with a historically accurate running balance:

$ hledger register checking -b 2008/6 --historical
2008/06/01 gift                 assets:bank:checking            $1           $2
2008/06/02 save                 assets:bank:checking           $-1           $1
2008/12/31 pay off              assets:bank:checking           $-1            0

The --depth option limits the amount of sub-account detail displayed.

The --average/-A flag shows the running average posting amount instead of the running total (so, the final number displayed is the average for the whole report period). This flag implies --empty (see below). It is affected by --historical. It works best when showing just one account and one commodity.

The --related/-r flag shows the other postings in the transactions of the postings which would normally be shown.

The --invert flag negates all amounts. For example, it can be used on an income account where amounts are normally displayed as negative numbers. It's also useful to show postings on the checking account together with the related account:

$ hledger register --related --invert assets:checking

With a reporting interval, register shows summary postings, one per interval, aggregating the postings to each account:

$ hledger register --monthly income
2008/01                 income:salary                          $-1          $-1
2008/06                 income:gifts                           $-1          $-2

Periods with no activity, and summary postings with a zero amount, are not shown by default; use the --empty/-E flag to see them:

$ hledger register --monthly income -E
2008/01                 income:salary                          $-1          $-1
2008/02                                                          0          $-1
2008/03                                                          0          $-1
2008/04                                                          0          $-1
2008/05                                                          0          $-1
2008/06                 income:gifts                           $-1          $-2
2008/07                                                          0          $-2
2008/08                                                          0          $-2
2008/09                                                          0          $-2
2008/10                                                          0          $-2
2008/11                                                          0          $-2
2008/12                                                          0          $-2

Often, you'll want to see just one line per interval. The --depth option helps with this, causing subaccounts to be aggregated:

$ hledger register --monthly assets --depth 1h
2008/01                 assets                                  $1           $1
2008/06                 assets                                 $-1            0
2008/12                 assets                                 $-1          $-1

Note when using report intervals, if you specify start/end dates these will be adjusted outward if necessary to contain a whole number of intervals. This ensures that the first and last intervals are full length and comparable to the others in the report.

With -m DESC/--match=DESC, register does a fuzzy search for one recent posting whose description is most similar to DESC. DESC should contain at least two characters. If there is no similar-enough match, no posting will be shown and the program exit code will be non-zero.

Custom register output

register uses the full terminal width by default, except on windows. You can override this by setting the COLUMNS environment variable (not a bash shell variable) or by using the --width/-w option.

The description and account columns normally share the space equally (about half of (width - 40) each). You can adjust this by adding a description width as part of --width's argument, comma-separated: --width W,D . Here's a diagram (won't display correctly in --help):

<--------------------------------- width (W) ---------------------------------->
date (10)  description (D)       account (W-41-D)     amount (12)   balance (12)
DDDDDDDDDD dddddddddddddddddddd  aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa  AAAAAAAAAAAA  AAAAAAAAAAAA

and some examples:

$ hledger reg                     # use terminal width (or 80 on windows)
$ hledger reg -w 100              # use width 100
$ COLUMNS=100 hledger reg         # set with one-time environment variable
$ export COLUMNS=100; hledger reg # set till session end (or window resize)
$ hledger reg -w 100,40           # set overall width 100, description width 40
$ hledger reg -w $COLUMNS,40      # use terminal width, & description width 40

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, tsv (Added in 1.32), and json.

balancesheet

(bs)

Show the end balances in asset and liability accounts. Amounts are shown with normal positive sign, as in conventional financial statements.

Flags:
     --sum                  show sum of posting amounts (default)
     --valuechange          show total change of period-end historical
                            balance value (caused by deposits, withdrawals,
                            market price fluctuations)
     --gain                 show unrealised capital gain/loss (historical
                            balance value minus cost basis)
     --budget               show sum of posting amounts compared to budget
                            goals defined by periodic transactions
     --change               accumulate amounts from column start to column
                            end (in multicolumn reports)
     --cumulative           accumulate amounts from report start (specified
                            by e.g. -b/--begin) to column end
  -H --historical           accumulate amounts from journal start to column
                            end (includes postings before report start date)
                            (default)
  -l --flat                 show accounts as a flat list (default). Amounts
                            exclude subaccount amounts, except where the
                            account is depth-clipped.
  -t --tree                 show accounts as a tree. Amounts include
                            subaccount amounts.
     --drop=N               flat mode: omit N leading account name parts
     --declared             include non-parent declared accounts (best used
                            with -E)
  -A --average              show a row average column (in multicolumn
                            reports)
  -T --row-total            show a row total column (in multicolumn reports)
     --summary-only         display only row summaries (e.g. row total,
                            average) (in multicolumn reports)
  -N --no-total             omit the final total row
     --no-elide             don't squash boring parent accounts (in tree
                            mode)
     --format=FORMATSTR     use this custom line format (in simple reports)
  -S --sort-amount          sort by amount instead of account code/name
  -% --percent              express values in percentage of each column's
                            total
     --layout=ARG           how to show multi-commodity amounts:
                            'wide[,WIDTH]': all commodities on one line
                            'tall'        : each commodity on a new line
                            'bare'        : bare numbers, symbols in a column
  -O --output-format=FMT    select the output format. Supported formats:
                            txt, html, csv, tsv, json.
  -o --output-file=FILE     write output to FILE. A file extension matching
                            one of the above formats selects that format.

This command displays a balance sheet, showing historical ending balances of asset and liability accounts. (To see equity as well, use the balancesheetequity command.)

Accounts declared with the Asset, Cash or Liability type are shown (see account types). Or if no such accounts are declared, it shows top-level accounts named asset or liability (case insensitive, plurals allowed) and their subaccounts.

Example:

$ hledger balancesheet
Balance Sheet 2008-12-31

                    || 2008-12-31 
====================++============
 Assets             ||            
--------------------++------------
 assets:bank:saving ||         $1 
 assets:cash        ||        $-2 
--------------------++------------
                    ||        $-1 
====================++============
 Liabilities        ||            
--------------------++------------
 liabilities:debts  ||        $-1 
--------------------++------------
                    ||        $-1 
====================++============
 Net:               ||          0 

This command is a higher-level variant of the balance command, and supports many of that command's features, such as multi-period reports. It is similar to hledger balance -H assets liabilities, but with smarter account detection, and liabilities displayed with their sign flipped.

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, tsv (Added in 1.32), html, and json.

balancesheetequity

(bse)

This command displays a balance sheet, showing historical ending balances of asset, liability and equity accounts. Amounts are shown with normal positive sign, as in conventional financial statements.

Flags:
     --sum                  show sum of posting amounts (default)
     --valuechange          show total change of period-end historical
                            balance value (caused by deposits, withdrawals,
                            market price fluctuations)
     --gain                 show unrealised capital gain/loss (historical
                            balance value minus cost basis)
     --budget               show sum of posting amounts compared to budget
                            goals defined by periodic transactions
     --change               accumulate amounts from column start to column
                            end (in multicolumn reports)
     --cumulative           accumulate amounts from report start (specified
                            by e.g. -b/--begin) to column end
  -H --historical           accumulate amounts from journal start to column
                            end (includes postings before report start date)
                            (default)
  -l --flat                 show accounts as a flat list (default). Amounts
                            exclude subaccount amounts, except where the
                            account is depth-clipped.
  -t --tree                 show accounts as a tree. Amounts include
                            subaccount amounts.
     --drop=N               flat mode: omit N leading account name parts
     --declared             include non-parent declared accounts (best used
                            with -E)
  -A --average              show a row average column (in multicolumn
                            reports)
  -T --row-total            show a row total column (in multicolumn reports)
     --summary-only         display only row summaries (e.g. row total,
                            average) (in multicolumn reports)
  -N --no-total             omit the final total row
     --no-elide             don't squash boring parent accounts (in tree
                            mode)
     --format=FORMATSTR     use this custom line format (in simple reports)
  -S --sort-amount          sort by amount instead of account code/name
  -% --percent              express values in percentage of each column's
                            total
     --layout=ARG           how to show multi-commodity amounts:
                            'wide[,WIDTH]': all commodities on one line
                            'tall'        : each commodity on a new line
                            'bare'        : bare numbers, symbols in a column
  -O --output-format=FMT    select the output format. Supported formats:
                            txt, html, csv, tsv, json.
  -o --output-file=FILE     write output to FILE. A file extension matching
                            one of the above formats selects that format.

This report shows accounts declared with the Asset, Cash, Liability or Equity type (see account types). Or if no such accounts are declared, it shows top-level accounts named asset, liability or equity (case insensitive, plurals allowed) and their subaccounts.

Example:

$ hledger balancesheetequity
Balance Sheet With Equity 2008-12-31

                    || 2008-12-31 
====================++============
 Assets             ||            
--------------------++------------
 assets:bank:saving ||         $1 
 assets:cash        ||        $-2 
--------------------++------------
                    ||        $-1 
====================++============
 Liabilities        ||            
--------------------++------------
 liabilities:debts  ||        $-1 
--------------------++------------
                    ||        $-1 
====================++============
 Equity             ||            
--------------------++------------
--------------------++------------
                    ||          0 
====================++============
 Net:               ||          0 

This command is a higher-level variant of the balance command, and supports many of that command's features, such as multi-period reports. It is similar to hledger balance -H assets liabilities equity, but with smarter account detection, and liabilities/equity displayed with their sign flipped.

This report is the easiest way to see if the accounting equation (A+L+E = 0) is satisfied (after you have done a close --retain to merge revenues and expenses with equity, and perhaps added --infer-equity to balance your commodity conversions).

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, tsv, html, and json.

cashflow

(cf)

This command displays a (simple) cashflow statement, showing the inflows and outflows affecting "cash" (ie, liquid, easily convertible) assets. Amounts are shown with normal positive sign, as in conventional financial statements.

