8 options for taming small business expenses

Still messing around with paper receipts? There are plenty of cloud and mobile services that promise to make the expense management process far more efficient. Here are just a few.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

I have been barraged news about expense management software for small businesses in the past two weeks -- probably because it's the beginning of a new year, and everyone has taken a vow to be far more organized in the 12 months ahead. Blah, blah.

And also probably because I just wrote about how startup beverage company BodyArmor has automated its own management of this process, using ExpenseCloud.

In that vein, this post is dedicated to some more expense management tools that might be helpful during 2013, especially mobile and cloud resources.

Mobile wallet doubles as pre-paid expense card: First up is a new suite of Apple iOS and Android applications called PEX Mobile. While the name isn't all that descriptive (until you decipher the acronym), the software is essentially a mobile wallet that is a companion to a PEX prepaid expense card.  Small companies can use the service to create a pool of prepaid expenses for employees, which can now be managed via their smartphone. The company suggests that the service makes it easier to control expenses because employees have access to funds immediately while certain types of spending can be limited.  

Cloud accounting software adds direct expense import: Small businesses that use the FreshBooks application now have access to an online connector that links their accounts to incoming expense information from bank accounts. New information is uploaded daily, so that owners and managers have an ongoing snapshot into profit and losses – as well as unusual activity. The new feature accommodates multiple data feeds, including credit cards, checking accounts and PayPal. It imports the last 30 days to 90 days of data (depending on the policy of the account service providers).

Track expenses on the go: Another application that might be worth your attention is Abukai, which boasts integrations with QuickBooks, Xero Accounting and Concur. Like many of the mobile apps for this function, the software lets you take a picture of a receipt you might have been handed. It service processes that information and spits it into an expense report, so you don't have to retype (cutting down on potential errors). It costs $99 per year per user for companies that have lots of expenses. (There's a one-time set-up charge of $49 for each user up to 50.)

Here are five other mobile expense management apps generating some buzz:

Cashbook Expense Tracker– Features of the $5.99 Android app include the ability to export reports as Quicken files or to share them with some of the popular cloud document management services. You can photograph receipts or enter them.

Expenditure – Priced at just $1.99, but the Apple iOS software requires you to enter the information manually.

Expensify – The software runs on multiple smartphone platforms Apple iOS, Android, Palm, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. It can be used to track different expense types including cash, credit cards and bank transfers. You've got to love its slogan, "Expense reports that don't suck." The service is free for up to two users, plus $5 or $10 per submitter per month.

ProOnGo – Meant specifically for small businesses, the app includes features both both employees and managers to manage different parts of the reporting process. It synchronizes with QuickBooks and Xero, starting at $15 per month ($27 per month for up to five users).

Receipts Pro – As its name suggests, this an app mostly focused on organizing all the receipts you collect on your travels, adding notes when necessary. Priced at $4.99, there is a free trial version. The software includes a graphing feature that lets you create a visual representation of spending trends.

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