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've changed my stance on this. When I used to use Quickbooks (Quick...what?! yeah I know) they had the option of attaching a receipt. I took the time to scan and attach each and every receipt, but I found this to be rather time consuming. I still scan my receipts at the end of the month, but have them safely saved onto Dropbox (free option, so why not) labelled by date and store (YYYY-MM-DD StoreName.jpg).
The chief reason I don't want this feature included in YNAB is the cost. Those "storage costs" for images that YNAB will have to cover, will inevitably be passed onto YNABers. At $84 USD per year ($110 in Canadian funds), it's already getting more difficult to convince new people to sign up for a subscription.
Don't do it YNAB! Please don't force us to roll with the punches!
Just going to add to this topic. The reason I think it would be a good idea to add this to YNAB is because after a purchase, we already have our phone out to Add the Transaction and categorize it. If it's a major purchase at Costco or BBB, it's only one more simple click to add the receipt to the purchase. I know there are other apps out there that can help with this, but who wants to open multiple apps and type in the same thing?
It becomes even more useful when tracking business expenses. You can tag them appropriately and then (hopefully) retrieve them easily during tax time.
But really, I think the main reason is because YNAB has captured that moment in time with the consumer right after a transaction has been made and they can leverage this interaction time with the consumer by adding a quick feature.
Personal or business, I keep my receipts. So having them digital would allow my bookkeeping to enter the 21st Century. After 30 years of chasing the promise of paperless office, I'm finally there, except for bookkeeping receipts. I find it ironic that one of the most advanced systems I use -- YNAB SaaS -- still has me dependent on paper for my accounting/auditing paper trail.
As a more practical matter, my wife and business partner travels. If she can post a pic of a transaction, it's available to me before she gets home. For a personally-incurred business expense, this means I can book it in both systems before she gets home (and without having to pester her about emptying her purse).
I too think this is a waste of time. I once scanned all my receipts and categorized them in the interest of less paper. The process did not last long. I used software designed to do this but the time necessary to do it and the search aspects of the software never worked very well. I gave it up rather quickly. I keep certain receipts in my office that I need to refer to and most important or receipts that cannot be replaced go into my safe in a file container. If you use a credit card 99% of the time If I have return I never bring the receipt anyway. The vendor just looks it up in their computer system and I am good to go. Many vendors will email the receipt to you, Home Depot is one, and then I file it in the Home Depot folder in Gmail. I think the time lost to this endeavor is much better spent on other more pressing and important issues.
Yes, I know plenty of people who don't see the value of capturing receipts (either digital or paper) at the point of sale.
Others wouldn't even think of reconciling their credit card statement. I do. Over the years I've found too much fraud and bank errors that way to ever think of stopping.
Some individuals can reconcile their statements against their memory, but it can break down when there are too many transactions a month to remember. (I swear, it doesn't take too many Starbucks charges on a statement before they all start to look the same.) And it's simply not an option in a family when more than one person is making purchases on an account.
But for me, the litmus test is simple: I wouldn't go into an IRS audit of my return to defend either my business or my personal deductions with just my credit card statement. So I'll be keeping the original source documents.
Not all vendors offer digital documentation yet, so it's nice when we can get it, but it's not a reliable basis for a process.
I imagine YNAB's objective about their target demographic will decide how they'll prioritize this request. Certainly they're focused on personal budgeting, not business. And it appears to me they're focused on providing a great system for folks who may have never balanced their checkbook, for whom even just regularly "approving" imported bank transactions is a step up.
I'm just one small voice saying that even in my personal spending I'd like to be able to capture the original source documents at the POS on my side of the transaction to do a proper reconciliation with the bank-side (which YNAB imports so well). That's not just because I approach my personal accounting like a business: I need them to document personal tax deductions. So I'll keep the paper. I'd like it digitized, too, as far upstream in the workflow as I can. It'd be great if YNAB could help me with that.
