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AceMoney Lite and GnuCash

AceMoney Lite is a free software package that offers the ability to track only two accounts. You can download or import data in a range of file formats, create and manage budgets, track spending habits and record expenses. For those who want to be able to manage more accounts, its sibling, AceMoney, costs only $40, tracks unlimited accounts, and provides free upgrades for life. Both versions work with Windows and Linux operating systems.

The editors at CNET give AceMoney Lite 4.5 stars out of a possible 5, saying, "AceMoney Lite rivals well known (and often pricey) financial management programs in function and style, and is fairly easy to use." About.com's Shelley Elmblad points out that this software "offers a simple user interface, a variety of personal finance reports, budgeting and investment tracking support and e-commerce features." She says you can get around the limited accounts feature by creating "categories for multiple accounts with subcategories for income and expense budgeting."

GnuCash is a free, open-source software package that works with Windows, Mac and Linux systems. It supports multiple currencies and has been translated into more than 20 languages. Transactions can be downloaded from financial institutions and imported from Quicken. GnuCash offers the ability to track a variety of account types and categorize transactions; users can generate customized reports as well. Reviewers say it is not as user-friendly as other accounting software applications, however, and its interface is relatively unsophisticated. Since the program is open source, developers release unstable beta versions for people to test and report bugs, so be sure to pay attention to which version you download.

According to some experts, GnuCash is suitable for small businesses as well as individuals; it can track customers and vendors and handle payroll, invoicing and accounts payable and receivable. The program uses double-entry accounting, but for those who may not be familiar with this accounting method, a user guide is available for download, and the software also includes tutorials on how to use its features. Double entry means, for example, when you pay your credit card bill, you'll see a debit in your bank account and a credit/payment in your credit card account. CNET editors write that although "users with a solid grasp of financial management basics will get the most from this freeware program, GnuCash proved to be a capable tool for personal and small business accounting." GnuCash Portable is available for download to a portable hard drive or USB stick from PortableApps.com; you can then take your financial data with you and run the program without leaving any personal information behind.

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