10 Best Project Cost Management Software Options for Small Business 2021

Want help tracking project cost and calculating employee productivity? One of our project cost management choices can help you do so easily and affordably.
Best overall software
Hubstaff
Hubstaff
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Advanced features
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    14-day free trial
Most affordable
DeskTime
DeskTime
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Low per-user starting costs
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Affordable mid-tier plans
Best support
Timecamp
TimeCamp
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    24/7 support by live chat
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    One-on-one and team training
Best for integrations
Harvest
Harvest
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    More than 100 integrations
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Options for creating new integrations
Most customizable
Logo for actiTIME
actiTIME
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Ability to disable features
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Custom fields and leave types

Cost management plays an integral role in the profitability, efficiency, and success of a business.

However, it can be a challenge to accurately forecast and manage project budgets. In fact, the Project Management Institute (PMI) reported in 2016 that companies were completing only 53% of projects within their original budget.1

Fortunately, employing a project management program can help companies budget more accurately and stay within that budget.

So which cost management tool is the right fit for your business? Here are our picks for the best cost management software for project management.

10 best project cost management solutions 2021

Compare the best cost management software

Software
Starting price per user
Free trial
Free plan?
Learn more

Hubstaff

$7.00/mo.14 daysIcon Check  Dark
DeskTime$7.00/mo.30 daysIcon Check  Dark

TimeCamp

$7.00/mo.14 daysIcon Check  Dark

Harvest

$12.00/mo.30 daysIcon Check  Dark
actiTIME$7.00/mo.30 daysIcon Check  Dark
Easy Projects$24.00/mo.30 daysIcon Close  Dark
Avaza$9.95/mo.N/AIcon Check  Dark

aPriori

Contact for quoteN/AIcon Close  Dark

Toggl

$10.00/mo.30 daysIcon Check  Dark

mpower

Contact for quoteN/AIcon Close  Dark

Data effective 11/30/2020. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Free plans
Bell

As you can see in the table above, most project cost management software offers a free plan. But in most cases, it’s designed for one user and a handful of projects―so it won’t work for most teams.

Hubstaff: Best overall

Hubstaff


Hubstaff is our favorite cost management software for most businesses, thanks to its useful budget limits and productivity tools.

Hubstaff is a heavy-hitting cost management tool that really packs a punch. It not only offers a plethora of project cost management solutions but also provides managers with a complete profile of employees’ online activity.

For example, Hubstaff lets you set budget limits based on time or cost. If a project’s budget is nearly at its limit, you’ll be notified so you can make adjustments. And to make sure the project stays on track, you can set weekly limits to prevent your team members from driving up project costs.

And since your employees can make a big difference in your budget, Hubstaff’s data will give you a glimpse of how your most productive employees spend their time. That way, you’ll know you (and your clients) are never paying someone to browse Reddit.

That’s just the tip of the Hubstaff iceberg though. Aside from its powerful cost-management and productivity tools, Hubstaff also offers payroll, invoicing, and scheduling features. As the cherry on top, Hubstaff has great customer reviews and competitive pricing.

So for most businesses in need of a cost management solution, Hubstaff provides the best option.

Strengths
Pro Bullet Advanced budgeting features
Pro Bullet Many project and team management tools
Pro Bullet Excellent customer reviews
Weaknesses
Con Bullet Second app required for stopwatch
Con Bullet Basic reporting only

DeskTime: Most affordable

DeskTime

DeskTime has one of the cheapest plans out there―and even its more expensive plans are very affordable.

The whole point of project cost management software is to save money, and DeskTime understands that better than most companies.

In fact, DeskTime has some of the lowest starting costs we’ve seen, at less than $4 per user. Yes, a bunch of factors can affect your price (like choosing monthly over annual billing, or the number of users you have), but DeskTime pretty much always has the cheapest solution.

If you go with its cheapest plan, you’ll get time tracking (for workers and projects) as well as productivity tracking. For some businesses, that’s all the cost management tools necessary. But if you want more (like invoicing and scheduling), you can choose one of DeskTime’s higher-tier―but still competitively priced―plans.

No matter what DeskTime plan you choose, you’ll get solid cost management features at an unbeatable price.

