WOW! Free Microsoft Software
By Bill Kennedy -  My client was a small association. Their "books" consisted of wide green sheets that recorded all of the transactions. At the end of the year, an external accountant would turn the sheets into financial statements, which would be presented to the Board of Directors several months later. The new Executive Director, Jan, wanted monthly financial statements and a faster year end. We had arranged to meet to discuss her needs, but she called a few days before, all excited.
"Guess what? I just bought our first computer. Oh, and our accounting system as well."
"Which one did you buy?"
That triggered a little discussion about the merits of a spreadsheet as an accounting program. I love Excel, but not for accounting. There is no audit trail. If you change the contents of a cell, no history is kept. It can be made to print invoices and checks, but it is awkward. I reassured Jan that she could get a good entry level accounting package for under $200.
Microsoft changed all that. Now you can get Microsoft Office Accounting Express  for free, but please remember that the software is only half the battle. Planning and thoughtful setup of the system will save many hours and dollars later.
- Invoicing customers
- Depositing cash receipts
- Paying the bills
- Issuing purchase orders
- What to do at month end
That way, even if you are sick or on vacation, there is a set of instructions for someone else to follow. Who knows? You may just grow to the point where you can hire someone to take all that administration off your hands!