I always scan all my receipts, even if I don't think I'll need them. You never know when that need will come in the future, and digital storage is so cheap/free now days that it's worth it, just in case.
Some retailers can look up receipts in their systems if you have a customer account with them, but most times it's faster and easier to process a return if you have a copy. If you dine out, you should definitely keep your receipt - I've had issues with servers at restaurants who make "typos" when entering the tip that I was able to dispute since I had my (digital) copy of the receipt to submit to the CC company.
The IRS has said that CC statements are not sufficient evidence, but a digital copy or scanned copy is sufficient.
I agree that this might not be a feature for everyone, but it seems there's enough interest to warrant development as an optional, additional fee for YNAB.
As a user who has just made a purchase, I want to scan a receipt with my phone to have the transaction entered into YNAB automagically. I would gladly pay $10/mo or more for this feature.
Obviously that's not a trivial thing to program, but it's possible in 2019. You could OCR the receipt to pull out key details like the merchant name, grand total, date, etc...
As an added bonus, it could pick out specific items for split transactions. For example, when I buy steaks from the grocery store, I get really good [expensive] ones. Those go in a separate category for "Eating stuff I can't really afford" (as opposed to the generic "Groceries" category). A similar use-case exists for those who frequent "Big Box" stores like Costco/Samsclub.
Side note: The main reason I want this is to have transactions entered faster and with less effort. I'd be equally satisfied with YNAB simply importing my pending transactions in realtime. But the community has a cult-like stigma about importing pending transactions for some reason.
I do not think I would use such functionality as I already have a system which is independent of all technology.
I have a little box into which I put my receipts. Each month I gather them up, wrap them in a sheet of scrap A4 and put an elastic band to keep them in place. I write the month/year on the outside. They are filed in a box. Every year or so the little bundles are moved from the box in the study to tertiary storage in the attic. I’d estimate there are over 25 years worth.
If I need a receipt I can use YNAB records back to 2012 and an old MS-Money files back to 1993 to find the month. All I have to then is retrieve the little bundle for the month to find the receipt.
It has never failed me yet.
A picture of my little box.
I think the benefit goes beyond receipts. In making a payment (perhaps to a local painter who isn't going to produce electronic invoices), it would be useful to scan bills as a way of documenting totals/payments, etc. I also agree with previous posters that, since some receipts are required for HSA/FSA accounts and keeping these physically filed is not a convenient or destruction-proof method, the ability to capture e-images of these documents would be helpful. I too would pay additional fees for this service.
100% yes Todd I use an app, www.waveapps.com, for my business and they have a great method for entering new transactions. You take a picture of a receipt. Then the software reads the receipt, pulls the info from it, and puts it in the correct fields for you to review, and eventually match up with the bank import. This would be huge. Plus, I would finally be able to look and see what my wife bought at Target!!!
This would be a useful function for several reasons! I'd love the ability to keep only a digital receipt instead of a paper receipt in case of returns or warranty issues. For budgeting purposes, it can often be difficult to stop in the middle of a big box store to figure out how to categorize a purchase, but having a receipt I couldn't lose would help me reconcile later that day. Finally, this would be helpful for tax purposes for some purchases.
If you are promoting YNAB as a solution for businesses to use in place of our bookkeeping software, being able to attach receipts is pretty important.
Reason #1 - Taxes! We really need to be able to prove to Uncle Sam what was purchased. CC statements and bank statements aren't sufficient.
Reason #2 - Returns - For the receipts to be usable, we'd need to be able to print them out so that we can take them to the store with us.
Reason #3 - Auditing - When the #s are off, we could reference the receipts to ensure amounts were entered correctly.
Reason #4 - Memory - What on earth did I spend $97 on at Staples last month? LOL
I'm pretty sure business users like myself would be willing to pay.
