I spend a lot of time on my personal bookkeeping, so I
very much appreciate how this is one job that computers have made
easier. Keeping good records is everything when you're in business
for yourself, and now my finances are more complex than ever
because I have a salaried job and some sidelines: I'm writing a
book, I have a home office, and I have a number of small
income-producing projects on my little ranch. None of this would be
very complicated if it weren't for the incredibly Byzantine tax
laws I have to deal with. Whenever I'm doing my quarterly and
annual returns I think black bitter thoughts about how we pay the
brainiacs in Congress to sadistically abuse us in this manner.
If the tax laws weren't so insane it would be a breeze. Money
in, expenses out, tax the profit and be done with it. But nooo,
such sane simplicity is against the law. My accountants are
awesome: they package my annual return in a pretty blue folder, and
every year it gets thicker. Some forms are several pages long, and
I pay my nice smart accountants to know which one or two boxes on
each page needs to be filled in. Who designs these things, anyway?
Descendants of Torquemada?
I've used bookkeepers in the past, and if I could find one that
was worth a darn out here at the Tail End of Nowhere I would use
one again. A good one is every bit as valuable as a good certified
public accountant. A bad one can mess you up something awful. But
doing my own books isn't too bad, and it's good for me to see
exactly where everything is going in detail.
Linux Accounting Software
I've tried many personal finance applications over the years. I
started with Quicken 3 for MS-DOS. That was all right, and I didn't
see much in the later versions of Quicken that made upgrading worth
the bother. I used Quickbooks for a long time for business
accounting and invoicing because it was the only low-cost option.
But both Quicken and Quickbooks encourage sloppy habits and sloppy
thinking; maybe it's different now, but back then neither one was
based on proper double-entry bookkeeping. There is a reason for the
double-entry method: it's the best way to expose mistakes quickly.
KMyMoney gets my vote for best personal finance manager. It has
a nice readable friendly interface, and manages as many accounts--
bank, credit card, loan, investment, cash, whatever-- as you want.
Initial setup is the biggest job, as it is with all accounting
programs. There is not a standard file format that is common to all
accounting applications, which makes it a real pain to import and
export data. QIF (Quicken Interchange Format) is sort of a
standard, but it's an imperfect, limited format, and Quicken
stopped supporting it some years ago. CSV is a common option and
it's a different kind of pain, but I've had better success with it
KMyMoney is not for managing business finances; it has no
invoicing, billing, payroll, or other business functions. For
managing simple to very complex personal finances, it's aces. And
For business accounting I keep coming back to GnuCash. GnuCash
and me, we've had this on-again off-again thing for several years.
I tried it back when installing it was a tri-color nightmare. Now
it's standard in most distro repos, so installation is no longer an
issue. It has a pretty good learning curve, but there is a busy and
helpful user and developer community, and you can make it do just
about anything. Once you figure out how. Reporting, invoice
tracking, tracking, tax nonsense, GnuCash can do it all. I don't
believe I would use it for inventory and supply chain management,
though I imagine it could be rassled into doing that too. GnuCash
is also GPL.
KMyMoney does not support check printing. GnuCash sort of
supports check printing: one at a time. You can't do batches. Many
of the devs in both projects live outside of the USA, and are
amused at how we cling to using paper checks.
Honorable mention goes to Moneydance. It is closed-source, but
it's cross-platform, inexpensive, and capable of handling both
personal and some business functions capably. It looks and behaves
a lot like Quicken, so it's a less-jarring transition. Support is
pretty good, and it also had a good helpful user community.