One of my goals this year is to develop both a personal and business budget, and keep better track of my books. When I went looking for software to do this, I looked first at open source sources. The option I decided on is GnuCash.
GnuCash is an open-source (i.e. free) accounting software package for individuals and small-businesses. I am beginning to use it for both business and personal purposes, to keep track of income and expenses. I wouldn’t call it super-intuitive, but for someone like myself with decent knowledge of computers, it is fairly straightforward. GnuCash is a double-entry accounting system, which means that for every debit you record, you have to have a credit somewhere else (for example, when a check is deposited in the checking account, it has to be debited from another source, i.e. from income). The same is true of all payments. For example, if I pay a credit card off, the amount also has to be entered into the checking account section. This is helpful for keeping good books, tracking income and expenses, and doing taxes later.
The first task I had to do was to set up and reconcile all of my accounts. This was time-consuming, because I have money spread out at various places in order to get the best return. This includes a good number of credit cards. Since I started this in January of 2009, I had to do a little calculating to reconcile the various accounts. I actually enjoyed it, because by using GnuCash, I am actually learning how to use double-entry accounting.
Gnucash seems to have a lot of features, many that I will not use at this point, but it meets my needs for the basic things I need to do right now. I hope to learn more as I move along.
I am a big believer in open-source software. It’s free. Period. And the quality of much of it is very good, and getting better by the day. In our current recession, I am surprised that more businesses aren’t using, and supporting the develoment of, open source programs.