Tiller, Ledger, and Sorbet

Tiller + Ledger

Thirteen years ago I started tracking my finances using a tool named Ledger. Up until 2018 I hand-entered every penny into my ledger files, which absolutely had value but eventually I decided that I wanted to automate things as much as I could.

I happened upon Tiller which scrapes bank accounts and puts the data into a Google spreadsheet. Importantly, Tiller adds a unique ID to every transaction it sees, which means if I want to automate something I don't have to try to implement deduplication.

Back in 2018 the script I used was rough, but I've polished it over the years and, just the other day, published the guts as LedgerTillerExport.

The gem consumes a set of reconciliation rules and a Google spreadsheet ID and produces a set of ledger transactions. Rules are given a row from the spreadsheet and return the correct account name for that transaction. For example, I can create a rule like this:

rule = LedgerTillerExport::RegexpRule.new(
  match: /Kroger/i,
  account: 'Expenses:Food:Groceries',

This rule looks for /Kroger/ in a Tiller payee line and says that that is always the Expenses:Food:Groceries expense account, like this:

2020-05-21 * Kroger
   ; tiller_id: 5323ch323466234c3467
   Expenses:Groceries                  $150.00

I can create custom rules that do more complicated things than just a regular expression match. There's a rule in the readme that shows how I reconcile checks, for example.

Where does this tiller_id thing come in, you ask? LedgerTillerExport generates a list of known tiller_ids by querying ledger like this:

ledger --register-format='%(tag("tiller_id"))\n' reg expr 'has_tag(/tiller_id/)'

This extracts the value of the tiller_id tag for every transaction that has one applied. In Ruby we then split the value on commas because I have a bunch of transactions where I've collapsed multiple Tiller rows into one Ledger transaction by hand.


Ok, so, that's interesting, but I also want to talk about Sorbet.

I started working at Stripe almost a year ago and met the Sorbet type checker on my first day. Despite a few warts I've come to adore this way of working with types in Ruby. Both LedgerTillerExport and LedgerGen, my library for building ledger transactions, are built using Sorbet.

My favorite thing in Sorbet is T::Struct. This lets you define a typed record that you can then pass around to functions and serialize to json. For example, here's a struct from LedgerTillerExport:

class Row < T::Struct
  extend T::Sig

  const :txn_date, Date
  const :txn_id, String
  const :account, String
  const :amount, Float
  const :description, String

  sig {params(row: T::Hash[String, T.nilable(String)]).returns(Row)}
  def self.from_csv_row(row)
      txn_date: Date.strptime(T.must(row["Date"]), "%m/%d/%Y"),
      txn_id: T.must(row['Transaction ID']),
      account: T.must(row['Account']),
      amount: T.must(row["Amount"]).gsub('$', '').gsub(',', '').to_f,
      description: T.must(row['Description']).gsub(/\+? /, '').capitalize,

We create Rows from the Tiller spreadsheet's CSV rows. Every row consists of five fields, all defined as const which guarantees that nothing can change those fields once we've called new.

We can then pass a Row instance around in our program and lean on the static typechecker and runtime to ensure that we're using it correctly everywhere.

My only problem with T::Struct is that you can't subclass one due to limitations in the typechecker. If you want the prop/const behavior but you don't necessarily care about the other guarantees that Struct gives you you can either subclass T::InexactStruct or include a few modules:

class NotQuiteAStruct
  include T::Props
  include T::Props::Constructor

  prop :something, String
  const :something_else, String

NotQuiteAStruct.new(something: 'abc', something_else: 'def')

I use this in a couple places in LedgerTillerExport, namely for RegexpRule and Exporter to make them easily subclassable.

There are lots of other things to like about Sorbet. Method signatures, the typechecker is super fast, etc.

If you follow the rules Sorbet eliminates entire classes of tests that one would otherwise have to write to guarantee your program is correct.

Posted in: Software  

Tagged: Personal Finance Software