← Back to Blog

5 shoeboxed alternatives to explore for freelancers and small businesses

minute read
Updated on:
December 11, 2022
December 11, 2022
Table of contents
Discover Bonsai all-in-one business management software.

Doing any kind of business in the modern world requires help with accounting. Huge Fortune 500 companies employ whole armies of in-house accountants to take care of company finances; the rest of us tend to seek help from a more affordable source of professional bookkeeping help: the "software as a service" (SaaS) market.

Small-to-medium-sized businesses, as well as freelancers, independent contractors, and other self-employed workers, may not have accounting demands as complicated as large corporations, but that does not make their bookkeeping easy or straightforward! So, most modern business owners / independent freelancers turn to an accounting software service such a Shoeboxed (or its competitors) to help organize expense receipts, manage budgets, and handle taxes.

While many seem satisfied with their Shoeboxed experience, others may be looking for something similar but different, that is alternatives to Shoeboxed that perform the same general expense management tasks -- but do it more comfortably for the user, offer additional features that serve the business better, or are more customizable to the user's preferences.

If you are contemplating a subscription to an expense management software that would make a good alternative to Shoeboxed, there are several worthy cloud-based applications to consider. Let's take a very brief look at what Shoeboxed has to offer -- and then see how alternatives like Bonsai compare.

  • Bonsai Tax
  • Expensify
  • Fyle
  • Zoho Expense
  • Emburse Abacus

What Is Shoeboxed?

Shoeboxed is a cloud-based expense management system for freelancers and small businesses that specializes in capturing data from physical documents and converts them into digital form. This happens by either digitally scanning in physical copies of expense receipts to be submitted via mobile app or email -- or having them mailed in through the "Magic Envelope" postal option.

Shoeboxed Best Features

  • A simple but comprehensive dashboard
  • Numerous integrations, including QuickBooks, Evernote, and Gmail syncing
  • Multiple users can be brought in

Shoeboxed Main Downsides

  • Document limit. There is a cap on how many receipts and business cards you can store in your account, and it's not hard to exceed for a small business.
  • Accuracy issues. There have been numerous reviews from customers who mailed/emailed their receipts in -- who were dissatisfied with how some of their receipts were mis-labeled/miscategorized by the "human data verification" representatives processing them. There are also reports of wrong dates or incorrect amounts occasionally being attributed to some receipts after they had been scanned into the Shoeboxed online account.

Which Expense Management Software Works Best For Your Business Needs?

Shoeboxed is a great SaaS, but it is not without its limitations and weak points. No one expense management software, however good, can fill the needs of every single entrepreneur or business. But every entrepreneur and business deserve to be matched with the best expense management platform for them -- so, it's worth investing a bit of time into researching the best tool for the job (by looking up features, reading user reviews, taking advantage of free trial offers, etc.) Here are the top competitors:

Shoeboxed Alternative #1: Bonsai Tax

Bonsai Tax is an add-on to the Bonsai all-in-one digital tool/product suite for freelancers, independent contractors, and other solopreneurs known to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as "self-employed 1099 workers".

The Bonsai software and mobile app have been developed specifically for independent (non-salary) entrepreneurs (like writers, marketers, developers, graphic designers, etc.) who are quite busy with performing/delivering their professional services for their clients and don't have the time (or the accounting background) to stay perfectly in control of their business bookkeeping on their own. Many freelancers start off not knowing the extent of all the organizing, sorting, archiving, calculating, balancing, and other "jumping through hoops" it takes to budget a business and stay on top of paying and filing taxes.

Bonsai Tax was designed to take over and automate all the hardest/most cumbersome accounting tasks on behalf of the self-employed business owner and spare them the multi-tasking and the clutter involved in pen-and-paper accounting. The entrepreneur's involvement is reduced to the following:

  • Answer all the initial questions about your business accurately and thoroughly upon the initial sign-up with the Bonsai online account.
  • Link up bank and credit card accounts to your Bonsai account, so that the software can keep real-time track of your business expenses.
  • Scan in expense receipts not reflected in the automated bank/credit card data (e.g. business expenses paid for in cash) with Bonsai's renowned receipt app.
  • Enroll income not reflected in bank statements
  • Generally "supervise" the activity on your account and pay attention to "profit & loss" reports, in order to maintain an updated "big picture" of your company's financial health.
  • Pay attention to quarterly tax estimate payment alerts and tax return reminders -- as underpaying taxes or missing IRS deadlines comes with financial penalties.

