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Bookkeeping: The Ugly Hat

Small business owners wear a wide variety of hats, many of which are ill-fitting for their skillsets.  One of those often ugly and unwanted hats is bookkeeping. 


In an attempt to make this hat less overwhelming, I set out to find an easier and cheaper accounting software program that could rival QuickBooks.  I found a lot more options than I expected, so I took some time to try each on for size.


I looked at three options that are extremely simple to use and are barely intended for business usage, but if your business is very small, they might be worth considering. 


I then looked at four options that were more comparable to QuickBooks capabilities.  For these four, I considered the features as well as the price when determining their merit.


I will discuss the pros and cons of each of these, but for those of you who like spoilers, here is my conclusion for the best, albeit not perfect, option: Wave Apps


Easy, Breezy… but Probably Not Beautiful


Let’s look briefly at the three options that are available if your business is small and simple:


1.       Mint.com

2.      Quicken Starter

3.      Big E-Z Bookkeeping 


None of these programs are capable of sending invoices, accepting payments, or doing inventory or payroll.  They all can connect to your bank account and import transactions, as well as create basic reports to help you track your income and expenses. 


Despite a few drawbacks, Mint.com is free; if you’re looking for something cheap and simple to get you started on tracking income and expenses, it’s not a bad hat to try out. 



Overview of QuickBooks Plans


The one perk that all five QuickBooks versions have over any other accounting software is much lower fees on receipt of payments.  You can receive ACH (transfers from bank accounts) for FREE and credit card payments for 2.4% plus $0.25 per transaction.  I have not found any other product out there that allows free ACH payments and 2.4% is the lowest credit card rate that I could find.


As I have made apparent, I am not a fan of QuickBooks. However, amazingly, they offer QuickBooks Accountant Online for free.  I can send invoices, estimates, receive ACH payments and get the lower credit card rate.  No charge.  I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I use it.  


My opposition to QuickBooks is that the products are overly burdensome to their target market of small business owners.  No one wants to wear that huge, impractical hat if they don’t have to.  I want more people to be aware of competing products so that QuickBooks does not have such a monopoly.  And then perhaps QuickBooks will wake up and realize they have gotten lazy and could be doing more to actually serve small business owners.



Might Be Easier, Definitely Not Cheaper


I know the suspense for more information about Wave is killing you, but I want to review three other alternatives:


1.    Freshbooks

2.   Xero

3.   Zipbooks


I did not spend a ton of time in any of these programs because I disliked all of their pricing structures. 


The entry-level versions of both Freshbooks and Xero only allow you to bill five clients per month.  If their entry-level versions were free, then I could understand the requirement to upgrade to bill additional clients.  But if you’re going to pay for accounting software, at least QuickBooks isn’t going to limit how many people you can bill.


Zipbooks actually does have a free entry-level version, but I did not find it user-friendly.  The free version was very limited and every time I tried to perform a task, it prompted me to upgrade to a pay version.  No thanks.


I read some rave reviews of Xero and the trial version did look pretty easy to use.  However, to bill more than five clients per month, you have to spend $360!  Whereas, the QuickBooks Simple Start is only $180 and can do almost everything Xero Standard can do. I did read that Xero’s customer support and online forums are wonderful, whereas I have found QuickBooks online forums to be horrific and unhelpful.



The Best Solution?


It’s the moment you have been waiting for!  Why is Wave the program to rival QuickBooks?  For seven simple reasons:



As I mentioned earlier, it is not absolutely perfect.  And since it’s free, I’m not totally surprised that it has a few kinks that still need worked out.  But most of the issues are relatively minor when you consider the other great things that this program offers—and that it’s completely free!  I’ve had the feeling of “this seems too good to be true” many times while using Wave, but so far, I haven’t seen any major issues. 



The Right Fit for You


At the end of the day, you have to pick the product that is the best fit for you.  For some people, QuickBooks is the best solution, and that’s ok!  I have found that too many people have picked QuickBooks because they think it’s the only option out there, so I hope this post has allowed you to consider alternatives. 


Contact WellRun Results if you need help deciding which product will be the easiest and cheapest solution to ensure your business runs—and grows—well!

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