Importing Stripe Transactions into Xero

About a year ago, Paul wrote about the trials and tribulations of using PayPal. There is a lot to not like about PayPal, though most of my criticisms result from doing the bookkeeping for a company that posts a lot of PayPal transactions. Around the time he was writing, Stripe came to Canada, and we cheered (“Hurrrrah!”), because it meant we had another option. A newer option. An option whose UI might be almost navigable! Paul signed up, delighted in Stripe’s really snazzy documentation, and started writing a front end for us to send invoices that clients could pay by credit card, using Stripe.

At our accountant’s suggestion, we use Xero for our bookkeeping at WonderProxy, and, for the most part, we’re happy with it. Xero can automatically import statements from your bank accounts (including your PayPal account, which is important for us), track accounts payable and receivable, and track transfers between accounts seamlessly. Like I said, we’re mostly happy with it: it has trouble with one of our credit cards, so I have to manually import its statements, which is a bummer, but what can you do? Customer support has always been prompt and, while they’ve sometimes been unable to fix the problem, have at least explained what’s happening and suggested workarounds. It’s satisfactory… and our accountant likes them, so y’know, that seems like a good thing too.

When we started using Stripe, Paul and Will wrote their own front end to manage payments. It’s really easy to use, and has made invoicing customers a genuine pleasure, especially when I think about creating PayPal invoices. It’s another bit of functionality that we’re really happy with. At the time, we didn’t really think about how to get all the Stripe activity correctly represented in Xero. I didn’t actually bother to tackle the problem until our financial year ended and it was time to deal with taxes. Xero supports Stripe as one of its payment processors for its built-in invoicing service, but we don’t use that, and I couldn’t figure out how to make Xero automagically figure out our Stripe transactions otherwise.

Armed with the knowledge that only tracking Stripe’s transfers to our bank account was Bad Accounting, I set out to import our Stripe transactions and properly reconcile them against the transfers to our bank account. If anyone is trying to do the same in Xero, this will hopefully help.

  1. Create a new bank account for your Stripe transactions. From the Accounts tab, choose Add Bank Account. I chose the Bank Account account type. It’s probably the most accurate representation of what Stripe is, given the options.
  2. Log into Stripe, and download all your transactions as a CSV. Save them as something meaningful, like “Stripe Transactions Date-Range”
  3. Still logged into Stripe, navigate to the bank transfers, and download all the bank transfers. You’re going to match these against the statement lines in your bank account, so that everything matches up nicely. Save them as something meaningful, like “Stripe Transfers Date-Range”.
  4. If you reconciled the transfers from Stripe to your bank account (like I stupidly did), you need to un-reconcile all of them. This is a pain, but necessary. Do that now.
  5. Create CSV subfiles.First, Xero doesn’t understand Stripe’s time format. Awesome, eh? So, you need to remove the time portion of the date-time field. I did this in TextMate with a really long cursor so I could delete it all at once. You could also create another column and do some magic in Excel, selecting only the yyyy-mm-dd portion of the original column. Make sure you do this for both the transactions and the transfers.Second, Stripe’s CSV output doesn’t deal with fees and refunds in a way that Xero understands. You need to pick the columns that Xero will actually need and create new CSV files:
    • a “Payments” file that includes the ‘Created’, ‘Description’ and ‘Amount’ columns,
    • a “Refunds” file that includes ‘Created’, ‘Description’, and ‘Amount Refunded’ for any refunds, and
    • a “Fees” file that includes ‘Created’, ‘Description’, and ‘Fee’.

    For some reason, Xero likes the first column to be the date column, so putting ‘Created’ first is important.

  6. Import your appropriately-formatted CSV files into Xero. Reconcile. Rejoice!

It’s a weirdly complicated process, since Stripe’s CSV dump isn’t formatted in an immediately usable way. I’m curious about how Xero deals with Stripe transactions that result from its invoicing service. Perhaps there’s something brilliant that I’m missing. Nevertheless, I’m happy that this way, we account for the full amount our customers pay us, the fees we pay Stripe, and the amount netted, which is transferred to our bank account. I’m planning to do the Stripe import (manually) once a month, so it’s not too onerous. If I’m particularly fancy, perhaps I’ll write something to automate it for me… probably not though.

Parsing Sentences for Easy Reading

For the past year, I’ve had the pleasure to work on and off for a Toronto-based consultancy that focuses on accessibility. In addition to doing training, accessibilty audits, and development, they provide video captioning and description services, which is where I fit in.

Unlike those mysterious beings that close caption live television, I caption videos – generally university lectures. It’s interesting work, and was a lovely part-time job while I was finishing up my Masters. I’ve kept up with it because I enjoy it… and extra pocket money is always enjoyable. What I did not realize when I started, however, was that it would also have a lasting (positive) impact on my work as an IA/tech writer.

You know how sometimes, you’re reading, and a line break hits in the wrong spot, and it’s weird? Bad sentence parsing. I usually only notice if it’s two or three lines of text, like a PowerPoint title, or subtitles on a video. Poor sentence parsing makes it harder for readers to read smoothly: in captioning in particular, you want people to be able to read quickly and glean all the information they’re reading without becoming confused by a subject-object split. As a person whose focus is on expressing concepts clearly, this has been something of a revelation. While I’m not a designer, I necessarily do some design in my work, particularly since I’ve started freelancing. Parsing is something that I increasingly think about, and I think it’s making my visual work easier to understand.

