If you're watching every cent, try devoting some cost-cutting energy to managing your relationship with your outside accounting firm. Here are some tips on how to do so from Valerie Robbins, a partner at accounting firm Beers & Cutler, in Washington, D.C.:

Prepare your own support documents. Your staffers should be able to prepare current lists and schedules for depreciation; insurance information (payments and expiration dates); and accounts-receivable and -payable documentation.

Hire an outside bookkeeping firm if you don't have the in-house expertise to prepare schedules and organize tax records. Bookkeeping consultants charge $25 to $40 an hour, compared with hourly fees of $50 to $75 at regional certified-public-accounting firms, and $100 or higher at a Big Six firm.

Use your controller's expertise if he or she is a certified public accountant with at least four years' experience. That person is qualified to prepare annual financial statements, with footnotes: "Then all your CPA firm has to do is review the reports, look for problems, and tell you where you need more disclosure information," says Robbins.

Don't pay for audits you don't need. Robbins says you do need a full audit if you're going public or pursuing venture capitalists. "Otherwise, your bankers might be satisfied with a partial audit, of receivables or inventory, and a so-called financial review of the rest of your results."

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