Four years of going Paperless

I’ve always been good about keeping receipts, but I just shoved receipts in folders sort of ordered by date. Just over 4 years ago, I was looking for a receipt and got frustrated that I couldn’t find one. The idea for ReceiptWallet (now Paperless) was born as there was no other Mac product on the market tailored to receipt management. Two weeks of work later, I had a working version of the software and released it to the world a few weeks later.

Ever since then, I have scanned every paper receipt, stored every web receipt, as well as every manual I’ve received. To many, this may sound like overkill, but I’ve had no problems easily pulling up receipts for everything I’ve bought. Some stores accept copies of receipts and I hope that more will do so in the future. I’ve gone one step further and pretty much every piece of paper that comes in our door gets scanned as it make it so simple to find documents that there is almost no reason to use a regular filing cabinet (OK, I still file the paperwork after scanning and storing) as scanning is easy and storage space is cheap.

More and more documents are being delivered electronically, so it makes sense to store everything electronically (as long as you have sufficient backups). Printing out documents is usually a waste.

I still keep the paper receipts, but this year, I’m going to do more cleaning and get rid of all the ones I can no longer read and ones for items that I’ll never return.

If you haven’t started a system for storing documents electronically, there is really no reason to delay; scanners are cheap and fast and storage space is plentiful. I highly recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner and have recently been impressed with the Brother MFC-7840W all-in-one (more on this device in a future entry).

3 Replies to “Four years of going Paperless”

  1. Scott after reading your blog for a long time I finally took the plunge and bought Paperless not too long after you sold it to Mariner (I SHOULD have bought it LONG before!!)

    I haven’t taken a plunge on a dedicated scanner (or even on a Paperless-optimized all-in-one) and have been using my HP Photosmart all-in-one, which scans via TWAIN (works OK, definitely not great), so I’m glad to read your thumbs-up review of the Brother. I’ll definitely check it out in the future.

    Anyway I’m getting pretty good at scanning important documents & receipts when they come in, though not every receipt just yet: I haven’t taken the plunge on things like grocery store & other small “consumable” receipts, because I have visibility to those debit card amounts via Mint so I haven’t seen the upside of scanning them.

    Do you do something with the individual, line-item data on those receipts, or really just track the total receipt amounts?

    But now that I’m getting good at scanning, I’ve started to worry about backing-up all of this info. Obviously I use TimeMachine, and I periodically (every few weeks) back up my Paperless library (in an encrypted sparseimage) to iDisk. So I think I have on-site & off-site covered.

    Do you have a different backup strategy you follow with your Paperless library, or do you just include it in your “normal” back-up strategy for the rest of your files/data?

    Thanks for being the genesis of this program, and my vastly improved (and much less paper-cluttered) filing system!!

    1. Hi Josh,

      Welcome to the beginning of the end of paper! As you’ve found out the HP software is pretty bad (I haven’t used the latest, but everything before the latest has been garbage) and I cannot recommend their consumer devices and when I had ReceiptWallet, I told people that I didn’t support HP scanners due to the very poor quality drivers.

      As for line items, I sometimes put in notes for bigger ticket items that I may have to return or have to deal with warranties.

      I just backup my Paperless libraries with the rest of my data; I do a SuperDuper! backup once a day (I rotate 3 drives with one in my safe deposit box at all times) and use my Time Capsule for backups during the day. I still need to add DVD backups or something else, but due to the limited capacity, it is going to be a pain! I don’t have a dual layer DVD burner on my main machine; even then 8 GB is not enough for pictures (it will cover all my Paperless libraries, however).

      1. Hi Scott,

        Now that a few months have passed I thought I’d follow-up with how my backup solution has evolved:

        I still have hourly Time Machine backups to a drive in my house but I covered the “offsite” part by adding CrashPlan, which backs-up daily to an external drive I plugged into a neighbor’s computer. CP is free if used this way and the backups are encrypted before they leave my house. And as a side-bonus, my neighbor’s computer now backs-up to my external drive, so we’re both covered as far as offsite goes.

        Oh, and I have tried restoring from the CP backup… not every file, but enough of them that I’m pretty comfortable it’ll work if I ever need to use it in anger.

        Based on your feedback I also started using SuperDuper to make a bootable clone to a different external drive, but I’m only doing that every 2 weeks or so (prior to installing OS updates, etc…).

        My total investment was pretty reasonable: 2 external drives (one new one for my house, one new one for my neighbor’s) + SuperDuper, and overall was well worth the peace of mind considering the pictures/videos/files that I’d hate to lose if I had a major computer issue/house fire/theft/etc…

        Thanks again for your advice & feedback (and for writing Paperless in the first place 😉

        – Josh

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