If your business is still in its early stages, chances are you’re muddling your way through some critical day-to-day tasks. This includes staying on top of your business expenses.
With all the excitement (and chaos) of your first year or two, you’re probably taking care of your expenses as they come up, rather than adopting a structured approach.
This is fine for a while. However, as your business grows, it pays to use dedicated tools to help manage your finances, including your business expenses. Not only will this save you time and money, but it can also free you and your team up to do more important stuff.
In this post, we’ll take a look at our top ten picks for expense management software. Whether you’re a freelancer or microenterprise, a startup or growing business, a traditional large-scale enterprise, or a non-profit, we’ve got a great solution to recommend.
To start, let’s take a look at a key question.
Do I really need dedicated expense management software?
In short, yes.
A lot of businesses, especially those in their first year or two, are happy to take an ad hoc approach to managing their expenses.
And hey, we can’t blame them. After all, expense management for small businesses can seem pretty straightforward. A handful of credit cards, a basic expense policy, and you’re set, right? Plus, there are plenty of helpful free templates out there to help you create expense reports.
Fair enough. However, for every business, the time comes when these processes are no longer good enough.
A dedicated expense management tool can save you a huge amount of time and effort, not to mention keeping your team happy. This is especially true if:
- You have travelling salespeople and need to track their spending on the road (for example, accommodation, travel, and other expenses).
- You’re making more payments online, especially for software tools and other necessary recurring subscriptions.
- You rely on staff to pay for expenses upfront, and then have to reimburse them later (sometimes from four-six weeks later).
- You and your team are struggling to keep track of receipts, making reconciling expenses a monthly nightmare.
If any of this sounds familiar, you really should think about getting an expense management tool.
Now, we’ll take a look at our top recommendations for expense software.
Expense management software: Our recommendations
There are a bunch of expense management tools out there on the market, each with different features. Here, we’ll highlight which of these products might be useful for your business.
Some of these tools are helpful for a range of organisations. For example, software like Xero can be useful for businesses of pretty much any size. However, we’re going to point out how specific features make these tools suitable for particular operations.
Let’s start with a look at expense management on the smallest scale possible: personal finance.
Expense tools to track personal finance
You don’t need to have your own business to benefit from the great range of expense management software out there. Even if you’re just looking to get a grip on your personal finances, there are a bunch of handy tools to help you out.
Receipt Bank is a cheap and cheerful platform to help digitise receipts. While it doesn’t provide a dedicated payment platform, it lets users automate data collection for invoices and expense reports.
Receipt Bank cuts down on data entry, allowing users to review documents and reconcile information. Accountants love it because it makes their lives a whole lot easier. Win/win!
Pros: Simple concept, high degree of integration, time-saving data extraction
Cons: Relies upon wider accounting software, limited range of broader uses
Quicken is a personal finance software solution providing users with a complete financial picture at a glance. Quicken allows users to view their banking, investment, retirement, credit card, and expense information all in one place.
With Quicken, users can access a simple, clear overview of their finances. This includes automatic categorisation of expenses, as well as simple, quick analysis of tax details.
Pros: Integrated financial information, simple view of personal finances
Cons: Full range of features involves higher costs
Platforms for freelancers & micro-enterprises
With the amount of software out there, it’s easier than ever for freelancers to get out in the market and do their thing. Here, we’ll take a quick look at a couple of useful tools to help lean outfits spend less time and effort managing their expenses.
Expensify is a widely-used expense management tool allowing users to import expenses from a credit card and generate detailed expense reports. Users can approve reports online, all with minimal hassle.
Aimed at small and emerging businesses, Expensify automates recurring payments, making it easy to record and process expenses. While it doesn’t offer a separate payment platform, it is a simple and useful solution for emerging businesses.
Pros: Widespread, easy to use, well-suited to small and emerging businesses
Cons: Doesn’t offer a separate payment platform
QuickBooks Self-Employed is a lean version of QuickBooks’ popular accounting software focusing on - you guessed it - self-employed individuals and freelancers. Simple and straightforward, this software has been a major hit with the entrepreneur market.
With QuickBooks Self-Employed, users can track expenses, mileage and invoices in a single view, and can connect with their bank account to separate and categorise expenses. So long as you’re not working in a particularly complex environment, QuickBooks is a useful tool.
Pros: Simple, easy to use, clean and clear expense categorisation
Cons: Less capability for larger teams
Expense management tools for startups & growing businesses
As we’ve said above, for many startups and growing businesses, expense management might not be all that high on your list of priorities. Chances are you’re a lot more focused on growing your customer base and getting your quarterly figures in a healthy state.
