Published October 15, 2018, updated Oct, 26 2021
What is budgeting and accounting software
Budgeting and accounting software is an essential tool for keeping your business on track in allocating how it spends, receives and budgets money.
It allows you to accomplish important tasks such as report on financial performance and run an analysis to determine what’s going to happen in the future.
A lot of budgeting and finance software will integrate into your existing tools, such as an enterprise resource planning program.
It’s a must-have for any organization, from the smallest firm to the largest.
In this blog will cover:
- Top 10 low-cost and free budgeting and accounting software
- Key budgeting and accounting software features to look for
- How to build world-class finance reports and dashboards
Best Budgeting and Accounting software solutions
- Zoho Books
What does budgeting and finance software do
Budgeting and finance software accomplishes several important tasks, including:
- Tracking inventory and purchase orders
- Sales tracking
- Automated invoicing
- Data entry (i.e. receipt capture)
- Accounts payable/receivable
How do budgeting and finance tools help
It is, of course, possible to accomplish your budgeting and financing goals without the need of software.
Everything you need to do could be accomplished with the assistance of an Excel spreadsheet or even a pen and paper.
But software provides a ton of advantages over the alternative.
- It saves time: Using specialized software for budgeting and finance will help to eliminate many of the more menial, time-consuming tasks that consume your finance department. That allows them to focus on more high-value jobs.
- It’s simpler: Budgeting and finance software is easier to use, which means that your employees don’t need to be as specialized when completing finance and budgeting tasks.
- It’s more accurate: Mistakes are going to happen when you’re manually budgeting and adding numbers together. Budgeting and finance software helps to reduce the likelihood of this happening.
- It provides better forecasting: Spreadsheets aren’t particularly useful for forecasting what’s going to happen in the future. Budgeting and finance software helps to account for underlying factors that will affect how much revenue will bring in.
Best low-cost and free Budgeting and Accounting software
Click on any of the software solutions for more details
Freshbooks provides cloud-based accounting solutions for small business owners. It is designed for owners of the types of small client-service businesses that send invoices to clients and get paid for their time and expertise.
Pricing Lite: $15/month for 5 clients with unlimited invoices and estimates, time tracking, online credit card payments and importing expenses. Plus: $25/month for 50 clients with Lite functionalities, automatic payment reminders, charging late fees for overdue invoices and recurring invoices. Premium: $50/month for 500 clients with Premium functionalities.
QuickBooks is an accounting software package developed and marketed by Intuit. Quickbooks is used by over 4.3 million customers globally to manage inventory, send email invoices, accept online and mobile payments and scheduling recurring payments.
Pricing (currently with 40% off) Easystart: $10.40/month to track income and expenses, invoice and accept payments, run reports and track sales and sales tax. Essentials: $18.90/month with Easystart functionalities, manage bills, multiple users and time tracking. Plus: $24/month with Essentials functionalities, inventory tracking and managing budgets.
Wave is a 100% free and well-integrated business platform that combines accounting, invoicing and receipt scanning into one package. With Wave, you can use invoicing, accounting, receipt scanning and more, with no limits and no fees.
Pricing Free: Accounting software, invoicing software and receipt scanning. Online Payments: 2.9% + 30c/transaction for credit card processing, and 1%/transaction ($1 minimum fee) for bank payment processing. Payroll: $20 base fee + $4/active employee for direct deposits, T4s, full tax remittances to the CRA.
Xero is a New Zealand-based software company that develops cloud-based accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses. Customize Xero with inventory, invoicing, time tracking, expense tools and more.
Pricing Starter: $20/month for 5 invoices and quotes, 5 bills and reconcile 20 bank transactions. Standard: $30/month for unlimited invoicing, quotes, bills and reconciliation of bank transactions. Premium: $40/month for unlimited invoicing, quotes, bills, reconciliation of bank transactions and multiple currencies.
