The bad news about running a business is that the detail-oriented drudgery of managing company finances is essential to your success. The worse news is many entrepreneurs receive zero training in how to manage finances before they hang out their shingle and are suddenly responsible for managing those finances.
The even worse news it that the go-to software options like QuickBooks and a variety of enterprise-level packages are far more complex than a small business needs, and cost much more than you want to spend.
But there is good news. The app and cloud explosion has led other entrepreneurs to create a bevy of low-cost and no-cost financial management tools to help you stay on top of your company’s finances. We asked our clients and tasked our researchers to come up with our 10 favorite. In no particular order:
An easy-to-read financial dashboard for small businesses, inDinero “outsources to nerds” the work of financial management. It scans all of the bank, credit and similar sites you allow it to, and presents you with up-to-the-minute analysis, statistics and forecasts so you can focus on figuring out what the numbers mean. The free plan permits up to 40 transactions per month, with upgrades of $29.95 and $99.95 monthly for larger businesses.
One of the earlier and more successful aspirants to the QuickBooks throne, Xero offers the full gamut of invoicing, banking, inventory, ordering, billing and payroll features, and converts quickly with a variety of third-party apps for more focused functionality. It’s cloud-based and runs from $9 to $70 per month after a slightly cheaper half-year introductory period.
While most of the other entries on this list help you with figuring out what the numbers for your business are, PlanGuru aims to give you insight into what those numbers mean. It’s a cloud-based platform for budgeting, forecasting and performance review that’s easier to use than we just made it sound. Basic plans start at $19.95 per month, with scalable solutions up to an $800/month enterprise-level suite.
4. Zen Payroll
We’ve reported on these guys before, and continue to love what we see. This is the simplest payroll and benefits software out there for small and even medium-sized businesses. The package costs $29 per month base, plus $6 per person on your payroll.
So important it probably either belongs in a blog post of its own or somewhere prominent on this list, PayPal’s solutions go far beyond sending and receiving funds. It allows you to send and track invoices and generate reasonably robust reports based on any number of metrics. The reports are free, as is paying vendors or contractors. Receiving money gets hit with a nominal fee, but you still only pay money if you make money.
6. Google Sheets
For very simple businesses or experienced spreadsheet jockeys, Excel has been the go-to for basic financial management since last century. It’s flexible, easy to manipulate and familiar. The Google Docs version of this ubiquitous spreadsheet offering is (a) free and (b) cloud-based so you can access your records from anywhere at any time. It backs up previous versions frequently so you can always roll back if you make a mistake.
The go-to app for tracking business expenses both for the company as a whole and individually among employees seeking reimbursement, and for good reason. You set up the app, use your phone to snap a photo of an applicable receipt and the app puts it into the system automatically. Reports are flexible and easy. After two free initial accounts, each new person you put on your business’ Expensify account costs a flat $5.
Intuit’s entry into the credit card processing market, this easy-to-use service provides a free app and card reader, and offers processing fees as low as 1.75 percent (as compared to the 2-5 percent charged by some competitors). The main downside is it reports best when paired with QuickBooks, which is not the least expensive option in town.
Invoice generation, tracking accounts payable and updating payments received are as important to your business’ health as checking vital signs is to your body’s health…and almost as interesting. FreshBooks automates as much as is possible for all invoice-related tasks, and partners with the likes of Expensify and inDinero for what they can’t automate. It’s a strong solution to a common problem. After a free trial, packages start at $19.95 per month.
Not quite as simple or well-supported as some other options, GnuCash has the advantage of being both free and open-source. It’s a scalable accounting suite that manages basic accounting, financial forecasting reports and graphs and imports in a variety of formats. Not for the technology impaired, but a definite bonus for folks who don’t mind tools with moving parts.
Financial management tools are built to be accurate, not encouraging. If your financial report gives you bad news, a quick influx of cash can help you leverage your way back into the black. Kabbage can help. Find out more abo