When I talk to small business owners about the tasks that they hate doing and that take too much time and energy, invariably we’ll end up talking about bookkeeping, expense tracking, and… you guessed it – gathering & organizing receipts.
Let’s be honest. Tracking your expenses is extremely boring and tedious. Over the years I’ve been trying to find ways to “cheat” and either delegate or automate this process so I can spend the least possible time and energy getting this done.
Wait! Where do Receipts “Live”?
Our goal is to choose a place where Receipts “live.” One place. Not three places. Not “somewhere in my office, on a flat surface” and certainly not “somewhere in my inbox”.
No matter how you choose to capture your receipts, make sure it’s just ONE place, and it’s somewhere digital (that’s backed up!)
You Knew I’d Say This: There’s an App for That!
I’m not going to lie, using a receipts app is almost certainly the easiest way to go nowadays. There are lots of options and many are setup to handle everything from digital receipts to paper receipts as well as things like business mileage and expense reports.
Some accounting solutions come with their own native receipt tracking apps (Xero and Freshbooks both do). If you’re using your accounting software’s app, make sure you have the ability to back up the receipts outside the accounting software. Receipts are important tax documentation and you don’t want to get locked in to a particular service because they are holding your receipts hostage!
Another option is to use a service / app specifically designed to handle receipts. Here are my two favorites:
The Complete Solution: Shoeboxed
In the area of receipts collection there are dozens of iphone apps, but one stands out as a true end-to-end solution: [eafl id=247 name=”Shoeboxed” text=”Shoeboxed”].
Reasons to Use it:
- Links directly to Gmail to automatically log email receipts (my #1 top reason to use it)
- You can automatically integrate with Evernote so all of your receipts are backed up somewhere YOU have control over.
- You can snail-mail them your paper receipts and they’ll scan & add them to your account
- It supports direct integration with most bookkeeping software and Bench.co, my
One “Problem” with Shoeboxed (and this is a bit unfair on my part) is that the full feature set isn’t available to “forever free” users. With a free account they will only automatically “Process” (i.e. “read” the receipt and log the amount, vendor, etc. to their database) 5 receipts a month. So if you’re scanning more than 5 receipts a month, you’ll need to manually log the rest. In my opinion, that means it’s really not the best “free” option out there.
Secondly, Shoeboxed has fairly limited options for backing up your receipts outside their application. You’re pretty much limited to Evernote. Since I prefer important information like this to be backed up, this was not ideal.
If it’s worth ~$10 / month to completely forget about receipt tracking, Shoeboxed is absolutely the best way to do it. But if you’re still a (very) small business, there’s a “free” option that’s not bad at all…
The Free, “Little Guy”: IQBoxy
I recently came across IQBoxy, an iphone app that has most of the functionality as Shoeboxed, but, well, it’s completely free!
The user experience is a bit less intuitive, and it’s a smartphone app – meaning you will probably not be able to delegate very much of this workflow to a VA, even if you wanted to. But it’s very full featured and frankly does a MUCH better job of supporting cloud storage integration than Shoeboxed.
How it Compares:
- IQBoxy is a smartphone app, so they don’t have a web app. You’ll need your phone to use it.
- The interface is just a bit less intuitive. With 5 minutes of poking around, you’ll have it down – but you’ll need those 5 minutes.
- You can forward emails to IQBoxy to log emailed receipts, but it’s not automatic.
- It manages store rewards cards (Shoeboxed doesn’t)
- Like Shoeboxed, you can have more than one person contribute to an account. (Great for aggregating family expenses or expenses for multiple team members)
- The app will attempt to “read” and log all receipts automatically – no limits
Shoeboxed vs. IQBoxy:
|Free Plan|| - No Paper Receipt Handling|
- Automatically processes up to 5 receipts per month
- Limited to one user
|Price (Non-free)||Starts at $8.25/mo||No Paid Plan|
|Device Support||iOS and Android||iOS Only ("Android coming soon"|
|Paper Receipts||(Paid plan only) Mail to Shoeboxed and they will scan / process||Request a pre-paid envelope in the app, they will send it to you, receive receipts, scan and process them.|
|Email Receipts||Gmail plugin automatically "grabs" and logs receipts within emails (Google Apps only, of course)||Email your custom IQBoxy email address and receipts are logged to your account.|
|Mileage Tracking||Native Mileage tracker within Smartphone app (Click to start / stop)||Native Mileage tracker within Smartphone app (Click to start / stop)|
|Cloud Backup (Outside the app)||Evernote||Dropbox
Do what you Gotta Do:
Receipt collecting stinks. It’s not fun. Receipts build up on your desk and clutter your inbox. (And if you’re like our family, they end up in the lint-capture in the dryer!)
The most important solution is to choose a solution and stick with it! Shoeboxed is definitely the more established solution and has a helpful web-app interface to help you manage your receipts – but if you can go without the web app, IQboxy is a great second place.
What are you using? Let me know if you have an app you love that I’ve missed!