Strengths
Pro Bullet Low per-user starting costs
Pro Bullet Affordable mid-tier plans
Pro Bullet Plenty of software integrations
Weaknesses
Con Bullet Inflexible time tracking units (hours)
Con Bullet Higher per-user price for few users

TimeCamp: Best customer support

Timecamp

TimeCamp’s cost monitoring and time tracking functions are great, but its huge knowledge base and helpful customer service make it stand out.

Do you usually have a bunch of questions about software? Do you want to know that you’ll always be able to get answers quickly? Then you’ll like TimeCamp.

See, TimeCamp has all the tools you need to manage costs. You can use historic data to predict futures costs, track time, monitor productivity, create invoices, and more. (Some features, like invoicing, require TimeCamp’s more expensive plan.)

But just as important, TimeCamp has out-of-this-world customer support. If you want to talk to someone, it has a 24/7 customer chat line. If you’d prefer to find the answer yourself, TimeCamp has a vast knowledge base that includes tons of articles and videos about how to set up and use TimeCamp. And if you want hands-on help, TimeCamp even offers training for just you or for your whole team.

In other words, TimeCamp makes it easy to get all the help you need―meaning it’s easier to successfully manage your project costs.

Strengths
Pro Bullet 24/7 support by live chat
Pro Bullet One-on-one and team training
Pro Bullet Extensive knowledge base
Weaknesses
Con Bullet No client time tracking
Con Bullet Free plan for one user only

Harvest: Best for third-party integrations

Harvest

Harvest integrates with tons of other apps―like accounting software and project management software―to keep things in sync.

If you’re the sort of business that uses lots of different software and wants it all to play nicely together, then you’ll like Harvest and its tons of integrations.

Like all the other project cost management software on this list, Harvest offers time tracking, reporting, invoicing, and more. It also (like Hubstaff) lets you set budget alerts so you can keep costs where you should be. As we said, though, Harvest really excels when it comes to integrations.

Right now, Harvest offers more than 100 integrations with other software. That means that Harvest almost certainly works with whatever accounting, project management, or communications software you use. And on the off chance that Harvest doesn’t have an existing integration for something, it gives you the option to create integrations with either a simple widget or its API (if you’re tech-savvy).

That makes Harvest the best cost management software for integrating with other types of software.

Strengths
Pro Bullet More than 100 integrations
Pro Bullet Options for creating new integrations
Pro Bullet Well-designed user interface
Weaknesses
Con Bullet Unscalable design
Con Bullet Limited invoicing and reports

actiTIME: Most customizable

Logo for actiTIME

actiTIME offers more customizability than most cost management software, so you can tweak it to meet your team’s needs.

Like having things just so? With actiTIME, you can customize your project cost management software however you like it.

From the moment you start using actiTIME, you can choose how you’ll use it. If you want a painless subscription, you can choose to use actiTIME Online. If you’d rather have more control and a one-time purchase, you can use actiTIME Self-Hosted on your own server. But that’s just the beginning of your choices.

Plus, actiTIME lets you customize different fields in the software to match your business’s vocab (so you can change “Customer” to “Client”). It also lets you define a standard schedule (for easier overtime calculations) and create custom statuses for your projects. Plus, actiTIME lets you turn off features you don’t plan on using, so you won’t have to see scheduling features if you just care about time tracking.

It all adds up to make actiTIME a very flexible and customizable project cost management software.

Strengths
Pro Bullet Ability to enable and disable features
Pro Bullet Custom fields and leave types
Pro Bullet Online and self-hosted options
Weaknesses
Con Bullet Very few existing integrations
Con Bullet No free option
Con Bullet Limited customer support options

Honorable mentions

Easy Projects: Most user-friendly

Easy Projects is a solid project cost management tool for organizations that crave a user-friendly interface. While it’s not the fastest software system, Easy Projects does offer the core tools for project cost management—what it lacks in speed, it makes up for in its well-rounded features and easy navigation.

Some key Easy Projects features include interactive Gantt charts, resource management, visual reporting, task scheduling, app integration, and more. And you can gain unparalleled visibility on project progress by seeing the completion percentage of tasks.

Avaza: Best for tracking spending

Lots of project cost management solutions let you track billable hours, but Avaza also lets you track other project expenses. Team members have to travel for a project? They can forward the receipt to Avaza to get the cost tracked and reimbursed. Had a working lunch to finish up your project? Just upload a receipt to Avaza to record the spending.

