When you start a small business, reliable and efficient accounting software that takes care of the nitty gritty can be the difference between making bank or going bust. However, if you’re wondering whether paying for software is worth it, there may be a free option to help you get over the line, or help you get the hang of it to potentially invest more in it down the line.
Thankfully there are a number of ways that you can access accounting software for free, with some accounting software providers offering their most basic plans for free alongside paid options to showcase the difference in features, while others provide free trials so that you can try before you buy. While it may be tough to pit free software against paid, some businesses may not need all the bells and whistles, or simply need something easy to use for those monthly pay runs. Whatever the case, we’ve put together some of the top free accounting software programs available in Australia to help you make dollars and cents of it all.
Free accounting software for small businesses
The following accounting software options are free to use and provide basic accounting tools and services, with some offering paid plans if you need something extra. Free accounting software programs include:
SlickPie provides basic small business accounting software that can be used on the go, thanks to a handy web app. SlickPie says that its software is designed to do all the heavy-lifting work to deliver a delightful expense management experience via a cloud platform. While there is a pay per month Pro package, the Starter free version has a number of features, including:
- Unlimited automated receipt data entries
- 10 companies on one account
- Email support
- Send quotes, estimates and invoices online
- Accept PayPal, Stripe and credit card payments online (these platforms charge their own fees)
- Track expenses and manage bills
It’s also worth noting that the pricing on the website is in American dollars, so keep that in mind if you decide to upgrade to the paid version.
ZipBooks provides simple accounting software that is not only visually appealing, but also easy to navigate. Along with a range of paid subscription packages, ZipBooks offers a free Starter plan which should help cover the basics and get you up and running. With a Zipbooks Starter account you can:
- Send unlimited custom invoices
- Send custom quotes and invoices
- Manage unlimited vendors and customers
- View basic reports
- Connect one bank account
The Zipbooks Starter plan also lets you accept online payment methods for invoiced customers via Paypal or Square, however each of these platforms charge their own transaction rates.
Wave is an online accounting service that provides basic bookkeeping software, including invoicing, accounting and receipt scanning. Its mantra is that “small businesses have a right to great software,” which is sweetened by the fact that it is free. With a Wave account you can:
- Track sales tax on income and expenses
- Connect unlimited bank and credit card accounts to your books
- Track unlimited income and expenses
- Invoice and send estimates that can be quickly turned into invoices once approved
- Scan unlimited receipts
- Access your books via the Wave app for both Android and iOS
One thing to note is that Wave uses a pay-per-use system for online payments, meaning that for your business to accept payment for invoices online, Wave charges a base fee plus a percentage of the payment. But if you’re looking to simply keep track of the ins and outs without forking over any cash, Wave may be worth investigating.
*It should be noted that Wave announced in late 2020 that it will be discontinuing bank connections outside of the US and Canada, effective January 1, 2021. This means that Australian users won’t be able to connect a bank account to import transactions, although users can still manually import the transactions, and use other features of the software.
Akaunting provides accounting tools for small businesses, including invoicing, accepting online payments and tracking expenses, designed to help manage finances and stay on top of cash flow. The software is online and available to use on your mobile or tablet, as well as your desktop, so you can make the most of its convenient interface wherever you need. Some of the free features include:
- Create online client portals with password access
- Invoice clients and accept online payments for free (platforms such as PayPal charge their own fees)
- Create and sync unlimited bank and cash accounts
- Track expenses
- Set up recurring bills
- Manage vendors and filter their transactions
Akaunting also has an online app store where you can purchase more advanced features such as software to manage online sales and purchase orders, or reporting software which tracks customers payments. The use of paid third-party apps may mean that extra purchases are required for full use of the Akaunting platform and its capabilities, but also allows you to simply pick and choose what you need, meaning you’re not locked into anything that you don’t want.
Sunrise provides bookkeeping software for small and medium size businesses, through a variety of monthly paid plans, alongside a free ‘Self-Service’ plan. They also have an online blog and some Bookkeeping 101 tips on their website to help you get money-savvy. The free Self-Service plan includes the following:
- Unlimited customised invoices
- Unlimited bank transactions
- Cash Flow reports
- Double entry accounting
- SunrisePay, which allows you to accept online and mobile payments]
If you decide to invest in your accounting software by upgrading to a paid Sunrise plan, you’ll be assigned a professional bookkeeper to manage your finances, although if you think you can manage them on your own, the Self-Service plan may be just the ticket.