Flags:
     --sum                  show sum of posting amounts (default)
     --valuechange          show total change of period-end historical
                            balance value (caused by deposits, withdrawals,
                            market price fluctuations)
     --gain                 show unrealised capital gain/loss (historical
                            balance value minus cost basis)
     --budget               show sum of posting amounts compared to budget
                            goals defined by periodic transactions
     --change               accumulate amounts from column start to column
                            end (in multicolumn reports) (default)
     --cumulative           accumulate amounts from report start (specified
                            by e.g. -b/--begin) to column end
  -H --historical           accumulate amounts from journal start to column
                            end (includes postings before report start date)
  -l --flat                 show accounts as a flat list (default). Amounts
                            exclude subaccount amounts, except where the
                            account is depth-clipped.
  -t --tree                 show accounts as a tree. Amounts include
                            subaccount amounts.
     --drop=N               flat mode: omit N leading account name parts
     --declared             include non-parent declared accounts (best used
                            with -E)
  -A --average              show a row average column (in multicolumn
                            reports)
  -T --row-total            show a row total column (in multicolumn reports)
     --summary-only         display only row summaries (e.g. row total,
                            average) (in multicolumn reports)
  -N --no-total             omit the final total row
     --no-elide             don't squash boring parent accounts (in tree
                            mode)
     --format=FORMATSTR     use this custom line format (in simple reports)
  -S --sort-amount          sort by amount instead of account code/name
  -% --percent              express values in percentage of each column's
                            total
     --layout=ARG           how to show multi-commodity amounts:
                            'wide[,WIDTH]': all commodities on one line
                            'tall'        : each commodity on a new line
                            'bare'        : bare numbers, symbols in a column
  -O --output-format=FMT    select the output format. Supported formats:
                            txt, html, csv, tsv, json.
  -o --output-file=FILE     write output to FILE. A file extension matching
                            one of the above formats selects that format.

This report shows accounts declared with the Cash type (see account types). Or if no such accounts are declared, it shows accounts

  • under a top-level account named asset (case insensitive, plural allowed)
  • whose name contains some variation of cash, bank, checking or saving.

More precisely: all accounts matching this case insensitive regular expression:

^assets?(:.+)?:(cash|bank|che(ck|que?)(ing)?|savings?|currentcash)(:|$)

and their subaccounts.

An example cashflow report:

$ hledger cashflow
Cashflow Statement 2008

                    || 2008 
====================++======
 Cash flows         ||      
--------------------++------
 assets:bank:saving ||   $1 
 assets:cash        ||  $-2 
--------------------++------
                    ||  $-1 

This command is a higher-level variant of the balance command, and supports many of that command's features, such as multi-period reports. It is similar to hledger balance assets not:fixed not:investment not:receivable, but with smarter account detection.

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, tsv (Added in 1.32), html, and json.

incomestatement

(is)

Show revenue inflows and expense outflows during the report period. Amounts are shown with normal positive sign, as in conventional financial statements.

Flags:
     --sum                  show sum of posting amounts (default)
     --valuechange          show total change of period-end historical
                            balance value (caused by deposits, withdrawals,
                            market price fluctuations)
     --gain                 show unrealised capital gain/loss (historical
                            balance value minus cost basis)
     --budget               show sum of posting amounts compared to budget
                            goals defined by periodic transactions
     --change               accumulate amounts from column start to column
                            end (in multicolumn reports) (default)
     --cumulative           accumulate amounts from report start (specified
                            by e.g. -b/--begin) to column end
  -H --historical           accumulate amounts from journal start to column
                            end (includes postings before report start date)
  -l --flat                 show accounts as a flat list (default). Amounts
                            exclude subaccount amounts, except where the
                            account is depth-clipped.
  -t --tree                 show accounts as a tree. Amounts include
                            subaccount amounts.
     --drop=N               flat mode: omit N leading account name parts
     --declared             include non-parent declared accounts (best used
                            with -E)
  -A --average              show a row average column (in multicolumn
                            reports)
  -T --row-total            show a row total column (in multicolumn reports)
     --summary-only         display only row summaries (e.g. row total,
                            average) (in multicolumn reports)
  -N --no-total             omit the final total row
     --no-elide             don't squash boring parent accounts (in tree
                            mode)
     --format=FORMATSTR     use this custom line format (in simple reports)
  -S --sort-amount          sort by amount instead of account code/name
  -% --percent              express values in percentage of each column's
                            total
     --layout=ARG           how to show multi-commodity amounts:
                            'wide[,WIDTH]': all commodities on one line
                            'tall'        : each commodity on a new line
                            'bare'        : bare numbers, symbols in a column
  -O --output-format=FMT    select the output format. Supported formats:
                            txt, html, csv, tsv, json.
  -o --output-file=FILE     write output to FILE. A file extension matching
                            one of the above formats selects that format.

This command displays an income statement, showing revenues and expenses during one or more periods.

It shows accounts declared with the Revenue or Expense type (see account types). Or if no such accounts are declared, it shows top-level accounts named revenue or income or expense (case insensitive, plurals allowed) and their subaccounts.

Example:

$ hledger incomestatement
Income Statement 2008

                   || 2008 
===================++======
 Revenues          ||      
-------------------++------
 income:gifts      ||   $1 
 income:salary     ||   $1 
-------------------++------
                   ||   $2 
===================++======
 Expenses          ||      
-------------------++------
 expenses:food     ||   $1 
 expenses:supplies ||   $1 
-------------------++------
                   ||   $2 
===================++======
 Net:              ||    0 

This command is a higher-level variant of the balance command, and supports many of that command's features, such as multi-period reports. It is similar to hledger balance '(revenues|income)' expenses, but with smarter account detection, and revenues/income displayed with their sign flipped.

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, tsv (Added in 1.32), html, and json.

Advanced report commands

balance

(bal)

A flexible, general purpose "summing" report that shows accounts with some kind of numeric data. This can be balance changes per period, end balances, budget performance, unrealised capital gains, etc.

Flags:
     --sum                  show sum of posting amounts (default)
     --budget[=DESCPAT]     show sum of posting amounts together with budget
                            goals defined by periodic
                            transactions. With a DESCPAT argument (must be
                            separated by = not space),
                            use only periodic transactions with matching
                            description
                            (case insensitive substring match).
     --valuechange          show total change of value of period-end
                            historical balances (caused by deposits,
                            withdrawals, market price fluctuations)
     --gain                 show unrealised capital gain/loss (historical
                            balance value minus cost basis)
     --count                show the count of postings
     --change               accumulate amounts from column start to column
                            end (in multicolumn reports, default)
     --cumulative           accumulate amounts from report start (specified
                            by e.g. -b/--begin) to column end
  -H --historical           accumulate amounts from journal start to column
                            end (includes postings before report start date)
  -l --flat                 show accounts as a flat list (default). Amounts
                            exclude subaccount amounts, except where the
                            account is depth-clipped.
  -t --tree                 show accounts as a tree. Amounts include
                            subaccount amounts.
     --drop=N               omit N leading account name parts (in flat mode)
     --declared             include non-parent declared accounts (best used
                            with -E)
  -A --average              show a row average column (in multicolumn
                            reports)
  -r --related              show postings' siblings instead
  -T --row-total            show a row total column (in multicolumn reports)
     --summary-only         display only row summaries (e.g. row total,
                            average) (in multicolumn reports)
  -N --no-total             omit the final total row
     --no-elide             don't squash boring parent accounts (in tree
                            mode)
     --format=FORMATSTR     use this custom line format (in simple reports)
  -S --sort-amount          sort by amount instead of account code/name (in
                            flat mode). With multiple columns, sorts by the row
                            total, or by row average if that is displayed.
  -% --percent              express values in percentage of each column's
                            total
     --invert               display all amounts with reversed sign
     --transpose            transpose rows and columns
     --layout=ARG           how to lay out multi-commodity amounts and the
                            overall table:
                            'wide[,WIDTH]': commodities on one line
                            'tall'        : commodities on separate lines
                            'bare'        : commodity symbols in one column
                            'tidy'        : every attribute in its own column
  -O --output-format=FMT    select the output format. Supported formats:
                            txt, html, csv, tsv, json.
  -o --output-file=FILE     write output to FILE. A file extension matching
                            one of the above formats selects that format.

balance is one of hledger's oldest and most versatile commands, for listing account balances, balance changes, values, value changes and more, during one time period or many. Generally it shows a table, with rows representing accounts, and columns representing periods.

Note there are some higher-level variants of the balance command with convenient defaults, which can be simpler to use: balancesheet, balancesheetequity, cashflow and incomestatement. When you need more control, then use balance.

balance features

Here's a quick overview of the balance command's features, followed by more detailed descriptions and examples. Many of these work with the higher-level commands as well.

balance can show..

..and their..

  • balance changes (the default)
  • or actual and planned balance changes (--budget)
  • or value of balance changes (-V)
  • or change of balance values (--valuechange)
  • or unrealised capital gain/loss (--gain)
  • or balance changes from sibling postings (--related/-r)
  • or postings count (--count)

..in..

..either..

  • per period (the default)
  • or accumulated since report start date (--cumulative)
  • or accumulated since account creation (--historical/-H)

..possibly converted to..

..with..

  • totals (-T), averages (-A), percentages (-%), inverted sign (--invert)
  • rows and columns swapped (--transpose)
  • another field used as account name (--pivot)
  • custom-formatted line items (single-period reports only) (--format)
  • commodities displayed on the same line or multiple lines (--layout)

This command supports the output destination and output format options, with output formats txt, csv, tsv (Added in 1.32), json, and (multi-period reports only:) html. In txt output in a colour-supporting terminal, negative amounts are shown in red.

Simple balance report

With no arguments, balance shows a list of all accounts and their change of balance - ie, the sum of posting amounts, both inflows and outflows - during the entire period of the journal. ("Simple" here means just one column of numbers, covering a single period. You can also have multi-period reports, described later.)

For real-world accounts, these numbers will normally be their end balance at the end of the journal period; more on this below.

Accounts are sorted by declaration order if any, and then alphabetically by account name. For instance (using examples/sample.journal):

$ hledger -f examples/sample.journal bal
                  $1  assets:bank:saving
                 $-2  assets:cash
                  $1  expenses:food
                  $1  expenses:supplies
                 $-1  income:gifts
                 $-1  income:salary
                  $1  liabilities:debts
--------------------
                   0  

Accounts with a zero balance (and no non-zero subaccounts, in tree mode - see below) are hidden by default. Use -E/--empty to show them (revealing assets:bank:checking here):

$ hledger -f examples/sample.journal bal  -E
                   0  assets:bank:checking
                  $1  assets:bank:saving
                 $-2  assets:cash
                  $1  expenses:food
                  $1  expenses:supplies
                 $-1  income:gifts
                 $-1  income:salary
                  $1  liabilities:debts
--------------------
                   0  

The total of the amounts displayed is shown as the last line, unless -N/--no-total is used.

