Think free accounting methods are saving you money? Think again!

Many small business owners think they're saving money by doing their accounting manually through Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheets or paper ledgers when, in fact, these supposedly low-cost or free solutions can cost even the smallest of businesses several thousands of dollars a year.

Using a manual process is risky business: It does not provide an audit trail, mixing up your numbers and making vital mistakes are extremely easy, you have little to no confidence doing your taxes, and your accountant won't be able to help with year end or provide strategic advice for your business if you're using a manual process to do your accounting. Talk about stress!

Research conducted by the CEB Marketing to Small Business Leadership Council1 found that Canadian business owners value their time at $127 per hour. A recent Sage study found that customers who were previously doing their accounting by hand or spreadsheet have realized an average time saving of seven hours per week as a result of switching to Sage 50. At $127 per hour, that amounts to a weekly saving of $889. Or, to put it another way, manual accounting methods are costing small business owners a whopping $46,228 in time each year!2

Manual Cost of Accounting vs Sage 50 Cost3

Wasted time and money and a whole lot of stress—that’s the cost of doing accounting manually or with Microsoft Excel. Suddenly, “free” doesn’t look so good. That’s $46,228 in lost time that could be spent on growing your business, spending more time with your customers, and generating more sales. Accounting software allows you to do your accounting yourself, without the fear of making costly mistakes. It’s a win-win for both you and your business.

Busting the myths

So, if the costs are so high for small businesses to use Microsoft Excel to do their accounting, why are they doing it? It seems that small business owners often mistakenly assume that Excel accounting is the most economical option. Let’s take a look at the facts.

Myth: Microsoft Excel saves me time
Fact: Excel has a very steep learning curve—especially if you need to go beyond the basics. The learning curve is so steep that colleges offer full courses on how to use the spreadsheet software—courses that cost several thousand dollars and can take multiple years to complete.4 Even if a user takes the time to learn how to use Excel, there is still an ongoing time commitment for entering data manually and writing complex formulas for multiple worksheets.

PMT Function

If Excel were meant to be used for accounting, it would come with preset accounting templates—balance sheets, for example—but the spreadsheet software was not designed to be an accounting tool. This means that you need to spend valuable time manually entering data and creating complicated tables. Further, mistakes, such as input or formula errors, are easily made. Imagine how much of a nightmare that would be at month or year end, during tax time, or, even worse, if you’re audited!

There is never enough time in the day, especially if you’re a small business owner. Sage 50 is easy to use, even if you have no experience using accounting software, and there is no need to learn complex formulas in order to use the software to its fullest potential. Customers have reported that the time savings from switching to Sage 50 has allowed them to focus on growing their business, accepting new clients, becoming more organized, and even spending more time with their family.

Bonus: If you have French-speaking customers but you only speak English, Sage 50 also saves you time with its multilanguage support. With just a few clicks, you can send an invoice to your customer in their preferred language—delivering an exceptional customer experience that Excel could never help you with.

Myth: Microsoft Excel is accurate and easy to use
Fact: For the average user, Microsoft Excel is not easy to use. What should be a nearly effortless task of creating a company budget, for example, actually requires the user to follow a very long and complicated series of steps.5 Given its complexity and because the data entry process is manual, using Excel for accounting purposes leaves a lot of room for error that businesses simply cannot afford. Further, data can easily become corrupt or lost through accidental changes or deletion. What’s the cost of these mistakes? Potentially thousands! Your customers could owe you money, and you wouldn’t even know it. You could face hefty penalties for filing incorrect or incomplete taxes. You could accidentally bounce cheques because you don’t have a handle on your cash flow, which, in turn, could give you and your business a bad reputation—all of which could cost you service fees, embarrassment, and future sales.

Tracking customer payments

The most common improvements seen by businesses that have switched to using Sage 50 are in the areas of accuracy, the amount of effort required to do their accounting, and financial statement preparation. The automated processes and ease of use of Sage 50 leaves little room for error, which ultimately helps small business owners avoid costly penalties, additional accountant fees, and a lot of wasted time.

