The Best Expense Tracking and Reporting Apps for Small Business: Make Sure You Know Where Your Money’s Going with These Free and Paid Apps

Sean Lund-Brown


In business, there’s a lot to keep track of—when was the last time you bought office supplies? Maybe you paid a bill for your Internet service or took a client out to lunch as a thank you. You spend business money on business expenses all the time. The problem is that very few small businesses actually account for this, let alone have the right tools and resources in place to track those expenses.

Fortunately, that's easier than ever today. With a host of apps and tools dedicated especially to expense tracking, along with robust all-in-one billing and invoicing platforms that include impressive expense reporting tools, the market is ripe with options. You’ll never have to manually sort through receipts and enter transactions again—unless, of course, that’s how you prefer to spend your time.

If, however, you’re like most small business owners and would rather be running your business, it’s time to upgrade.

First, let’s talk about what makes a good expense report tool. Then, we’ll take a look at the top solutions available today to help you track, manage, and automate all of your expense tracking (and any other financial tasks you desire).  And for even more help automating your day-to-day operations, ask how a partnership with Smith.ai can take your lead intake, appointment scheduling, and sales development to the next level with dedicated call and message answering solutions.

What's in an expense report app?

A good expense report app has several different things, but first and foremost it is easy to use. If you don’t get that from the gate, you should move along to another tool. Today’s expense reporting solutions have some pretty impressive features, including tracking recurring expenses, scanning receipts, and even generating QR codes to help you organize and streamline your expenses and expense management.

Of course, you don’t need all the bells and whistles. There are also plenty of basic solutions that just take the hassle and homework out of expense reporting and make sure that you get every penny accounted for properly so that you’re not spending your personal money on business expenses when it’s not necessary. So, what’s essential? Consider:

·      Easy importing of expenses

·      Mileage tracking features

·      Easy employee expense management

·      Quick approvals

·      Mobile access (apps preferred)

·      Secure storage

While you might not think about security right away, you’re reporting business financial information and that’s highly sensitive. Even if it’s just a receipt for the $200 bill from your team luncheon, what about payments from your clients and other expenses? What if you link your bank accounts to the expense reporting tool?

Security isn’t just an important factor—it's essential.

It’s not about why, but how

Too often, business owners who are just starting have the mentality that they’ll have to “eat a lot of expenses” because they’re starting out on their own from scratch and might have to cut into their personal budget and finances. However, that’s unnecessary because with modern expense tracking tools you can even help yourself learn what does and doesn’t count as a business expense. It’s not about why you should be tracking expenses. Of course, you should know where your money is going.

The only question is which tool are you going to use to do this? What kind of expense tracking do you need and how can you make sure that your business pays for its own expenses, even if it can’t afford them right out of the gate. When you’re a freelancer or a small business owner, you need all the resources that you can get, including a dedicated expense reporting tool. How you use it is up to you.

Do you need to track every employee expense? Are you able to give people more freedom? Perhaps you’ll be the only one in your expense tool, so you can opt for a free or cheaper platform that is designed for a single user. It's all about figuring out how you can incorporate these digital tools into your business expensing and accounting, no matter what business you’re in.

Now, let’s get back to the apps.

Zoho Expense

Zoho Expense is yet another tool from the Zoho family. This one is dedicated to expense management and tracking, and it integrates with all of the major corporate credit card brands in the country, as well as those in Canada and Europe. That allows it to pull your purchases every day and log them before you even have to bother.

If you want, you can use the receipt scanner to upload receipts yourself and have all the transactions automatically parsed into the right category. It’s a great tool for mobile access and includes expense reports, mileage tracking, and iMessage expense submission and approval. Plus, it integrates with tons of tools and platforms that you’re already using, as well.

This platform is free for up to three users with 100 receipt scans or you can spend just $15 per month to upgrade for unlimited receipts and up to 10 users.

Xpenditure

Xpenditure offers powerful insights along with reporting tools, making it easy for your business to see where your money is going. It's available on iOS and Android, as well as for the web. When you are keeping track of employee expenses, this tool is the one to use. It helps you access everyone’s spending from a simple dashboard, track expenses for employees, and more.

With Xpenditure, you can break down purchases by type or category, use the data to plan budgets, and even forward receipts to the program via email for easy uploading and tracking. There's even a custom feature that lets you add spending policies to the app so that you are notified if an employee has an expense that’s over budget or out of line.

It’s not free, but you can use the tool starting at just $4.27 per month, per user for the Single plan.

