When you start a business, the first question most people ask is, “how much will it cost me?” The next question is, “what software will I need to buy?” And if you don’t have a lot of money, the answer to that question is pretty simple – free bookkeeping software.
If you are looking for free bookkeeping software, want to try online bookkeeping software, or are considering investing in offline accounting software, you have found the right place. Something not enough businesses think about is accounting software. The best accounting software helps you manage your business effectively. It helps cut down on time, give you accurate financials, and so much more.
ZipBooks is relatively new to the accounting software world, but its unlimited invoicing, vendor tracking, and thorough expense recording have already made it a top competitor to industry stalwarts like Wave, Xero, QuickBooks, and FreshBooks. Even ZipBooks’ free Start plan comes without the limits of paid competitors like Xero, which ties you to just five invoices and bills for $9 a month.
On top of its unlimited invoicing, the Starter plan includes all of the following at no cost:
- Multi-currency payment acceptance
- Separate records for 1099 expenses and payments
- Receipt tracking
- Chart of accounts
Most notably, ZipBooks lets you toggle back and forth between cash accounting and accrual accounting—most accounting software providers let you choose only one or the other. Unfortunately, ZipBooks doesn’t have a mobile accounting app. It’s also noticeably lacking in reports: ZipBooks’ free plan generates only a profit and loss statement and balance sheet.
Best for small businesses that want simple bookkeeping software that’s easy to use.
Sunrise by Lendio (formerly Billy) is a great free option for businesses that want simple bookkeeping software without the bells and whistles (and high price tags!) of full accounting software. With Sunrise, you can be up and running in just minutes, performing tasks such as sending invoices to clients, managing expenses, and accepting online payments.
One unique feature of Sunrise is that you may qualify for additional funding opportunities through Lendio just by maintaining your books. And if your books become too time-consuming to manage? You can upgrade to Sunrise’s paid professional bookkeeping service, which offers extremely competitive pricing. Throw in support for unlimited users, good customer service, and positive online reviews, and it’s easy to see why Sunrise makes our cut.
- Supports unlimited users
- Good customer service
- Easy to use
- Limited integrations
- Lacks advanced features
Sunrise Features & Pricing
With Sunrise’s free self-service software, you’ll receive:
- Unlimited invoices
- Unlimited quotes and estimates
- Expense tracking
- Chart of accounts
- Cash flow tracking
- Journal entry
- Tax support
You can purchase bookkeeping services for an additional fee. While there’s no built-in payroll, Sunrise integrates with Gusto. Unfortunately, Gusto and Zapier are the only integrations you’ll find here, so this could be a problem if you want to integrate with other business apps and software.
Businesses that need full accounting software with advanced features (such as inventory management) will need to seek out other software. However, businesses that want basic bookkeeping software with no limitations, an easy-to-use UI that’s perfect for beginners, and great customer service may find a winner in Sunrise.
Best for: Small businesses with little experience bookkeeping
SlickPie is an easy-to-use software for those who lack bookkeeping experience. A huge perk of SlickPie is its automation features, which include auto-recurring invoices and a built-in app called MagicBot that allows you to automatically add bills and receipts. You can also manage accounts payable by manually entering bills and marking them paid.
GnuCash is an open-source accounting program that offers many features to help you manage your small business accounting. Volunteer developers update the software regularly, which means the program is always kept up-to-date.
GnuCash’s strength is that it contains advanced features such as customer and vendor tracking, job assignments, invoicing, bill pay, sales tax management, payroll management, and budget creation and management.
The checkbook-style register is an easy-to-use interface for entering all of your checking and credit card transactions. You can also enter income, stock, and currency transactions.
You can split transactions, mark transactions as canceled or reconciled, autofill entered transactions, and display multiple accounts in a single register window.
Since GnuCash is not cloud-based and only locally installed on a desktop computer, access to your financial data is limited to only one machine and one user. While GnuCash offers a mobile app, it is only for Android-based devices and requires you to manually import the data, which can be a pretty tedious process.
The interface of the program is also a bit dated and requires some time to get used to. Many users report problems with manually importing their transactions.
GnuCash’s customer support is through a public email-based discussion board, so it may take a while before you get a response to your question. Their chat support uses an obsolete IRC channel system, which can be tedious to set up.
Zoho Books offers a free plan for small businesses that need help invoicing customers and managing payments with a single account.
Zoho Books pros
The free version of Zoho Books includes up to 1,000 customizable, branded invoices per year. The user-friendly software also features contact management, expense tracking, multiple bank and credit card accounts, and the ability to import bank and credit card statements.
A useful client portal allows you to share recent transactions and allow clients to make bulk payments. You can also set up recurring invoices and automatic payment reminders.
The client portal even allows you to capture customer satisfaction feedback to share on social media, leveraging that all-powerful social proof to build your brand.
Zoho Books cons
The biggest drawback to Zoho Books? It’s only for businesses with less than $50K in annual revenue. Only one user and one accountant can access the program, unless you pay monthly for one of their subscription packages.
Only email support is available in the free version, while the paid versions use voice and chat.
- Open-source software means you can customize however you want.
- Extensive library of integrations.
- Robust user support via online forums.
- Design is not as intuitive as other platforms.
- Advanced features cost extra.
- Not as ready-to-use as other options.
