A few years ago, I took over as financial secretary for my local synagogue, and I had my first taste of using accounting software.
It didn’t go well.
Our synagogue was stuck with an outdated program that ran slowly on my laptop and caused me any number of headaches. Without a background in accounting, I found the user experience of the old program to be counterintuitive and difficult to learn. I made many mistakes during my tenure as financial secretary that our poor treasurer (who was also an accountant) had to find and fix.
My frustration with that particular accounting software was enough to turn me off any accounting software programs–until now. Since that time, there has been a major boom in accounting software options, and it is much more likely that you will be able to find a program that fits your small business or organizational needs and make doing the books a pleasure rather than a chore.
Business accounting no longer needs to be a complex and frustrating aspect of running your business. With multiple accounting software options for business owners and entrepreneurs, anyone can master their business finances for a reasonable cost.
Here are the best accounting software programs to put your small business finances in order:
Free 30-day trial of FreshBooks
While some might claim that FreshBooks is not true accounting software–it does not include certain functions that you generally expect from accounting software, such as double-entry bookkeeping–it is nonetheless an important program that offers a great deal of value for service-based business owners or solopreneurs. In particular, I know a number of freelancers who rely on FreshBooks.
The program was started specifically to make invoicing and billing easier for service-based businesses. FreshBooks allows you to create professional-looking invoices that you can customize and set to populate automatically with a triggering event. The program also syncs with time-tracking software like Woocommerce and payroll software like ZenPayroll, as well as integration with PayPal for easy payments. In addition, there are a number of internal add-ons, such as project time-tracking, that can help you to keep better track of your work and expenses. You can also easily accept online credit card payments through FreshBooks, and the program will automatically send late payment reminders and fees.
Finally, there is third-party integration, which the program refers to as “Invite Your Accountant.” This makes it very easy to share the necessary tax information with your accountant remotely.
FreshBooks has three payment tiers: Lite, which costs $15 per month and allows you to bill up to 5 active clients, Plus for $25 per month and up to 50 clients, and Premium for $50 per month and up to 500 clients.
Offer: Sign up with Freshbooks and get a 30-day free trial
QuickBooks is beloved accounting software for good reason. It’s been the giant in the small business accounting industry for many years, and it offers great basic-to-high level accounting functions across its many products. In addition, since QuickBooks is an Intuit program, it works well with TurboTax and other Intuit products to make all of your financial accounting tasks a snap.
There are several different QuickBooks options available. You can buy downloadable software, QuickBooks Premier Desktop, for $499.95, although there are often sales that lower this price. Once you’ve downloaded the software, there is a step-by-step setup, as well as video tutorials to help you learn the program. You may only install the downloadable software on a single computer.
You can also access QuickBooks online, which will allow you to work across all of your devices, including smartphones and tablets. The online options go from Simple Start, for as little as $12 per month, to Essentials for $20 per month, all the way up to Plus, for $35 per month, and each level allows you to customize by adding payroll options for an additional price. The Essentials level allows you to manage and pay bills and create instant sales and profit reports, while Plus allows you to track inventory and prepare and print 1099s. In each case, QuickBooks offers a free 30-Day Trial.
QuickBooks’ mobile app is basically the desktop dashboard shrunk down. Using the QuickBooks app on a tablet is a perfect fit, but it can be somewhat frustrating on any device with a smaller screen than that.
QuickBooks offers live phone support only from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. PST Monday through Friday and from 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. If you have a problem late Saturday night with your QuickBooks Online software, you will not be able to get it resolved until bright and early Monday morning.
Investing in QuickBooks means you will get a solid cloud-based or downloadable accounting program that will take care of everything a small business owner might need. Read our full review of Quickbooks Online here.
With Quickbooks Live you are matched with a U.S.-based, Quickbooks-certified bookkeeper to handle all of your bookkeeping transactions.
Your specific bookkeeper, and sometimes a small team of several bookkeepers, will tailor services to your particular business. You can set appointments with them at convenient times for you, then take part in these appointments via video chat or screen share.
Bookkeepers with Quickbooks Live will maintain your financial records diligently. They’ll categorize transactions, reconcile accounts, set up needed automation, and organize all of your accounts for you.
Quickbooks Live recommends you check in with your bookkeeper once a month. They’ll review all of your transactions and give you a detailed report by phone or video chat at the end of each month.