Take, for example, the post-it note that I have had stuck to my monitor, reminding me to write this post:
Post it note reads Parsing Sentences for Easy ReadingThat’s pretty solid. I’m happy with that parsing. I might easily have written this, though:

Parsing Sentences for
Easy Reading

Hopefully you see that this is a less smooth reading experience. Let’s take another example, this time borrowed from a fantastic Girl Geeks Toronto event that I went to last night (recap post to follow). The title of the event was “Designing for Digital: Processes and Planning for Powerful Solutions.” Here are two ways we could write that on the title slide of our presentation deck:

Designing for
Digital: Processes
and Planning
for Powerful Solutions
Designing for Digital:
Processes and Planning
for Powerful Solutions

I think the second one is easier to parse, and easier to read. With presentation software and design software, where you create text boxes and write in them, it’s easy to rely on the automatic text wrapping. I have started to fight that urge, and to think about how best to manage my line breaks. I’m not advocating for manually line breaking everything, but for titles or short, punchy sentences, it’s something to think about. If reading it aloud sounds wonky, try moving the line break. Your readers will thank you, even if they don’t realize it.

Edited to add:

Another excellent example care of Paul, from a Zipcar ad in the New York subway:

My Grade 7 & 11 English Teacher and the Word ‘Got’

As I’ve alluded to before, my high school program was pretty sweet. Its enriched program, which I was in, was challenging and fun, and meant that we had the best teachers at the school teaching us. Many of them were older, and most have since retired to lives of contemplation, pigeon racing (seriously!), poetry, and music. The youth of today don’t know what they’re missing.

I learned a lot in high school: a strong basis in chemistry and the physical sciences, the ability to play the french horn, a remarkable willingness to dissect deceased vertebrates without wearing gloves (why didn’t they give us gloves?), a general understanding of archery, a weirdly in-depth knowledge of the history of Quebec, and the ability to throw a football, among others.

Throwing a football has come in handy (my boyfriend’s brother, who played football in college, was impressed, for instance), but the thing that comes to mind most often, particularly as I’ve started writing professionally, is a lesson I learned first in Grade 7, and then again in Grade 11, when Mister Holt was my English teacher.

Mister Holt is a fantastic teacher. I say ‘is’, because, while I understand that he has retired, the lessons he taught me have stuck. One of the core components of English at my high school was public speaking. Most teachers made their students get up in front of the class and give a speech that they’d written. There was usually a list of topics. I recall “Nature versus Nurture” being one, as well as “Mass Media”. (It was obviously the late 90s / early 00s.) Mister Holt didn’t hold with that kind of hokum for we young grade sevens: he made us learn card tricks. Card tricks, he said, gave you something to do with your hands, while also forcing you to speak, and to keep your audience’s attention. He handed out a twenty-page photocopied packet of papers that detailed a bunch of card tricks: I remember Wild Bill Hickok’s Hand and Houdini’s Double Talk Card Trick as the hardest. They both required a great deal of memorization, and the ability to engagingly tell the story that went along with the cards. I’m 90% sure I can still do Houdini’s Double Talk, but I never really got the hang of Wild bill. After two weeks of practice, we performed the card tricks one-on-one with Mister Holt. It was delightful, and a nice way to ease into the world of public speaking. Come grade eight, the concept of speaking was far less terrifying – it’s not like you had cards to screw up!

But, while that stands out, and – I think – helps to illustrate his somewhat unconventional approach to English education, card tricks are not what come to mind most days.

Mister Holt hated the word ‘got’. Got, he argued, was a lazy word. There is almost always a better word to express what you are trying to express. “I got home”, while perhaps accurate, is weaker than “I arrived home”. “I got an A” less expressive than “I earned an A”, “I’ve got the chicken pox” less evocative than “I have fallen ill with the chicken pox” or “I’m beset with the chicken pox” or “Shit, I’ve finally caught the chicken pox”.

As I recall, Mister Holt was a published writer of either short stories or poetry. I can’t find any trace of that online, so perhaps I’m mistaken, but in any case, much of our writing was of a creative nature. As such, using strong descriptive language was particularly prized. As we started writing more essays, precision of language only got became more important. I asked some friends from high school about this, and everyone who had Mister Holt as a teacher seems to have a little voice in the back of their heads preventing them from writing ‘got’ or ‘get’. My friend who just finished law school is particularly susceptible.

As a tech writer, precision of language is everything. The other day I was typing a sentence, started to write ‘got,’ and said “No!”. An moment later, I had gone in a different direction. Teachers impact our lives: Mister Holt taught me the value of choosing my words carefully (and I always have a card trick up my sleeve for parties, pun intended); Madame Azar, the majority of my French grammar; and Mister Pharès taught so much math and physics that I didn’t learn anything new until Calc 3, despite the three post-secondary math classes that preceded it.

I don’t write in French that much these days, though, and I haven’t needed to integrate in a long while… I write every day, though, and two university degrees don’t consciously impact me nearly as much as two years’ of Mister Holt’s instruction does. So, next time you go to type ‘got’, stop. Reread your sentence, and try to replace that ‘got’ with something better. Your writing will improve, and alumni of Mister Holt’s English classes won’t twitch when reading your wise words.