Expenditure Accountability

Owner/DeveloperSeptember 2019

How do you track expenses as a couple? How do keep each other on track to financial success without shared bank accounts or meticulous spreadsheets? And most importantly, how do you accomplish this without giving away the small details like how much your significant other spent on your Christmas gift? This application aimed to fix this through integration with Splitwise and input of additional financial data.


What's The Need?

The goal of this project was simple – to help my significant other and I better track our expenses. We wanted a way to keep each other on track with monthly expenditures outside of the common expenses of the household. We wanted a common, secure location where we could review our expenses and determine if we were on target for the month. Most importantly though, we wanted a way to track and display this without unintentionally sharing exact figures we were spending on things like gifts for one another. Neither of us were interested in off-the-shelf solutions like Mint. Furthermore, I wanted to ensure integration with our shared expenses tracking application, Splitwise. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to build something myself and test out a few new technologies along the way.

How's It Work?

Photo by Author

After registering and logging in through a secure portal (more on this later), first time users are prompted to provide permission to link their Splitwise account. Recall, this application leverages shared expenses which are tracked through Splitwise. This simple interchange is handled by OAuth 2.0. Once linked, the application imports all shared expenses for a given group – in this case my significant other and I. These expenses cannot be edited, but contribute to our three expenditure categories:

  • Shared
  • Grocery
  • Personal

Users may add additional expenses through the application. Those expenses which contribute to shared monthly expenditures will be divided and reflect in each user’s portal. Personal expenses only affect that user’s monthly expenditures. Users may then flip over to their tracking view. At first glance, this view provides a visual indication to users whether they have exceeded their expenditures for a given week. To gain additional insight, users may unhide the exact figure they have spent for the week.

How's It Built?

Photo by Safar Safarov via Unsplash

The application build consisted of both front-end and back-end work. The front end is a React SPA with routing. The back end is NodeJS leveraging Express for the framework and PostgreSQL for data retention. The component library is proprietary, leveraging Storybook to facilitate component creation. This application leverages a hand-rolled authentication service along with OAuth for communication with Splitwise endpoints.

Authentication - Rolling My Own

Photo by chris panas via Unsplash

As this was one of my first full stack applications which required robust authentication, I decided to take the opportunity to roll my own authentication service. The onboarding process begins by users receiving an invitation link with a unique token. Once registered, this token is expired. User details, along with all sensitive data is hashed before storing in the database. This application employs a split-token approach in an attempt to mitigate both XSS and CSRF attack. When logging in, a portion of the token is returned in the response body. This portion is stored in local storage. The other portion of the token is sent as an HTTP-only, secure cookie. Each request contains both portions, which are reconstructed on the back end prior to validating. In building this authentication service, it was my goal to provide a pleasant experience, while mimicking some of the functionality you might see in applications like Google’s suite. Users may remain logged in on all devices, even after updating passwords. Users may instantly invalidate all logged in sessions. Taking the approach of writing my own authentication service helped me understand many of the intricacies missed when relying on external services such as Firebase.

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