Archives For Best Practices

If you’ve ever done an expense report on Microsoft Excel, then you probably know how much it sucks. Like bottom-of-the-barrel, I-need-a-drink-to-get-through-this type of suck.

Why? Why do you do this to yourself over and over, time and time again?

  • Is it because you’re a contractor who only does expense reports once every few months?
  • Is it because you’re a startup of 10 and don’t want to pay to ease your pain?
  • Is it because you’re a company of 30 that is not quite ready to scale, so you’ll hold out until you do?
  • Is it because you’re actually masochistic and kind of enjoy a monthly dose of pain?

Kidding on the last point, but really ask yourself why you are still on Excel for your expense reports. If any of these apply to you, it’s probably time to make an important change in your life (and for those of you who’ve never done an expense report, lucky you! Come back to me when you are no longer the bright-eyed youngster you currently are).

Need a reason to upgrade? Well we’ve got five. Let’s talk through the pain.

1. You’re Wasting Someone’s Time (If Not Your Own)

Don't waste your controller's time with expense reports that suck

Do you really want to waste your controller’s time tracking emails, getting signatures, chasing employees for paper receipts? Or do you want them to have more time to do other controller-y things? Thought so.

“For the backend bookkeeper, I’d say Expensify is saving them 5-20 minutes per entry. In total, we’re saving 20-30 minutes per expense report across the company. The approval workflow specifically is saving us a ton of time as well; no more chasing emails and gathering signatures!” — an Excel ditcher.

2. Excel is #Basic With a Capital B

B is for Batman and he does not approve

Batman hates Basic — have you seen his Batmobile?!

Things Excel Can Do

  • Reimbursement through Paypal or ACH? Nope.
  • Import bank feeds? Nope.
  • Integrate with your accounting software? Nope (and dear god, please don’t tell us you use Excel for accounting…).
  • Take a photo of your receipt and SmartScan it? Nope
  • Track distance or time? Nope.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Excel is Basic with a capital B.

3. Automation is Fabulous

Automation is fabulous expense reports

Sure, you can type in each expense line-by-line, but why not automate that process? Take a picture of your receipt, have it automatically transcribed for you, send in your expense  report, and get approved and reimbursed all in the same system (and possibly the same day, depending on how fast your company works).

Face it, Excel barely delivers what you need but your expense reporting system could do so much more! Whether you’re a 5-person company or a 200-person company — focus on your company, not on your expense reports. Controllers, it’s time to upgrade to 2014 already.

4. You’re Hurting the Environment (and Wasting Money)

before you ink, think

Kind of preacher-y, but you get the message

There’s lots of chit chat going around about the state of the environment right now (see here, here, and here), and the world doesn’t need more ways to accelerate global warming. Paperless is the new black and if you don’t care about the environment, then consider how much money you’re saving by not printing every single expense report. Printer ink is more expensive than it should be and paper is a tree killer, so at least do it for the environment. If you can’t bring yourself to believe in global warming, then at least do it for the kids.

5. Don’t You and Your Team Deserve Better?


The fact is, there is only a finite amount of time you and your team have to get shit done. Do you want your entire team to spend one day each month (that’s approximately 96 hours if your expense reports were as horrid as mine)? What about the 29 or so days leading up to that day dreading them?

No! Focus on the important things, and leave expense reports to the people who hate them the most (cough cough). We promise you’re in good hands.

Have an expense report/Excel horror story? Want more reasons why expense reporting in Excel sucks? Leave us a comment, we love hearing from you!

Think back to all the jobs you’ve ever had in your life. In those roles, when did you finally get handed some real, capital-R Responsibility on the job?

Individuals are generally hired at a company based on what they’ve done in the past and how that translates to potential at the new position. Even after a rigorous interview process that should have proven the candidate to be a very capable person, a new hire still has to prove themselves before getting some real responsibility. Why is that?

Trust Begets Trust

Riding a bike

Learn the ropes and before long, you’ll be able to do it on your own.

As a new hire, onboarding feels a bit like learning how to ride a bike. Before you’re allowed on the bike, you have to learn from various sources the best practices of how to ride a bike. After this storm of information passes, you finally hop on the bike…only to realize there are training wheels attached.

Don’t get frustrated; training wheels are important in learning the ropes. The better you understand the basics, the easier it’ll be to find ways to insert creativity into the process.

When the training wheels come off, it’s time to ride like a big kid. Unfortunately, this is where processes start to get murky. Managers might still feel a bit nervous about you even after weeks of training, so they keep a hand on the bike handles to help steady the transition. The problem is that when a hand goes on, it’s hard to let go. Managers are afraid that if they let you go off on your own, you might crash and hurt the company, yourself, or both in the process.

It’s a very cautious position to take, but it’s not always unwarranted; take a look at a number of social media blunders that have happened due to poor judgement or lack of knowledge. On the other hand, micromanagement and overprotection might prevent the new employee from ever learning how to ride the bike properly on his or her own.

