Scanning/Adding Receipts: Why?
Hey YNAB Forum-ers (okay, that needs work...)!
A pretty common request that comes through the feedback & feature request channels is the ability to be able to scan/attach a picture of a receipt to a particular transaction.
So we've been curious for more detail on what that would allow you to do or make easier for you. Is it strictly an organizing need? Tax reporting? Small-business use? Something else entirely?
Hearing more detail about how people want to use it would help contextualize this one—thanks!
I see where you're coming from.
I started using YNAB many years before I started my business. What spurred me to begin looking at a way of better managing our money was due to continuing resolution the Government was going through. Defense contract money was drying up which inevitably lead to my entire team getting laid off. Fast forward after hitting the pavement and I found myself working for Booz Allen Hamilton. A 'blue chip' company to be sure. Unfortunately, due to the continuing resolution and the subsequent (and renamed) sequestration, I was only able to get brought on board for $30k a year. I was making $90k before, but had no other choice but to take the job. Booz Allen also ran payroll once a month. After seeing our savings dwindle I started looking for something different while I continued to work my way into a better defense contract situation. That's when I found YNAB. I can honestly say YNAB alone saved our lives. We still managed to keep the house and live off of my pay alone (my wife doesn't work, so I am the sole provider).
Sorry for being long winded. I guess I wanted to show you that if something truly brings value and improves your life situation, or keep it on track when things get turbulent, I think it's worth the software purchase (YNAB4 desktop application) and subsequent subscription for the SaaS version. My advice is to stick with it and hang in there. Things will get better as long as you implement the YNAB methodology. :)Reply
I've loved seeing people chime-in who also use YNAB for business budgeting. Nice to know I'm not completely weird. (Okay, not completely weird for that reason.)
Yet YNAB doesn't pitch itself to businesses (except, as I've mentioned before, in a few blogposts occasionally sidearming a dropping curveball). And I don't think it should.
There's value to me as a DIY business-bookkeeper/accountant/tax-preparer to do the workarounds to make YNAB work for my businesses so I can stay in one system. But to really make it work for business, YNAB would have to somehow get beyond their current methodology, because that methodology really doesn't work for business, e.g., where I need to forecast spending dollars in the future that I don't have now. That's not the YNAB way. Most people get all twisted-up if they try to budget their personal finances like a business. That's exactly why YNAB has a market. YNAB's niche, their unique selling proposition and value-added strategy, is a unique approach and methodology for personal budgeting that works.
Back to the original post. Though I would see a lot of benefit to having image capture in my business budget, and there are all sorts of justifications for having it there, I also would find just as much benefit in having image capture for my personal budget. I'd love to see it. I do recognize it would likely add a significant data storage need, creating a challenge for them in deciding how we are to pay for it.Reply
It did take me a few years to really implement the budget on the business side of things. During that time I was (and still am) using QuickBooks Online with a contracted bookkeeper. My business did ok (QBO painted a much brighter picture) during the 3 or so years of not using YNAB. However, in spite of the excellent image QBO painted I still had trouble expanding (hiring more people, growing my contractor crews, buying up more properties, etc). You know, executing real world things. The growth just wasn't there in reality even though the numbers reported in QBO said I was doing fine.
Everything changed when I started approaching my business like I do with personal budgeting. Several more years later I've met or exceeded my goals when it comes to business growth. The method is the magic and it can apply to personal or business finances.
Anything else I need (a la forecasting) I just take screenshots of the net worth report, export that and the income vs expense reports, and can create expected 10/20/30/etc. year financial projections for when I meet with my lenders. And they love it.
In short, QBO was ok but definitely wasn't doing me any favors when it came to seeing actual growth. I have no idea why. The numbers are the same in both QBO and YNAB's ledgers. I still wonder about it to this day. Maybe someone more accountant savvy than I can shed some light?
YNAB completely changed how I do business so I'll always advocate it over other platforms that are more business focused (I'm looking at you, Intuit).
