If you’re in need of accounting software for your business, it’s safe to say that you’ll be using that accounting software to examine every dime coming in and out of your banking accounts.
At some point, you’ll probably ask yourself “How much am I paying each month for this accounting software, and can I eliminate that expense?”
Yes, you can get free accounting software, and in this article we’ll look at four popular and totally free options (find out how we chose the featured products here), along with a few reasons that you might be better off paying for your accounting software even when there are free options available.
Free accounting software
While it’s not too difficult to find free versions of some business software, truly free accounting software (not just a free trial) is something of a rarity, with most popular accounting vendors charging a monthly fee for even their most basic version. These two accounting solutions, while not as advanced as their paid counterparts, are built on a foundation of features capable of meeting the needs of most small or midsize businesses.
The main dashboard in Wave Accounting (Source)
Designed with the small-business owner in mind, Wave—which was acquired by H&R Block for around $400 million in July of 2019—prides itself on its simplicity and ease of use. Its intuitive user interface keeps the most important financial data front and center, accessible immediately after signup via any device with a web browser.
The idea here is that keeping things simple relieves much of the stress associated with accounting software. But don’t be deceived by this bare-bones approach; for a free piece of software, Wave is rich in features. This includes informative user dashboards, unlimited income and expense tracking, and customizable invoicing and sales tax processes.
Other features include:
- Fast setup
- Bulk transaction updates
- Exchange rate conversions
- PayPal, Shoeboxed, and Etsy integrations
- Unlimited bank and credit card accounts
- Bill and invoice reminders
While the accounting app really is free, accepting payments (2.9% + 30 cents per credit transaction, or 1% per bank transaction) and running payroll ($20 per month plus $4 per employee) are paid, optional features.
Wave also appears on our Accounting FrontRunners list for 2021.
Not sure if Wave’s free accounting app is right for you? Check out this video walkthrough of how to set up recurring invoices:
The main dashboard in ZipBooks (Source)
Like some other free accounting systems, ZipBooks offers a complimentary starter tier to its more robust paid options. The free version does offer notable useful features for small businesses.
For no cost, users can send unlimited invoices, process digital payments, and manage as many vendors and customers as they need. This cloud-based solution also boasts integration with third-party applications such as Square, PayPal, Slack, and Gusto, giving organizations the freedom and flexibility to do business on their terms.
Other features include:
- Custom invoices, quotes, and estimates
- Ability to toggle between cash- and accrual-based reporting
- Vendor and customer detail tracking
- VAT, taxes, and invoice discounts
- 1099 payment and expense recording
- Balance sheet and profit and loss reporting
Learn how to get started using ZipBooks with this tutorial:
Open source accounting software
If you need an accounting system that you can modify to meet your business’ unique needs, open source software is a great option to consider. Users can download the source code—usually for little or no cost—and mold it into their ideal accounting system.
Open source systems require a certain degree of development expertise. But if you have a dedicated IT department, employ a coding expert, or are willing to hire a third-party consultant, open source software offers a viable alternative to the more monolithic—and pricey—solutions on the market.
The Accounts overview in Akaunting open source accounting software (Source)
The curiously named Akaunting had its first stable release in 2018 and has been growing steadily ever since, with 180,000 downloads, 80,000 cloud users, and 10,000 project contributors, according to the Akaunting website. It is available in almost 50 different languages.
Akaunting aims to remove the stigma of open source software being difficult to use, claiming to get users up and running and fully functional in less than five minutes. Users can download the main accounting core, which includes all the standard accounting features small businesses will need, and add optional features as app downloads. Some of these optional apps include contract management, documents management, white label customization, and some integrations are paid.
If you run into trouble, free support comes through extensive online documentation, and community forums and chat rooms. The project is also monetized through a paid, dedicated support service, starting at $99/month if you really need help and don’t mind spending to get it.
Core features include:
- Modern, intuitive, mobile-ready interface
- Free updates for life
- Advanced reporting
- Customer and vendor management
- Recurring billing and invoicing
- Categorization and bulk actions
Want to see Akaunting in action? Check out this video:
Checkbook-style register in GnuCash (Source)
This on-premise accounting solution offers a robust set of features—recurring transactions, bank reconciliation, and financial reporting among them. What’s more, it’s as affordable as it gets (i.e., free) and endlessly customizable.
The GnuCash register is like a digital checkbook of sorts, with the ability to split transactions, display multiple accounts in a single window, and tailor the appearance to your liking. But the software’s signature quality is its “double entry” feature, which mandates that all transactions must debit and credit accounts in equal measure—keeping your books balanced at all times.
Other features include:
- Track individual stocks and portfolios
- Regularly updated stock and mutual fund quotes
- Check printing
- Payroll management
- Auto-fill frequent transactions
- Income and expense categorization
Check out the video below on GnuCash for an overview of how this free accounting software works:
Why you must consider paid solutions, too
While the systems outlined above might work for some organizations, they won’t work for all. In many cases—even yours, potentially—investing in a reputable paid solution will pay dividends in the long run.
So now that we’ve explored some free and open source options, you may also want to look at some top-rated paid systems, too, so you have the full picture. Check out our accounting software directory, where you can learn about common features, the products that are most recommended by our advisors, and the top rated products based on real user reviews.
The Software Advice accounting software Buyers Guide (Source)
How we chose featured products
To identify the systems featured here, we Googled the terms “free accounting software” and “open source accounting software” during the month of April 2021 in an incognito window with the location set to the U.S. Provided they met the following criteria, the top solutions on the first page of search results are presented/included above in alphabetical order:
- Offer a free, standalone version of the software (not a trial version of the software where you must purchase a product after a limited amount of time).
- Meet our accounting software definition: Accounting software enables accounting professionals in any type of organization to manage accounts and perform various accounting and financial operations such as record keeping, financial reporting, billing, and invoicing.