Excel has been a mainstay for do-it-yourself business owners for more than 25 years. Its simple functionality allows you to easily organize, schedule, and calculate your revenues and expenses. You can also track your spending habits and forecast future budgets through automatically generated graphs. Due to Excel's ubiquity, you can easily find inexpensive or even free budget templates to customize to your needs.
Many small businesses use QuickBooks on top of Excel to enter sales receipts and invoices, track sales tax, prepare financial statements, process orders, and manage inventory. Its simple design makes for an easy read, as on-screen presentations look a lot like paper invoices or checks. The online version now even lets you access data remotely from your home computer or mobile device without pesky installation.
Cost: QuickBooks Pro starts at $229.95
If you're looking to get a little more sophisticated, the popular PlanGuru program offers increased forecasting and financial projection information. It easily imports historical data from QuickBooks or Excel and produces customized reports like financial ratios and break-even analyses. Though it may provide excessive detail for the average business owner, PlanGuru can be a powerful tool in the hands of a CFO or an in-house CPA.
Peachtree prides itself as a comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. In addition to budgeting, its distinguishing uses include payroll and cash-flow control. Premium editions can help you integrate payroll taxes, W-2 form deliveries, and cash-flow analyses into your overall business plan. The software also allows you export Peachtree data into Microsoft Excel and Word documents.
Cost: Pro edition starts at $199
Alight Planning, designed primarily for financial experts, may be the answer for companies with more robust financial needs. It's compatible with other budgeting packages like Microsoft GP and Sage MAS for both exporting and importing purposes. Though price and learning curve are steep, the program can reduce time spent on profit & loss, balance sheet, and cash flow projections – along with a surplus of additional calculations.