The accounting "upkeep" takes up only few minutes here and there with Bonsai's simple-and-fast-to-use desktop or mobile interface (once you set up your account, it's mostly basic "maintenance" from there on).

While you refocus your attention back to your client goals, here's what Bonsai Tax will be doing for your company tax bookkeeping automatically:

  • Tracking income
  • Organizing/sorting/ tracking expense receipts for taxes into appropriate categories (with the purpose to adjust your taxable income down to its lowest possible number allowed by eligibility and, hence, save as much money as possible come a tax-paying time)
  • Tracking mileage for taxes/gas expenses
  • Credit cards'/bank activity auto-imported in real-time
  • Generating quarterly tax payment estimates on the basis of your income and tax-deductible spending (look for quarterly tax payment estimates and deadlines under the "taxes" tab on your dashboard -- and check in regularly to always have an idea of what you owe to the IRS)
  • Helping with all aspects of filing a tax return by the annual April 15th deadline: from auto-populating the data, to figuring out the correct forms to file, to doing all the required math, to reminders to file the Schedule C form of the 1040 tax return)

The Bonsai Tax app comes with a 100% accuracy guarantee and a responsive customer support service, so you can put your mind at ease as you return to fulfilling your clients' orders. Bonsai offers a ton of free money saving tools like our mileage log spreadsheet. Not to mention, you'll receive notifications for important filing deadlines so you don't receive a late filing penalty.

Also, don't forget that there's a whole Bonsai all-in-one digital tool-kit to take advantage of as a freelancer (hence reducing your "tech stack" and consolidating all your digital administrative/accounting/workflow/CRM tools in a singular cloud-based platform.

Here's what to expect from Bonsai's all-in-one product/workflow suite:

Copious Template Offerings. Proposals, contracts, invoices -- customizable versions of all of these and other agreement documents are available at your disposal.

Time Tracking And Project Management. The Bonsai software will track time spent working on different jobs -- for you as well as any temporary collaborators you bring in on each project.

Auto-Invoicing. The Bonsai software lets you create invoices, send payment reminders to clients, send read-receipts, and add late-payment fees where applicable (use your Bonsai dashboard to monitor your invoicing and see if you are owed any pending revenue from outstanding invoices; Bonsai can also "split" invoices or clients making a deposit or paying in partial installments).

CRM Tools. Client relationship management tools (such as email marketing and customer interaction/engagement analytics) are not to be underestimated in their importance to your enterprise: make sure to take advantage of Bonsai's extensive CRM solutions and boost your customer reach and understanding.

Feature Integration. All the "parts" of the Bonsai system are interconnected and all become updated and balanced each time new data is auto-imported or manually enrolled.

Global Payments Accepted. The Bonsai app will support credit cards, PayPal and ACH payments in more than 180 global currencies, making it easier for your clients around the world to pay for your services.

Free Trial Available For Bonsai?

Yes: you are encouraged to take advantage of Bonsai's 7-day free trial period to see for yourself why it's the top-choice administrative software solution among solopreneurs.

Furthermore, freelancers are invited to use the treasure trove of administrative resources available on the Bonsai website for the general public to peruse for free: from free templates for proposals, different contracts, and easy invoices -- to the free accounting hub offering a free self-employment tax estimate calculator.

Bonsai Pricing Options

The Bonsai all-in-one product suite comes with two affordable price packages (annual subscription save you money as it includes two free months of service per year).

Workflow Plan: $19/month. Includes:

  • Unlimited Clients & Projects
  • Proposals & Contracts
  • Invoicing & Payment Processing
  • CRM Tools
  • Project Management Tools
  • Time & Task Tracking

Workflow Plus Plan: $29/month. Includes everything included in the basic Workflow plan, plus:

  • Workflow Automations
  • White-Labelled Client Experience
  • Client Forms/Questionnaires
  • Subcontracting/Client Mode
  • Client Portal
  • Integration with Calendly
  • Priority Customer Support

For an additional $10/month, a Bonsai workflow customer can add on the Bonsai Tax app, rounding out everything a freelancer needs from a business/client management software service. Freelances rave about our tax software as the best for freelancers.

For $9 more per month, Bonsai users can add other users to their online Bonsai account. Temporary collaborators with limited access to the Bonsai account can be invited free of charge.

Bonsai is designed for self-employed solo workers and is not the best fit for businesses with multiple employees that work in teams.

Shoeboxed Alternative #2: Expensify

Expensify is a well-known cloud-based expense management software for personal and business use. It is best for small businesses that need a centralized financial platform to manage employee business spending and reimbursement.

