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Financial Fable: Mike the Mechanic Part II – Choosing the Right Accounting Software

[Mike, a newly self-employed mechanic, and Katie, his new accountant, had been discussing his need for a separate business bank account and have started going over his software options….]

“In order to figure out what software will best suit your needs, we need to figure out what’s important to you and your business.  I mostly work with Intuit, who are the makers of QuickBooks,” Katie explained as she set their coffees on the table.

“I’ve heard of them.  Is that what I need?” Mike inquired.

“Yes, most likely one of their products will suit your needs,” Katie continued, “But we need to determine which one.  They offer QuickBooks Desktop, and QuickBooks Online, also known as QBO.  QuickBooks Desktop can be purchased at most office supply stores and is installed on your computer.  QuickBooks Online is in the cloud, which means that you login to a website to access your data from anywhere with an internet connection…”

“I don’t like this cloud stuff,” interrupted Mike.  “It doesn’t sound safe to me.”

“Actually,” Katie continued, “it’s encrypted with bank-level security.  So your data is safe.  And its always backed up when it’s on the cloud.  So even if your computer crashes, you didn’t lose any data.”

“Really?  Hmm…that’d be alright then,” Mike realized he wasn’t quite up to speed with some of this technology stuff.  “So if it’s in the cloud, does that mean I can access it with my phone?”

“Yep,” Katie confirmed. “There are apps for both Apple and Android users.  And the nice part about having the app on your phone is you can capture receipts instantly.  So when you leave the store and get back into your truck, take out your phone and take a picture of the receipt, and post it to your books using the app.  No more hanging onto the receipt, and then having to remember to enter it in your computer when you get back to your shop.  The app can’t do EVERYTHING that you can do on the computer, but it’ll do a lot.”

Mike took a sip of his coffee, “QuickBooks Online sounds pretty high-tech.  Is it more expensive than QuickBooks Desktop?”

“QuickBooks Online has price levels depending on what you need to be able to do.  Would you like to be able to create estimates for customers?”

“It can do that?  That’d be great! So it’ll help me keep track of estimates I’ve given so I can follow up with the customer?” Mike was starting to sound excited.

“Exactly.  Once the estimates are approved, they can be used to create the invoice with a click of a button.  What about tracking outstanding bills to your vendors?”

“Absolutely,” said Mike, “I’ve already incurred late fees from vendors because I set the invoice aside to pay when my next check comes in, but I lose it in the meantime.”

“And what about inventory? Do you need to be able to track that?”

“I keep a few things on hand at the shop,” pondered Mike, “but does each feature add to the price?”

“Not every feature is an additional cost, but inventory tracking would bump you up to the next price package.  Why don’t we wait on inventory tracking?  If you don’t have a lot to keep track of, it might not be worth the extra cost.  We can always upgrade later, but you can’t downgrade.  To get estimates and bill tracking you’ll want to go with QBO Essentials.  List price is $30/month* but if I add you to my wholesale billing you get a 50% discount, so it would be $15/month.”

“What does wholesale billing mean?” Mike questioned.

“It just means you pay me for your subscription and I’ll remit the payment to Intuit.  I just require that we get it set up on auto-draft so all the payments happen automatically.”

“Fifteen dollars a month is doable.  What would the cost of QuickBooks Desktop be?”

Katie finished the last of her coffee, “Prices on QuickBooks Desktop vary, but you can find it for around $220.  You have to upgrade every 3 years, so that works out to just over six dollars per month.”

“Six?  Why the big price difference?”

“Well, with QuickBooks Online you’re getting more than just the accounting software.  Like I mentioned, it’s always backed up real-time.  You can post transactions while mobile and many transactions will automatically download from the bank and nearly post themselves.  And if you need any help I can access your file anytime or Intuit offers unlimited free tech support for QBO, but the desktop version only comes with 30 days of free support.  So the extra cost is to save you time, which as we all know, Time is…”

“Money!” Mike smiled.


Choosing the right bookkeeping software can be overwhelming because there are so many options in the market today.  By working with an accounting professional who can help you select the right software for your business, you reduce the risk that you’re overpaying for software features that you don’t need or don’t add value to your business.  In the above story, Mike decided that QuickBooks Online would be best for him, but many businesses might benefit more from QuickBooks Desktop, especially if mobile access is not important, or you have more than one business to keep track of.  Contact me today to find out which software would be right for you and your business.

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*Pricing and package options were accurate as of February 2017.  Check with your local ProAdvisor for current pricing or promotions.

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