Myth: Microsoft Excel can help me with my taxes
Fact: Using Excel to help your company prepare its taxes can be a costly nightmare. Excel does not provide an audit trail, and the manual data entry process opens the door to inaccuracies and mistakes, which can result in a lot of valuable time being wasted correcting errors, as well as expensive penalties. Simply put, there are numerous risks to using Excel to manage your finances—mistakes could be made, and you wouldn’t even know it, and the spreadsheet software certainly won’t help ensure you’re following all of Canada Revenue Agency’s regulations.

The full time audit trail in Sage 50 meets the government record keeping requirements for tax purposes. Tax preparation is quicker and easier, and the risk of penalties is significantly reduced. Sage 50 also helps you prepare your taxes for e-filing, which is something Excel cannot do.

Myth: Microsoft Excel offers easy access to key financial data
Fact: Unless you’re very familiar with Excel, using the software to keep track of financial data can be extremely complicated, and as your business grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage this data. Even if you are familiar with Excel, you still need to create all of your own reports. For example, you cannot simply open Excel and have access to all of your account balances—instead, trial balances need to be created from scratch. That’s a lot of work! Further, Excel won’t show you which of your customers owe you money, which have overdue payments, whether you’re carrying too much overhead, or which supplier offers you the best price. And what about managing multiple currencies? Excel will definitely get in your way if your goal is to spend less time tracking critical data like expenses and customer invoices so you can focus more of your time on acquiring new customers.

Sage 50 makes it easy to keep track of and analyze your financial data. The software saves you time and money by providing you with helpful reporting and management tools, so staying on top of accounts payable, accounts receivable, and inventory is a piece of cake.

Overcoming the challenges

Running a successful business is not easy. In fact, only 51 percent of Canadian businesses survive beyond the first five years; failing to keep track of and analyze financial data is one of the top reasons businesses are unsuccessful.6

But why are businesses failing to keep track of the numbers? A few of the top challenges include:

  • Limited resources.
  • Not enough time to get started.
  • Difficulty in finding an accounting solution that’s accurate and user friendly.
  • Tax preparation.
  • Easily accessing key financial data.

Small businesses are faced with numerous challenges on a daily basis, but managing their finances doesn’t need to be one of them.

Sage 50 Accounting – Canadian Edition is easy to use and affordable, and an accounting background is not required in order to use Sage 50 to its fullest potential. Recommended by accountants, cost effective, and accurate, this high-value investment will help give you the peace of mind and security you need.

Why Sage 50 Accounting?

Sage knows Canada

At Sage, the source of our inspiration and innovation for Sage 50 (formerly known as Simply Accounting) never changes. Our mission is always driven by the energy and creativity of Canadian business owners pursuing their dreams. Helping them reach their goals is what we do.

Choose Sage 50 because we are . . .

  • Canadian-made for over 25 years.
  • Fully outfitted with built-in Canadian tax regulation compliancy.
  • Trusted and used by over 500,000 Canadian small businesses.
  • Backed by Canada's largest network of accountants and bookkeepers— 13,000+ Sage Accountants Network members.
  • Supported for both English and French—application and customer support.
Sage 50 Accounting formerly Simply Accounting
  1. CEB Marketing to Small Business Leadership Council is an advisory service for senior marketing and sales executives whose members include 1,700 senior executives and their teams from more than 80 of the world's leading companies.
  2. Sage 50 Canadian Edition New Customer Experience Study, April 2013.
  3. CEB Marketing to Small Business Leadership Council is an advisory service for senior marketing and sales executives whose members include 1,700 senior executives and their teams from more than 80 of the world's leading companies and Sage 50 Canadian Edition New Customer Experience Study, April 2013.
  4. The MS-Office Certificate Program at Camosun College costs $3,100 and is a 175-hour program, which, if taken part-time, will take up to two years to complete. Source: and
  5. Microsoft Business, Excel Accounting & Budgeting for SMEs, Creating Company Budget in Excel:
  6. Sage, Top six reasons why start-ups fail and tips on how to survive:
Nexus: G-WEBCD1