Back to the topic. I would love receipt capture for my business budget, but I would most certainly use it for my personal budget as well. I can't tell you how many times I've been on the go, had my hands full, and otherwise couldn't immediately enter a transaction in for 'reasons'. I would definitely like to be able to quickly create a blank record with a receipt attached to it and either:
1) enter it in when things slow down for me, or
2) let OCR read the captured receipt and enter the information for me.
There's also the added benefit of being able to recall any receipt for any given reason (e.g., returns, insurance, or even personal write offs or tax credits).
Whatever the good folks at YNAB decide to do or implement should never interfere with what YNAB is and what makes it so, dare I say, magical. 😀Reply
For me, the ability to take a photo of a receipt and associate it to a new transaction in YNAB would accomplish the following:
- Increase use of the YNAB app: My wife and I would both be more likely to snap a photo of the receipt and add the transaction in the moment knowing that we could properly categorise later if needed
- Increase the usefulness of YNAB
- Using the app more consistently will make the reporting even more useful to surface insights on our spending and savings.
- We need to track expenses for our housing allowance and other deductions. Knowing that we could in one step capture a receipt and add a new transaction would ensure all of our recording keeping for tax reporting purposes is up-to-date.
- Currently, I need to submit expenses to three different expenses systems for various clients. But I run everything through YNAB. I'd be able to keep my master source of data in YNAB and simply do a batch process to process expenses later knowing that I could download the receipt at a later time.Reply
I know this is an old thread, but I just came across it, and personally would be very interested in either this functionality being in YNAB, or integrated with another app/system. There are a few reasons why I'd like to keep a record of receipts:
1 - Warranty or other proof of purchase
2 - Returns
3 - Hopefully never needed: insurance
4 - Tax records (would likely require an export at the end of the year so I can put the images in a tax folder/archive)
I understand there are other places to keep pictures of receipts. In order to find an retrieve these receipts, however, there needs to be some labeling, dating, categorization, etc. I'm already categorizing, dating, and storing this same information in YNAB. So storing receipts in a disconnected system means I'm doing this organization twice. I just don't want to spend my time on duplication of effort.
So if there's a way to leverage the meta-data I'm already putting in YNAB (Date, purchase location, category, dollar amount, and memo) and tie it to a picture of the receipt that would be awesome! Being able to easily add a photo to a YNAB transaction seems like the easiest way to do that from a user perspective.
(For me all this is for personal finances, not a business.... although raising 5 kids sure seems complicated like a business sometimes, just one with losses every quarter!)Reply
I'm actually tempted to try a different budgeting app just because I want the ability to do this. Like others have said, being able to have documentation for receipts that include tips, FSA receipts, other tax-related receipts, etc would be such a great feature. I have been a loyal YNAB user for years, so I'll wait a little longer, but PLEASE consider adding this feature.Reply
Todd As an person with ADHD, receipt scanning and OCR becomes a wonderful accessibility feature. I have restarted from scratch at least a dozen times since we've moved from the envelope system to YNAB around 10 years ago. Typically I try my hardest to be disciplined, but after a few months find that I've stopped recording transactions and try to let the imports do the job. This would be fine if something I bought on the 30th went immediately into transactions, but it doesn't. This results in never knowing how much we *really* have come budget time, and then by about the 1 year mark realize we're not even opening YNAB anymore because the problems have just compounded themselves to the point of unusability.
Being able to just double-press a button on my phone to snap a picture and know it's taken care of is the kind of friction-less workflow necessary for those of us with ADHD .Reply
Well, the most obvious reason to be able to scan receipts is to facilitate the entering of transactions at the time or as close to the time of the transaction as possible. Furthermore, if the individual line items on a receipt could be scanned in, it would facilitate categorizing portions of a receipt in different ways.Reply
More and more banks are tightening their web authentication which means YNAB automatic transaction pull now requires either a phone or text-message authentication, which is a pain.
I am now considering doing the manual entry approach. There are occasions where I'm unable to record down the transaction in YNAB but I would like to save the receipt.
