Best Free Accounting Software
What if I told you there was a free accounting software that could compete with and outrank even some paid software options? No limits, no gimmicks, simply free software. We’ve explored a lot of great software solutions in this blog series, looking at the best choices for small businesses, larger businesses, accountants, and invoicing. But there is only one winner in this category.
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Wave: Best Free Accounting Software
Wave (see our review) is completely free. The software was developed in 2010, and it’s now grown to support over 2.2 million users and win numerous accolades. The company makes revenue off of small, unobtrusive ads that appear in the software interface.
Wave addresses basic accounting needs and imposes no limits on the number of invoices or contacts you can create, unlike most other free accounting options. As a cloud-based software, Wave is available on nearly any device. (The most updated browsers are recommended.)
Wave was designed for truly small operations ranging from freelancers to small businesses with nine users or fewer. You can have more than nine users, although the scale of the features and the speed of Wave’s servers may not be adequate enough for that. Although the software is completely free, there are a few optional costs you should consider.
- Payroll – $15/mo: This is the base fee for payroll. Each additional employee is an extra $4/mo (if you have 10 or more employees that price drops to $2/mo).
- Credit Card Processing – 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction: Learn more about Wave Payments here.
- Plus Support – $9/mo: Chat support.
- Advanced Support – $10/mo: Chat support and phone support.
Wave is unrivaled in the free accounting software world. The software is easy to use and requires no previous accounting knowledge. For very small businesses and freelancers who are looking to save a little money without skimping on basic accounting, Wave is a great option.
The sheer amount of features on offer here (not to mention an admirable lack of limitations) puts Wave on a plane far above other free software programs, and even makes it a viable competitor for some paid accounting solutions. One of the best things about Wave is that you can manage your business accounts and personal accounts side by side. This juxtaposition is ideal for freelancers, independent contractor, online sellers, and startups who don’t’ have the time or money to hire an accountant. There is also a great Etsy integration for online sellers.
These points illustrate just how great Wave can be (and why it won the title of Best Free Accounting Software without question).
- Easy to use
- No previous accounting knowledge required
- Good customer support resources
- Support for multiple companies
- Personal accounting (as well as business accounting)
- Zapier integration (connects Wave with 500+ add-ons)
- Etsy integration
- Unlimited invoicing
- Unlimited estimates
- Live bank feeds
- Mobile apps
Here is where the too good to be true bit comes in play. As with any software, paid or unpaid, Wave has some downsides. These problems don’t necessarily outweigh the positives aspects of Wave, but there are definitely a few places where it doesn’t even come close to the other category winners we’ve mentioned in this blog series.
- Only three reports
- Slow servers
- Limited contact management
- Poor bank reconciliation (have to individually categorize transactions, no automated bank rules)
- No cash-basis accounting
- Not scalable for larger businesses
Wave covers almost all basic accounting features. The UI is beautiful and easy to use, so making good use of these features is a breeze.
- Dashboard – The dashboard is beautifully organized with clear graphs marking the financial health of your business. Features are listed as well-organized tabs on the left side of the screen.
- Invoicing – Wave has incredible invoicing options for a free software (better than what you get with Xero’s paid option). There are three professional templates to choose from and numerous customizations. You can set recurring invoices and see when your client has viewed their invoice as well.
- Estimates – Similarly, estimates are well designed and easy to create. There is only one estimate template, and you can send estimates by email or snail mail.
- Contact Management – There really isn’t a contact management section in Wave, which is one of the only major feature drawbacks. However, contact information will save from previous invoices.
- Bank Reconciliation – Wave uses live bank feeds and a categorization tool, which is the easiest way to go. If you choose to manually import bank statements, you’ll have to individually categorize each transaction.
- Reports – Alas, this is where Wave and I start having relationship problems. In January of 2016 Wave offered eleven reports; in July, they had nine; in November they had three. At this rate, they’ll have zero by February.
- Billing – Wave makes it easy to enter, keep track of, and pay bills.
- Expense Tracking – Wave has an awesome mobile app that allows you to take pictures of receipts so you can categorize them as expenses easily and quickly.
Wave also has multi-currency support, good sales tax options, and a basic items list. For a full list of features, go here.
Is Wave Right for Me?
If you want free software, the simple answer is yes.
Wave is unbeatable compared to other free software and is a good fit for very small businesses, especially those which have combined personal and business accounts. Wave features great invoicing, a beautiful UI, quick expense tracking, and billing, as well as many other basic accounting features. The program also integrates with Zapier, which solves problems like limited contact management by connecting Wave to 500+ add-ons.
Wave is probably not for you if you run a larger business or are in need of more comprehensive accounting features. If you are looking for reports and contact management, you also might want to pass on Wave.
Ultimately, it is not the most scalable option for larger businesses with grand long-term goals, but for the everyday businessman or woman starting their own company, Wave is a truly excellent choice. Read our full review of Wave and give the software a try. After all, it is free.
Before Choosing Accounting Software:
Before deciding whether an accounting software is right for you, make sure you know what you need. Decide which features are integral to your business. Analyze where you are spending the most time and see if there are any automations or tools you could use to simplify your processes. Then think about whether there are any features it would just be nice to have. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to search for software that addresses both your needs and wants.
Treat shopping for accounting software like a college student treats a Christmas wishlist. First, ask for the practical things you need but don’t have the money to buy yourself. Then throw in an extra thing or two just for fun.
Before buying anything, it is also incredibly important to do your research. Research may sound boring or like a waste of time, but it will save you much time and heartache in the long run. Wave and other similar solutions offer free trials—use them. Check out what other customers are saying on sites like complaints.com, trustpilot.com, or getapp.com.
One last thing to keep in mind: many software choices have regular discounts or referral programs, which you should take advantage of before buying.
Need More Help Deciding?
If you aren’t sold on Wave, check out our other top accounting software choices in the comparison chart below. If you don’t know what to look for or how to pick a favorite, head on over to our How to Choose Accounting Software guide for a few tips and tricks or see additional posts in this blog series:
- Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses
- Best Accounting Software for Larger Businesses
- Best Accounting Software for Accountants
- Best Accounting Software for Invoicing.
Here Merchant Maverick, we wish you the best of luck in finding the best software for you, and we hope to help you on that journey in any and every way that we can.
|Best SMB Accounting Software||Best Accounting Software for Larger Businesses||Best Free Accounting Software||Best Accounting Software for Invoicing||Best Accounting Software for Accountants|
|QuickBooks Online||Xero||Wave||Zoho Books||QuickBooks Pro|
|Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review|
|Visit Site||Visit Site||Visit Site||Visit Site||Visit Site|
|Price||$15 – $40/mo||$9 – $180/mo||$0||$2 – $29/mo||$299.95|
|Accounting Method||Both accrual and cash-basis||Both accrual and cash-basis||Accrual||Both accrual and cash-basis||Both accrual and cash-basis|
|Web-based or Installed||Web-based||Web-based||Web-based||Web-based||Locally installed|
|Highlights||Robust Feature Set|
Easy to use
Good customer service
Personal and business account management
Supports multiple companies
Good customer service
Easy to use
Great client portal
Robust feature set
Hundreds of reports