ALTERNATIVE - Second choice would be an easy way to add a link that shows up as an attachment and is printable. Right now, I'm taking a picture, uploading it to Dropbox, renaming it, copying the dropbox link and pasting that into the NOTE field. Not fast, not clean, not mobile friendly.
Beige Piccolo I did replace Quicken with YNAB.
(I hadn't used any receipt-image capturing in Quicken, and am surprised to hear it had it; by the time I left Quicken, it was so clunky you could almost "hear" its written-for-DOS code churn.)
For our personal budget, dropping Quicken for YNAB was a no-brainer. Account importing and reconciliation are exponentially better, easier, faster, and more reliable. YNAB's approach to budgeting, though completely different, is also exponentially better for us. And the reporting, with Income & Expenses and Net Worth, is all much better. The other stuff that Quicken says it does, I never used, so I don't miss them.
Moving our businesses to YNAB was a little less obvious. YNAB doesn't blatantly promote itself as a business solution. In fact, I was a couple weeks into it with my personal budget before I even saw some of the hidden blogposts suggesting how one might use it for business. But because the account importing and reconciliation were so much better than Quicken, and so much easier and lightweight than Quickbooks (which is more heavyweight than we need), I gave it a trial.
YNAB's working very well for our simple "checkbook" businesses that have few expenses, few invoices, and 1-2 accounts, and they work fine.
For our more complex business, it wasn't a clear choice at all. But I did it anyway. For me, as a DIY bookkeeper, it was worth it to stay in one system if I could make it work. And with jury-rigged workarounds, I have. I've made it work for me, but I can't really recommend it.
As noted here before, YNAB doesn't have the right stuff to fully manage business expenses and doesn't even try to do invoicing. So YNAB's just not at all providing any accounts payable or accounts receivable functions. But we already had a solution for both of those (Freshbooks, which also captures receipt images excellently).
Aside from being completely absent with A/P and A/R, where YNAB breaks down for business is how it ideologically treats income as "to be budgeted" and outflow as "expenses." Owner draws, reimbursements for personally-incurred expenses, and client-billed expenses, all require quirky workarounds, translations, and complex workflows.
Though our businesses and personal budgets are all in the same platform, there is no communication between them whatsoever. I've looked and haven't found any SaaS solution that does the
"double double-entry" accounting necessary between the business and the owner's personal accounts. (Wave says it will, but it doesn't; don't get me started about that.)
In summary, for a simple cash-basis "checkbook" business, YNAB works well. For a more complex business that's still DIY, cash-basis and closely-held, it was a close call. But for business with staff or an accountant doing the books, or on an accrual basis, or is a partnership or corporation, I wouldn't waste even a single moment thinking about YNAB for business.
A centralized place to store e-copies of receipts especially for big purchases (TV's, etc.). Also, I am routinely having restaurants overcharge me on tips (.10 to $45.00 added in tips). It would be nice to have those copies in YNAB. Currently I am having to use Evernote. Finally, I use YNAB for my business as well. It would be handy to have those expense receipts stored and attached to the individual record.
This would help me get rid of the big fat envelopes of receipts that I keep EVERY month.
I run a small business, and keep separate budgets for my own personal things and my business. Being able to scan receipts would be really helpful so I don't have to worry about keeping paper copies (which often fade). I can see multiple uses for this.
- Split transactions
- Instances where I need to give the receipt to someone to get reimbursed
- For auditing purposes this would make my life SO much easier. In my business it's not uncommon to buy things from Home Depot. Being able to keep the receipts on record connected to the transaction so that I can verify exactly what was purchased in the event of an audit would be REALLY helpful.
In my opinion if this is a storage space issue that means that there is a need to charge more for this feature I think it would be best to start out as an add on feature that costs a few more dollars per month. Once a critical mass of users are using it then it could be considered to make it a permanent feature for everyone included in the price. I don't think people would want to pay more for a service they aren't going to use, so keeping it as an option would be a good thing.