When I have the time, I would like to review the saved scanned receipts and add them.Reply
At the end of the day, a basic implementation shouldn’t be much Development effort to have an option to simply upload an image and link it to a record. No ocr needed since we can search for the total we are already writing in ourselves.
in the future, a more robust feature set can be added with OCR, automatic receipt ingestion, automatic categorization (reading in the merchant and looking up how we categorized it before), etc, etc.
How hard can it be to do the first iteration? Storage is cheap.Reply
So since there's not likely to be any YNAB developed option anytime soon, perhaps some enterprising developer can come up with a solution via the YNAB API tools to have a receipt tracking tool that can be tied into specific transactions in YNAB?
Ideally, this could have been accomplished (by YNAB) via an extension to the memo line; to enable to ability to attach items to memos and make it more of a comment box. The best example I have of this is in ToDoist, where each task has a comment box that can be expanded and files can be attached and/or URLs linked.
Is that even possible with the way the API works? Probably can't alter the memo function, but if there's a way for the API to call the specific transaction, then perhaps an external tool can link up to each transaction in YNAB on an as needed basis and store receipt images. Sorry, I'm not a developer (obviously). I just think there's a potential add-on here that certain users would find valuable and be willing to pay for.
Also, regarding budgeting, there's lots of times that I need historical information to inform my current budgeting activity, especially for variable, discretionary spending categories.Reply
Yes, I would LOVE this feature for our small business. Because it's a small sole proprietorship, we keep our budget all together, and our business and personal expenses get mixed up in the same accounts. I already use categories to separate business from personal expenses, but being able to attach the receipts to the transactions would help me see which ones I am missing and would make it easy to keep them organized in one place! It would be SO nice for tax time.Reply
I would attach receipts to make it easier to manage multiple-category purchases. If I go to Walmart or Target and buy several things across different categories, I have to go through and figure it out from the receipt. If it were easy to scan in the image immediately, I would be less likely to forget and stick the whole purchase into a miscellaneous or incorrect category.Reply
So many reasons!!!:
1. For extended warranty especially for large purchases.
2. Returns to store
3. Insurance/Legal (theft/fire/disputes etc etc) (watch the Peoples' court, you always need a receipt!)
4. Taxes (for proof of different deductions/credits etc)
5. Health savings accounts: proof of reimbursable expenses
6. Splitting expense categories ( i don't do it now because i usually don't alwasy have the receipt once i get home handy, so if it was scanned in, i would better categorize)
7. Get rid of all of the paper receipts clogging up my files!
It would be great to scan by phone or the computer (if you have a scanner). If you needed the receipt, you could print it off or email it for any reason.
This would be a SUPER feature to add to YNAB! (YNAB is already super awesome!)Reply
In addition to what everybody else says, I feel the accountability and weight of my purchases even a bit more if I also am linking to receipts. For a while I was using Banktivity (with the ability to store one receipt with each transaction) in addition to YNAB, and I was really surprised of the extra awareness it created.
I would prefer it if YNAB could link to receipts stored locally over uploading them to a server.Reply
2 quick things here:
1.) I also want the ability to scan receipts, for me it would only be for split purchases. That way when my family is complaining they have no budget left, they can just click the receipt for the split purchase and see the split amounts are right.
2.) For privacy concerns, you could offer a way to link up a users personal storage. They link their dropbox or onedrive account and ynab could store the receipts there. I know it doesn't completely remove the security issue because it's still on the internet, but at least you're taking ynab out of the equation.Reply
Hi! I just submitted this as a feature request, but I figured that the more times you hear that people want a feature, the higher the likelihood of it being added! I'll preface by saying that I literally have never joined a forum or posted on one, and I just joined for the sole reason of replying to this post because I think this would be such an incredible feature!!