Balance report line format

For single-period balance reports displayed in the terminal (only), you can use --format FMT to customise the format and content of each line. Eg:

$ hledger -f examples/sample.journal balance --format "%20(account) %12(total)"
              assets          $-1
         bank:saving           $1
                cash          $-2
            expenses           $2
                food           $1
            supplies           $1
              income          $-2
               gifts          $-1
              salary          $-1
   liabilities:debts           $1
---------------------------------
                                0

The FMT format string specifies the formatting applied to each account/balance pair. It may contain any suitable text, with data fields interpolated like so:

%[MIN][.MAX](FIELDNAME)

  • MIN pads with spaces to at least this width (optional)

  • MAX truncates at this width (optional)

  • FIELDNAME must be enclosed in parentheses, and can be one of:

    • depth_spacer - a number of spaces equal to the account's depth, or if MIN is specified, MIN * depth spaces.
    • account - the account's name
    • total - the account's balance/posted total, right justified

Also, FMT can begin with an optional prefix to control how multi-commodity amounts are rendered:

  • %_ - render on multiple lines, bottom-aligned (the default)
  • %^ - render on multiple lines, top-aligned
  • %, - render on one line, comma-separated

There are some quirks. Eg in one-line mode, %(depth_spacer) has no effect, instead %(account) has indentation built in. Experimentation may be needed to get pleasing results.

Some example formats:

  • %(total) - the account's total
  • %-20.20(account) - the account's name, left justified, padded to 20 characters and clipped at 20 characters
  • %,%-50(account) %25(total) - account name padded to 50 characters, total padded to 20 characters, with multiple commodities rendered on one line
  • %20(total) %2(depth_spacer)%-(account) - the default format for the single-column balance report

Filtered balance report

You can show fewer accounts, a different time period, totals from cleared transactions only, etc. by using query arguments or options to limit the postings being matched. Eg:

$ hledger -f examples/sample.journal bal --cleared assets date:200806
                 $-2  assets:cash
--------------------
                 $-2  

List or tree mode

By default, or with -l/--flat, accounts are shown as a flat list with their full names visible, as in the examples above.

With -t/--tree, the account hierarchy is shown, with subaccounts' "leaf" names indented below their parent:

$ hledger -f examples/sample.journal balance
                 $-1  assets
                  $1    bank:saving
                 $-2    cash
                  $2  expenses
                  $1    food
                  $1    supplies
                 $-2  income
                 $-1    gifts
                 $-1    salary
                  $1  liabilities:debts
--------------------
                   0

Notes:

  • "Boring" accounts are combined with their subaccount for more compact output, unless --no-elide is used. Boring accounts have no balance of their own and just one subaccount (eg assets:bank and liabilities above).

  • All balances shown are "inclusive", ie including the balances from all subaccounts. Note this means some repetition in the output, which requires explanation when sharing reports with non-plaintextaccounting-users. A tree mode report's final total is the sum of the top-level balances shown, not of all the balances shown.

  • Each group of sibling accounts (ie, under a common parent) is sorted separately.

Depth limiting

With a depth:NUM query, or --depth NUM option, or just -NUM (eg: -3) balance reports will show accounts only to the specified depth, hiding the deeper subaccounts. This can be useful for getting an overview without too much detail.

Account balances at the depth limit always include the balances from any deeper subaccounts (even in list mode). Eg, limiting to depth 1:

$ hledger -f examples/sample.journal balance -1
                 $-1  assets
                  $2  expenses
                 $-2  income
                  $1  liabilities
--------------------
                   0  

Dropping top-level accounts

You can also hide one or more top-level account name parts, using --drop NUM. This can be useful for hiding repetitive top-level account names:

$ hledger -f examples/sample.journal bal expenses --drop 1
                  $1  food
                  $1  supplies
--------------------
                  $2  

Showing declared accounts

With --declared, accounts which have been declared with an account directive will be included in the balance report, even if they have no transactions. (Since they will have a zero balance, you will also need -E/--empty to see them.)

More precisely, leaf declared accounts (with no subaccounts) will be included, since those are usually the more useful in reports.

The idea of this is to be able to see a useful "complete" balance report, even when you don't have transactions in all of your declared accounts yet.

Sorting by amount

With -S/--sort-amount, accounts with the largest (most positive) balances are shown first. Eg: hledger bal expenses -MAS shows your biggest averaged monthly expenses first. When more than one commodity is present, they will be sorted by the alphabetically earliest commodity first, and then by subsequent commodities (if an amount is missing a commodity, it is treated as 0).

Revenues and liability balances are typically negative, however, so -S shows these in reverse order. To work around this, you can add --invert to flip the signs. (Or, use one of the higher-level reports, which flip the sign automatically. Eg: hledger incomestatement -MAS).

Percentages

With -%/--percent, balance reports show each account's value expressed as a percentage of the (column) total.

Note it is not useful to calculate percentages if the amounts in a column have mixed signs. In this case, make a separate report for each sign, eg:

$ hledger bal -% amt:`>0`
$ hledger bal -% amt:`<0`

Similarly, if the amounts in a column have mixed commodities, convert them to one commodity with -B, -V, -X or --value, or make a separate report for each commodity:

$ hledger bal -% cur:\\$
$ hledger bal -% cur:€

Multi-period balance report

With a report interval (set by the -D/--daily, -W/--weekly, -M/--monthly, -Q/--quarterly, -Y/--yearly, or -p/--period flag), balance shows a tabular report, with columns representing successive time periods (and a title):

$ hledger -f examples/sample.journal bal --quarterly income expenses -E
Balance changes in 2008:

                   ||  2008q1  2008q2  2008q3  2008q4 
===================++=================================
 expenses:food     ||       0      $1       0       0 
 expenses:supplies ||       0      $1       0       0 
 income:gifts      ||       0     $-1       0       0 
 income:salary     ||     $-1       0       0       0 
-------------------++---------------------------------
                   ||     $-1      $1       0       0 

Notes:

  • The report's start/end dates will be expanded, if necessary, to fully encompass the displayed subperiods (so that the first and last subperiods have the same duration as the others).
  • Leading and trailing periods (columns) containing all zeroes are not shown, unless -E/--empty is used.
  • Accounts (rows) containing all zeroes are not shown, unless -E/--empty is used.
  • Amounts with many commodities are shown in abbreviated form, unless --no-elide is used.
  • Average and/or total columns can be added with the -A/--average and -T/--row-total flags.
  • The --transpose flag can be used to exchange rows and columns.
  • The --pivot FIELD option causes a different transaction field to be used as "account name". See PIVOTING.
  • The --summary-only flag (--summary also works) hides all but the Total and Average columns (those should be enabled with --row-total and -A/--average).

Multi-period reports with many periods can be too wide for easy viewing in the terminal. Here are some ways to handle that:

  • Hide the totals row with -N/--no-total
  • Filter to a single currency with cur:
  • Convert to a single currency with -V [--infer-market-price]
  • Use a more compact layout like --layout=bare
  • Maximize the terminal window
  • Reduce the terminal's font size
  • View with a pager like less, eg: hledger bal -D --color=yes | less -RS
  • Output as CSV and use a CSV viewer like visidata (hledger bal -D -O csv | vd -f csv), Emacs' csv-mode (M-x csv-mode, C-c C-a), or a spreadsheet (hledger bal -D -o a.csv && open a.csv)
  • Output as HTML and view with a browser: hledger bal -D -o a.html && open a.html

Balance change, end balance

It's important to be clear on the meaning of the numbers shown in balance reports. Here is some terminology we use:

A balance change is the net amount added to, or removed from, an account during some period.

An end balance is the amount accumulated in an account as of some date (and some time, but hledger doesn't store that; assume end of day in your timezone). It is the sum of previous balance changes.

We call it a historical end balance if it includes all balance changes since the account was created. For a real world account, this means it will match the "historical record", eg the balances reported in your bank statements or bank web UI. (If they are correct!)

In general, balance changes are what you want to see when reviewing revenues and expenses, and historical end balances are what you want to see when reviewing or reconciling asset, liability and equity accounts.

balance shows balance changes by default. To see accurate historical end balances:

  1. Initialise account starting balances with an "opening balances" transaction (a transfer from equity to the account), unless the journal covers the account's full lifetime.

  2. Include all of of the account's prior postings in the report, by not specifying a report start date, or by using the -H/--historical flag. (-H causes report start date to be ignored when summing postings.)

Balance report types

The balance command is quite flexible; here is the full detail on how to control what it reports. If the following seems complicated, don't worry - this is for advanced reporting, and it does take time and experimentation to get familiar with all the report modes.

There are three important option groups:

hledger balance [CALCULATIONTYPE] [ACCUMULATIONTYPE] [VALUATIONTYPE] ...

Calculation type

The basic calculation to perform for each table cell. It is one of:

  • --sum : sum the posting amounts (default)
  • --budget : sum the amounts, but also show the budget goal amount (for each account/period)
  • --valuechange : show the change in period-end historical balance values (caused by deposits, withdrawals, and/or market price fluctuations)
  • --gain : show the unrealised capital gain/loss, (the current valued balance minus each amount's original cost)
  • --count : show the count of postings
Accumulation type

How amounts should accumulate across a report's subperiods/columns. Another way to say it: which time period's postings should contribute to each cell's calculation. It is one of:

  • --change : calculate with postings from column start to column end, ie "just this column". Typically used to see revenues/expenses. (default for balance, cashflow, incomestatement)

  • --cumulative : calculate with postings from report start to column end, ie "previous columns plus this column". Typically used to show changes accumulated since the report's start date. Not often used.

  • --historical/-H : calculate with postings from journal start to column end, ie "all postings from before report start date until this column's end". Typically used to see historical end balances of assets/liabilities/equity. (default for balancesheet, balancesheetequity)

Valuation type

Which kind of value or cost conversion should be applied, if any, before displaying the report. It is one of:

  • no valuation type : don't convert to cost or value (default)
  • --value=cost[,COMM] : convert amounts to cost (then optionally to some other commodity)
  • --value=then[,COMM] : convert amounts to market value on transaction dates
  • --value=end[,COMM] : convert amounts to market value on period end date(s)
    (default with --valuechange, --gain)
  • --value=now[,COMM] : convert amounts to market value on today's date
  • --value=YYYY-MM-DD[,COMM] : convert amounts to market value on another date

or one of the equivalent simpler flags:

  • -B/--cost : like --value=cost (though, note --cost and --value are independent options which can both be used at once)
  • -V/--market : like --value=end
  • -X COMM/--exchange COMM : like --value=end,COMM

See Cost reporting and Value reporting for more about these.

