By Mike Faden
But businesses vary widely, and so do these apps and services. So, the choice of what’s really the best money management software for any SME will depend on the specific needs of its business. Some products are relatively simple offerings designed for sole proprietors or companies with just a few people; others are more complex and full-featured accounting systems for larger SMEs with multiple employees. They also vary greatly in cost and support for specific features.
Here are six of the best money management software products and online services for SMEs, based on an analysis of information from published reviews and other online data sources.
Today, all new money management software offerings are cloud-based services sold on a subscription basis; no completely new desktop accounting packages have been introduced for over two decades, according to a PC Magazine analysis.1 In general, the shift to the cloud has resulted in benefits such as greater ease of use and the ability to access services from anywhere; most vendors also offer some features via free mobile apps.2 However, for SMEs that prefer to keep their data within the office, a handful of desktop money management software products still exist—though even they are adding cloud-based features such as mobile apps and online access. Those products can be faster to use, and work even if a business’s internet connection goes offline.
Key features to examine include basic record-keeping capabilities, ease of learning and use, ability to import data from other software and from financial institutions, invoice creation and payment tracking, customizability and scalability, the number of users supported, multi-currency capabilities, and the availability and quality of support. Most money management software for SMEs supports double-entry bookkeeping. Some products enable businesses to accept electronic payments, for a fee.
With some money management software, features like inventory management, payroll services, project management and estimating capabilities are built in; other products provide those features via add-on services, integration with other products, or not at all.3,4 It’s important to consider the cost not only for the core money management software but also for additional services. Most suppliers offer free trials, making it easier to evaluate several offerings before taking the plunge.
Intuit’s QuickBooks has been one of the most widely used desktop money management software products since the 1990s. The company now offers a cloud-based service, QuickBooks Online, which several reviews rated among the best money management software offerings for its comprehensiveness, flexibility, extensibility, and ease of use. Reviewers highlight features such as inventory tracking, highly customizable reports, flexible transaction formats and contact records, project-based billing and cost management, and add-on payroll services.5,6 QuickBooks Online can also integrate with hundreds of third-party products that provide additional capabilities.7
Disadvantages of QuickBooks Online include the relatively high subscription cost, which ranged from $20 to $60 per month as of December 2018 (although temporary discounts were available).8 The lowest price lets a single user track income and expenses, create invoices and estimates, and connect to bank accounts and add-on applications. The top tier supports multiple users and adds features such as inventory and project tracking and generation of 1099 tax forms for contractors. Payroll services, however, cost an extra $39 to $99 per month, plus $2 per employee.9
AccountEdge Pro (formerly known as MYOB and owned by Priority Software since early 2018) is one of the few remaining desktop-based small business accounting applications. It is highly rated in several reviews; one says the product’s depth, flexibility, and customizability is unmatched by other cloud-based or desktop applications, and describes it as a best choice for businesses whose accounting needs are too complex for cloud-based money management services.10 However, another review notes that it is not as easy to use as the online-only products.11 AccountEdge Pro includes a very broad range of features for managing contacts, sales and purchases, time billing, inventory, and payroll. Though the product requires desktop installation, users can also access features via a website and free mobile apps.
AccountEdge Pro has a one-time license cost of $399 for up to 10 users; AccountEdge Basic, a single-user version with fewer features, is $149.12 Payroll service services start at $249 per year.
Zoho Books is an online-only service that several reviewers rank among the best money management software for SMEs based on attributes such as a clean, attractive user interface, capabilities that match or exceed competitors such as QuickBooks Online in most areas, and price.13 The company also offers a level of support that is unusual among online services, supporting phone and real-time chat as well as email contact. Reviews also praise the capabilities for project- and time-tracking, inventory management, and detailed and customizable records. Zoho’s biggest deficit, according to reviews, is the lack of payroll integration, which was offered only for limited geographic areas as of December 2018.14
Zoho Books starts at $9 per month for a two-user version; the highest level is $29 a month, supports up to 10 users, and adds features such as inventory tracking.
