While free accounting software that meets all of the needs of a small business is difficult to find, FitSmallBusiness.com compared over a dozen solid options and narrowed it down to the five (5) best. Evaluations are based on price, features and other criteria. In the top five is xTuple PostBooks®, named best for Manufacturing and Distribution businesses that want a system that integrates accounting, operations, sales and inventory all in one software for free.
How We Evaluated the Best Free Accounting Software for Small Business
Many small businesses cannot afford to invest in an accounting software but need something more sophisticated than an Excel spreadsheet. During our research, our number one criteria was that the software had to be 100 percent free or include a free plan that did not expire. Based on this, we were left with five great options for which we also compared features, ease of setup/use, and a few other criteria.
The criteria we used to compare Wave, ZipBooks, SlickPie, xTuple PostBooks® and GnuCash are as follows:
- Price — To make the cut, the accounting software had to be 100 percent free or offer a free option.
- Overall features for price — Each product was evaluated based on whether or not they could perform basic bookkeeping tasks like invoice customers, pay bills and run reports. Ease of setup and use – Most of these products do not offer live tech support, so it was very important that they use simple language that does not require the user to have a bookkeeping/accounting background.
- Ability to give other users access — Having the ability to give a bookkeeper or CPA access to your data is going to save you time, allowing you to work on other areas of your business without having to be interrupted to fulfill requests for information.
- Mobile accessibility — With the many hats that business owners wear, it is also imperative that you can run your business on the go using any device with an internet connection.
Positive cash flow and time are two of the most precious commodities that a small business owner could never have too much of. Each of the criteria that we used to evaluate our top five free accounting software picks will either save you time or money, if not both.
Best Free Accounting Software for Manufacturing & Distribution Businesses: xTuple PostBooks®
xTuple is an open source accounting software that includes modules to manage every aspect of your business: sales, accounting, operations, customer management, inventory control and supplier management. The best part is that you get access to all of these modules absolutely free, making this the best free accounting software for small business if you’re in manufacturing or distribution. If you need more functionality, you can always upgrade to a paid version.
xTuple PostBooks® Pricing
Similar to ZipBooks, xTuple offers both free and paid plans. The paid plans run between $45 and $150 per month per user. This is definitely on the steep side when it comes to the average cost of accounting software. The free plan is limited to four concurrent users; if you need to give more than four people access to your data, you will need to upgrade to one of the paid pricing plans.
Listed below are the four paid pricing plans for an annual license with xTuple:
- PostBooks® (Commercial) — $45 per user per month
- Distribution — $90 per user per month
- Manufacturing — $130 per user per month
- Enterprise — $150 per user per month
What’s neat about xTuple is that it goes beyond accounting by integrating your entire business process (sales, operations, inventory control, customer relations), and GnuCash is probably the only product that we looked at that is very similar. Like GnuCash, xTuple is an open source software, which means it is a lot more customizable than most accounting software.
xTuple PostBooks® Features
Like its competitors, xTuple allows you to easily manage all of your income and expenses. Unlike its competitors, it has an extensive inventory management module that is ideal for both distribution and manufacturing businesses. Another unique feature you will find in xTuple PostBooks® is their customer relationship management (CRM) system. Unlike its competitors, you can organize and track all business contacts, including customers, vendors, competitors and partners.
Manage Accounts Receivable
Like its competitors, xTuple PostBooks® allows you to create customer invoices, apply payments and stay on top of unpaid invoices with an accounts receivable aging report. You can also accept credit/debit card payments from customers so that you can get paid faster. If you sell products and would like to create and send a sales order to your customer to confirm their order, you can easily do that in xTuple PostBooks®.
Manage Accounts Payable
Like GnuCash, xTuple PostBooks® has full accounts payable functionality. This means that you can enter all of your unpaid bills and keep track of their due dates. This will allow you to run an accounts payable report at any time to see how much you owe to your vendor suppliers. Using this information, you can make sure you have enough cash on-hand to meet your obligations.
Connect Bank/Credit Card Accounts
You can set up and manage all of your bank/credit card accounts in xTuple PostBooks®. Similar to GnuCash, you cannot connect your bank accounts to the software. However, you can import a data file from your bank into xTuple PostBooks®.
Generate Key Financial Statements
Unlike SlickPie and ZipBooks (which do not include a statement of cash flows), xTuple PostBooks® includes all three of the primary financial statements: profit and loss, balance sheet, and statement of cash flow. In addition, xTuple includes a free, open source SQL report writer that can be used to build any type of report that you need (and is not currently available) in xTuple.
Unfortunately, xTuple does not currently offer a way for you to access your data from a mobile device. As we have discussed, the software is downloaded to a desktop computer and accessed by multiple users via a network server.
xTuple PostBooks® Customer Service and Reviews
The online reviews for xTuple are overwhelmingly positive. Customers like the ability to download a free software to see what it can do and if they want more functionality, they can always upgrade to a paid version. When it comes to providing good customer service, xTuple excels in that area as well.
According to a customer review, xTuple goes out of their way to give you the best experience possible. As part of my research, I reached out to the support team to ask a few questions, and I received a response the following morning. They provided me with a 45-minute demo of the product and allowed me to ask questions throughout.
Where to Find xTuple PostBooks®
Similar to GnuCash, you can download xTuple PostBooks® for free to a desktop computer that uses Linux, Windows or Mac. Since it is a pretty extensive software, we recommend that you purchase the QuickStart Wizard for $30. The QuickStart Wizard will walk you through each module step by step to customize it for your business needs. This will save you a lot of time because there is a steeper learning curve to learning how to use xTuple than its competitors like Wave, SlickPie and ZipBooks.
Fit Small Business, specializing in small business Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Taxes. She is also an Adjunct Instructor at UCLA Extension where she has taught hundreds of small business owners how to setup and manage their books using QuickBooks for 8 years. Prior to joining Fit Small Business, Crystalynn was a Senior Learning Specialist at Intuit for 3 years and also ran her own QuickBooks consulting and training business. When Crystalynn isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys rollerblading in Venice Beach and reading a good book.