Combining balance report types

Most combinations of these options should produce reasonable reports, but if you find any that seem wrong or misleading, let us know. The following restrictions are applied:

  • --valuechange implies --value=end
  • --valuechange makes --change the default when used with the balancesheet/balancesheetequity commands
  • --cumulative or --historical disables --row-total/-T

For reference, here is what the combinations of accumulation and valuation show:

Valuation:>
Accumulation:v
no valuation--value= then--value= end--value= YYYY-MM-DD /now
--changechange in periodsum of posting-date market values in periodperiod-end value of change in periodDATE-value of change in period
--cumulativechange from report start to period endsum of posting-date market values from report start to period endperiod-end value of change from report start to period endDATE-value of change from report start to period end
--historical /-Hchange from journal start to period end (historical end balance)sum of posting-date market values from journal start to period endperiod-end value of change from journal start to period endDATE-value of change from journal start to period end

Budget report

The --budget report type is like a regular balance report, but with two main differences:

  • Budget goals and performance percentages are also shown, in brackets
  • Accounts which don't have budget goals are hidden by default.

This is useful for comparing planned and actual income, expenses, time usage, etc.

Periodic transaction rules are used to define budget goals. For example, here's a periodic rule defining monthly goals for bus travel and food expenses:

;; Budget
~ monthly
  (expenses:bus)              $30
  (expenses:food)            $400

After recording some actual expenses,

;; Two months worth of expenses
2017-11-01
  income                   $-1950
  expenses:bus                $35
  expenses:food:groceries    $310
  expenses:food:dining        $42
  expenses:movies             $38
  assets:bank:checking

2017-12-01
  income                   $-2100
  expenses:bus                $53
  expenses:food:groceries    $380
  expenses:food:dining        $32
  expenses:gifts             $100
  assets:bank:checking

we can see a budget report like this:

$ hledger bal -M --budget
Budget performance in 2017-11-01..2017-12-31:

               ||                  Nov                   Dec 
===============++============================================
 <unbudgeted>  || $-425                 $-565                
 expenses      ||  $425 [ 99% of $430]   $565 [131% of $430] 
 expenses:bus  ||   $35 [117% of  $30]    $53 [177% of  $30] 
 expenses:food ||  $352 [ 88% of $400]   $412 [103% of $400] 
---------------++--------------------------------------------
               ||     0 [  0% of $430]      0 [  0% of $430] 

This is "goal-based budgeting"; you define goals for accounts and periods, often recurring, and hledger shows performance relative to the goals. This contrasts with "envelope budgeting", which is more detailed and strict - useful when cash is tight, but also quite a bit more work. https://plaintextaccounting.org/Budgeting has more on this topic.

Using the budget report

Historically this report has been confusing and fragile. hledger's version should be relatively robust and intuitive, but you may still find surprises. Here are more notes to help with learning and troubleshooting.

  • In the above example, expenses:bus and expenses:food are shown because they have budget goals during the report period.

  • Their parent expenses is also shown, with budget goals aggregated from the children.

  • The subaccounts expenses:food:groceries and expenses:food:dining are not shown since they have no budget goal of their own, but they contribute to expenses:food's actual amount.

  • Unbudgeted accounts expenses:movies and expenses:gifts are also not shown, but they contribute to expenses's actual amount.

  • The other unbudgeted accounts income and assets:bank:checking are grouped as <unbudgeted>.

  • --depth or depth: can be used to limit report depth in the usual way (but will not reveal unbudgeted subaccounts).

  • Amounts are always inclusive of subaccounts (even in -l/--list mode).

  • Numbers displayed in a --budget report will not always agree with the totals, because of hidden unbudgeted accounts; this is normal. -E/--empty can be used to reveal the hidden accounts.

  • In the periodic rules used for setting budget goals, unbalanced postings are convenient.

  • You can filter budget reports with the usual queries, eg to focus on particular accounts. It's common to restrict them to just expenses. (The <unbudgeted> account is occasionally hard to exclude; this is because of date surprises, discussed below.)

  • When you have multiple currencies, you may want to convert them to one (-X COMM --infer-market-prices) and/or show just one at a time (cur:COMM). If you do need to show multiple currencies at once, --layout bare can be helpful.

  • You can "roll over" amounts (actual and budgeted) to the next period with --cumulative.

See also: https://hledger.org/budgeting.html.

Budget date surprises

With small data, or when starting out, some of the generated budget goal transaction dates might fall outside the report periods. Eg with the following journal and report, the first period appears to have no expenses:food budget. (Also the <unbudgeted> account should be excluded by the expenses query, but isn't.):

~ monthly in 2020
  (expenses:food)  $500

2020-01-15
  expenses:food    $400
  assets:checking
$ hledger bal --budget expenses
Budget performance in 2020-01-15:

               ||         2020-01-15 
===============++====================
 <unbudgeted>  || $400               
 expenses:food ||    0 [ 0% of $500] 
---------------++--------------------
               || $400 [80% of $500] 

In this case, the budget goal transactions are generated on first days of of month (this can be seen with hledger print --forecast tag:generated expenses). Whereas the report period defaults to just the 15th day of january (this can be seen from the report table's column headings).

To fix this kind of thing, be more explicit about the report period (and/or the periodic rules' dates). In this case, adding -b 2020 does the trick.

Selecting budget goals

By default, the budget report uses all available periodic transaction rules to generate goals. This includes rules with a different report interval from your report. Eg if you have daily, weekly and monthly periodic rules, all of these will contribute to the goals in a monthly budget report.

You can select a subset of periodic rules by providing an argument to the --budget flag. --budget=DESCPAT will match all periodic rules whose description contains DESCPAT, a case-insensitive substring (not a regular expression or query). This means you can give your periodic rules descriptions (remember that two spaces are needed between period expression and description), and then select from multiple budgets defined in your journal.

Budgeting vs forecasting

--forecast and --budget both use the periodic transaction rules in the journal to generate temporary transactions for reporting purposes. However they are separate features - though you can use both at the same time if you want. Here are some differences between them:

--forecast--budget
is a general option; it enables forecasting with all reportsis a balance command option; it selects the balance report's budget mode
generates visible transactions which appear in reportsgenerates invisible transactions which produce goal amounts
generates forecast transactions from after the last regular transaction, to the end of the report period; or with an argument --forecast=PERIODEXPR generates them throughout the specified period, both optionally restricted by periods specified in the periodic transaction rulesgenerates budget goal transactions throughout the report period, optionally restricted by periods specified in the periodic transaction rules
uses all periodic rulesuses all periodic rules; or with an argument --budget=DESCPAT uses just the rules matched by DESCPAT

Balance report layout

The --layout option affects how balance reports show multi-commodity amounts and commodity symbols, which can improve readability. It can also normalise the data for easy consumption by other programs. It has four possible values:

  • --layout=wide[,WIDTH]: commodities are shown on a single line, optionally elided to WIDTH
  • --layout=tall: each commodity is shown on a separate line
  • --layout=bare: commodity symbols are in their own column, amounts are bare numbers
  • --layout=tidy: data is normalised to easily-consumed "tidy" form, with one row per data value

Here are the --layout modes supported by each output format Only CSV output supports all of them:

-txtcsvhtmljsonsql
wideYYY
tallYYY
bareYYY
tidyY

Examples:

Wide layout

With many commodities, reports can be very wide:

$ hledger -f examples/bcexample.hledger bal assets:us:etrade -3 -T -Y --layout=wide
Balance changes in 2012-01-01..2014-12-31:

                  ||                                          2012                                                     2013                                             2014                                                      Total 
==================++====================================================================================================================================================================================================================
 Assets:US:ETrade || 10.00 ITOT, 337.18 USD, 12.00 VEA, 106.00 VHT  70.00 GLD, 18.00 ITOT, -98.12 USD, 10.00 VEA, 18.00 VHT  -11.00 ITOT, 4881.44 USD, 14.00 VEA, 170.00 VHT  70.00 GLD, 17.00 ITOT, 5120.50 USD, 36.00 VEA, 294.00 VHT 
------------------++--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  || 10.00 ITOT, 337.18 USD, 12.00 VEA, 106.00 VHT  70.00 GLD, 18.00 ITOT, -98.12 USD, 10.00 VEA, 18.00 VHT  -11.00 ITOT, 4881.44 USD, 14.00 VEA, 170.00 VHT  70.00 GLD, 17.00 ITOT, 5120.50 USD, 36.00 VEA, 294.00 VHT 

A width limit reduces the width, but some commodities will be hidden:

$ hledger -f examples/bcexample.hledger bal assets:us:etrade -3 -T -Y --layout=wide,32
Balance changes in 2012-01-01..2014-12-31:

                  ||                             2012                             2013                   2014                            Total 
==================++===========================================================================================================================
 Assets:US:ETrade || 10.00 ITOT, 337.18 USD, 2 more..  70.00 GLD, 18.00 ITOT, 3 more..  -11.00 ITOT, 3 more..  70.00 GLD, 17.00 ITOT, 3 more.. 
------------------++---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  || 10.00 ITOT, 337.18 USD, 2 more..  70.00 GLD, 18.00 ITOT, 3 more..  -11.00 ITOT, 3 more..  70.00 GLD, 17.00 ITOT, 3 more.. 
Tall layout

Each commodity gets a new line (may be different in each column), and account names are repeated:

$ hledger -f examples/bcexample.hledger bal assets:us:etrade -3 -T -Y --layout=tall
Balance changes in 2012-01-01..2014-12-31:

                  ||       2012        2013         2014        Total 
==================++==================================================
 Assets:US:ETrade || 10.00 ITOT   70.00 GLD  -11.00 ITOT    70.00 GLD 
 Assets:US:ETrade || 337.18 USD  18.00 ITOT  4881.44 USD   17.00 ITOT 
 Assets:US:ETrade ||  12.00 VEA  -98.12 USD    14.00 VEA  5120.50 USD 
 Assets:US:ETrade || 106.00 VHT   10.00 VEA   170.00 VHT    36.00 VEA 
 Assets:US:ETrade ||              18.00 VHT                294.00 VHT 
------------------++--------------------------------------------------
                  || 10.00 ITOT   70.00 GLD  -11.00 ITOT    70.00 GLD 
                  || 337.18 USD  18.00 ITOT  4881.44 USD   17.00 ITOT 
                  ||  12.00 VEA  -98.12 USD    14.00 VEA  5120.50 USD 
                  || 106.00 VHT   10.00 VEA   170.00 VHT    36.00 VEA 
                  ||              18.00 VHT                294.00 VHT 
Bare layout