The more I think about this, scanning receipts into YNAB poses no benefit without a powerful OCR integration that will extract merchant, date, and amount and automagically enter the transaction for you.
If you just want to save an image of the receipt, download the Google Photos app and snap a picture with your phone, and file it into an Album called "receipts". Your Android phone probably already has Google Photos. iPhone users can find it in the app store or use Apple's equivalent "store your photos in the cloud" service.
Building this feature into YNAB will just make the app more complex and expensive for everyone -- even those who don't use it.
It would be useful for me to help breakdown the "big box store" purchases. If I go to a restaurant, it's pretty clear I can mark it as Dining Out. However, at places like Walmert, Meijer, and Target, it could range from Clothing, Electronics, Groceries, etc. Plus, I could scan the receipt and not worry about having to dig for the information later when I'm on-the-go.
I scan receipts with Expensify while traveling for business, and I do this regularly (travel once a month for my job). Manual entry of transactions at the point-of-sale is just not always going to happen, and this leads to a pile of paper receipts. OCR helps cut down on this pile of receipts by providing a memory of the receipts in the cloud. This is great for two reasons:
1) I no longer need to carry the physical receipt around with me, once scanned
2) Scanning a receipt with an app like expensify double as a way of *categorizing* the reciept for me in YNAB, in particular anything I scan with Expensify should end up as "Work Expenses" in my personal budget
If YNAB incorporated it's own OCR, a third benefit would be that I could scan a receipt, skip entering the Payee and Amount details, and just quickly Categorize it. In fact I think the number one benefit to having an OCR approach to adding transactions is that the receipt itself will always convey the payee and amount, but the Category is temporal knowledge that should be captured right away. So please prioritize this in the UI/UX.
Regarding point #2 above, even if YNAB never implements an OCR feature, it would be amazing to have some sort of rules-based app integration with Expensify. I would love to scan my work receipts in Expensify while traveling and have those automatically Match expenses in YNAB and auto-marked as "Work Expenses" in my budget.
Love YNAB, keep up the great work!
For me Its about what I am spending my money on. @cyan_sloth.7 is right, my Walmart and Target receipts are all over the board, as well as some smaller company receipts. It's helpful to be able to look at the receipt with I am reviewing the data imported into YNAB from my bank. Not to mention inputting on the go could be simplified. I admit I almost never input the information right after I make a transaction. But I would if the information was pulled from my receipt, cause oddly enough I usually look at my receipt before leaving the building. Maybe I just need to get into a better habit of inputting.
The most important reason I would like YNAB to record receipts is that I want to keep track of the expenses that partake to my kiddos. I like to be able to use these in court if the need ever arose since my partner and I don't have to legally pay child support for his children.
I also agree having a digital copy of receipts would be helpful for returns and insurances purposes as well as just remembering what I bought. I'll continue to just inventory my receipts with google photos but it would be useful to pull the information from my receipts easily into YNAB. If the issue is storing the information on YNAB servers maybe a partnership is Expensify or Google or whoever is a route to take or even consider local storage.
Thanks for listening to my ideas and suggestions.
This would be a killer feature. It could also be done in such a simple way so as not to add visual or process bulk for those who aren't interested.
I have two YNAB budgets, one for personal and one for small business. I frequently find myself wanting a way to attach receipts to transactions for tax/documentation purposes and to generally streamline my process. Not having the feature means a duplication of effort elsewhere in logging and organizing transactions.
I'd also love a way to pull in monthly PDF statements for accounts. Again, this would have an organizational/streamlining benefit, but would also allow me to resolve questions that sometimes come up about a transaction long after import without having to hunt down the statement elsewhere.
Being able to scan your receipts and have the information automatically populated (OCR) would be out of this world! This would make recording transactions more streamlined and could be used for all things from personal to small business. Having access to a scanned copy of the receipts would also be a boon for tax reporting and more. I'd lose my mind if YNAB implemented something like this (standard receipt capture without OCR would be great too!).