YNAB has become so ingrained in our personal finances that we use it every single day, multiple times a day. As a result, one of the greatest uses of YNAB (other than budgeting, savings, and the other obvious ones) is that it provides such useful historical data of literally every transaction we make during the year. However, taking it one step further and having a feature to take and store a picture of a receipt would make YNAB even more useful! I've laid out some of my reasons below:
- Tax documentation. There is no question we will turn to YNAB at the end of the year when it comes time to file our taxes because YNAB is going to allow us to identify purchases that we've made throughout the year that are tax-deductible. However, the biggest hang up lies in the fact that we obviously have to provide documentation to support deductions if/when the IRS comes knocking. I realize there are all kinds of apps out there for taking pictures of receipts to help keep good records, but using an additional app for each transaction is cumbersome and quite frankly is an unrealistic extra step for most.
- Streamlined communication. For our household, I am the one who ultimately makes YNAB work. I reconcile the accounts, I update payees, I add new categories, etc. Although my spouse sees the benefits of YNAB and realizes how helpful it is for our family, entering transactions and especially splitting them out into categories is quite simply of less importance in her mind. Therefore, I am always asking her for receipts so that I can split out her transactions. She will circle things on the receipt that I need to split out and then text me a picture of them (after I ask, and assuming she kept it). But if she had the ability to take a picture of the receipt as she is entering a transaction, it would be so much easier for me to go back later and split things out. And it would also eliminate the headache for her to keep receipts in her purse.
- Business expenses. I make a lot of reimbursable purchases for work that I have a separate category for in our budget. Obviously in order for me to get reimbursed, I have to submit a receipt with my expense report. Having the ability to easily locate the receipt for business expenses would eliminate any need for me to separately keep record and keep track of these in another app.
- Returns. Who hasn't been able to return something to the store because they lost a receipt?
Granted there are more reasons that I could think of, the last thing I will say on this is an obvious one: with every (electronic) transaction comes a receipt. Although receipts are not always useful, receipts are a component to virtually every single transaction most of us make day-to-day. Having the ability to easily access and use this one component to a transaction would make YNAB hands down the best personal finance app in the world [in my humble opinion]! PLEASE consider adding this feature ASAP!
P.S. Despite the reasons I listed above do not necessarily in and of themselves directly correlate to better spending habits, more savings, achieving goals, and other fundamental benefits of YNAB, the reality is that YNAB is the core platform for many users' personal finances. Therefore, if having the ability to record and store receipts means more reasons for us to use YNAB as the "one place" for all things personal finance, then in my mind more reasons to use of YNAB = more people using YNAB = more intended benefits of YNAB (i.e., saving, achieving goals, etc.)! 🙂Reply
There are so many reasons why adding receipts to YNAB is just the wrong thing to do.
- Why get yourself tied into a app?
- How long are you going to use a single YNAB file? What if you need to start your budget again?
- YNAB is never meant to be a record keeping tool, it is about managing money in a few envelopes to manage next months budget? It about creating proactive planning and decision making. Why do you think there is such limited reporting?
- Why spend time scanning\photographing every receipt, or are you going to do this selectively, in which case which ones do you choose?
- Are you keeping the originals? What if a store for that important return insists on the original?
- Are you attaching online\email receipts or are they accessible in your mail? How far back does your mail archive go?
- Do you get a receipt for every Apple Pay transaction, I know I don't?
- Who is funding the development? I really do not want to, it would have to be a chargeable add-on!
- Where are these receipts being stored, on the cloud? How much cloud storage is there? Locally? Does everyone backup their machines? What if I am on my iPad, should I be able to get the receipt?
I cannot understand the eagerness to turn a cleverly simple and straightforward budgeting app, which is designed to help people manage their money from one month to the next, into an overly complicated personal finance system.
Have you read the mission statements lately? "Budgeting with YNAB is forward-looking and proactive. A newfound awareness of where your money is and what it should be doing makes it simple to make better decisions." I think it would great for a few people on this forum to remind themselves about the purpose and ethos of the app they have chosen to use, go on, I urge you to have a read https://www.youneedabudget.com/why-were-different/
I have every receipt going back 20-years, I can find any receipt for the last 12-months or so in a few minutes, occasionally in may take an hour if I really need to go way back. I cannot remember the last time I really needed a receipt older than the 12-months and I have never not been able to find a receipt . I am happy to share how I do it, just ask.Reply