How to Give (Well-Earned) Responsibility to Your Team

Cultivating trust between you and your supervisor takes time, but being active early on can expedite that process. Don’t just go through the motions; ask questions and show that you’re thinking about and seeing the larger picture. Trust also leads to more responsibility, which helps cultivate the feeling of value, and culture helps with feeling a sense of belonging. But what does this look like in practice?

During my interview, I had discussed the potential of inbound marketing and restructuring the blog as something I’d like to focus on if I were hired into the team. After getting an offer and signing the t’s before dotting the i’s, the blog was handed to me to carry out my vision. Shortly after, the first thing I did was systemize the writing and publishing process by creating an editorial calendar. My previous work and the work I did during the interview process was enough for the team to say, okay, we trust you with your ideas on how to improve the blog.

From Varun Varada, one of our newest Software Engineers:

Varun, Software Engineer

Varun Varada, Software Engineer

“The best way I can describe it is that there is a seed of responsibility that’s planted into Expensify’s culture. The freedom that has been given to me allows that seed to grow organically so that I end up having more responsibility the longer I’m here. Going with this metaphor, the freedom is the soil that’s helping me grow. For example, I’m currently working on a fWOW project that came out of necessity, but I’m passionate enough to fix it that I’ve taken it upon myself to do so. Once that project is done, I’m going to start on another one that I designed myself.”

The lack of trust in new employees is not unwarranted, but if you hired someone based on the responsibilities they were given at their last job, chances are, they’re probably not an idiot. Spend the time onboarding and training them, but don’t deny new employees the chance to take on bigger projects either.

How do and when do you dole out responsibility to new employees? As an employee, what do you think? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!


You don’t need a functional tattoo to stay organized

With so many tools and apps that claim to increase organization or productivity, how do we find out which tools will actually help and not hinder our workflow? At Expensify, our approach is to keep it simple; forget the apps and stick to what’s tried and true. Here are a few core principles that help us stay productive; try them out and let us know what you think!

1) Avoid Complicated Tools.  

Nothing wastes time like “saving time” by adopting complex project management tools. Tools aren’t the problem: people are. Just create a shared to-do list that you re-prioritize continuously, and focus everybody on starting at the top and working their way down. Nobody will ever get to the bottom, but that’s just life.

What you need: Google Docs, whiteboard, IdeaPaint, something that can help you visualize, flexibly.

2) Prioritize, Don’t Schedule.  

Schedules assume stable priorities and accurate estimates, neither of which are ever true. Accordingly, the only way to reliably meet hard commitments is to wildly pad the schedule, which is wasteful and frustrating for everyone. Instead, just accept things will get done when they get done.

Helpful to your success: A company culture that minimizes commitments and focuses on raw productivity on ever-shifting priorities.

3) Trust You’ll Remember the Important Things

all you need to stay organized is a pen and paper

Say hi to your new best friend

Continuing from the last point, nothing is more stress inducing that an enormous list of incomplete tasks that will likely never be finished. Rather, start every day with a blank sheet of paper and write down the most important things you need to get done — only look back at previous days if you run out of ideas (which rarely happens).

What you need: pen and paper, or a marker if you’re feeling fancy.

4) The Productivity Myth

Companies everywhere have somehow bought into the idea that more hours means higher productivity when studies actually show the opposite. Instead, build time in your day, week, life to rest and relax. Decide how much of your life you want to devote to work, work that much, and then stop. Nothing makes your time off more enjoyable than confidence that you’ve done right by your entrepreneurial ambitions and truly earned the rest. This is also a fantastic way to set work/life expectations with your spouse, but even better for resisting the urge to work yourself to death.

What to do: Record how many hours you work a day in a spreadsheet, then add it up on a weekly basis to make sure you’re basically hitting your target.

Tried these out, or have productivity tips of your own? We’d love to hear from you!

I know I’m not alone when I say taxes can be confusing. So confusing that the annual changes to the laws and rates has given birth to a 7.7 BILLION dollar tax preparation industry. Whether you have someone do your taxes, or you do them yourself, here’s a couple tips for using Expensify in 2014.

1. The IRS mileage rate is lower this year.

The IRS lowered the mileage rate to 56 cents/mile. That’s .5 cents lower than 2013. (Last year it was 56.5 per mile) If you are using Expensify to track your mileage, make sure you log in to the Expensify website and change the rate. All new Expensify accounts created after the mileage rate change takes effect will already be updated with the new rate. More details at

NOTE: We don’t automatically change the rate for existing users because many companies use a custom rate.

2. If you don’t like that rate, you can track your actual vehicle expenses and deduct that

You don’t HAVE to use the IRS mileage rate. If you think it actually costs you more to maintain your vehicle than 56 cents/mile then you can track your actual expenses and use that as your deduction. (This is where Expensify comes in handy) Be sure to record all gas, oil, repairs, tires, insurance, registration fees, licenses, and depreciation (or lease payments) attributable to the portion of the total miles driven that are business miles.

