Automating transaction imports with Actual

16 August 2022

My fiancé, who is a CFP, recently encouraged me to finally set up a budget. I found Actual to be the most appropriate client for me; I love the nice design and the very responsive devteam. So far it’s a wonderful open-source project that I want to contribute to in the future.

The killer feature Actual is currently missing is inbuilt transaction import. Apparently this is in development through Plaid integration, but I can’t find a timeline on this, and in order for me to be able to stick with a budget I need to not have to manually type in a payee, date, and amount every time I buy something. Attempts to connect to my bank via OFX all failed, because apparently individual developers don’t use OFX anymore.

So I wrote it myself. My solution is not particularly elegant, but it does work for me.

Why Actual?

As I mentioned above, Actual is open-source and cross-platform with a very pretty interface and a responsive community. Critically, it also has a fairly complete API. The only other open-source solution I was able to find was Firefly III, which seems really nice and featureful, but I really don’t think I’m enough of a finance type to pick up double-entry bookkeeping — I’m not running a business or starting a portfolio or anything, I just want to know where my money is going.

I eschewed YNAB and its kin because I can’t understand paying $15/mo for something I have the technical expertise to set up myself for nothing more than server fees. I do like the zero-based system, though — it’s easy to understand and fits my use case. The author of Firefly III has posted a pretty good critique of zero-based systems. I’m not wise enough to dispute it. Maybe I’ll switch sometime in the future, but for now I believe I have my needs met.

My toolchain

I have my bank account configured to send me emails for each withdrawal or deposit.I have to imagine that most banks will let you do this. I use hydroxide and good old BeautifulSoup to scrape transaction data from these emails, which I dump to a JSON file.

Actual’s API is written in Node, and it wasn’t too hard to write a little script to auto-import JSON data from a file. I automated this with cron and hey, presto.

The scripts is responsible for pulling transactions out of my email. Here is my very simple transaction class, plus a conversion to Actual’s internal JSON format.

class Transaction:
    date: str
    payee: str
    amount: int

def convert_transaction(trans: Transaction) -> dict:
    return { "date":,
             "payee_name": trans.payee,
             "amount": trans.amount }

There are some bank-specific parts that aren’t worth showing — functions parse_withdrawal and parse_deposit that take an IMAP server connection plus an email’s IMAP index and return a Transaction. You’ll need to write these yourself.

def main():
    parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()

    parser.add_argument("-o", "--out", help="JSON file to write transactions to. If not specified, use stdout.")
    args = parser.parse_args()

    json_transactions = []
    with imaplib.IMAP4(port=1143) as conn:
        conn.login(username, bridge_password)
        resp, withdrawal_emails =, '(SUBJECT "PNC")')
        if resp == "OK":
            print(resp, withdrawal_emails)

            idxs = withdrawal_emails[0].split()
            for idx in idxs:
                transaction = parse_withdrawal(conn, idx)
        resp, deposit_emails =, '(SUBJECT "Deposit")')
        if resp == "OK":
            print(resp, deposit_emails)

            idxs = deposit_emails[0].split()
            for idx in idxs:
                transaction = parse_deposit(conn, idx)

    if args.out:
        with open(args.out, "w") as outfile:
            json.dump(json_transactions, outfile)

if __name__ == "__main__":

import-transactions.js, well, imports exported transactions into Actual. The main difficulty with writing this was figuring out how to call the internal API, since the external API is still in the midst of being moved over to a self-hosted architecture.

await actual.init({
  config: { dataDir: path.join(dirname, 'user-files') }

await actual.internal.send('load-budget', { id: 'budget-uuid' });
const accounts = await actual.getAccounts();
await actual.internal.send('api/accounts-get').then( accounts => {
  const acctId = accounts[0].id;
  actual.internal.send('transactions-import', {accountId: acctId, transactions: data} ).then( imported => {
    console.log(`Imported ${imported.length} transactions.`);
  }).then( nothing => actual.internal.send('close-budget') );

Finally, a little shell script that ties the workflow together.


filename="/root/transactions/$(date "+%s").json"

python -o $filename
node import-transactions.js $filename

I hope all this is helpful to someone. Happy hunting!