There’s a Live Bookkeeping Hub where you can track your bookkeeper’s progress. They’ll be available to you during regular business hours, plus you’re free to contact them and leave a message on chat or email 24/7.
Quickbooks Live offers three pricing tiers for different business owners:
- Low-volume bookkeeping, for businesses with up to $25,000 in monthly expenses. Price: $270/month
- Medium-volume bookkeeping, for businesses with $25,0001-$150,000 in monthly expenses. Price: $470/month
- High-volume bookkeeping, for businesses with $150,000 and up in monthly expenses. Price: $670/month
With Quickbooks Live, you don’t have to sign any long-term contracts. So choose the plan that works best for your business needs and change it up whenever the need arises.
Xero has made doing the books a much easier and more fun part of running your small business. The company aims to make their accounting software beautiful, and their easy-to-use dashboard does just that. With an intuitive user interface, you can easily handle all of the following functions on Xero’s cloud-based accounting software:
- Bank synchronization
- Bank reconciliation
- Accounts payable
- Accounts receivable
- Bill management
- Financial reporting
- Cashflow quick views
- Document sharing
Old school bank reconciliation often feels like a soul-sucking, time-intensive chore. With Xero, you choose “Reconcile Account” from the Manage Account menu in the Bank Account view. At that point, the program offers you two matched columns: one on the left showing the bank statement line items, and the one on the right showing the transactions recorded in the program. If your payment amounts align, they’re marked with a green OK button that you can click to verify the reconciliation.
In addition, you can define “rules” for incoming transactions, so that every bill that comes in from the office supply vendor will be categorized as an office expense. Also, if you are having trouble reconciling a transaction, you can click “Find Match” to search through your records. This is invaluable if you have a customer who is paying two invoices with one check, for example.
Xero offers free mobile apps for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. The mobile app, known as Xero Touch, is perfectly designed for monitoring real-time cash flow and keeping track of your transactions from a mobile phone. The app also allows you to make and send invoices right from the app, as well as snap pictures of receipts and store them within the app.
The company offers live email support 24/7/365, so hitting a snag in the wee hours before a deadline does not have to be the end of the world. Once you email your issue, the customer support personnel will either email you a response back or will call you if the issue can’t be addressed via email.
Xero’s most basic software, the Early plan, is $9 per month (although there are often introductory offers that can lower their prices for a period). With this program, users can create and send up to 5 invoices per month, enter and pay up to 5 bills per month, and reconcile up to 20 bank transactions per month. The Growing plan costs $30 per month, allows for unlimited invoices, quotes, bills, and bank reconciliations. The top tier, Established, is $60 per month and features like multi-currencies, allows employees to capture expenses while they are on the go, and can track time spent and the progress of projects.
Xero pairs with Gusto to provide payroll services.
Xero offers an easy-to-navigate interface and excellent customer service that makes keeping the accounts a more enjoyable part of your business. Read our Xero vs Quickbooks comparison.
Sage 50cloud provides you with downloadable accounting software with secure online access on any device. The program delivers built-in accounting best-practices, as well as some powerful tools you might not find on other platforms. In particular, Sage 50cloud’s inventory management tools are among the best in the business, which is a boon for small business owners who maintain stock.
The program dashboard is completely customizable with shortcuts, so you can put the functions that matter most to your business front and center. If you have any issues with Sage 50cloud, the program offers one-click chat and unlimited phone support.
There are three price tiers for Sage 50cloud: Pro, which costs $503.23 per year for one user, Premium which costs $778.63 per year for one user, and Quantum, which costs $1,981.75 per year for up to three users. Pro allows you to pay bills, send invoices and receive payments, manage your cash flow and costs, and manage your inventory; Premium offers you job costing and advanced budgeting tools, and Quantum gives users Enterprise-level accounting and industry-specific features.
Use the coupon code D-1929-0020 for 40% off!
Newbies to accounting or bookkeeping may find that Sage 50cloud is not as intuitive or easy to use as some of the other programs on this list. However, it provides you with all of the accounting functions you might need and is worth a little extra time to learn the program.
Wave is free cloud-based accounting software, making it a good option for new business owners with no extra capital available for accounting. With Wave, you get invoicing, expense tracking, receipt scanning, and integration with bank accounts and online platforms such as PayPal—all for free. Wave manages to offer all of this for free via advertising.
However, there are also some services Wave offers for a price. You can offer credit card processing to your customers with Wave—it will cost you 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction for all credit cards, with no additional fees. You may also handle your payroll with Wave, for a $35 base fee plus another $4 per employee. If you are paying more than 10 employees, there are discounts available.