That’s all understandable. But as soon as you have enough time to look at some of the less immediate issues, it pays to invest in dedicated expense management software.
Not only will this give you and your team greater certainty and convenience when it comes to managing expenses, but it’ll free you up to spend more time on the fun stuff.
Spendesk is a comprehensive expense management tool loaded with intuitive features. With Spendesk, businesses can automate recurring expenses and match invoices to expense claims, meaning less time and effort spent on paperwork.
Spendesk also offers prepaid debit cards tailored to individual staff and classes of expense, and enables the creation of single-use virtual credit cards for one-off purchases, significantly reducing the risk of expense fraud.
With Spendesk’s comprehensive expense dashboard, businesses have a high degree of security and control in managing expenses. What’s more, Spendesk provides real-time expense information, and integrates seamlessly with most major accounting software.
Pros: Intuitive and easy to use, comprehensive dashboard, secure and flexible, easy integration
Cons: Better suited to startups and growing businesses rather than single entrepreneurs
The darling of many thousands of small businesses, Xero is an accounting tool developed with the aim of providing the most intuitive user experience possible. There’s a good reason Xero is such a strong performer in the startup market - it is powerful, flexible, and super easy to use.
However, Xero is more than just great accounting software - it also features a helpful expense tracking function, and integrates seamlessly with Spendesk.
Pros: Intuitive and customisable, great expense tracking, seamless integration with Spendesk
Cons: Advanced packages can be at the more expensive end of the spectrum
Revolut & N26
Expense management isn’t just about tracking payments. With a product like Revolut, startups working across multiple countries can benefit from added flexibility and convenience of managing currencies.
Credit card outfit N26 also gives you an automatic breakdown of spending, so you can quickly understand where your money is going. That’s great for ordinary people, but is also benefits startups and small businesses.
Revolut has a similar offering, letting businesses hold cash in dozens of currencies for international spending. You can then get cards for each of your travelling salespeople, preloaded with the necessary currency.
Combining a product such as Revolut or N26 with Spendesk and Xero is a powerful suite of tools for any growing startup, particularly those working across different countries.
Pros: Quick and convenient transactions, sidesteps currency exchange charges
Cons: Larger and more complex businesses may require a more advanced solution
Software for traditional large-scale enterprises
For traditional larger companies, finding an expense management software solution can be a little more challenging. Chances are you’ve already got procedures in place, and switching systems can be tricky. However, as with startups, the time and effort you put in will be worth it.
FreshBooks is a popular accounting software package, helping a lot of large-scale businesses to simplify and automate repeat tasks such as invoicing and payment collection. FreshBooks offers an easily customisable dashboard, meaning important information is aggregated into one place for quick and simple viewing.
Given FreshBooks is already widely used as accounting software, its expense management tool is a helpful feature. Though it may not incorporate the range of features included in dedicated expense management software, for many businesses it’s a good place to start.
Pros: Simple and intuitive dashboard, basic expense management function
Cons: Limited range of features compared to dedicated expense management tools
Similarly popular, QuickBooks is an accounting tool aimed at automating business and banking processes. It also has many organisational features to help manage accounting information, making complicated processes quick and straightforward.
With QuickBooks, businesses can also track and analyse business expenses, and can simplify expense management steps like invoice reconciliation. Again, as with FreshBooks, QuickBooks isn’t built with the full range of expense management features, but it is a good basic solution.
Pros: Easy to use, basic expense management function
Cons: Limited range of features compared to dedicated expense management tools
Expense management for non-profits
It isn’t just the business sector that can make use of the expense management products out there: there are now also software tools aimed specifically at non-profits, including churches, charities and NGOs.
Aplos is a cloud-based management software aimed at the non-profit sector, specifically charities and churches. It features a range of helpful accounting and expense management capabilities, including tracking and reporting on expense categories.
With Aplos, non-profit organisations can manage budgets for particular projects, as well as tracking and categorising donations and other sources of income. These features have won Aplos a lot of positive feedback from the charities sector.
Pros: Comprehensive software solution for non-profits, helpful expense management features
Cons: Limited applicability beyond non-profit sector
No matter the size and complexity of your business or non-profit, chances are you could always improve your expense management processes. You might not think this is as important as securing that next round of funding, but trust us: it can save you a lot of time and hassle.
Choosing the best expense management is a question of considering the different features and capabilities out there, and deciding which might best suit your particular needs.
Here, we’ve included an overview of our top ten picks for expense management software. With our help, hopefully you’ve been able to get a sense for what’s on offer, and how it might help you.