Resources and Tips / Digital tools to help your small business stay on budget

Digital tools to help your small business stay on budget

By SME Institute

Small business budgeting isn’t easy – especially since it’s often done off the side of an owner’s desk while they manage day-to-day deliverables, client requests and a host of other competing priorities.

As a SME in the startup or growth phase, when it comes to reinvesting your profits, you likely have more critical needs than staffing up an in-house accounting department, especially at a time when most small businesses have low available cash flows. At the same time, there is a lot of financial information you need to be tracking – receipts, invoices, payroll and HR data.

Luckily, there’s an array of digital tools that can help you manage your small business finances and track your key metrics – many of which are free or low-cost. Leveraging them will help you stay on budget and keep track of your business’s bottom line.

Let’s take a look at some of the best digital budgeting tools for Canadian SMEs.

  1. Intuit Quickbooks

    Developed by Canadian-based Intuit, Quickbooks is perhaps the most well-known and comprehensive budgeting software on the market. Primarily targeted at solopreneurs and small businesses, it’s also powerful enough for most medium-sized enterprise accounting needs.

    The cloud-based platform offers payment, payroll, banking and bookkeeping tools from both desktop and on-the-go through the Quickbooks mobile app. As an established product, Quickbooks integrates well with other digital platforms and features an intuitive visual interface to give owners a full financial picture of their company. Its central dashboard offers convenient access to all its accounting tools. And its budgeting tools and cash flow forecasts are especially helpful for growing small businesses.


    • Comprehensive package of accounting tools
    • User-friendly and visually appealing interface
    • Powerful budgeting and cash flow features


    • New competitors are offering similar tools at a lower cost


    • Ranges from $11 / month to $33 / month depending on feature set (the Essentials package at $22 / month covers most small business needs)
  2. Wave

    Toronto-based Wave bills itself as a one-stop solution for managing small business finances and offers invoicing, payments, accounting, banking and payroll tools, and many of the tools are free.

    Wave’s online and app-based interfaces are well-designed, cleanly organized and easy to use.

    The accounting app makes it possible to sync all your banking accounts in one place to monitor your cash flow and the free version offers unlimited income and expense tracking, bank and credit card connections, unlimited linking of partners or collaborators.

    With their free invoicing tool you can create custom invoices for clients, set up recurring billing and enable credit card, bank payments and Apple Pay directly from your invoices.

    And the free banking app lets you track business and personal expenses separately to make tax season easier.

    Wave’s free tools are powerful enough that for many small businesses, it might be all they need. But for owners who need more, Wave offers paid add-ons like payroll modules and payroll tax calculation, and a low-cost advisor service, which provides accounting or tax advice on either a one-time or monthly basis as needed.


    • Offers products for virtually every small business finance needs
    • Clean, attractive interface and powerful tools


    • Some products are web-based and can’t be accessed on a mobile app


    • Basic accounting, invoicing and receipt software is free
    • Online payments and payroll are paid. Payroll starts at $20 plus $6 per active employee
  3. Xero

    Xero is a cloud-based accounting software designed specifically for small businesses. With powerful tools and an ultra-simple, easy to use interface, Xero is quickly becoming a favorite of SMEs in the UK, US, Australia and Canada.

    The software is targeted at small businesses owners and designed to make things easy for users with little or no accounting experience. Xero can help you pay bills and claim expenses, connect to your bank, and enable collaboration with employees or partners. It has powerful automation features for tasks like invoicing and reporting, and an excellent, full-function mobile app to help you manage expenses on the go.

    Xero is not free to use but they do offer a free trial, and plans are fairly low-cost, starting at $17 monthly for the “Starter” subscription and topping out at $54 a month for a premium account.

    For an ease-of-use accounting solution at a low-cost, Xero is a top choice.


    • Incredibly ease-of-use
    • Excellent mobile app support


    • Not free
    • Only offers accounting solutions


    • Starter: $17 / month (limit on quotes, invoices and bills)
    • Standard: $42 / month (unlimited access but no multiple currency support)
    • Premium: $54 / month (full currency support and advanced analytics)
  4. Dryrun

    Dryrun is a cash flow management and financial modeling software with powerful algorithmic features to help with financial forecasting.

    A Canadian-owned and operated startup, Dryrun can seamlessly import essential financial data from your businesses accounting software to give you a complete picture of your company’s finances. Its unique financial modeling tools can auto-forecast your budget from your past expenses to help you plan for the future. You can pick from 10 auto-budgeting modeling options to make recurring budgeting quick and easy.

    You can also input unlimited assumptions to produce multiple scenarios, and use multi-location, multi-currency, and multiple view options tools to tweak your fiscal plans.


    • Unique financial modeling tool helps you budget ahead and understand risks and opportunities to your cash flow
    • Scenario building lets you forecast short and long-term scenarios
    • Connects to apps like Xero and Intuit Quickbooks for automatic data sharing


    • Not an accounting app, will add an additional cost
    • Expensive


    • $200 / month for a Business Account
    • $300 / month for a Pro Account
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