Unlike other software which stores your data online, this accounting software is designed for desktop use and is available for download free from the Gnucash website. It can be used for both personal accounting or for a small business, with features including:
- Double-entry accounting
- Manage stock, bond and mutual fund accounts
- Track customers and vendors
- Send estimates and invoicing
- Receive reports and graphs
As far as aesthetics go, Gnucash may not be the sleekest offering available, but if you’re looking for substance over style Gnucash may still be worth exploring.
Accounting software with free trials
The following accounting software brands are generally paid for via a monthly subscription, however they do offer free trials for first time users looking to dip their toes in. Accounting software programs with free trials include:
- Intuit Quickbooks
MYOB provides easy online accounting software for small businesses, with three payment plan options that range in capabilities, including a standalone payroll system, an accounting essentials option or the full package, which can be used both on and offline. Another MYOB bonus is that it’s designed and operated in Australia and works with the ATO, ensuring that your financials meet the relevant standards. MYOB currently offers a 30-day free trial, and also regularly offers discounts for first time-users, helping to make your dollar stretch a bit further.
Payroll software for small businesses with up to 4 employees
min. cost $10.00 over 1 month
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Online accounting software great for new and smaller businesses
min. cost $48.00 $24.00 over 1 month
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Online or offline accounting software with job tracking and inventory
min. cost $109.00 $54.50 over 1 month
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Intuit Quickbooks calls itself smart, simple accounting software for small businesses, and is one the more prominent players within the market. A Quickbooks account allows you to track expenses, send invoices, run payroll, manage GST and BAS and accept online payments, allowing you to run multiple areas of your business from the one place. There are currently three tiers of plans available, all varying in inclusions and monthly price, with Quickbooks also offering a free 30-day trial to help you find your feet in the accounting scene.
Xero accounting software has a number of time-saving tools aimed directly at managing and growing businesses, including real time view of cash flow, categorised bank transactions for tax time and an easy to read and use mobile application. Each month, the most basic package allows you to send 20 invoices and quotes, enter bills, payroll and reconcile bank transactions, with optional extras such as projects and expenses management tools to be added to your plan if you’re keen to expand your software. And if you’re not 100% sure about signing up, or which plan you should sign up to, Xero offer a 30-day free trial for you to see which plan is the best fit for your needs.
Reckon is an online software platform that provides a whole range of easy to use business and finance services. ReckonOne is its online accounting software, which allows you to enter payments and expenses, track and report GST, reconcile bank accounts and track your cash flow in real time. It offers a variety of paid subscription plans with extras that can be mixed and matched to cover a range of needs, starting from a basic plan up to a premium level package, and if you’re not sure what you need, Reckon also offer a 30-day free trial to help with the decision-making.
Sage provides basic accounting software for small businesses, advanced tools for medium businesses and professional solutions for accountants and bookkeepers, aiming to help regardless of your business size. The basic accounting software plan is paid monthly and includes a compliant payroll system for up to four employees, access for two users and one company, unlimited automatic bank feeds, reports with drill downs and unlimited transactions, with the other subscriptions offering a number of additional features, but with an added cost. If you prefer to try before you buy, Sage offer a 35-day free trial for you to see what the platform is all about.
Saasu is an Australian online accounting platform that covers a range of bookkeeping services, such as invoicing, expenses, cash flow forecasts, inventory management, bank connection and a single touch payroll system. There are three pricing plans to choose from, including a Small plan for sole traders and start-ups, their most popular Medium option for fast growing business and the top-tier Large plan for businesses that are scaling. Features and functions will vary depending on the plan, but you can test what Saasu has to offer with its one-month free trial.
Which free accounting software should I use?
Which accounting software will be the best fit for your needs will ultimately depend on what you need help with, the size of your business or personal finances and how much time you’d like to put into organising it all. While the free options may seem like a win-win, you may find that the paid options provide tools which save you time, money and effort in the long run, meaning that if your business begins to grow, it may be worth looking to also upgrade your accounting software. At the end of the day though, choosing an option that fits your business and still gives you enough time to do the things you enjoy may be worth its weight in gold, even if it is free.
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