I like to travel. A lot. I already wrote about some of my travel experiences in 44 tips for traveling long distance. But one of the things I didn’t mention in that post, mainly because I didn’t know much about it at that time, was about the practical side of the… expenses. Not the money itself, but the receipts. How do you do your receipt management? How do you know, once you’re back home, how much did you spent and where?
One advantage of having a fairly popular blog is that you get a lot of product review requests. I know that I get at least one per week. 99% of them are either out of my blog target, either under my personal radar (meaning I’m not interested in them). But every once in a while I get a request to test a product that really blows my mind. And I mean it.
This time I’m going to talk about shoeboxed, a service which allows you to externalize your receipt management. This is great for those who are not familiar with cloud accounting software of Excel. In short, this service takes a picture of your receipt and gives you back a text representation of it. In other words, it does the dirty work for you, transcribing your unordered piles of paper into meaningful reports.
Now, every time I get back from my trips, apart from presents and other stuff I’m throwing into my backpack, I also bring home a lot of paper. Namely, receipts. A lot of receipts. Each trips has its own pile of receipts, waiting to be categorized, transcribed and somehow processed into my own personal expenses tracking system. Yes, I do have an expenses tracking system, in case you’re wondering.
How Does It Works?
When I first heard about Shoeboxed I was a little reluctant. The same type of reluctance you get when you hire an accountant for the first time. You know, “these are my personal receipt, should I give them to you?”. Anyway, I took the plunge and started a test drive with Shoeboxed.
Apart from being a web based service, Shoeboxed has also an iPhone app. And since I’m a little bit of an iPhone nerd myself, I kinda dug that. So, the easiest way to start externalizing your receipt management is to take pictures of them and send them to the Shoeboxed human-powered transcribing services using their iPhone app. You can take the picture from within the Shoeboxed app or you can chose one already taken from your Photos albums. Once the image was sent, it will appear in the app as “Pending”. And I will get an email stating that my receipt was received and that it will be soon processed.
After the receipt image is processed, you get a chance to generate a report from within the same iPhone app and send that report to you (or to someone else) by email.
That’s all. Really.
A Real Life Example
Let’s see now a real life example. I randomly picked a receipt from my trip to Japan, took a picture of it using the app and send it over. In less than 30 seconds I got a confirmation email:
I also took a picture of another piece of paper, but this time it wasn’t a receipt, just a document in Japanese I somehow kept in my papers. I know, I’m picky. But I really wanted to know if at the other end there was really a “human powered transcribing service”. I got a confirmation email for this piece of paper too. So they received it ok.
The next day, another email stated that my receipt was processed. I opened the app, and voila:
In about half an hour I also got another email in which they said my second “receipt” wasn’t processed. Reason: unknown document. And the change was also reflected in the iPhone app:
So the guys really looked at it. Nice 🙂
I generated my report using the only receipt I had in the system and it all went incredibly smooth:
That’s all folks. Really.
Business Cards Are Nice Too
Now, what do you do if you have some human powered work force, some OCR software to do the dirty job for you and a lot of audience (Shoeboxed is pretty popular, you know)? You expand. So, the next logical step was to give you a complimentary service, in the form of a business card transcribing service. Now that’s something really neat, right?
Make a picture of a business card, send it over and in a business day you’ll find your business card data processed and ready to be imported into a few popular contact management software formats. I don’t use business cards anymore, but I know a lot of people are still using them, so I guess this lateral spinning of the Shoeboxed was absolutely brilliant.
It All Starts With A Free Trial
Now, all is good and shiny. But please don’t take my word for it. Go try it out for yourself. You know that I only endorse products I use and believe in, but even that level of commitment shouldn’t be a reason for you to walk into my shoes. Do your own free trial there’s absolutely no cost. Use it for 30 days and if, at the end of the trial period you don’t like it, lose it.
Because there’s a lot more behind this service. You can even have the report sent to you by snail mail using their envelopes or even a free quarterly backup. There is a full list of prices but before checking them out, let me tell you that you can even get on a DIY plan, which is free. The other plans are starting for as low as 9.95/month. Oh, and they also have a special offer to save 10$ on any annual subscription for their Mail-In plan, check it out here.
Again, do your own math and see what plan is good for you.
Every time a specific activity gets too stressful to be done by yourself, somebody else will think of a way to externalize it. They’ll find a way to take that burden off of your shoulders. For a price, fo course. Think at accounting. In itself, it’s a very private activity, it’s about your own money, for God sake! And yet, accounting, as an externalization service for keeping track of your revenues and expenses, became the de facto approach.
I really think services like Shoeboxed will soon become the de facto standard for receipt management. It just makes sense.
And you don’t have to take my word for it. Just go ahead and try it out for yourself. It’s free in the first 30 days.