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DIY Accounting: 3 Software Programs To Explore

Posted Feb 23, 2018
Person typing on laptop with accounting software

As a small business owner, you have two basic choices when it comes to keeping your books — hire an accountant or do it yourself. Both have their advantages. For those who are, or plan on, doing it themselves, we review 3 solid software choices to consider.

As with any DIY software, you need to first determine what you expect from your program so you have ready the important criteria to use when you evaluate which one best suits your needs.

Here are our thoughts on 3 accounting software programs built for small business users.


This one (probably) needs no introduction. It’s one of the most popular software programs out there. This software has both desktop and cloud-based versions and offers mobile access. The interface is intuitive and there are hundreds of add-ons to boot (CRM, eCommerce, email marketing and more).

Quickbooks offers four tiers, or plans. Its versatility and expandability allow you to tailor it, whether you’re using it to keep tabs on your income and expenses or you need to track inventory and pay independent contractors. Three of the four plans also allow you to add on payroll services, which can be very helpful. And it has a solid array of built-in reports, can do automatic backups, and even automate recurring invoices.

One other thing — a lot of accountants use QuickBooks themselves. So, if you wanted to split your financial workload with an accountant, it’s easy for you to provide them access to your records so they can do the work you don’t want to!

If you’re looking for automation, flexibility, lots of options, and very little set up on your end, Quickbooks definitely deserves your attention.


If you are looking for a more ‘basic’ option, that’s cost-effective and still provides many good features, take a look at FreshBooks. Great for solopreneurs in need of sending invoices every month or a small business owner simply looking to keep track of expenses.

You’ll get some of the advanced features found in competing solutions with pricing starting at just $15 a month. The highest plan – called the Premium – allows you to bill up to 500 clients for just $50 per month. FreshBooks allows you to upload images of receipts in the expenses section and even take payment via credit card with the FreshBooks card reader. You can also access the software on mobile devices through the app.

Ease of use ranks high with FreshBooks with everything on one screen and a straightforward layout. It makes sense – this is truly an out-of-the-box solution with a one-page sign up. But be aware that FreshBooks does not support a few key accounting functions like accounts payable and payroll.

However, if it’s just the basics you need – invoicing, expense tracking, time tracking and reports – FreshBooks can fit the bill.


Xero approaches their monthly subscription a little differently. Instead of being limited by features included in the plan, Xero offers full functionality on every level, with plans simply tiered out by how many invoices need to be generated every month and whether or not you need payroll services.

Xero’s pricing is straightforward. There are no set up fees, no hidden costs, and its entry-level package starts at $9 per month.  And if you’re on a Mac, you’ll also love how highly rated this program is for Macs over any other accounting software on the market. Rather than being a watered-down version (as is often the case with software on a Mac) you get all the features and functionality despite your operating system.

Get daily updates from your connected bank account, give your staff or bookkeeper access to the areas they need, and protect your data with multiple layers of security. It also integrates with 600+ business apps like Square, Shopify and PayPal. And Zero has a mobile app as well, so you can create and send invoices on the go. Xero’s got a lot going for it.

As a heads-up though, Xero’s payroll function is only supported in 37 states, and software reviews mention a pretty steep learning curve to get it up and moving.

Accounting is probably not the highlight of your workday. But if you have to log in to a program to manage your financials every day, you might as well make sure it does what you need it to do. And that using it doesn’t make you crazy! Good luck with your search!