Expensify Best Features

  • Customers seem happy with Expensify's streamlined receipt-uploading/expense-enrolling/hours-worked logging system
  • The mobile app is easy and fun to use

Expensify Main Downsides

  • Too many ads on the online account (not the mobile app though)
  • Customer service leaves more to be desired

Free Trial Available For Expensify?

Yes. You can try Expensify for 7 days for free; then you can "unlock" more free weeks by completing certain tasks. You are allowed 25 "SmartScans" for receipts and other documents for free (though, an average entrepreneur needs more scans than that each month).

Expensify Pricing Options

Expensify offers a rather "busy" pricing model, one that tends to change from time to time, so it's best to check the website for updates, bundling discounts, and other promotions. Here is the current breakdown:

Business Plans:

  • Collect: $10/month. Collect receipts, manage/reconcile company cards, invoicing % billing, employee expense reimbursement, accounting syncing, free Expensify cards for the entire team
  • Control: $18/month. Everything from Collect, plus multi-level approval, custom reporting, expense policy controls, HR & ERP integrations.

Individual Plans:

Track: $4.99/month. Unlimited "SmartScans", automated mileage tracking, expenses categorizing.

Submit: $4.99/month. Everything from Track, plus automated submission of receipts & reimbursement reports.

Discover the best Expensify alternatives here.

Shoeboxed Alternative #3: Fyle

Fyle is a popular cloud-based expense management platform that simplifies expense reporting, best suited for medium-sized businesses.

Fyle Best Features

  • Easy expense tracking (receipts, mileage, etc.) which can be submitted from other apps like Slack, WhatsApp, G-suite, SMS, and Outlook
  • Useful analytics as well as integrations with other accounting software, like QuickBooks Online, ERP, Sage Intacct, NetSuite, and Xero

Fyle Main Downsides

  • The software can get buggy or crash on occasion
  • Not the best solution for solopreneurs (more geared toward businesses with multiple employees)

Free Trial Available For Fyle?

Yes. Fyle offers a "free demo" (though keep in mind: you may be asked for your billing information upon signing up for the free trial -- and you will, then, be automatically billed for the following cycle after the free trial ends, unless you formally cancel your account).

Fyle Pricing Options

The following are Fyle's price plans, if paid on a month-by-month basis (paying an annual subscription will come with a discount):

  • Standard: $6.99/month per active user. Best for startups with 1-25 employees or <30 expense reports. Minimum 5 active users.
  • Business: $11.99/month per active user. Ideal for growing businesses of 25-200 employees or >50 expense reports. Minimum 10 active users.
  • Enterprise: custom pricing for multi-national enterprises with 200+ employees or more than; pricing is based on usage and volume.

Shoeboxed Alternative #4: Zoho Expense

Zoho Expense is another popular cloud-based expense management platform, which has most to offer small-to-medium-sized businesses with 500+ team members, who will have use for Zoho's multiple advanced accounting features.

Zoho Expense Best Features

  • Great for employee expense tracking (e.g. approval and reimbursement of expenses)
  • Well-suited for companies with remote employees

Zoho Expense Main Downsides

  • The interface comes with a learning curve for some novices
  • It may not be worth the price for companies with fewer than 500 employees

Free Trial Available For Zoho Expense?

Yes. You can can advantage of Zoho's 7-day free trial (and may even be extended additional free time if you need it).

Zoho Expense Pricing Options

Zoho Expense offers a free plan with limited features that include up to 3 users. It has the following paid plans (billed monthly):

  • Premium: $8/month per active user. Minimum 3 users.
  • Enterprise: $12/month per active user. Minimum 500 users.

Tune into this article to find more Zoho alternatives.

Shoeboxed Alternative #5: Emburse Abacus

Emburse Abacus is a real-time expense management software that relies on data/behavior analysis to automate expense creation and approval.

Emburse Abacus Best Features

  • Makes the company approving managers and accounting professionals' jobs much easier
  • Tons of integrations with other software (QuickBooks, NetSuite, Salesforce, Xero, MS Dynamics, Intacct, Rippling, Lyft, Sage, Slack, Oracle, Global Payments)

Emburse Abacus Main Downsides

  • Lacks the CRM and other features of the competitors
  • Not ideal for teams of 10 or less and solo entrepreneurs

Free Trial Available For Emburse Abacus?

Presumably. You can request to schedule a demo by filling out a form directly on the company website.

Emburse Abacus Pricing Options

  • Starter: $9/month per active user. Minimum 2 users.
  • Professional: custom quote. For companies with high expense volumes/advanced workflow processes.
  • Enterprise: custom quote. For companies with complex workflows/multiple subsidiaries.

