I may be prejudiced but I like QuickBooks Pro for this kind of thing. All of your expenses and income are implemented to your tax information - something which comes in handy and also helps to avoid a lot of headaches later. It has lots of useful features including blocks where you can add all your client info and lots of other bells and whistles to help you add more information about your business - including all those numbers that are important like how much you charge, for what services - stuff like that.
I have a small business on the side that has gotten to have enough money headaches that I want to put it on a computer. Here are the things that I do that I need it to track, in no order:
1. I buy widgets in bulk and sell them individually or in packages of a few.
2. I sell to different customers at different prices. I'd like to keep track of things to make sure that I'm making at least enough to cover my expenses. I don't want to make a profit off my dad. I need to make a small profit off friends when I offer them a discount. And even with my few retail customers, prices seem to fluctuate more than I'd like. Straightening out this mess is half my problem.
3. I also do labor to install the widgets. I'd like to track the time I spend on the prep work.
4. I buy the same widgets from different distributors and at slightly different prices. I'd like to be able to keep track of the inventory so I can know which distibutor's widgets I'm selling now, and if I have any other distributor widgets in stock. This isn't as important to me, but it would be nice.
Things I DON'T need:
1. To communicate with any online banks or anything online at all, other than the usual updates to the program.
On one hand, I've been using computers since the PC revolution got started in 1981. On the other hand, given what little I know about my current operating system (Win XP) and how much less I know about my browser (Firefox), I'd probably have to call myself something of a "new user." I am quite familiar with Excel (where I'm currently keeping track of things).
I have a slight preference towards the free software, and a slight preference to avoid giving any more of my money to Microsoft. But realistically, I need these problems solved and if Microsoft is head and shoulders above the rest, I'll go with them.
When I was looking at the open source programs, they all seemed to be aimed more at personal finance for one private individual. I don't think that can track the kind of income and expenses that I'm looking for with a small business.
I wouldn't mind spending one hundred, or even two hundred. But when I saw some programs that were around four hundred, I was seriously balking at that. It'd have to do all that I need plus serve me breakfast for me to plunk down $400 just to keep track of the money. This is a side business, a hobby that's grown a bit big. It isn't my primary income.
Thanks to any and all who can offer some guidance and help.