As an added bonus, Avaza’s expense tracking works with its invoicing features, so you can easily add expenses to invoices. Plus, Avaza offers reporting features that break down your expenses by employee, merchant, or type of expense. So if you’re trying to manage costs outside of billable hours, Avaza offers an easy way to do so.

aPriori: Best for manufacturing

Software from aPriori provides enterprise-level cost management solutions for businesses in the manufacturing industry. It performs real-time cost analysis throughout the product life cycle, from the design stage all the way through production.

With aPriori, you can monitor costs starting from the design phase. You can also easily compare a product’s calculated cost to its target cost by the week or month, making it easier to understand your company’s profitability. Choose aPriori if you work in the industrial machinery, aerospace, tech, or automotive industries.

Toggl: Best time tracking

Toggl is a simple yet powerful time tracking tool that provides real-time insights on project and employee profitability. Toggl offers the full spectrum of time-tracking features, including easy time entry deletion, time-tracking reminders, idle detection, and an offline mode so you can easily track time wherever you are.

And unlike many other time tracking software out there, Toggl also lets you choose your preferred unit of time. So whether you bill in six-minute increments or you want the precision of seconds, Toggl lets you track time in the way that works for your business.

mpower: Best for engineers

As Monitor’s flagship product, mpower is a scalable cost and project management software designed for engineering, construction, and maintenance and operations industries. The software covers everything from budgeting and planning to time writing and billing.

Not to be confused with the student loan program of the same name, mpower’s project cost control software easily tracks labor, equipment, and materials (LEM) data. It’s targeted at members of the operations, construction, and engineering industries, so if you need cost management software that speaks your language, mpower is it.

How to choose cost management software

To choose your project cost management solution, you'll want to consider a few different factors. For example, think about the following:

  • How many users will we have?
  • What types of projects will we work on?
  • Do our clients need guest access?
  • What is our budget for cost management software?

And, of course, you’ll want to make sure your software has the project cost management tools you need. Let’s briefly discuss some common ones.

Project cost management tools

Most businesses will want some kind of cost estimation tool. Different software can estimate costs in a variety of ways, so you can find a method that works for you (like using data from prior projects to create a cost estimate).

You’ll also want a budgeting tool that lets you track the actual cost of a project. Some software, for example, lets you set alerts when you get close to a project budget. Others send you regular updates on your budget and expenses.

Some businesses will need reporting and analysis tools. Reporting can help you see exactly where your budget is going and why―giving you the data you need to fix problems.

And in many cases, productivity monitoring and time tracking will come in handy. These will help you make sure your team stays focused on their projects, so you’re not paying for wasted time.

Depending on your preferences, you may also want to look for the following features:

  • Integrations with other software
  • Project management tools (like Kanban or Gantt boards)
  • Invoicing/billing
  • Team scheduling

Cost management software FAQ

What types of businesses benefit from cost management programs?

A cost management program makes the most sense for project-based companies like construction companies or marketing firms. However, all companies can benefit from properly tracking costs and productivity through a solid cost management program.

Who should have access to your cost management software?

A project manager should be in charge of routinely monitoring a project’s cost performance. Cost management software can make it easier for them to plan and control a project’s budget, which can increase a business’s bottom line.

In many cases, though, your entire team will need access. For example, if you plan to use time-tracking or productivity-tracking features, you’ll want every employee on your project to use the software.

Is Microsoft Project a good project management software?

Microsoft Project is a decent project cost management solution―we used to rank it as an honorable mention―but it’s not one of our favorites.

It has one of the higher per-user starting costs out there, and most businesses will want the features on higher-tier plans, which only increases the already high cost.

So for most small-business owners, we think the software recommended above offers a better value than Microsoft Project.

The takeaway

Overall, the powerful Hubstaff project cost management software is the best choice for most small businesses. But depending on your business’s needs, one of our other favorites may be most useful for you.

Looking for more software options to better manage your business? Look at our bookkeeping software picks to get more help tracking costs and managing projects.

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Business.org Staff Writer
Written by
Business.org Staff Writer
Business.org is committed to providing up-to-date, valuable information to help our users make easy and successful decisions. Our team works collaboratively behind the scenes to ensure our pieces meet high standards for the best possible content.
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