Friday, January 14, 2011

Taming the Paper Dragon

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Once all of the beautiful Christmas decorations are put away and the house has been put back in order, it's time then to switch my attention to taming the paper dragon that enjoys my office.  A few years ago, I found a very helpful tool that replaced the tower of paper-filled shoe boxes with a neat little electronic file.  If you aren't already using this product, let me introduce you to NeatReceipts.

This is not a paid product endorsement.  It is just a product that I have used and loved for years.

With this easy to use scanning tool and its software, you can easily scan receipts and log it into a file. The software has built-in organizing capabilities and also lets you export the data to external programs, like Excel.  The scanner software has technology to decipher text (like date, store name, payment method, amount paid) and then inputs the text into a spreadsheet-like format.  The more receipts that are entered, the smarter it becomes with its self-teaching imaging recognition program.  At tax time, you can create detailed financial records for each receipt in the click of a few keystrokes.  Since the IRS allows for electronically imaging hard copies of documents (including receipts), there's no need to keep all of those shoe boxes filled with receipts, and there is no loss of data when the receipt ink fades. 

You can also scan and organize business cards, expense reports and various other documents, and import other electronic files (e.g., pdf images of canceled checks or credit card statements).  I have the mobile scanner and use it to scan insurance policies, medical records, important personal records (e.g., birth certificates, passports, etc), and childhood memories (e.g., artwork) - all neatly organized and readily accessible on my computer.  When traveling without my computer, I export a pdf of relevant data and images to a USB stick.  I even scan loose paper clippings of recipes, interesting articles and crafting inspiration from magazines.  Since all of our receipts are stored in the database, maintaining a household inventory list is easy (let's hope I never need it for insurance purposes), as is an accrual of home-improvement projects (which will be needed when the time comes to sell our lovely home). 

Just the other day, someone asked me where I purchased a pair of boots I was wearing.  I couldn't recall off hand, but with a simple search in the Neat Receipts database, I found the original receipt from five years ago with the retailer's name, date purchased and amount paid.  Any financial expert will tell you, the first step in gaining control of your finances is to know where your money is going.  This tool has helped my husband & me know where every penny goes.  I love this product!


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