Budgeting Software – an overview
Preparing a budget is a key financial task for everyone – whether it is an individual trying to manage their expenses, a small business owner trying to forecast cash flow, or a multi-national planning the use and allocation of resources, or tracking the profitability of long-term investments. Software to help with the budgeting process has been around for a long time, which reflects both the demand amongst individuals and companies for such tools, but also the role that software solutions have in systematising and simplifying what can be an intensive, repetitive exercise.
Whilst budgeting software does include standalone solutions, more typically it can be found as a separate module in an accounting suite, recognising the integral nature of budgeting to an organisation’s wider financial management processes.
The requirements of such systems include detailed reporting functionality, permissioned access control and, where not part of a broader accounting package, integration with a company’s financial reporting system.
The Most Popular Budgeting Software Solutions
1. FreshBooks is a software product aimed at small businesses, and facilitates the management of a number of accounts processes, as well as time-tracking, budgeting, management of expenses, and subscription management.
FreshBooks is very simple and easy to use and, as the system is cloud-based, there is no software that needs to be installed on local computers, whilst, compared to many other accounting applications, it has a number of fully-functioning mobile apps and add-ons for use on Android and iOS devices.
A major benefit of FreshBooks is the ability for even the most basic of users to generate professional-looking invoices quickly, and they offer very good back-up support for users. There are a variety of pricing plans available for small and medium-sized businesses, and they also offer a free trial which gives users all the features and functionality that they would get with the paid version of the software.
2. Xero is a New Zealand-based company that produces cloud-based accounting and budgeting software for small and medium-sized businesses. Xero is compatible with any device with internet access and the latest versions of popular browsers such as Chrome, Internet Explorer or Safari. It also offers an accounting app for Android and iOS.
The set-up process is simple but can take time due to the volume of information that needs to be imported, such as contacts, previous bank statements etc. However, Xero comes with a pre-set Chart of Accounts that requires only some minor changes to suit the needs of most businesses.
One of the best features of Xero is the dashboard which prompts users to complete various set-up routines and tasks. This dashboard also gives a quick view of the company’s financial health, and is visually appealing with a range of graphs and applications which can be customised to show key performance indicators such as bank accounts, invoices outstanding, and the breakdown of expenses. It also offers an extensive range of reports – although a number of these are specific to payroll.
Customer service is available 24/7, although the company does not offer phone support, primarily using email to deal with user queries. The company promises to respond within 24 hours, although customer feedback suggests response times are usually considerably faster than this.
3. QuickBooks has been the market leader in accounting software for small and medium-sized business for many years. QuickBooks is renowned for its depth, flexibility and ease of use and navigation. It offers literally hundreds of add-ons and reporting templates which can be customised.
QuickBooks helps keep accounting data organised, including overdue items, payables and expenses, and standardises management reporting. It provides an easy, intuitive and flexible budgeting solution.
The solution helps with bank reconciliations, tracking expenses, drafting invoices, and monitoring financial reports, amongst other things. Customisable templates can be branded with a business logo, and desired fields, to generate invoices, bills and reports. The solution also generates various financial reports such as profit and loss accounts, balance sheets, cash flow statements and more.
Organisations can set permission levels for different individuals to ensure access to business-critical financial data is properly managed.
4. Sage Intacct is cloud-based accounting software that provides real-time financial and operational insights, as well as the ability to automate critical processes, such as budgeting. The solution is suitable for small and mid-size companies.
The suite provides an array of accounting applications, such General Ledger, Accounts Payable and Receivable, and Cash and Order management. It also comes in with built-in reporting and dashboards, time and expense management, project accounting and multi-entity consolidations.
Sage Intacct has an open API, which offers users the ability to integrate their accounting system with other business applications like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions or payroll.
5. FinancialForce Accounting is cloud-based software primarily aimed at sales and service-orientated businesses which are looking to optimise their business processes like budgeting and forecasting. It is primarily designed for larger companies.
FinancialForce Accounting is based on Salesforce, which allows departments to share one customer record, common workflows/approval processes and reporting tools, as opposed to having to synchronise transactions across different systems.