Expensify

With Expensify, expense reporting is easy. This tool is even endorsed by the likes of the AICPA and offers everything from receipt tracking to total expense management, along with SmartScan technology and automatic reporting. You can even generate real-time reports and get notifications and more. This tool offers several different features for expense tracking and reporting and is available on the web, Android, and iOS.

It also comes with the ability to integrate with your accounting tools like QuickBooks and Xero, and you can easily capture receipts and enjoy automatic coding and organizing of your expenses based on the information that is scanned. It's a robust tool that offers things like Applicant Reimbursement and a user-friendly dashboard with real-time expense approvals.

Plus, you’ll only pay $5 per user, per month for the Team plan if you want basic tracking features. Other plans cost a bit more, but offer more features for the money, too.

Abacus

Abacus is another favorite in the world of expense reporting. This tool features impressive automation and an admin panel that makes it easy for you to create the perfect custom setup on the dashboard. You can even set expenses to be automatically approved or manually cleared, based on the type of expense, dollar amount, and more.

The tool makes it easy to create your own custom parameters so that you can get notified whenever money is spent a certain way. You could even tell Abacus to automatically approve all fuel expenses, but to require manual authorization for meals over $50, for example. Plus, you can find a host of other expense reporting and tracking tools and real-time reports to help along the way.

Abacus isn’t free, but it starts at just $9 per user, per month when you want the basic expense reporting features with automation workflows.

Shoeboxed

Shoeboxed might have an interesting name, but it’s a straightforward expense tracking and reporting tool that’s sure to keep your expenses in line. For those who have a lot of paper that needs put into digital form, this tool offers everything that you need. The app will send you postage-paid envelopes each month, and all you have to do is put your receipts in there and send them away.

Within days, you’ll log in to Shoeboxed and see all of your receipts uploaded, scanned, and organized into the app and ready to go. You can also use the Magic Envelope to digitize business cards and handle personal expenses, and more. The tool is designed specifically for freelancers and small businesses who don’t have a lot of employees spending company money. It does create impressive PDF reports that can be emailed to anyone, too.

If you are digging the style of this app, it’ll cost you just $15 per month to start, which is for the Lite plan that includes 50 digitized receipts.

Certify

Certify is one of the best tools for tracking where your money is going and helping you spend smarter. The app allows you to submit expenses and fill out occasional surveys, allowing you to collect useful data that can allow you to make more informed decisions. It’s great for all kinds of users, but those who travel will love the SpendSmart review board.

Certify also provides an easy way for employees to submit expenses and for you to approve them, with a simple dashboard that’s going to give you an overview of everything that needs your attention. You'll also be able to add comments, search for expenses, and more. The intuitive interface offers simple navigational elements and even has tips and analytics available for your review.

The core Now Plan is just $8 per month if you want to try Certify and see if you can get more from your travel. You can find other plans available, as well.

A professional answering solution for your business is an investment, not an expense

Speaking of business expenses, it’s important to note that anything that will give you a return is an investment, not an expense. Working with the tools above will help you streamline your expense tracking and reporting, and working with the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai will help streamline several aspects of your client and customer communications.

What’s a good business expense?

Ultimately, expenses don’t come down to “good” or “bad”-- it’s simply a matter of whether it’s something that you need or something that you are investing in for the sake of your business. For example, while you could expense a client lunch meeting, you couldn’t expense going out to lunch with your spouse unless they were somehow involved in the business.

Business expenses come in all shapes and sizes, and include things like:

·      Office supplies

·      Operating capital

·      Bills and utilities

·      Travel expenses

·      Insurance and taxes

·      Marketing and advertising

·      Payroll expenses

·      Office equipment and furniture

It can be hard to keep employees on track when you have multiple corporate cards being used for various events and expenses. However, you can create a spending policy that allows you to dictate what people can and can’t expense if you want. Plus, you can come up with a strategy for making it easier on everyone.

We always suggest that people invest in a solid expense reporting app that’s easy to sync and integrate with your other tools, but we also know that there are some great built-ins in existing invoicing and billing software, too. If you’ve already got one of those, you’ll be all set to track expenses by simply finding and activating the features. Fortunately, any of the tools on this list will do the trick and leave you wondering how you ever did without it.

And speaking of things you can’t do without, schedule your consultation to discuss how Smith.ai can help you take your customer communications to the next level, whether you need after-hours answering, overflow call answering, voicemail services, or even Facebook and SMS messaging and live chat. You can also find us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484.

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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