QuickBooks is the most popular small business accounting software. But it’s expensive: $150 to $200 for the desktop Pro version and more if you need advanced functions. Here are some free and cheap alternatives to QuickBooks that may serve the needs of your business equally well…
Free and Cheap Quickbooks Alternatives
QuickBooks, by Intuit Corp. is the best-selling small business accounting software. Available as a desktop app or a cloud-based service, QuickBooks is renowned for its ease of use, comprehensive reporting, and friendly user interface. But it’s expensive: $150 to $200 for the desktop Pro version and more if you need advanced functions.
You could try to do it all in an Excel spreadsheet, but you’ll probably outgrow that solution quickly, especially if you need features like invoicing and tax form preparation. Fortunately, there are several excellent, free alternatives to QuickBooks spawned by the open-source software community. Another alternative is the low-cost, pay-as-you-go cloud-based software model. Here are some examples of each genre.
GnuCash is a good example. Available for Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, and Android operating systems, it implements double-entry bookkeeping just like QuickBooks and other professional accounting programs. It has a full range of personal and business accounting functions.
For small businesses, important features include Invoicing, Accounts Receivable (A/R), Accounts Payable (A/P) including bills due reminders, Employee expense vouchers, Depreciation, Mapping to income tax schedules and TXF export for import into tax prep software (US), Setting up tax tables and applying sales tax on invoices. That’s a lot of functionality for free!
Mike McDerment was a self-employed Web designer in 2003. He used QuickBooks but was dissatisfied with its invoicing features. So he wrote FreshBooks, a specialized invoicing and accounts-receivable management package designed for independent consultants just like him. Instead of competing for retail shelf space against giants like Intuit, he made FreshBooks a cloud-based service. His customers are mainly professionals who are paid for their time and expertise: everyone from butlers to computer systems integrators. A free FreshBooks account lets one manage just one customer account; up to 25 customers cost $19.95/month; unlimited customers can be managed starting at $29.95/month.
Xero really emphasizes the benefits of cloud-based accounting, touting its collaborative features that let you invite others to log in, review your accounts and financial situation, and offer advice. Xero also claims to be the easiest-to-use small business accounting software. Available for mobile as well as desktop users (all you need is a Web browser), Xero accommodates on-the-go sole proprietors and mobile work forces. You can try Xero for free for 30 days; pricing starts at $9/month thereafter.
Spending as little time as possible “wearing the bookkeeper’s hat” is Outright’s value proposition. It’s a powerful one; creative, entrepreneurial, sales-driven small business owners love to spend time making money and begrudge every second “wasted” counting it and reporting it to tax authorities. Outright’s cloud-based service imports accounting data from a wide variety of sources including your bank, credit cards, PayPal, eBay, Etsy and Amazon accounts; prepares Schedule C’s and other tax documents; and in every way strives to minimize the number of keystrokes and minutes you spend on bean-counting. The free version also categorizes expenses into IRS-approved categories; prints profit and loss, spending, and “best customer” reports. For $9.99/month you also get customized invoicing, tax worksheets and reports, Schedule C, and estimates of income and sales tax liabilities.
Wave Accounting is a comprehensive cloud-based small business toolkit that includes invoicing, accounting, payroll, payments, and more, plus personal finance software. Designed for businesses with nine employees or fewer, Wave is for freelancers, contractors, entrepreneurs, and owners of boutique specialty businesses… like the surfboard building company that came up with Wave. Wave Accounting can automatically log in to thousands of bank, credit card, Paypal, and other financial institution accounts to import data, but it does not store your credentials and Wave employees do not have access to them.
Front Accounting is a free, open-source, comprehensive ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system for small businesses. It does purchasing, distribution, inventory management, and other supply-chain functions as well as revenue and expense functions.
CS Ledger is a free accounting package that does general ledger, accounts receivable and payable, and inventory functions. It can also be used for personal finance management. It supports up to 25 users if your small business has that many bookkeepers.
What software do you use for your business accounting? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…