Inventory Management

How can I keep track of my inventory for free?

A woman takes inventory on her laptop in a retail shop.

Keeping track of inventory sounds simple–but rarely is. Inventory management is actually a major pain point for businesses large and small. Poor inventory management leads to, at best, wasted resources. At worst, mismanaged inventory can lead to costly product shortages and work stoppages that send clients and customers straight to the competition.

Luckily, there are several ways to keep track of inventory, totally free. 

How can I keep track of my inventory for free?

You can keep track of inventory for free using pen and paper, an inventory spreadsheet or free inventory management software. Some modern inventory management apps, like Sortly, Inventory Now, and Stock Control, all offer free subscriptions to their products. 

Each of these three inventory management systems (paper, spreadsheet, and app) has its own set of pros and cons. 

Pros and cons of free pen-and-paper inventory

Some businesses track their inventory on a sheet of paper. Of course, such a system is extremely limited, and works best for businesses that stock fewer than 50 items in one location, and employ just a few people.

Here are the benefits of tracking inventory on a sheet of paper, a word document, or even a sticky note:

Pros:

  • Totally free
  • Any employee can help, even if they’re not tech-savvy

Cons:

  • No real way to back up or store inventory if paper is lost 
  • Impossible to generate reports, forecast or digest data
  • Must be updated constantly
  • Difficult or impossible to collaborate on 
  • Not compatible with photos, barcodes or QR codes
  • No functionality for low stock alerts or other reminders
  • Can be very time-consuming and tedious

Pros and cons of a free inventory spreadsheet

Some companies use spreadsheets to track the details of their inventory. While a spreadsheet is certainly a more modern inventory management system than using an inventory sheet, it’s still an error-prone way to track inventory.

Pros: 

  • Easy to get started
  • Free
  • No equipment necessary, besides a computer
  • Usually not too technologically complicated  

Cons:

  • Cannot properly add pictures or other non-alphanumeric content 
  • Cannot link barcodes, QR codes
  • Very error-prone
  • Still must gather inventory information manually, then transfer it to the spreadsheet
  • Spreadsheets not saved to the cloud can be outdated, impossible to access remotely
  • Spreadsheets saved to the cloud could be corrupted or hacked
  • No way to set alerts for low stock and other important dates 

Pros and cons of a free inventory app

Finally, more and more businesses are choosing inventory software to track their inventory. These days, much of this software is offered in the form of inventory apps. These apps typically offer both free and paid subscriptions. 

Inventory apps should offer time-saving automation features, like low stock alerts, barcode and QR code scanning and more. 

In a perfect world, a free inventory app:

  • Saves time, money and stress
  • Safely secures data 
  • Can be accessed from anywhere, anytime–even when away from the inventory
  • Is collaborative, great for teams
  • Is customizable 

Of course, not all apps are created equal. Find an app that’s intuitive and modern, even for a free app! Some inventory management software require expensive equipment: look for versions that allow you to use existing hardware, like phones or tablets. Also, many of these apps may offer very expensive paid versions. Look for an app that offers a reasonable monthly subscription, should your business needs change.

Want to get started with free inventory management software today? Give Sortly a try!