Thursday, February 20, 2014

QuickBooks Alternative - looking for a free open source desktop alternative for Single Member LLC

Over at Bogleheads we came across the following discussion: 

QuickBooks - free open source desktop alternative for SM LLCby 

tidalwave10 » Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:30 am

I need accounting software for my single member LLC. In the spirit of keeping expenses minimal, can anyone recommend a free open source desktop alternative to QuickBooks? Not interested in Cloud options at this time. For context, I use OpenOffice Calc (possibly switching to LibreOffice Calc) and the whole OpenOffice Suite, because I can easily save and export in Microsoft formats. While Calc is not nearly as capable as Excel (esp. with some of the latter's Analytics capabilities), it works for me. I manage my personal finances with a home-grown multi-worksheet spreadsheet.

Would a microbusiness even *need* accounting software? Perhaps just a way to generate Invoices?

Trying to avoid unjustifiable expenses. Realizing that sometimes it certainly makes sense to pay, for example, for a commercial software product (perhaps Excel) if it saves you time--and thus money. I don't have a free vs. commercial software axe to grind. Just don't want to pay extra for features I may never use when a free alternative exists.

Also wondering if there is a good free open source alternative to Microsoft Project. Mostly interested in creating Work Breakdown Structures / Gantt charts.
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Re: QuickBooks - free open source desktop alternative for SMby englishgirl » Tue Feb 18, 2014 9:44 am

I suppose you need to look into the future. What do you see happening with this micro business? If you think it will make money one day, and possibly expand (even as a single member LLC, it might be nice to have an employee to help out, no?), then to me it makes sense to start with some accounting software from the get go. You get used to doing all the data entry, get used to the reports, and there's no big conversion headache when you do finally decide to upgrade.

Quickbooks online has a "simple start" option that's $12.95 a month. I know you said you didn't want cloud, but the thing about QB online is that you can move up OR down versions whenever you want, based on the features you want to activate. And you don't have to worry about backups, or your computer getting stolen and losing your data. Alternatively, the desktop version is $150. When I went to a seminar on Quickbooks, they said that you really don't have to worry about updating the software every year if it's working for you. If you kept the same version for 5 years, that's not very much money per month.

The other thing is that accountants know Quickbooks. They can pull information out of there easily. Any other software they may or may not have a learning curve with. Sometimes trying to avoid a small expense can end up creating a bigger expense or headache later on.

If you still don't want to spend the money, then use a spreadsheet, especially if you're already doing that for personal finances.
Sarah
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Re: QuickBooks - free open source desktop alternative for SMby JupiterJones » Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:47 am

Might be more than you need, but have you looked at PostBooks?



There's also GnuCash:



I use neither product, so I can't vouch for them personally.
Stay on target...
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Re: QuickBooks - free open source desktop alternative for SMby tedgeorge » Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:30 pm

Haven't tried this but it looks interesting for a free service. It looks like accounting gets you in the door for them and then you'd pay for services like payroll, payments, etc.

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Re: QuickBooks - free open source desktop alternative for SMby Jack » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:53 pm

Are you planning on filing your federal taxes as a sole proprietor or as an S-corp?

A sole proprietorship is very simple and you don't need any complicated software. A $30 copy of Quicken would simplify keeping track of income and expenses, although you could also set up the same thing with Excel or the LibreOffice equivalent. Spending a few bucks on Quicken would be worth the time saved. QuickBooks is overkill.
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Re: QuickBooks - free open source desktop alternative for SMby tidalwave10 » Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:03 am

Jack wrote:Are you planning on filing your federal taxes as a sole proprietor or as an S-corp?

A sole proprietorship is very simple and you don't need any complicated software. A $30 copy of Quicken would simplify keeping track of income and expenses, although you could also set up the same thing with Excel or the LibreOffice equivalent. Spending a few bucks on Quicken would be worth the time saved. QuickBooks is overkill.


At least starting out, I'll have my LLC treated as a Sole Proprietor for tax purposes. "Erring" on the side of simplicity seems to me to have great benefits in Investing; so why not in other domains?

I'll take a look at Quicken. @EnglishGirl, thanks again for your feedback and insights, would you agree, at least in part, with Jack? I don't know where this venture will or will not take me. But the idea of using a software product already well known by most Accountants is appealing. Is there an Upgrade Path from Quicken to QuickBooks should I decide I'd prefer the latter to the former? Thirty bucks to start, and without the learning curve of Free Software (must consider TCO, including my time--that has value), is compelling.
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Re: QuickBooks - free open source desktop alternative for SMby neurosphere » Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:18 am

Re: Quicken vs. Quickbooks.

Check out this webpage created by a Boglehead, SeattleCPA:


For all practical purposes, Quicken produces only two business forms: checks and invoices. This means that it doesn't work for businesses that own inventory. But Quicken works really well for service businesses—especially small service businesses.

Is yours a service business?

I have been using Quicken for personal use for 10+ year. Now I have a two separate side businesses, and the same quicken is serving me well for billing clients and keeping personal vs. business spending and account separate. As Steve points out, when you really need Quickbooks is when you have inventory to keep track of, or payroll. Steve also mentions QuickBooks does a better job with finance charges.

BTW, SeattleCPA writes the Quicken and QuickBooks for Dummies series. So if you are not familiar with Quicken you can check out those titles.

Neurosphere
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Re: QuickBooks - free open source desktop alternative for SMby 

englishgirl » Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:28 am

tidalwave10 wrote:I'll take a look at Quicken. @EnglishGirl, thanks again for your feedback and insights, would you agree, at least in part, with Jack?


I don't know Quicken. But if it'll do what you need for $30, then it's worth looking into. I also don't know your business. If we're talking a simple service business, then Quicken could totally be your answer.

I needed more complexity. We looked into Freshbooks, which I forgot to mention earlier. Looks like you can use Freshbooks for free indefinitely if you have limited needs. But we decided to go with QB because we have a lot of costs, and inventory, even though we are predominantly a service business. Having said that, there are things that Quickbooks handles well and things it doesn't handle well. Or at least that I don't know how to use well enough. I probably should go to a "Quickbooks 201" seminar. I went to an intro seminar but would like to do cooler things with it!
Sarah

5 comments:

  1. This wasn't around when the post was published but QuickBooks isn't the only game in town anymore. Go ahead and check out the free quickbooks download alternative. ZipBooks does a lot of what you need from QuickBooks without the complicated user experience.

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