Commodity symbols are kept in one column, each commodity has its own row, amounts are bare numbers, account names are repeated:

$ hledger -f examples/bcexample.hledger bal assets:us:etrade -3 -T -Y --layout=bare
Balance changes in 2012-01-01..2014-12-31:

                  || Commodity    2012    2013     2014    Total 
==================++=============================================
 Assets:US:ETrade || GLD             0   70.00        0    70.00 
 Assets:US:ETrade || ITOT        10.00   18.00   -11.00    17.00 
 Assets:US:ETrade || USD        337.18  -98.12  4881.44  5120.50 
 Assets:US:ETrade || VEA         12.00   10.00    14.00    36.00 
 Assets:US:ETrade || VHT        106.00   18.00   170.00   294.00 
------------------++---------------------------------------------
                  || GLD             0   70.00        0    70.00 
                  || ITOT        10.00   18.00   -11.00    17.00 
                  || USD        337.18  -98.12  4881.44  5120.50 
                  || VEA         12.00   10.00    14.00    36.00 
                  || VHT        106.00   18.00   170.00   294.00 

Bare layout also affects CSV output, which is useful for producing data that is easier to consume, eg for making charts:

$ hledger -f examples/bcexample.hledger bal assets:us:etrade -3 -O csv --layout=bare
"account","commodity","balance"
"Assets:US:ETrade","GLD","70.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","ITOT","17.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","USD","5120.50"
"Assets:US:ETrade","VEA","36.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","VHT","294.00"
"Total:","GLD","70.00"
"Total:","ITOT","17.00"
"Total:","USD","5120.50"
"Total:","VEA","36.00"
"Total:","VHT","294.00"

Bare layout will sometimes display an extra row for the no-symbol commodity, because of zero amounts (hledger treats zeroes as commodity-less, usually). This can break hledger-bar confusingly (workaround: add a cur: query to exclude the no-symbol row).

Tidy layout

This produces normalised "tidy data" (see https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/tidyr/vignettes/tidy-data.html) where every variable has its own column and each row represents a single data point. This is the easiest kind of data for other software to consume:

$ hledger -f examples/bcexample.hledger bal assets:us:etrade -3 -Y -O csv --layout=tidy
"account","period","start_date","end_date","commodity","value"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2012","2012-01-01","2012-12-31","GLD","0"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2012","2012-01-01","2012-12-31","ITOT","10.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2012","2012-01-01","2012-12-31","USD","337.18"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2012","2012-01-01","2012-12-31","VEA","12.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2012","2012-01-01","2012-12-31","VHT","106.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2013","2013-01-01","2013-12-31","GLD","70.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2013","2013-01-01","2013-12-31","ITOT","18.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2013","2013-01-01","2013-12-31","USD","-98.12"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2013","2013-01-01","2013-12-31","VEA","10.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2013","2013-01-01","2013-12-31","VHT","18.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2014","2014-01-01","2014-12-31","GLD","0"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2014","2014-01-01","2014-12-31","ITOT","-11.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2014","2014-01-01","2014-12-31","USD","4881.44"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2014","2014-01-01","2014-12-31","VEA","14.00"
"Assets:US:ETrade","2014","2014-01-01","2014-12-31","VHT","170.00"

Some useful balance reports

Some frequently used balance options/reports are:

  • bal -M revenues expenses
    Show revenues/expenses in each month. Also available as the incomestatement command.

  • bal -M -H assets liabilities
    Show historical asset/liability balances at each month end. Also available as the balancesheet command.

  • bal -M -H assets liabilities equity
    Show historical asset/liability/equity balances at each month end. Also available as the balancesheetequity command.

  • bal -M assets not:receivable
    Show changes to liquid assets in each month. Also available as the cashflow command.

Also:

  • bal -M expenses -2 -SA
    Show monthly expenses summarised to depth 2 and sorted by average amount.

  • bal -M --budget expenses
    Show monthly expenses and budget goals.

  • bal -M --valuechange investments
    Show monthly change in market value of investment assets.

  • bal investments --valuechange -D date:lastweek amt:'>1000' -STA [--invert]
    Show top gainers [or losers] last week

roi

Shows the time-weighted (TWR) and money-weighted (IRR) rate of return on your investments.

Flags:
     --cashflow                 show all amounts that were used to compute
                                returns
     --investment=QUERY         query to select your investment transactions
     --profit-loss=QUERY --pnl  query to select profit-and-loss or
                                appreciation/valuation transactions

At a minimum, you need to supply a query (which could be just an account name) to select your investment(s) with --inv, and another query to identify your profit and loss transactions with --pnl.

If you do not record changes in the value of your investment manually, or do not require computation of time-weighted return (TWR), --pnl could be an empty query (--pnl "" or --pnl STR where STR does not match any of your accounts).

This command will compute and display the internalized rate of return (IRR, also known as money-weighted rate of return) and time-weighted rate of return (TWR) for your investments for the time period requested. IRR is always annualized due to the way it is computed, but TWR is reported both as a rate over the chosen reporting period and as an annual rate.

Price directives will be taken into account if you supply appropriate --cost or --value flags (see VALUATION).

Note, in some cases this report can fail, for these reasons:

  • Error (NotBracketed): No solution for Internal Rate of Return (IRR). Possible causes: IRR is huge (>1000000%), balance of investment becomes negative at some point in time.
  • Error (SearchFailed): Failed to find solution for Internal Rate of Return (IRR). Either search does not converge to a solution, or converges too slowly.

Examples:

Spaces and special characters in --inv and --pnl

Note that --inv and --pnl's argument is a query, and queries could have several space-separated terms (see QUERIES).

To indicate that all search terms form single command-line argument, you will need to put them in quotes (see Special characters):

$ hledger roi --inv 'term1 term2 term3 ...'

If any query terms contain spaces themselves, you will need an extra level of nested quoting, eg:

$ hledger roi --inv="'Assets:Test 1'" --pnl="'Equity:Unrealized Profit and Loss'"

Semantics of --inv and --pnl

Query supplied to --inv has to match all transactions that are related to your investment. Transactions not matching --inv will be ignored.

In these transactions, ROI will conside postings that match --inv to be "investment postings" and other postings (not matching --inv) will be sorted into two categories: "cash flow" and "profit and loss", as ROI needs to know which part of the investment value is your contributions and which is due to the return on investment.

  • "Cash flow" is depositing or withdrawing money, buying or selling assets, or otherwise converting between your investment commodity and any other commodity. Example:

    2019-01-01 Investing in Snake Oil
      assets:cash          -$100
      investment:snake oil
    
    2020-01-01 Selling my Snake Oil
      assets:cash           $10
      investment:snake oil  = 0
    
  • "Profit and loss" is change in the value of your investment:

    2019-06-01 Snake Oil falls in value
      investment:snake oil  = $57
      equity:unrealized profit or loss
    

All non-investment postings are assumed to be "cash flow", unless they match --pnl query. Changes in value of your investment due to "profit and loss" postings will be considered as part of your investment return.

Example: if you use --inv snake --pnl equity:unrealized, then postings in the example below would be classifed as:

2019-01-01 Snake Oil #1
  assets:cash          -$100   ; cash flow posting
  investment:snake oil         ; investment posting

2019-03-01 Snake Oil #2
  equity:unrealized pnl  -$100 ; profit and loss posting
  snake oil                    ; investment posting

2019-07-01 Snake Oil #3
  equity:unrealized pnl        ; profit and loss posting
  cash          -$100          ; cash flow posting
  snake oil     $50            ; investment posting

IRR and TWR explained

"ROI" stands for "return on investment". Traditionally this was computed as a difference between current value of investment and its initial value, expressed in percentage of the initial value.

However, this approach is only practical in simple cases, where investments receives no in-flows or out-flows of money, and where rate of growth is fixed over time. For more complex scenarios you need different ways to compute rate of return, and this command implements two of them: IRR and TWR.

Internal rate of return, or "IRR" (also called "money-weighted rate of return") takes into account effects of in-flows and out-flows, and the time between them. Investment at a particular fixed interest rate is going to give you more interest than the same amount invested at the same interest rate, but made later in time. If you are withdrawing from your investment, your future gains would be smaller (in absolute numbers), and will be a smaller percentage of your initial investment, so your IRR will be smaller. And if you are adding to your investment, you will receive bigger absolute gains, which will be a bigger percentage of your initial investment, so your IRR will be larger.

As mentioned before, in-flows and out-flows would be any cash that you personally put in or withdraw, and for the "roi" command, these are the postings that match the query in the--inv argument and NOT match the query in the--pnl argument.

If you manually record changes in the value of your investment as transactions that balance them against "profit and loss" (or "unrealized gains") account or use price directives, then in order for IRR to compute the precise effect of your in-flows and out-flows on the rate of return, you will need to record the value of your investement on or close to the days when in- or out-flows occur.

In technical terms, IRR uses the same approach as computation of net present value, and tries to find a discount rate that makes net present value of all the cash flows of your investment to add up to zero. This could be hard to wrap your head around, especially if you haven't done discounted cash flow analysis before. Implementation of IRR in hledger should produce results that match the =XIRR formula in Excel.

Second way to compute rate of return that roi command implements is called "time-weighted rate of return" or "TWR". Like IRR, it will account for the effect of your in-flows and out-flows, but unlike IRR it will try to compute the true rate of return of the underlying asset, compensating for the effect that deposits and withdrawas have on the apparent rate of growth of your investment.

TWR represents your investment as an imaginary "unit fund" where in-flows/ out-flows lead to buying or selling "units" of your investment and changes in its value change the value of "investment unit". Change in "unit price" over the reporting period gives you rate of return of your investment, and make TWR less sensitive than IRR to the effects of cash in-flows and out-flows.

References:

Chart commands

activity

Show an ascii barchart of posting counts per interval.

Flags:
no command-specific flags

The activity command displays an ascii histogram showing transaction counts by day, week, month or other reporting interval (by day is the default). With query arguments, it counts only matched transactions.

Examples:

$ hledger activity --quarterly
2008-01-01 **
2008-04-01 *******
2008-07-01 
2008-10-01 **

Data generation commands

close

(equity)

close generates several kinds of "closing" and/or "opening" transactions, useful in certain situations, including migrating balances to a new journal file, retaining earnings into equity, consolidating balances, or viewing lots. Like print, it prints valid journal entries. You can append or copy these to your journal file(s) when you are happy with how they look.