What To Look For When Shopping Around For Shoeboxed Alternatives

When trading in familiar software for a new SaaS, it's important to know what you need (as well as what you don't need, since you don't want to pay extra for features that are of no use to your business).

Here are the main questions to keep in mind when shopping for your next app to track receipts for taxes SaaS:

Does It Come With All The Accounting/Managing Features That Your Business Needs?

Most of the expense management software alternatives to Shoeboxed will share overlapping basic features -- but each brand has certain features that are superior to others and, conversely, may be low on other features that are offered better elsewhere.

For example, how important are the following features to you?

  • tracking receipts (without an expense tracker template)
  • expense reporting
  • live customer support
  • real-time profit & loss financial reports
  • help with tax-paying/filing
  • inventory management
  • accounts payable / receivable
  • multi-currency processing
  • online invoicing
  • online payments
  • payroll management
  • asset management
  • cash flow management
  • approval workflow

Shoeboxed is good at what it does -- but what it does is pretty limited to digitizing expense receipts and digitizing business cards for customer contact management. Many of its competitors offer a wider array of services, like sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) tools, templates for most important business documents (business proposals, contracts, invoices, etc.), as well as help with paying and filing taxes.

It's up to you to know which features are must-haves for your business and which are superfluous and, hence, definitely not worth paying for.

Is It Designed For Your Business Size / Type?

Different expense management software services are designed for different business types: some (like Bonsai) are best for self-employed freelancers/contractors, others (like Expensify, Zoho, Wave, and Abacus) serve small businesses, others yet (like Fyle) are most appropriate for medium-sized business operations. The expense management platform you pick should be designed with your entrepreneurial needs in mind: here, the size of your business matters more than the industry you are in.

Is It Customizable Enough For You?

When it comes to filling business needs, entrepreneurs tend to like having options for adjusting/customizing templates, charts, and interfaces to their unique specifications. Make sure that the expense management software you choose as an alternative to Shoeboxed provides enough flexibility with re-formatting and personalizing the product to do what you want/need.

Is It Accurate And Reliable?

Considering that accuracy is everything in finance, it is important that the alternative to Shoeboxed has a good track record for getting the numbers right. In this sense, Bonsai Tax is a stand-out accounting system, as it comes with 100% accuracy guarantee.

Is It User-Friendly?

The purpose of using an expense management system is to make running your business simpler -- by taking over the bulk of accounting tasks -- and by being easy to use. Part of the value of any software is whether users find it intuitive to navigate and comfortable to use (it's worth repeating here: take advantage of free trial offers from expense management companies that interest you, so that you get a hands-on feel for how much you like the features they offer -- as well as the interface they provide -- before you commit to a paid subscription.

Does The Pricing Match The Value -- And Your Budget?

There are several Shoeboxed alternatives out there -- each with its range of pricing plans (typically 2-4 pricing plans per platform). The least expensive plan tends to be the most limited in terms of access to features, transactions processed, a number of clients served/users included, etc. The most expensive plans have the widest array of features, provide highest level of customer support, and allow multiple users into the online account (there is often a middle-ground plan priced between the most basic and the best).

Choosing the right price should, ideally, be a balance between what you must have and what you can afford. As a solo freelancer with handfuls (as opposed to hundreds) of clients, you may be served just fine by the basic plan of whichever expense management solution you pick. If your business is growing rapidly or you need extra sophisticated or custom features, paying for the more expensive plan may be worth it.

Shoeboxed alternatives typically come with add-ons, some of which may be of great use as well. Bonsai Tax, for example, is an add-on to Bonsai's all-in-one product suite for freelancers. Together, these Bonsai applications take care of all administrative, accounting, and general bookkeeping needs an independent contractor may have.

You Need Expense Management Software: If You're A Freelancer, Make It Bonsai Tax

All of the above-listed Shoeboxed alternatives are reputable brands: one's choice should be guided by which option is best-designed for your business. If you want to track your expenses manually, you could always use Bonsai's free excel template.

For teams of 500+ employees, the best fit is Zoho Expense. For smaller enterprises that still have sizeable teams, Fyle, Expensify, or Emburse Abacus are all a good fit. And if you are a freelancer, independent contractor, or another type of self-employed solo worker, your best expense management software is Bonsai Tax.

Let the Bonsai all-in-one product suite with the Bonsai Tax add-on be the one-stop shop for all your freelancer business needs!

Related Articles