Xero is a cloud-based accounting application that generally gets high ratings from reviewers and provides most of the capabilities SMEs typically need, including the ability to send invoices, track time and expenses, download transactions, manage inventory, pay bills, create reports, and track purchase orders.15 It also integrates with hundreds of other applications. For payroll, Xero integrates with Gusto, a third-party service.
The company offers three pricing levels. The Starter level of $9 per month allows only five invoices and reconciliation of 20 bank transactions; higher tiers remove the limitations, and a $60 monthly subscription includes project-level tracking and multi-currency payments.
FreshBooks is one of the best money management software offerings that’s designed mainly for sole proprietors as opposed to larger businesses, according to reviews.16 As of December 2018, the cloud-based service lacked features that larger businesses may need, such as double-entry bookkeeping, payroll services, product records, and inventory tracking.17 Highlights include an extremely intuitive user interface and simple navigation aimed at non-accountants, as well as rich features for estimating, invoicing, and project-based and time-based billing.18 Payment services are available and the system also integrates with many other applications, including marketing and web-development tools.19
One caveat is pricing, since FreshBooks charges by the number of clients as well as the included features and number of users. The $15 basic version supports only five clients and one user; the $25 Plus level allows up to 50 clients and adds features such as proposals, accounting reports, and payment reminders. Businesses can add more users for $10 per person per month.20
Wave is the only one of these money management software applications that is free, at least for its core cloud-based service; the company makes money by selling related financial services, including payments and payroll processing. One review considers Wave suited primarily to sole proprietors, but says that it includes enough extras that a small business with employees could use it; another ranks Wave as the best money management software for service-based businesses (those businesses don’t need inventory management, which Wave lacks).21 Wave does include double-entry bookkeeping, unlike FreshBooks. Payroll processing costs between $20 and $35 per month, plus $4 per employee or contractor.
When it comes to accounting software, businesses have many choices. Choosing the best money management software really depends on each business’s specific needs.
Mike Faden has covered business and technology issues for more than 30 years as a writer, consultant and analyst for media brands, market-research firms, startups and established corporations. Mike also is a principal at Content Marketing Partners.
1. “The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018,” PCMag.com; https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2458748,00.asp
3. “Best accounting software of 2018,” TechRadar.pro; https://www.techradar.com/news/best-accounting-software
4. “The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018,” PCMag.com; https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2458748,00.asp
5. “Best Pick for Small Business Accounting Software: A Plethora of Options,” Inc.; https://www.inc.com/finance/best-accounting-software.html
6. “The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018,” business.org; https://www.business.org/finance/accounting/best-small-business-accounting-software/
7. “The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018,” PCMag.com; https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2458748,00.asp
8. QuickBooks Online product information, Intuit; https://search2.quickbooksonline.com/qb-online/
9. QuickBooks payroll service information, Intuit; https://quickbooks.intuit.com/oa/payroll/
10. “The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018,” PCMag.com; https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2458748,00.asp
11. “Best Small Business Accounting Software,” The Balance Small Business; https://www.thebalancesmb.com/best-accounting-software-for-small-business-3967626
12. AccountEdge pricing, Priority Software; https://www.accountedge.com/pricing/
13. “Best Pick for Small Business Accounting Software: A Plethora of Options,” Inc.; https://www.inc.com/finance/best-accounting-software.html
14. “Is payroll included in zoho books?,” Zoho; https://help.zoho.com/portal/community/topic/is-payroll-included-in-zoho-books
15. “The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018,” business.org; https://www.business.org/finance/accounting/best-small-business-accounting-software/
16. “Best Pick for Small Business Accounting Software: A Plethora of Options,” Inc.; https://www.inc.com/finance/best-accounting-software.html
17. “The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018,” PCMag.com; https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2458748,00.asp
18. “FreshBooks,” PCMag.COM; https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2254091,00.asp
19. “Best accounting software of 2018,” TechRadar.pro; https://www.techradar.com/news/best-accounting-software
20. FreshBooks pricing, FreshBooks; https://www.freshbooks.com/pricing
21. “Wave,” PCMag.com; https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2484099,00.asp