Flags:
     --migrate[=NEW]        show closing and opening transactions, for Asset
                            and Liability accounts by default, tagged for easy
                            matching. The tag's default value can be overridden
                            by providing NEW.
     --close[=NEW]          (default) show a closing transaction
     --open[=NEW]           show an opening transaction
     --assign[=NEW]         show opening balance assignments
     --assert[=NEW]         show closing balance assertions
     --retain[=NEW]         show a retain earnings transaction, for Revenue
                            and Expense accounts by default
  -x --explicit             show all amounts explicitly
     --show-costs           show amounts with different costs separately
     --interleaved          show source and destination postings together
     --assertion-type=TYPE  =, ==, =* or ==*
     --close-desc=DESC      set closing transaction's description
     --close-acct=ACCT      set closing transaction's destination account
     --open-desc=DESC       set opening transaction's description
     --open-acct=ACCT       set opening transaction's source account
     --round=TYPE           how much rounding or padding should be done when
                            displaying amounts ?
                            none - show original decimal digits,
                                   as in journal
                            soft - just add or remove decimal zeros
                                   to match precision (default)
                            hard - round posting amounts to precision
                                   (can unbalance transactions)
                            all  - also round cost amounts to precision
                                   (can unbalance transactions)

close currently has six modes, selected by a single mode flag:

close --migrate

This is the most common mode. It prints a "closing balances" transaction that zeroes out all asset and liability balances (by default), and an opposite "opening balances" transaction that restores them again. The balancing account will be equity:opening/closing balances (or another specified by --close-acct or --open-acct).

This is useful when migrating balances to a new journal file at the start of a new year. Essentially, you run hledger close --migrate=NEWYEAR -e NEWYEAR and then copy the closing transaction to the end of the old file and the opening transaction to the start of the new file. The opening transaction sets correct starting balances in the new file when it is used alone, and the closing transaction keeps balances correct when you use both old and new files together, by cancelling out the following opening transaction and preventing buildup of duplicated opening balances. Think of the closing/opening pair as "moving the balances into the next file".

You can close a different set of accounts by providing a query. Eg if you want to include equity, you can add assets liabilities equity or type:ALE arguments. (The balancing account is always excluded.) Revenues and expenses usually are not migrated to a new file directly; see --retain below.

The generated transactions will have a start: tag, with its value set to --migrate's NEW argument if any, for easier matching or exclusion. When NEW is not specified, it will be inferred if possible by incrementing a number (eg a year number) within the default journal's main file name. The other modes behave similarly.

close --close

This prints just the closing balances transaction of --migrate. It is the default behaviour if you specify no mode flag. Using the customisation options below, you can move balances from any set of accounts to a different account.

close --open

This prints just the opening balances transaction of --migrate. It is similar to Ledger's equity command.

close --assert

This prints a "closing balances" transaction (with balances: tag), that just declares balance assertions for the current balances without changing them. It could be useful as documention and to guard against changes.

close --assign

This prints an "opening balances" transaction that restores the account balances using balance assignments. Balance assignments work regardless of any previous balance, so a preceding closing balances transaction is not needed.

However, omitting the closing balances transaction would unbalance equity. This is relatively harmless for personal reports, but it disturbs the accounting equation, removing a source of error detection. So --migrate is generally the best way to set to set balances in new files, for now.

close --retain

This is like --close with different defaults: it prints a "retain earnings" transaction (with retain: tag), that transfers revenue and expense balances to equity:retained earnings.

This is a different kind of closing, called "retaining earnings" or "closing the books"; it is traditionally performed by businesses at the end of each accounting period, to consolidate revenues and expenses into the main equity balance. ("Revenues" and "expenses" are actually equity by another name, kept separate temporarily for reporting purposes.)

In personal accounting you generally don't need to do this, unless you want the balancesheetequity report to show a zero total, demonstrating that the accounting equation (A-L=E) is satisfied.

close customisation

In all modes, the following things can be overridden:

  • the accounts to be closed/opened, with account query arguments
  • the balancing account, with --close-acct=ACCT and/or --open-acct=ACCT
  • the transaction descriptions, with --close-desc=DESC and --open-desc=DESC
  • the transaction's tag value, with a --MODE=NEW option argument
  • the closing/opening dates, with -e OPENDATE

By default, the closing date is yesterday, or the journal's end date, whichever is later; and the opening date is always one day after the closing date. You can change these by specifying a report end date; the closing date will be the last day of the report period. Eg -e 2024 means "close on 2023-12-31, open on 2024-01-01".

With --x/--explicit, the balancing amount will be shown explicitly, and if it involves multiple commodities, a separate posting will be generated for each of them (similar to print -x).

With --interleaved, each individual transfer is shown with source and destination postings next to each other (perhaps useful for troubleshooting).

With --show-costs, balances' costs are also shown, with different costs kept separate. This may generate very large journal entries, if you have many currency conversions or investment transactions. close --show-costs is currently the best way to view investment lots with hledger. (To move or dispose of lots, see the more capable hledger-move script.)

close and balance assertions

close adds balance assertions verifying that the accounts have been reset to zero in a closing transaction or restored to their previous balances in an opening transaction. These provide useful error checking, but you can ignore them temporarily with -I, or remove them if you prefer.

Single-commodity, subaccount-exclusive balance assertions (=) are generated by default. This can be changed with --assertion-type='==*' (eg).

When running close you should probably avoid using -C, -R, status: (filtering by status or realness) or --auto (generating postings), since the generated balance assertions would then require these.

Transactions with multiple dates (eg posting dates) spanning the file boundary also can disrupt the balance assertions:

2023-12-30 a purchase made in december, cleared in january
    expenses:food          5
    assets:bank:checking  -5  ; date: 2023-01-02

To solve this you can transfer the money to and from a temporary account, splitting the multi-day transaction into two single-day transactions:

; in 2022.journal:
2022-12-30 a purchase made in december, cleared in january
    expenses:food          5
    equity:pending        -5

; in 2023.journal:
2023-01-02 last year's transaction cleared
    equity:pending         5 = 0
    assets:bank:checking  -5

close examples

Retain earnings

Record 2022's revenues/expenses as retained earnings on 2022-12-31, appending the generated transaction to the journal:

$ hledger close --retain -f 2022.journal -p 2022 >> 2022.journal

After this, to see 2022's revenues and expenses you must exclude the retain earnings transaction:

$ hledger -f 2022.journal is not:desc:'retain earnings'
Migrate balances to a new file

Close assets/liabilities on 2022-12-31 and re-open them on 2023-01-01:

$ hledger close --migrate -f 2022.journal -p 2022
# copy/paste the closing transaction to the end of 2022.journal
# copy/paste the opening transaction to the start of 2023.journal

After this, to see 2022's end-of-year balances you must exclude the closing balances transaction:

$ hledger -f 2022.journal bs not:desc:'closing balances'

For more flexibility, it helps to tag closing and opening transactions with eg start:NEWYEAR, then you can ensure correct balances by excluding all opening/closing transactions except the first, like so:

$ hledger bs -Y -f 2021.j -f 2022.j -f 2023.j expr:'tag:start=2021 or not tag:start'
$ hledger bs -Y -f 2021.j -f 2022.j           expr:'tag:start=2021 or not tag:start'
$ hledger bs -Y -f 2022.j -f 2023.j           expr:'tag:start=2022 or not tag:start'
$ hledger bs -Y -f 2021.j                     expr:'tag:start=2021 or not tag:start'
$ hledger bs -Y -f 2022.j                     expr:'tag:start=2022 or not tag:start'
$ hledger bs -Y -f 2023.j                     # unclosed file, no query needed
More detailed close examples

See examples/multi-year.

rewrite

Print all transactions, rewriting the postings of matched transactions. For now the only rewrite available is adding new postings, like print --auto.

Flags:
     --add-posting='ACCT  AMTEXPR'  add a posting to ACCT, which may be
                                    parenthesised. AMTEXPR is either a literal
                                    amount, or *N which means the transaction's
                                    first matched amount multiplied by N (a
                                    decimal number). Two spaces separate ACCT
                                    and AMTEXPR.
     --diff                         generate diff suitable as an input for
                                    patch tool

This is a start at a generic rewriter of transaction entries. It reads the default journal and prints the transactions, like print, but adds one or more specified postings to any transactions matching QUERY. The posting amounts can be fixed, or a multiplier of the existing transaction's first posting amount.

Examples:

$ hledger-rewrite.hs ^income --add-posting '(liabilities:tax)  *.33  ; income tax' --add-posting '(reserve:gifts)  $100'
$ hledger-rewrite.hs expenses:gifts --add-posting '(reserve:gifts)  *-1"'
$ hledger-rewrite.hs -f rewrites.hledger

rewrites.hledger may consist of entries like:

= ^income amt:<0 date:2017
  (liabilities:tax)  *0.33  ; tax on income
  (reserve:grocery)  *0.25  ; reserve 25% for grocery
  (reserve:)  *0.25  ; reserve 25% for grocery

Note the single quotes to protect the dollar sign from bash, and the two spaces between account and amount.

More:

$ hledger rewrite -- [QUERY]        --add-posting "ACCT  AMTEXPR" ...
$ hledger rewrite -- ^income        --add-posting '(liabilities:tax)  *.33'
$ hledger rewrite -- expenses:gifts --add-posting '(budget:gifts)  *-1"'
$ hledger rewrite -- ^income        --add-posting '(budget:foreign currency)  *0.25 JPY; diversify'

Argument for --add-posting option is a usual posting of transaction with an exception for amount specification. More precisely, you can use '*' (star symbol) before the amount to indicate that that this is a factor for an amount of original matched posting. If the amount includes a commodity name, the new posting amount will be in the new commodity; otherwise, it will be in the matched posting amount's commodity.

Re-write rules in a file

During the run this tool will execute so called "Automated Transactions" found in any journal it process. I.e instead of specifying this operations in command line you can put them in a journal file.

$ rewrite-rules.journal

Make contents look like this:

= ^income
    (liabilities:tax)  *.33

= expenses:gifts
    budget:gifts  *-1
    assets:budget  *1

Note that '=' (equality symbol) that is used instead of date in transactions you usually write. It indicates the query by which you want to match the posting to add new ones.

