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Free bookkeeping software for small business and/or farm?

 
master steward
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I'm looking for some free bookkeeping software I can use to get me started and in good habits.  I want to keep a record of expenses and income and to be able to write invoices.  I also like the idea of managing inventory although all I have is one item so far.  If it's really good, I could use it for farm bookkeeping too, but that's a whole different kettle of fish.

Oh yes, I want to save the files on my computer, not cloud-based.  

I found this list but I don't know anything about these.

Anyone here use free bookkeeping software?
 
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I use Wave (#4 on that list you linked) and it works just fine for me (small property rental business). You can create invoices, record and categorize expenses, and view reports.

My main use of it is to record all my income and expenses and then export a detailed report for the accountant every year.
 
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I use GnuCash.  I use it for a combination of personal finances, off-farm self-employment finances, and on-farm finances.  I primarily use it as a transaction ledger.  It has some invoicing features which I have used a few times but have since stopped.

As far as transaction ledgers go, I think GnuCash is fairly reasonable.  The trick of it seems to be that you actually need to understand the underlying accounting principles.  This is not a piece of software you pick up cold and then effortlessly learn as you use it.  It does have a (looong) manual that explains both how to use GnuCash and some of the underlying accounting principles and reading this is how I've been able to accomplish what I have with the software.  After a lot of trial and error (and error and error).

I stopped using the invoicing features because I mostly have cross-currency invoices and I haven't figured out how to make those work well yet.

So, in its favor: free and open source software, stores files locally (make sure you keep backups!), all of the basic features you might want.  And against it: long, steep learning curve - though whether there is anything easier to use out there (without giving all of your private financial data to some cloud), I don't know.
 
r ranson
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Talking to people in town, the bookkeepers are mostly using something called Sage.  I don't know if it's free or not.
 
Jean-Paul Calderone
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raven ranson wrote:Talking to people in town, the bookkeepers are mostly using something called Sage.  I don't know if it's free or not.



Sage is another one of those cloud offerings - <https://www.sage.com/en-us/accounting-software/>.  It looks like it's subscription based.
 
pollinator
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Microsoft Money was discontinued in 2008 (more or less..). At that time it was/is free if you can find a copy. It competed with Quicken.

MoneyDance isn't free, but last I looked (about 5-6 years ago) it's not crazy expensive and it is somewhat user friendly, unlike GnuCash. A the time it was actively maintained.

I use GnuCash, but it's really for accountants and those who can grok double entry bookkeeping - I'm neither, but I'm getting there. It has fairly good reporting options which allow me to list and display different types of transactions for special uses.

I have a good friend running a small plumbing biz who insists that Quickbooks, circa 1996 is the best out there. He may be right. It's a DOS program that hits all the basic stuff in a simple understandable way. The reports are somewhat limited, but everything you need to organize finance is there. You might find a copy on ebay and I'll ask him if he feels OK about sharing the install media (if he can find it - he's that kind of guy). Printing would be the big issue because by itself it won't recognize any printers around today. It has a generic Epsom mode that might work or the "box" you will run it inside on your operating system will need to feed it's print jobs to the main system for print out. IOW, although the data entry and screens, registers and reports should work no problem inside a DosBox, getting it to work fully including printing will take some fiddling. What he does in print to a file and then use another program to send that file to the printer when he needs hardcopy.

Old copies of Quicken and Quickbooks, say 3 to 10 years old can be found on ebay. They won't connect online with banks because Intuit arranged that online connectivity with banks expires three years after the software's release date. However, AFAIK, all versions _will_ import OFX files which, so far, all banks will provide as a download from "your" online banking site, the one you can reach with your browser. Thus you can load you monthly transactions into the software using OFX files and don't have to do that data entry (although there is often some "clean-up" involved, but I think that's true of any automated updates). The issue with ebay software is whether it will run w/out "activation" and whether, if it needs it, it can be activated/registered. I have had good luck with old copies of TurboTax but I haven't tried since about 2014 so don't know how that stands now.

Rufus
 
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