Summer Savings! 
Get 70% off QuickBooks for 3 months. 

Ends July 29th.

Accounting software vs. spreadsheets: which is better for your business?

Perhaps you started your business a couple of years ago and things are going well. You’ve been managing your books with spreadsheets, but along the way you realized you spend too much time in them and it’s been taking you away from meeting new customers, fine-tuning your offerings, and enjoying your profits.

You’ve researched online accounting software solutions, and you’re interested but hesitant to make the leap. Let’s talk about what’s holding you back.

“I get by just fine using spreadsheets.”

It’s true—when you’re starting out, spreadsheets seem to be an easy temporary solution to financial management. However, the keyword is temporary; as a permanent accounting system, multiple spreadsheets full of manually entered financial reports can quickly spiral out of control with no surefire way to check that data for accuracy.

What’s more, to cover all your bases, you’re likely entering the same information in multiple places across your "accounting system" of spreadsheets. What if you make a mistake? An extra “0” or misplaced decimal point is enough to send anyone into a panic, and we’ve all spent more time than we’d like to admit chasing down the typos that keep our balance sheet from balancing.

If you are getting by, yet deep down feel a sense of anxiety when you think about your books, you’re not alone. In a confidence and intent survey of self-employed and small business owners conducted earlier this year, 23% reported feeling “anxious” about accounting for their business. Here’s the good news: there's accounting software available that turns your accounting anxiety into complete confidence in your books. Many solutions even sync with your bank account and credit cards, sorting expenses for tax season. And, software is much more user-friendly than spreadsheets and can save you time.

Another bonus add on, today's software is online, with cloud accounting and mobile apps, so you can access your financial reports on-the-go in real-time from anywhere you have an internet connection.

“It’s free to use spreadsheets.”

Nothing beats free, especially when you’re watching every penny. Plus, when you’ve invested so much time and energy into your current accounting system, it’s even harder to make a change. However, the financial cost of accounting software for small businesses and the self-employed can be as low as the cost of ordering lunch once a week, which could actually end up saving your business money.

How? When you factor in the cost of your time as a business owner, even free tools you use that don’t optimize your valuable time can quickly get expensive. Plus, accounting applications can help you see where your business stands financially. Dashboards and reports display your info in real-time, so you can monitor your cash flow and make the right business decisions. The time savings and the additional features that accounting software provides can end up being far greater than the overall cost. Check out this comparison of features between free spreadsheets, QuickBooks, and other accounting software.

“Okay, so accounting software may not be expensive, but it still costs money and takes time.”

You’re totally right. Short of hiring a professional accountant and bookkeeper, there’s no way around it—you’ll spend time managing your books. How much time do you carve out to manually input every transaction, payment, and invoice? If you’re like other small business owners, you may spend more than 21 hours on accounting tasks each week!

Managing your books is so time consuming and labor-intensive, in fact, that the desire to get organized and find a user friendly, efficient, cost-effective solution is a top priority of more than one-third of all small business owners. In that same survey, nearly 38% of them reported that accounting or organizing their books better is the most important business goal they’ve set this year.

If you are one of these small business owners, then you are painfully aware that every hour saved is money earned. The initial investment made into moving your business from spreadsheets to software should be seen as just that—an investment.

“I worry about accuracy. If I’m not doing it myself how do I know it’s being done right?”

Small business owners sometimes live with a sense of day-to-day uncertainty—the last thing you need is a new tool to set up and bring more uncertainty into your life! 

However, companies like Intuit employ teams of people to make sure calculations are correct, tax information is up-to-date, and everything is current with applicable guidelines. Why spend time familiarizing yourself with the most recent sales tax laws for your clients who are online, out of state, or overseas when QuickBooks can help you keep up with all of it. Combing local laws with multi-currency exchanges is a full-time job on its own, thankfully QuickBooks can do them both for you.

The decision to trust a company with your business’ financial information is not one to be taken lightly. QuickBooks uses double-entry accounting, which is what accountants want.

When using software, users report additional benefits in accuracy-related areas—such as 80% of customers reporting that QuickBooks helped them find additional tax savings or deductions they would have missed come tax time. With accounting software, managing your business finances has never been easier.

“I have to spend my money wisely. Accounting software isn’t going to grow my business.”

It’s absolutely critical to spend your money wisely and to ensure a high return on any investment in your business. Fortunately, software is one of those areas where the ROI is easy to track, as all companies regularly report on benefits to their users. For example, more than 92% of customers reported saving money with QuickBooks Online and the average savings was $500 each year according to a recent survey of QuickBooks users.

How does accounting software save users money and help them grow? It enables you to create invoices from within your books, and accept online payments, allowing you to get paid faster. It streamlines expense tracking and provides inventory tracking and/or project management. You can generate reports and view dashboards, even on mobile Android or IOS devices. This all adds up to you spending less time looking at your accounts payable and more time enjoying your accounts receivable.

Many accounting software providers offer additional add-ons like payroll services, time tracking, and inventory management. QuickBooks Online can import your bank feeds for easy bank reconciliation.

“If I wanted to try accounting software, how would I get started?”

Research is key. Think about what your business needs are now and what they might be in the future. The best accounting software will grow with your business and offer services and features that you’ll need when the time comes.

Look for the features you need now and the options for the things you may need in the future. Features like: generating purchase orders, setting up payment reminders, the ability to track inventory and grow your ecommerce presence. Choosing a comprehensive software package with the tools you need for the life of your company will allow you to move forward with confidence in your ability to take on any challenge your business may face.

Small business accounting software providers typically provide a complete list of accounting services and proven benefits on their web sites, and you may decide to take advantage of a free trial before deciding on the best accounting solution.

Ultimately, cloud accounting software allows you to spend less time doing data entry and more time with prospective customers, current clients, employees and even family. Before long, you’ll have your software set up, and you may end up asking yourself, “Why did I wait so long?”

Survey methodology

*QuickBooks collected and reviewed 1300-1500 customers responses. The poll was conducted in January of 2019.

QuickBooks welcomes the re-use of this data under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original source is cited with attribution to “ QuickBooks.”

Looking for something else?


From big jobs to small tasks, we've got your business covered.

Firm of the Future

Topical articles and news from top pros and Intuit product experts.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.