$ hledger rewrite -- -f input.journal -f rewrite-rules.journal > rewritten-tidy-output.journal

This is something similar to the commands pipeline:

$ hledger rewrite -- -f input.journal '^income' --add-posting '(liabilities:tax)  *.33' \
  | hledger rewrite -- -f - expenses:gifts      --add-posting 'budget:gifts  *-1'       \
                                                --add-posting 'assets:budget  *1'       \
  > rewritten-tidy-output.journal

It is important to understand that relative order of such entries in journal is important. You can re-use result of previously added postings.

Diff output format

To use this tool for batch modification of your journal files you may find useful output in form of unified diff.

$ hledger rewrite -- --diff -f examples/sample.journal '^income' --add-posting '(liabilities:tax)  *.33'

Output might look like:

--- /tmp/examples/sample.journal
+++ /tmp/examples/sample.journal
@@ -18,3 +18,4 @@
 2008/01/01 income
-    assets:bank:checking  $1
+    assets:bank:checking            $1
     income:salary
+    (liabilities:tax)                0
@@ -22,3 +23,4 @@
 2008/06/01 gift
-    assets:bank:checking  $1
+    assets:bank:checking            $1
     income:gifts
+    (liabilities:tax)                0

If you'll pass this through patch tool you'll get transactions containing the posting that matches your query be updated. Note that multiple files might be update according to list of input files specified via --file options and include directives inside of these files.

Be careful. Whole transaction being re-formatted in a style of output from hledger print.

See also:

https://github.com/simonmichael/hledger/issues/99

rewrite vs. print --auto

This command predates print --auto, and currently does much the same thing, but with these differences:

  • with multiple files, rewrite lets rules in any file affect all other files. print --auto uses standard directive scoping; rules affect only child files.

  • rewrite's query limits which transactions can be rewritten; all are printed. print --auto's query limits which transactions are printed.

  • rewrite applies rules specified on command line or in the journal. print --auto applies rules specified in the journal.

Maintenance commands

check

Check for various kinds of errors in your data.

Flags:
no command-specific flags

hledger provides a number of built-in correctness checks to help validate your data and prevent errors. Some are run automatically, some when you enable --strict mode; or you can run any of them on demand by providing them as arguments to the check command. check produces no output and a zero exit code if all is well. Eg:

hledger check                      # run basic checks
hledger check -s                   # run basic and strict checks
hledger check ordereddates payees  # run basic checks and two others

If you are an Emacs user, you can also configure flycheck-hledger to run these checks, providing instant feedback as you edit the journal.

Here are the checks currently available. Generally, they are performed in the order they are shown here (and only the first failure is reported).

Basic checks

These important checks are performed by default, by almost all hledger commands:

  • parseable - data files are in a supported format, with no syntax errors and no invalid include directives. This ensures that all files exist and are readable.

  • autobalanced - all transactions are balanced, after inferring missing amounts and conversion costs where possible, and then converting to cost. This ensures that each individual transaction is well formed.

  • assertions - all balance assertions in the journal are passing. Balance assertions are like canaries in your journal, they catch many problems. They can get in the way sometimes; you can disable them temporarily with -I/--ignore-assertions (unless overridden with -s/--strict or hledger check assertions).

Strict checks

These additional checks are performed by any command when the -s/--strict flag is used (strict mode). Strict mode always enables the balance assertions check, also. These provide extra error-catching power when you are serious about keeping your data clean and free of typos:

  • balanced - like autobalanced, but in conversion transactions, costs must be written explicitly. This ensures some redundancy in the entry, which helps prevent typos.

  • commodities - all commodity symbols used must be declared. This guards against mistyping or omitting commodity symbols.

  • accounts - all account names used must be declared. This prevents the use of mis-spelled or outdated account names.

Other checks

These other checks are not wanted by everyone, but can be run using the check command:

  • ordereddates - within each file, transactions are ordered by date. This is a simple and effective error catcher, and you should use it. Alas! not everyone wants it. If you do, use hledger check -s ordereddates. When enabled, this check is performed early, before balance assertions (because copy-pasted dates are often the root cause of balance assertion failures).

  • payees - all payees used by transactions must be declared. This will force you to always use known/declared payee names. For most people this is a bit too restrictive.

  • tags - all tags used by transactions must be declared. This prevents mistyped tag names.

  • recentassertions - all accounts with balance assertions must have a balance assertion within the last 7 days before their latest posting. This encourages you to add balance assertions fairly regularly for your active asset/liability accounts, which in turn should encourage you to check and reconcile with their real world balances fairly regularly. close --assert can be helpful. (The older balance assertions become redundant; you can remove them periodically, or leave them in place, perhaps commented, as documentation.)

  • uniqueleafnames - no two accounts may have the same leaf name. The leaf name is the last colon-separated part of an account name, eg checking in assets:bank:checking. This encourages you to keep those unique, effectively giving each account a short name which is easier to remember and to type in reporting commands.

Custom checks

You can build your own custom checks with add-on command scripts. See also Cookbook > Scripting. Here are some examples from hledger/bin/:

  • hledger-check-tagfiles - all tag values containing / (a forward slash) exist as file paths

  • hledger-check-fancyassertions - more complex balance assertions are passing

diff

Compares a particular account's transactions in two input files. It shows any transactions to this account which are in one file but not in the other.

Flags:
no command-specific flags

More precisely: for each posting affecting this account in either file, this command looks for a corresponding posting in the other file which posts the same amount to the same account (ignoring date, description, etc).

Since it compares postings, not transactions, this also works when multiple bank transactions have been combined into a single journal entry.

This command is useful eg if you have downloaded an account's transactions from your bank (eg as CSV data): when hledger and your bank disagree about the account balance, you can compare the bank data with your journal to find out the cause.

Examples:

$ hledger diff -f $LEDGER_FILE -f bank.csv assets:bank:giro 
These transactions are in the first file only:

2014/01/01 Opening Balances
    assets:bank:giro              EUR ...
    ...
    equity:opening balances       EUR -...

These transactions are in the second file only:

test

Run built-in unit tests.

Flags:
no command-specific flags

This command runs the unit tests built in to hledger and hledger-lib, printing the results on stdout. If any test fails, the exit code will be non-zero.

This is mainly used by hledger developers, but you can also use it to sanity-check the installed hledger executable on your platform. All tests are expected to pass - if you ever see a failure, please report as a bug!

This command also accepts tasty test runner options, written after a -- (double hyphen). Eg to run only the tests in Hledger.Data.Amount, with ANSI colour codes disabled:

$ hledger test -- -pData.Amount --color=never

For help on these, see https://github.com/feuerbach/tasty#options (-- --help currently doesn't show them).

PART 5: COMMON TASKS

Here are some quick examples of how to do some basic tasks with hledger.

Getting help

Here's how to list commands and view options and command docs:

$ hledger                # show available commands
$ hledger --help         # show common options
$ hledger CMD --help     # show CMD's options, common options and CMD's documentation

You can also view your hledger version's manual in several formats by using the help command. Eg:

$ hledger help           # show the hledger manual with info, man or $PAGER (best available)
$ hledger help journal   # show the journal topic in the hledger manual
$ hledger help --help    # find out more about the help command

To view manuals and introductory docs on the web, visit https://hledger.org. Chat and mail list support and discussion archives can be found at https://hledger.org/support.

Constructing command lines

hledger has a flexible command line interface. We strive to keep it simple and ergonomic, but if you run into one of the sharp edges described in OPTIONS, here are some tips that might help:

  • command-specific options must go after the command (it's fine to put common options there too: hledger CMD OPTS ARGS)
  • running add-on executables directly simplifies command line parsing (hledger-ui OPTS ARGS)
  • enclose "problematic" args in single quotes
  • if needed, also add a backslash to hide regular expression metacharacters from the shell
  • to see how a misbehaving command line is being parsed, add --debug=2.

Starting a journal file

hledger looks for your accounting data in a journal file, $HOME/.hledger.journal by default:

$ hledger stats
The hledger journal file "/Users/simon/.hledger.journal" was not found.
Please create it first, eg with "hledger add" or a text editor.
Or, specify an existing journal file with -f or LEDGER_FILE.

You can override this by setting the LEDGER_FILE environment variable (see below). It's a good practice to keep this important file under version control, and to start a new file each year. So you could do something like this:

$ mkdir ~/finance
$ cd ~/finance
$ git init
Initialized empty Git repository in /Users/simon/finance/.git/
$ touch 2023.journal
$ echo "export LEDGER_FILE=$HOME/finance/2023.journal" >> ~/.profile
$ source ~/.profile
$ hledger stats
Main file                : /Users/simon/finance/2023.journal
Included files           : 
Transactions span        :  to  (0 days)
Last transaction         : none
Transactions             : 0 (0.0 per day)
Transactions last 30 days: 0 (0.0 per day)
Transactions last 7 days : 0 (0.0 per day)
Payees/descriptions      : 0
Accounts                 : 0 (depth 0)
Commodities              : 0 ()
Market prices            : 0 ()

Setting LEDGER_FILE

How to set LEDGER_FILE permanently depends on your setup:

On unix and mac, running these commands in the terminal will work for many people; adapt as needed:

$ echo 'export LEDGER_FILE=~/finance/2023.journal' >> ~/.profile
$ source ~/.profile

When correctly configured, in a new terminal window env | grep LEDGER_FILE will show your file, and so will hledger files.

On mac, this additional step might be helpful for GUI applications (like Emacs started from the dock): add an entry to ~/.MacOSX/environment.plist like

{
  "LEDGER_FILE" : "~/finance/2023.journal"
}

and then run killall Dock in a terminal window (or restart the machine).

On Windows, see https://www.java.com/en/download/help/path.html, or try running these commands in a powershell window (let us know if it persists across a reboot, and if you need to be an Administrator):

> CD
> MKDIR finance
> SETX LEDGER_FILE "C:\Users\USERNAME\finance\2023.journal"

Setting opening balances

Pick a starting date for which you can look up the balances of some real-world assets (bank accounts, wallet..) and liabilities (credit cards..).

To avoid a lot of data entry, you may want to start with just one or two accounts, like your checking account or cash wallet; and pick a recent starting date, like today or the start of the week. You can always come back later and add more accounts and older transactions, eg going back to january 1st.

