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Looking For Simple-Minded Accounting Program

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  • Looking For Simple-Minded Accounting Program

    No, it's not Quick Books.

    I've been using a Lotus 1-2-3 general ledger spreadsheet for almost 20 years now to keep records of my business income and expenses. It was from back in the days when people wrote clever programs and gave them away. This is a spreadsheet that's full of macros that don't translate to Excel, but it does exactly what I need. Every year around this time, though, I go out looking for something equivalent to switch to, knowing that I won't be able to run Lotus forever. The last version I have is a DOS version which runs under WinXP, but probably won't run under Vista.

    I've found lots of freeware accounting programs but they seem to require that I have a knowledge of accounting beyond what I have and want to learn. I'm not interested in accounts payable and accounts receivable since I do my books on a cash basis.

    What I need isn't very different from a checkbook register where expenses are like checks and income is like deposits. But I need to assign categories for my expenses (supplies, utilities, transportation, meals & lodging, taxes, and so on) and it's handy to be able to separate my income sources so that I can cross-check Form 1099s that come in from some of them.

    I also need to do quarterly calculation of net income (sum of incomes minus sum of expenses) for my estimated tax returns, and annual totals of income and individual expense categories for the Schedule C. The spreadsheet that I'm currently using does all of that with macros and menus and of course still works just fine as long as I can continue to run Lotus, but when I can't, it'll be dead.

    I don't care about trial balances, assets and liabilities, accounts receivable vs. payments, and so on. I tried what looked like a pretty simple freeware general ledger that let me set up everything I thought I needed, and when I entered a couple of incomes and expenses to try it, all it would tell me was that there was a discrepancy between income and outgo (or some such language) and wouldn't let me go on until I correced the error, which I didn't know how to do. The "help" assumes that you know how to be an accountant.

    I haven't seriously looked at Quicken just because I haven't had my hands on a copy, but I have looked at Quick Books and Peachtree and they're much too complicated for what I need. I've searched for an equivalent to the spreadsheet that I'm using and haven't had any luck. I suspect that if I sat with Excel for a day or so, I could figure out how to get what I need from it, though it wouldn't be as elegant as what I'm using now. But I'd rather just find something that will work for me.

    So, does anyone else around here keep books? If so, what are you using and how are you doing it?
    "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
    Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

  • #2
    The masses have bought into the Intuit stuff (Quicken/Quickbooks) for better or worse.

    You can use Quicken or Quickbooks in the way you describe. They've got registers that you set up that look just like checkbook registers. If you just post checks and deposits directly to the registers and totally skip the accounts payable and accounts receivable features, it should work for you.

    Also set all the reports up on cash basis. The default is accrual, so you have to make sure to tweak the reports to show cash basis. It's just a checkbox in the "modify reports" section.

    Quickbooks leads through a long interview process which confuses and intimidates almost everyone. You can skip the stupid interview. Or you can set up a preliminary dummy company and run through the interview on that one just to see what it does.

    Quickbooks allows you to have as many company databases as you want. I don't know about Quicken on that score - it may only allow you one for your own business/finances.

    A hint: if you just post checks and deposits to the registers, your cash basis statements and the accrual basis statements will be identical.

    If you have it set up so that, except for your bank accounts, all the accounts you use are expense or income accounts, you won't have to worry about the balance sheet except to check your cash balance. Actually the registers carry a running balance, so if you've got the numbers correct in the registers, you don't even need to ever look at the balance sheet.

    I actually think that recreating your Lotus stuff on Excel will be easier for you than learning a new bookkeeping program. They are not all that different except, of course Excel has a billion bells and whistles Lotus hadn't dreamed of back in the day.

    The Intuit products are full of all sorts of Microsoft-like irritating mother-hen features that nag you with popups and reminders and auto-downloads and cross-selling add-ons and all that crap. Of course they way they do this stuff leads into thinking, "Gee, maybe I really should buy this or that thing or get the extra download or payroll update program, etc." Just say no.

    One final tip: Quicken/Quickbooks also hawk data-transfer routines that supposedly transfer your tax info straight from the program into the tax forms for TurboTax and others. Don't get suckered into THAT one. You've been around the block enough times to know the track record of importing/exporting data. You'll spend 100X the time trying to figure out where the hell the link feature put the data and why it's calculating the way it is and how are you going to fix it and why did you buy this @#(* program anyway and let's burn down the IRS, etc etc etc.

    Best of luck....

    nat whilk ii


    • #3
      I looked for a trial version of Quicken to download and look at. Apparently in the US, they want you to buy it and will give you a refund within 60 days if you don't want it. I did find a trial version from Australia and figured that would be good enough to see how it works.

      It played games with me. I got an e-mail with the registration key, started the program, entered the number, and it came up. I couldn't figure out how to use it in the manner I wanted. Tried it again later and it crashed immediately. Tried again and this time it wanted me to go on line to the web site to register it.

      Nope, I don't think this is the answer.
      "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
      Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then


      • #4
        Well, that's Intuit all over.

        Have you ever seen the Dome books? They've been selling them for centuries - simple layout of bookkeeping for small bz, personal account. Geared mainly for cash-basis bookkeeping.

        I've seen software versions of their "bookkeeping for everyone" ledger books. You might poke around, see if the software is still around.

        Or brush up on Excel. If you haven't used it, you might be pretty impressed with what it can do now. Lots of smart auto-features that save tons of time.

        nat whilk ii