Wave has created an intuitive interface that allows small business owners to tackle double-entry accounting with ease. It also allows you to invite unlimited guest collaborators, meaning you can easily loop in your accountant or business partner.
Customer service can be a little slow to respond if you have a problem with Wave, although considering the fact the software is free this is a minor quibble. Overall, Wave is an excellent option for a cash-strapped small business owner.
Bench offers bookkeeping services at a reasonable price, with a qualified team of bookkeepers to handle all of your financial records. Their professionals are based in Vancouver. You’ll set up a call to discuss your business bookkeeping needs and create a solid plan.
With Bench, you’ll be able to link up to 15 accounts, including bank accounts, credit cards, and loans. Plus, information from merchant account processors including Square, PayPal, and Stripe will be automatically imported to your Bench account.
Once you have your bookkeeping team in place, they’ll track all of your business transactions and accurately categorize them for you. They’ll collect and save important documents in a digital format. Your Bench bookkeeping team will also separate personal from business expenses and prepare a detailed financial statement each month.
Access to the Bench app is free with a subscription to their services, so you can check in with Bench with ease and convenience.
Bench offers pricing plans starting at $139 a month (if billed annually) for businesses with monthly expenses totaling less than $1,000. The cost goes up for higher monthly business expenses, or if you opt to pay month-to-month rather than yearly.
A great aspect of Bench is that they offer a genuinely free month-long trial to test out their services. It’s no-strings-attached, since you don’t need to provide a credit card number to sign up for the trial. As you go through the trial period, you also get access to the Bench app.
Basic bookkeeping plans don’t include tax preparation, but you can choose to get tax prep and filing through their Benchtax services. These will incur additional fees starting at $600 and going up to $1,320, depending on which tax services you require.
Bench takes away a lot of the hassle and guesswork out of business bookkeeping, so you can focus on building your business.
Related: Small Business Bookkeeping is a Breeze with Bench
Many bookkeeping tasks are made simpler with Hurdlr. The primary three services Hurdlr offers are their mileage tracker, expense tracker, and self-employed tax assistance.
Hurdlr’s app will automatically track all of your business mileage with just a click. You can easily start and stop business mileage to accurately and effortlessly track it for tax purposes. When tax season comes, then you’ve got all of your mileage categorized and totaled, and you’ll get the maximum deduction.
In their mileage tracker, Hurdlr also distinguishes between business mileage (for multiple businesses, if applicable) and personal mileage. If you also use the expense tracker portion of Hurdlr it will also compare the standard mileage deduction to the “actual vehicle expenses” deduction, so you can choose whichever is most advantageous from year to year.
A second top service of Hurdlr is its automated expense tracker. Gone are the days when you needed boxes of cluttered receipts and bank statements for your business. Instead, the Hurdlr app simplifies business expenses, helping you get organized and ensuring you’ll get every possible tax deduction.
The simplification of your expense tracking will make tax preparation and filing much easier as well. Hurdlr will assist you in recording all of your business expenses accurately.
Finally, for the self-employed and side hustler, Hurdlr helps you calculate and pay your quarterly estimated taxes. Self-employed taxes can be confusing, especially for a new entrepreneur.
Hurdlr uses your tracking of income and expenses to help you identify the most potential tax deductions. Plus, it shows you real-time estimates of what you’ll need to pay each quarter in taxes. This provides a clearer idea of how successful you are in your business, keeping you accountable to your professional goals.
Even filing your taxes is a breeze with Hurdlr, since you can file them within the app with only a few simple taps. Or, if you prefer, they’ll send your financial reports to your CPA for tax preparation.
Hurdlr has a free option that you can use indefinitely. It includes unlimited mileage tracking, adding income and expenses, a tax calculations summary, and export/email reports — you just have to do these tasks manually.
For example, for free milage tracking you have to start and stop the tracker with a button on the app.
However, if you choose to upgrade to the Premium plan you’ll get these same features, but they will run automatically. For example, the mileage tracker will track all your trips. You can even set up routes that it will categorize automatically for you.
The premium version costs $7.99 monthly or $5 monthly if you choose to pay annually.
The Bottom Line
Keeping the books for your small business does not have to be a headache. Using any of these accounting software programs can help you save time while handling the finances of your business, so you can get back to doing the work you love.