Streamline Your eBay Records With Paypal and Excel

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If you've been an eBay seller for any amount of time you already know that PayPal is a great way to accept payments online—it's fast, it's easy, and PayPal keeps meticulous records of transactions completed this way. In fact, you can access these transactions in a convenient, spreadsheet-ready format to streamline your accounting practices—whether you are a buyer, a seller, or both, you don't have to use the PayPal website directly to access the record for every transaction. In combination with a spreadsheet program like Excel, this PayPal feature can make bookkeeping for small and medium-volume buyers and sellers a piece of cake—especially if you are careful to use PayPal for the majority of your transactions.

Using Excel to Access PayPal Records

PayPal makes its database of your transactions accessible to you in a format called CSV, or "comma-separated values." Most spreadsheet applications like Excel, Quattro Pro, or Calc—the same ones that you may use to balance your checkbook or do your taxes—are capable of reading and importing files stored in this format.

Because PayPal can create CSV files for you based on the date ranges, you can use PayPal to generate quick, accurate, complete accounting information (including PayPal fees, shipping and handling amounts, and other details) about your eBay transactions that you can then store on your own computer and manipulate in a spreadsheet application, for example, to sort by transaction type or get quick totals for tax purposes.

Creating a CSV File Using PayPal

To create a CSV file of your PayPal transactions, log into the PayPal website just as you would to view your account normally. Once logged in and viewing the default "My Account" page, follow these steps:

  1. Click "History." Click on the blue and white "History" link near the upper center of the page. (Hint: it's located just to the right of the "Withdraw" link.)
  2. Select a date range. Use the tools at the top area of the page to select a date range for transactions to display. You can select common requests like "Last Week" (for all transactions during the previous seven days) or "Last Month" (for all transactions during the last 30 days), or you opt to display a specific date range.
  3. Click on the "CSV" link. Click the "CSV" link just to the right of the word "Download:" at the upper right of the display area. A popup will appear asking you to select a download format.
  4. Click the "Download" button. Without changing the file type from "CSV," click the yellow "Download" button. PayPal will pause for a few moments to access its database before sending your web browser a file called Downoad.csv. Save this to your desktop for easy access.

Advanced users reading along with this article may already know what exactly what they want to do with the data at this stage—if this is you, feel free to download to other formats (like the Quicken or Quickbooks formats) or to deviate from the following procedure.

Importing CSV Files Into Excel

Now that you have downloaded a CSV file containing the transactions of your choice and the file has been saved on your desktop, follow these steps to load the file in Excel.

  1. Launch Excel. If the CSV file on your desktop already looks like an Excel file (i.e. the icon that represents the file looks the same as the icons you normally see for Excel files), you can just double-click on the file to open it and vóila—you're done! Many users will find, however, that the CSV file does not automatically open in Excel when the icon is double-clicked. If this is you, use your start menu to launch the Excel application.
  2. Choose the "File" menu, then select "Open." Once the Excel application is open, click on the "File" menu at the upper-left of the window and select the "Open" option from the list of choices. You should be greeted by a smaller dialog window labeled "Open" that shows files on your computer system.
  3. Select your Desktop. In recent versions of Excel, this can be accomplished by clicking on the "Desktop" icon at the left of the "Open" dialog. In older versions of Excel, click on the Location drop-down list near the top of the window and select "Desktop" from the long list of places that appears.
  4. Set the file type to "All files." Click on the "Files of type" drop-down list near the bottom of the window and change the file type from "Excel files" to "All files." This will cause the "Open" dialog to show any CSV files on your desktop.
  5. Double-click on the "Download" file. Locate the CSV file (called "Download" or "Download.csv" depending on your version of Windows—you may have to search through a list of all the files on your desktop) in the list of files shown in the "Open" dialog and double-click on it.

That's all there is to it! You should now see an organized, sortable list of all of your recent PayPal transactions in Excel. If you're familiar with Excel already, you should be able to put this information to use in your financial records immediately to process, filter, arrange, search, or otherwise manipulate your PayPal records. Note, too, as was mentioned at the start of this article that similar steps can be followed to import your PayPal records into or Quattro Pro. Just have your spreadsheet application import or open a "CSV" or "comma separated values" file.

As a final note, keep in mind that if you want to continue to use this information, you should probably re-save it in Excel's standard format (or whatever standard format your spreadsheet uses) for convenience. To do this, click on the "File" menu at the upper-left of the Excel window and choose the "Save As" option. Then, choose "Microsoft Excel Workbook" from the "Save as type" drop-down list near the bottom of the "Save As" dialog that appears.