Zoho Books is an easy-to-use online accounting software to manage invoices, bills, banking, inventory and do mobile accounting as well. Zoho Books is a double entry accounting system which automatically creates a journal, moves money from one account to another and appropriately applies debits and credits.
Pricing Lite: $12/organization/month for 50 contacts, 2 users and 5 automated workflows. Standard: $24/organization/month for 500 contacts, 3 users and 10 automated workflows/modules. Professional: $36/organization/month for unlimited contacts, 10 users, 10 automated workflow/modules.
Key questions to ask when evaluating budgeting and accounting software features
Click on any of the questions below for answers
Purchasing a finance management software solution can be an experience different from many other software purchases.
You’ll want to customize your questions depending on your needs.
But, in the interim, here are a few questions to get you going.
Is there a special budgeting and finance solution for our industry?
Different industries have different budgeting and finance software tools devoted to helping them.
For example: Many companies have developed budgeting and finance software specifically for the health care industry.
If there’s a specialized tool for your industry, see if it fits your needs.
How user-friendly of a system do I need?
Many small businesses and start-ups aren’t big enough to hire someone who can devote all their time to budgeting and finance.
In those cases, someone else will be taking on the finance duties.
For that you’ll want to adopt a program that’s (relatively) easy to use.
But if you have a team of finance professionals you can probably stand to go with a more complicated tool.
The learning curve will be steeper. And other members of your organization probably won’t be able to jump in and use it.
But you’ll also be able to accomplish more.
How does the program work across departments?
The most comprehensive accounting and budgeting software will allow you to collaborate across all the departments of an organization.
How much does the software interact with other programs we are using?
Budgeting and finance software works best when you can pair it with the other systems you’re using.
For example: Point-of-sale systems can integrate with your finance software to give you an accurate picture of how much revenue you’re bringing in at a given point in time.
Ditto for other software such as inventory or project management tools.
When considering which budgeting and finance software to go with consider which of your existing tools you’ll want to integrate with.
How comprehensive of an analytics and reporting function do I need?
For many companies the need for budgeting and finance software is all about “balancing the books”.
You just want to ensure that the money you’re bringing in is roughly equivalent to the money you’re spending.
But for others – typically larger companies – they need to do more than just crunch the numbers.
The ability to predict future results based on different variables is important for large-scale businesses.
This can have a major impact, for example, on a decision about whether you want to ramp up or curtail spending for a given quarter.
For smaller businesses, though, there are fewer variables. This means that analytics is less important than balancing the books.
The same goes for reporting.
Reporting is an important part of large-scale organizations, where communicating results and other key functions needs to happen on a daily (or even hourly) basis.
It’s less important for small- and even medium-sized businesses because they are small enough that communication is a lot easier.
With only a few employees, word can get around fast.
What kind of customer service can I get?
Budgeting and finance software can get complicated in a hurry.
That’s why you’ll want to consider well in advance how thorough the customer service you’ll get from a vendor will be.
If you go with a free or low-cost solution, chances are you won’t get as much customer service.
Make sure you plan for this when considering your options.
How to build world class finance reports and dashboards
Let's use Xero as an example.
Building Xero finance reports and dashboards
Xero is online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It is mostly used to manage invoicing, bank reconciliation, bookkeeping & more.
Integrating Xero with Klipfolio allows you to develop custom dashboards that give you and your team insight into your performance. Pull key metrics from your Xero account into a dashboard that's up-to-date and easy to share with the whole team. Take your dashboard to the next level by combining your Xero data with services like Salesforce, Excel, and hundreds more.
Connect to your Xero data
You can connect to Xero three different ways. With our Klip Gallery, you can connect and add pre-built metrics to build a dashboard quickly. Looking to make your own visualizations? Use our Connector Gallery and the pre-built API queries to pull in some of the most common Xero data, or build your own connections to pull in even more data.
Combine your Xero data with other services
Xero offers you a fantastic glimpse into your financial and bookkeeping data. With Klipfolio, you can combine that data with data from 100s of other cloud based services to build a custom dashboard.