The software offers centralised billing capabilities to facilitate accurate invoicing of products, services, subscriptions, contracts and projects, and allows for automated revenue recognition calculations and postings, so that users can analyse revenue impacts in real-time. It also provides built-in intercompany reconciliations and automates elimination entries.
6. Sage 50 was formerly known as Peachtree Accounting. It is accounting software for small businesses, which provides billing and invoicing, inventory control, analytics and reporting, budgeting, and expenses management. It is commonly used in industries like construction, distribution, manufacturing and accounting.
The system includes built-in data checks that identify common mistakes and suspicious transactions. The software also includes forecasting and analytics which can be exported into Microsoft Excel.
7. Expensify is an expense tracking app which allows users to track expenses, miles travelled and time worked on a project, which then syncs with accounting and CRM programs . Apart from this, it converts currencies for international travel, and provides tools to create and track a business budget. All the information can be uploaded to a web account so that key data is stored in more than one place.
Functionality includes OCR (optical character recognition) that pulls information from photos of expense receipts, and automatically records them in the appropriate text fields.
8. AccountEdge is an on premise accounting and management solution aimed at small businesses. Compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems, it helps users create and track sales and purchases, run payroll, track and build inventory, bill for time, manage contacts, and budget.
Key features include invoicing and quotes, banking, purchase orders, time billing, payroll, inventory and e-commerce. Users can create quotes, orders and invoices for services, time and items sold. Payment can be processed on orders and invoices.
AccountEdge’s banking tools allow users to send and receive money, prepare bank deposits and electronic payments, print cheques and reconcile accounts. They can also set up an e-commerce platform and sell items online using Shopify.
9. ReportGarden is a cloud-based marketing analysis tool suitable for marketing agencies of any size. It provides configurable marketing reports and dashboards for SEO optimisation, PPC (pay-per-click), marketing analytics , social media performance, and website management.
There are various pre-built templates and dashboards from which to choose, which can be configured to meet user needs and to create customised reports, such as multi-channel reporting, comparing performance on sites such as Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook. Also on offer are reports that track links and impressions, visitor demographic breakdowns and ad word performance.
Gallery and dashboard tools let users present statistics and performance for various marketing channels. Reports can be customised with company colours and logos. Other features include SEO key word rankings, campaign health monitoring, campaign alerts and more.
10. FreeAgent is a cloud-based accounting solution for freelancers, accountants and small business owners which offer dedicated mobile apps for Android and iOS devices. It enables owners to manage invoices , expenses, payroll, tax returns, budgets and other accounting tasks.
The solution enables accountants to set up recurring invoices which are sent as reminders to clients to make payment. Users can also track expenses by uploading the photo of an expense receipt with a mobile app. FreeAgent offers a built-in stopwatch feature to manage timesheets and track employee hours.
The user dashboard provides an overview of key business metrics from a single screen, Users can track invoices, estimates, timelines and project status. Tax timeline features also provide updates and reminders about deadlines, and due dates.
Choosing the best Budgeting Software
Whilst there are a number of budgeting software solutions on the market, it is important to recognise that they are often tailored to a particular type of industry or market. Furthermore, many of the products with the greatest functionality are modules within a broader accounting suite, and that buying the entire product can be both expensive and offer a great deal of redundant functionality.
Therefore it is important to determine your individual needs and requirements first, and then shortlist a range of solutions accordingly. Having done so, take advantage of the free trial periods and product demos offered by software vendors, and read the online reviews before committing to any solution.
Types of Budgeting Software
There are a number of types of budgeting software solutions available, ranging from free basic tools to complex and expensive accounting systems. Certain programs offer nothing but reporting, whilst others allow companies to control processes, forecast and analyse. As ever the advice is determine your needs first and find the software type that best suits them.
Budgeting software eliminates manual tasks, automates repetitive routines, ensures accurate reporting and, at the top end integrates with an organisation’s wider financial processes. As such it is an essential tool for any organisation, no matter their size.