Add an opening balances transaction to the journal, declaring the balances on this date. Here are two ways to do it:

  • The first way: open the journal in any text editor and save an entry like this:

    2023-01-01 * opening balances
        assets:bank:checking                $1000   = $1000
        assets:bank:savings                 $2000   = $2000
        assets:cash                          $100   = $100
        liabilities:creditcard               $-50   = $-50
        equity:opening/closing balances
    

    These are start-of-day balances, ie whatever was in the account at the end of the previous day.

    The * after the date is an optional status flag. Here it means "cleared & confirmed".

    The currency symbols are optional, but usually a good idea as you'll be dealing with multiple currencies sooner or later.

    The = amounts are optional balance assertions, providing extra error checking.

  • The second way: run hledger add and follow the prompts to record a similar transaction:

    $ hledger add
    Adding transactions to journal file /Users/simon/finance/2023.journal
    Any command line arguments will be used as defaults.
    Use tab key to complete, readline keys to edit, enter to accept defaults.
    An optional (CODE) may follow transaction dates.
    An optional ; COMMENT may follow descriptions or amounts.
    If you make a mistake, enter < at any prompt to go one step backward.
    To end a transaction, enter . when prompted.
    To quit, enter . at a date prompt or press control-d or control-c.
    Date [2023-02-07]: 2023-01-01
    Description: * opening balances
    Account 1: assets:bank:checking
    Amount  1: $1000
    Account 2: assets:bank:savings
    Amount  2 [$-1000]: $2000
    Account 3: assets:cash
    Amount  3 [$-3000]: $100
    Account 4: liabilities:creditcard
    Amount  4 [$-3100]: $-50
    Account 5: equity:opening/closing balances
    Amount  5 [$-3050]: 
    Account 6 (or . or enter to finish this transaction): .
    2023-01-01 * opening balances
        assets:bank:checking                      $1000
        assets:bank:savings                       $2000
        assets:cash                                $100
        liabilities:creditcard                     $-50
        equity:opening/closing balances          $-3050
    
    Save this transaction to the journal ? [y]: 
    Saved.
    Starting the next transaction (. or ctrl-D/ctrl-C to quit)
    Date [2023-01-01]: .
    

If you're using version control, this could be a good time to commit the journal. Eg:

$ git commit -m 'initial balances' 2023.journal

Recording transactions

As you spend or receive money, you can record these transactions using one of the methods above (text editor, hledger add) or by using the hledger-iadd or hledger-web add-ons, or by using the import command to convert CSV data downloaded from your bank.

Here are some simple transactions, see the hledger_journal(5) manual and hledger.org for more ideas:

2023/1/10 * gift received
  assets:cash   $20
  income:gifts

2023.1.12 * farmers market
  expenses:food    $13
  assets:cash

2023-01-15 paycheck
  income:salary
  assets:bank:checking    $1000

Reconciling

Periodically you should reconcile - compare your hledger-reported balances against external sources of truth, like bank statements or your bank's website - to be sure that your ledger accurately represents the real-world balances (and, that the real-world institutions have not made a mistake!). This gets easy and fast with (1) practice and (2) frequency. If you do it daily, it can take 2-10 minutes. If you let it pile up, expect it to take longer as you hunt down errors and discrepancies.

A typical workflow:

  1. Reconcile cash. Count what's in your wallet. Compare with what hledger reports (hledger bal cash). If they are different, try to remember the missing transaction, or look for the error in the already-recorded transactions. A register report can be helpful (hledger reg cash). If you can't find the error, add an adjustment transaction. Eg if you have $105 after the above, and can't explain the missing $2, it could be:

    2023-01-16 * adjust cash
        assets:cash    $-2 = $105
        expenses:misc
    
  2. Reconcile checking. Log in to your bank's website. Compare today's (cleared) balance with hledger's cleared balance (hledger bal checking -C). If they are different, track down the error or record the missing transaction(s) or add an adjustment transaction, similar to the above. Unlike the cash case, you can usually compare the transaction history and running balance from your bank with the one reported by hledger reg checking -C. This will be easier if you generally record transaction dates quite similar to your bank's clearing dates.

  3. Repeat for other asset/liability accounts.

Tip: instead of the register command, use hledger-ui to see a live-updating register while you edit the journal: hledger-ui --watch --register checking -C

After reconciling, it could be a good time to mark the reconciled transactions' status as "cleared and confirmed", if you want to track that, by adding the * marker. Eg in the paycheck transaction above, insert * between 2023-01-15 and paycheck

If you're using version control, this can be another good time to commit:

$ git commit -m 'txns' 2023.journal

Reporting

Here are some basic reports.

Show all transactions:

$ hledger print
2023-01-01 * opening balances
    assets:bank:checking                      $1000
    assets:bank:savings                       $2000
    assets:cash                                $100
    liabilities:creditcard                     $-50
    equity:opening/closing balances          $-3050

2023-01-10 * gift received
    assets:cash              $20
    income:gifts

2023-01-12 * farmers market
    expenses:food             $13
    assets:cash

2023-01-15 * paycheck
    income:salary
    assets:bank:checking           $1000

2023-01-16 * adjust cash
    assets:cash               $-2 = $105
    expenses:misc

Show account names, and their hierarchy:

$ hledger accounts --tree
assets
  bank
    checking
    savings
  cash
equity
  opening/closing balances
expenses
  food
  misc
income
  gifts
  salary
liabilities
  creditcard

Show all account totals:

$ hledger balance
               $4105  assets
               $4000    bank
               $2000      checking
               $2000      savings
                $105    cash
              $-3050  equity:opening/closing balances
                 $15  expenses
                 $13    food
                  $2    misc
              $-1020  income
                $-20    gifts
              $-1000    salary
                $-50  liabilities:creditcard
--------------------
                   0

Show only asset and liability balances, as a flat list, limited to depth 2:

$ hledger bal assets liabilities -2
               $4000  assets:bank
                $105  assets:cash
                $-50  liabilities:creditcard
--------------------
               $4055

Show the same thing without negative numbers, formatted as a simple balance sheet:

$ hledger bs -2
Balance Sheet 2023-01-16

                        || 2023-01-16 
========================++============
 Assets                 ||            
------------------------++------------
 assets:bank            ||      $4000 
 assets:cash            ||       $105 
------------------------++------------
                        ||      $4105 
========================++============
 Liabilities            ||            
------------------------++------------
 liabilities:creditcard ||        $50 
------------------------++------------
                        ||        $50 
========================++============
 Net:                   ||      $4055 

The final total is your "net worth" on the end date. (Or use bse for a full balance sheet with equity.)

Show income and expense totals, formatted as an income statement:

hledger is 
Income Statement 2023-01-01-2023-01-16

               || 2023-01-01-2023-01-16 
===============++=======================
 Revenues      ||                       
---------------++-----------------------
 income:gifts  ||                   $20 
 income:salary ||                 $1000 
---------------++-----------------------
               ||                 $1020 
===============++=======================
 Expenses      ||                       
---------------++-----------------------
 expenses:food ||                   $13 
 expenses:misc ||                    $2 
---------------++-----------------------
               ||                   $15 
===============++=======================
 Net:          ||                 $1005 

The final total is your net income during this period.

Show transactions affecting your wallet, with running total:

$ hledger register cash
2023-01-01 opening balances     assets:cash                   $100          $100
2023-01-10 gift received        assets:cash                    $20          $120
2023-01-12 farmers market       assets:cash                   $-13          $107
2023-01-16 adjust cash          assets:cash                    $-2          $105

Show weekly posting counts as a bar chart:

$ hledger activity -W
2019-12-30 *****
2023-01-06 ****
2023-01-13 ****

Migrating to a new file

At the end of the year, you may want to continue your journal in a new file, so that old transactions don't slow down or clutter your reports, and to help ensure the integrity of your accounting history. See the close command.

If using version control, don't forget to git add the new file.

BUGS

We welcome bug reports in the hledger issue tracker (shortcut: http://bugs.hledger.org), or on the #hledger chat or hledger mail list (https://hledger.org/support).

Some known issues and limitations:

The need to precede add-on command options with -- when invoked from hledger is awkward. (See Command options, Constructing command lines.)

A UTF-8-aware system locale must be configured to work with non-ascii data. (See Unicode characters, Troubleshooting.)

On Microsoft Windows, depending whether you are running in a CMD window or a Cygwin/MSYS/Mintty window and how you installed hledger, non-ascii characters and colours may not be supported, and the tab key may not be supported by hledger add. (Running in a WSL window should resolve these.)

When processing large data files, hledger uses more memory than Ledger.

Troubleshooting

Here are some common issues you might encounter when you run hledger, and how to resolve them (and remember also you can usually get quick Support):

PATH issues: I get an error like "No command 'hledger' found"
Depending how you installed hledger, the executables may not be in your shell's PATH. Eg on unix systems, stack installs hledger in ~/.local/bin and cabal installs it in ~/.cabal/bin. You may need to add one of these directories to your shell's PATH, and/or open a new terminal window.

LEDGER_FILE issues: I configured LEDGER_FILE but hledger is not using it

  • LEDGER_FILE should be a real environment variable, not just a shell variable. Eg on unix, the command env | grep LEDGER_FILE should show it. You may need to use export (see https://stackoverflow.com/a/7411509).
  • You may need to force your shell to see the new configuration. A simple way is to close your terminal window and open a new one.

LANG issues: I get errors like "Illegal byte sequence" or "Invalid or incomplete multibyte or wide character" or "commitAndReleaseBuffer: invalid argument (invalid character)"
Programs compiled with GHC (hledger, haskell build tools, etc.) need the system locale to be UTF-8-aware, or they will fail when they encounter non-ascii characters. To fix it, set the LANG environment variable to a locale which supports UTF-8 and which is installed on your system.

On unix, locale -a lists the installed locales. Look for one which mentions utf8, UTF-8 or similar. Some examples: C.UTF-8, en_US.utf-8, fr_FR.utf8. If necessary, use your system package manager to install one. Then select it by setting the LANG environment variable. Note, exact spelling and capitalisation of the locale name may be important: Here's one common way to configure this permanently for your shell:

$ echo "export LANG=en_US.utf8" >>~/.profile
# close and re-open terminal window

If you are using Nix (not NixOS) for GHC and Hledger, you might need to set the LOCALE_ARCHIVE variable:

$ echo "export LOCALE_ARCHIVE=${glibcLocales}/lib/locale/locale-archive" >>~/.profile
# close and re-open terminal window

COMPATIBILITY ISSUES: hledger gives an error with my Ledger file
Not all of Ledger's journal file syntax or feature set is supported. See hledger and Ledger for full details.