Other car expenses for parking fees and tolls attributable to business use are separately deductible, whether you use the standard mileage rate or actual expenses.

3. Record your receipts at the time of purchase, don’t wait until the end of the month to scan them all.

Hoarding a pile of receipts until the end of the month is so 2013. To get the full benefit of Expensify, take a picture of your receipts right when you get it and liberate yourself from the pocket full of receipts. You’re more likely to lose receipts if you have a bunch floating about your person all month. Just get a picture of it ASAP and be done with it. (Luckily you have a great App to do that.)

4. Linking your card to Expensify can save you if you lose a receipt

Let’s say you ignore #2 and decide to store your receipts in your coat pocket and end up losing one. No problem, as long as you’ve linked your card to Expensify, you’re still ok. Expensify creates IRS compliant eReceipts for all purchases under $75. You read that right – if your card or bank is linked to Expensify, we will import your transactions into Expensify and on top of that, automatically create a receipt for you! This is a lifesaver for those of you who habitually lose receipts.


We’re extremely excited for 2014. Our revamped new site just went live last week and there’s plenty of new and exciting things planned for the future. We look forward to making your life easier in 2014 and in the years to come!

Expensify has a lot of users, a lot of different users.  We know that our users come have varying use cases when when it comes to credit cards. We’ve got you covered no matter your situation or credit card.

Safety First:

We use bank-level security to keep your sensitive financial data safe. We’re tested regularly to ensure our security measures are up to date, and even subscribe to daily probing by McAfee to make sure that we can defend against the latest hacker tactics.

We take your security seriously and comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. This comprehensive analysis that spans many aspects of how systems interact is the gold standard of security measures for anyone taking credit card information online. The same rigorous standard is used by PayPal, Visa and YOUR bank. For more information on its requirements, check out the PCI-DSS website.

The Basics:

Import your card(s) automatically by logging into Expensify > going to Settings > Credit Cards > Import Card/Bank. You will then just need to find your bank and input your online banking username and password.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 11.32.38 AM

You will then want to select what accounts you do want to pull into Expensify and whether or not these accounts should default as being marked as reimbursable expenses or non-reimbursable expenses.


Having issues?

We work hard so that our users have as few issues as possible when it comes to importing your credit cards, but every now and again you may find that your card is not updating automatically. If you do find yourself in this situation here are some helpful tips:

  1. Manually update your card:  You can do this by going to Settings > Credit Cards and selecting the ‘Update’ button to update your card. If you see a ‘Fix’ indicator, go to tip #2
  2. ‘Fix’ your card: We would first recommend that you can log into your online banking portal using the same  username and password you’re using to import your card into Expensify. When you have confirmed this, please select the ‘Fix’ button and input your username and password. If this does not work, go to tip #3
  3. Write As noted earlier, Expensify and the banks we import from have a very high level of security. As a result, sometimes we do need to change/update our connections which could disable the connection for a bit. User’s usually do not notice the changes but if your cards will not fix, do write so we can be sure to let you know what might be going on.

Commercial Cards/Centrally Administered Cards:

If your company does have a commercial card or wants to centrally administer your corporate cards, we still have you covered. If you are interested learning more please do check out this page.

As always, if you have any questions please write us at and we will be happy to assist.

Have you ever dumped all of your receipts on your hotel bed before numbering them, arranging them, then snapping a picture to document those transactions… only to then make an excel sheet to explain those pictures and numbers to your accounting department?


This saves time and hassle, right? THAT SOUNDS LIKE A MYTH TO ME.

Busting the Myth with Expensify

No more losing receipts, no more numbering, and no more playing receipt Tetris at the end of a long day! With our mobile apps and eReceipts, you can report your expenses more quickly and hassle free.


The Expensify App

The Expensify mobile app (available on all major platforms) will allow you to simply snap a picture of your receipt and it will automatically be uploaded to your account.

Bonus buster: If you use our SmartScan feature, you don’t even have to create the expense. Our automated technology will automatically read your receipt and create a corresponding expense for you!

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 7.10.34 PM

IRS Guaranteed eReceipts

If you import a bank/credit card, you don’t even need to keep the receipt for expenses under $75! We will automatically create an eReceipt that is IRS guaranteed. Automatic expense imports save you time by eliminating the hassels of paper and excel system.

Anymore expense reports myths we can dispel? Email us at

Managing multi-page PDF receipts in Expensify is simple. To begin, just upload them as you would usually (forward to or upload them to the site). Once uploaded, you are free to attach the PDF to an expense much like any receipt image. You’ll notice that the thumbnail image in Expensify only displays the first page; don’t worry, we’ve got the other pages too.

In order to view all receipt pages just open the ‘Edit Expense/Receipt’ window and click the ‘download’ button below the image. This will open the receipt, in its entirety, in another tab in your web browser.


Alternatively, select the ‘Include full page images in PDF’ option on your report before printing a PDF and you’ll be able to view all pages of a receipt in the resulting PDF.


If you have any further multi-page questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at and we’ll get them smoothed out.