Why we like it:
Akaunting is an open-source accounting platform that has the capability for customization, primarily through its library of add-ons. The primary features are available right out of the box: You can invoice, track receipts and take care of the everyday needs of your company’s finances. Plus, with a robust library of integrations, you can build your own Akaunting setup with a degree of customization other free platforms don’t provide. However, you or someone on your team will likely need some coding knowledge to use this software to its full potential.
NCH Software (Express Accounts)
Express Accounts, owned and operated by NCH software, has a pretty dated website. While multiple users can log on to your account, the software requires an initial desktop download, which makes it a little less flexible than the cloud-based providers on our list. But if you don’t mind the dated look, Express Accounts can simplify your basic bookkeeping in a big way.
For starters, it offers 20 financial reports (much better than ZipBooks’ two) that help you get a clear picture of your fiscal health. Express Accounts also easily tracks accounts payable and accounts receivable. You can even print checks using the software to streamline bill payments.
Express Accounts’ customer service is much less robust than our other top five picks. You can reach out to technical support over email if you have an issue with your download, but that’s the extent of your support. On the other hand, most customers use Express Accounts solely to track their business’s figures—so you shouldn’t need the kind of support you would with more complex accounting or payroll software.
Best for businesses of any size that want a customizable, scalable accounting solution.
Odoo is different from the other software on the list because it isn’t accounting software. Instead, it’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. While we could get technical about ERP, we’ll keep it simple: Odoo offers over 40 business applications, including Odoo Accounting. You can stick with just Odoo Accounting, or you can combine several different small business apps. One of the best things about Odoo is that the software is completely customizable to fit your business’s needs now and scalable to meet your needs in the future, too.
For this review, though, we’re focusing solely on Odoo Accounting. Odoo comes with features you’d expect from your accounting software, such as a chart of accounts, invoicing, expense tracking, accounts payable, and basic inventory. In addition, the software is easy to use, and you can choose from web-hosted and on-premise installations, although this may affect your total monthly cost.
- Open-source software
- Easy to use
- Poor customer support
- It can be expensive to scale
Odoo Features & Pricing
The pricing structure for Odoo is a bit different than the other software on this list. If you only need Odoo Accounting for a single user, you can get the cloud-hosted version for free. Odoo Accounting includes the following features:
- Expense tracking
- Accounts payable
- Bank reconciliation
- Journal entries
- Fixed asset management
- Basic reporting
If you need to add more users or want on-premise hosting, additional fees apply. You’ll also pay an additional fee for each app that you add to your software.
One thing to note is that while you can select a single app for one user at no cost, these free plans lack customer support. Despite these flaws, Odoo Accounting may still be a great choice for users that need ERP software or want a customizable, scalable option that grows with their business.
- Unlimited bank and credit card account connections, income and expense tracking and guest logins.
- Allows you to invoice from within the platform itself and supports receipt scanning.
- May not be powerful and feature-rich enough for large or fast-growing businesses.
- Charges per-transaction fees for payment processing.
- Payroll product is separate and requires a subscription.
Why we like it:
Wave is by far one of the most robust and well-designed free accounting software tools for small businesses. Instead of charging users to generate revenue, Wave makes money through fees on payments made within the platform. That means you’ll likely save money in the long run depending on how you intend to use the platform to collect ACH, debit or credit card payments from clients. Visa, Mastercard and Discover come with a 2.9% fee, plus 30 cents, on each transaction. American Express is 3.4% plus 30 cents. ACH bank transfers only come with a 1% fee (or a $1 minimum fee, depending on the size of the transaction).
With Wave, you’ll get unlimited income and expense tracking, sales tax tracking and double-entry functionality, as well as reports on cash flow, profit and loss, and overdue invoices and bills. You can also use Wave’s invoicing tools for free. This includes unlimited invoices, automated invoice reminders, invoice and accounting synchronization and the acceptance of both credit card and bank payments.
Brightbook certainly lives up to its name with its colorful website. Advertising as the “world’s most loved free accounting system,” Brightbook’s cloud-based software lets you access it anywhere with an internet connection.
Brightbook is a great alternative to the paid accounting programs with unlimited user access, expense tracking and recording, bank statement processing, and auto-generated profit and loss reporting. Tax reporting is also available to track what you paid in taxes and how much you will get back. Another plus is that Brightbook has no optional, expensive additions to consider. What you see is what you get without any hidden fees.
Brightbook also links to Paypal, allowing your clients to pay you online. You can invoice a client in any currency, and the program will automatically convert it back to your home country’s currency.
Since it is cloud-based, Brightbook lets you monitor and track your financials in real-time from anywhere. While there is no dedicated mobile app to access the program, you can use any mobile browser to view and update your data.
Brightbook’s invoice templates allow you to email invoices straight to clients without leaving the site. You can also view bills and expenses in a list or a more eye-pleasing gallery view. If you have other companies, Brightbook allows you to access them under one login.
Unlike some of their other free competitors, Brightbook can’t perform double-entry accounting. There are also no third-party integrations available. While the program can be accessed from a mobile device browser, it requires more steps without a dedicated mobile app. Support is available only through web-based email.
Keeping track of your finances used to mean using a pen and paper, or clunky software that was expensive, difficult to use—and slow. But now there are plenty of solutions available, both free and paid. As an entrepreneur who has run several businesses, I’ve had the opportunity to try quite a few of them.