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!

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  • I would not be interested in paying the price hike this would likely cause. I don't pay for someone else to do this. I would be saving nothing. I would rather see development resources spent on features that make the budgeting experience better, since this is a budgeting app.

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    • Move Light Sound Life I see your point. Not everyone is a small business owner and may or may not be interested in enhanced features discussed in this thread. Especially if it means an increase in price. Regardless of whatever features are added YNAB should never lose sight of what it is - a budgeting solution. This is key.

      Now I'm going to hop over to the business side of the fence. I can see the cost savings with enhanced features in YNAB even if the price has to go up in response to added capabilities. QuickBooks Online costs me $419.25 (discounted from $645) annually. Since both my day job and running my small business on the side keep me incredibly busy I have to pay an accountant to properly code and manage my books. My accounting expenses average to $160 monthly. That brings my required amount to budget into the appropriate categories every month to $194.94, and will only go up from there when my 35% discount expires.

      Taking YNAB's current pricing into account, you can't argue that business owners would save astronomical amounts of money a year if we were able to migrate away from other accounting platforms such as QuickBooks. 

      With YNAB's $84/annually, minus the cost of a bookkeeper, my monthly expenditure is $7 instead of $194.94. Even if the price went up to $150 annual, or even $200 annual, that's only $12.50 and $16.67 a month respectively.

      It's a tough discussion on either side. One the personal side we never like to see prices increase especially when we think we won't utilize newly added features. On the other side business owners could be streamlining their operating procedures and management overhead/expenses. It's easy for me to draw these conclusions because, as business owner, I've also learned to focus on the bigger picture as well as the monthly minutia. I'm sure it's the same for the other small business owners in this thread.

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    • Timothy Wolfe If YNAB wants to court business owners, I do hope it is done separately from the personal, family budget. SaaS subscriptions make sense for businesses, as you count that in the cost of doing business, and there is presumably less risk.

      As society moves more to subscriptions, I'm not thrilled at my lack of ability to invest in a program/app while I have a paying job, so that I can use it for the time I chose to work raising a family (children don't pay financially). At YNAB's current price, maintaining its subscription would be worth it with children. There are others that will go by the wayside.  I know I am looking at times that will be squeezing priorities into one paycheck. I will already be choosing to give up flashy features that I think I won't use.  I don't want them to be my only option. I like YNAB and find it very useful.

      Reply Like 1
  • 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. :) 

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  • 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.

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  • 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. 😀

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  • 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 Like 2
  • 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!)

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  • I would use it to track health expense receipts for HSA accounts in case of tax audits. 

    Reply Like 1
  • 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.

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  • 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 .

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  • I have a two-family house and I want to be able to store scans of receipts that applied to the apartment rent out - for tax purposes. Also,  we're taking withdrawals from a 529 plan and we need to save receipts for eligible expenses.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Hello is there an update on this feature?  My use case is similar to that of many others here. 

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    • Hi Orange General !

      At the moment, we aren't able to incorporate receipt scanning into YNAB, so we've gone back to the drawing board. We're going to continue to collect feedback here and take another look at this option in the future. 

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      • gmtom1
      • Cyan_Storm_29e4b8bee341
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Faness Hopefully not too long into the future.  I think this thread proves that there's definite interest out there in the community.  Many have suggested it could be an optional, add-on feature via in-app purchase. 

      Reply Like
      • iwaddo
      • iwaddo77
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      gmtom1  Faness

      Making it an add-on feature seems like a great idea then the funding can come from those who want to use it and not distract from the core product.

      I was wondering whether integration to an existing receipt tracking app might be a way forward, this would leave YNAB free to do what it does best and receipts could be added to a 3rd party app and the API could be used to tag the receipt to the transaction. 

      Reply Like
      • Victor Rodriguez
      • Husband, Father, Software Engineer
      • victropolis
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      iwaddo gmtom1 $84/year is MORE THAN ENOUGH already.  The ability to scan in transactions from receipts would attract more subscribers and justify the $84/year price tag we are already paying.  That's more than enough incentive.  No more money.  Everybody wants more of our money.  Nobody does anything about it, like charge reasonable prices.  Same goes for health care and higher education.  I'm fed up with it.

      Reply Like
      • iwaddo
      • iwaddo77
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Victor Rodriguez 

      I am very happy with my YNAB subscription, it is one of the things I pay for that I think is great value.

      Reply Like
      • Victor Rodriguez
      • Husband, Father, Software Engineer
      • victropolis
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      iwaddo I'm glad you're happy with your YNAB subscription, but let me explain to you how Web Applications and/or Software as a Service (SAAS) is supposed to work.  The whole reason that Web Apps are preferable to software that you download and install on your computer is that web apps make it easier to roll out new features to the users.  We have every right to ask for more feature for the $84/year that we are paying.

      Reply Like 1
      • iwaddo
      • iwaddo77
      • 1 mth ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Victor Rodriguez 

      Of course, I agree completely, you do have every right to ask for additional features.

      But it is important to understand that any SaaS provider has to prioritise development. There are two main priorities, 1, the strategic direction of the product and 2, the needs of the users.

      There is a huge list of additions that have come about since YNAB became a SaaS, many more than would ever have come with the traditional software model. I am always eager to read the Release Notes to see what goodies have been added or frustrations removed.

      For what it is worth, I do not think it would be right to add receipts to YNAB. YNAB is traditionally a budgeting tool, it is about looking forward to the next month and about budgeting for known or anticipated costs.  YNAB is not about looking backwards.  I think that adding receipt tracking would be a very niche add-on and have very limited take-up, therefore, whilst I support adding new functionality I do think something like this should be an add-on funded by those that want it.

      Reply Like 2
  • 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 Like
    • gmtom1 iwaddo Victor Rodriguez JamesValero 

      Hi all! I wanted to make sure I didn't miss those of you who had recently chimed in here and provide a bit more detail on where we stand with this feature. :)

      At the moment, we aren't able to incorporate receipt scanning into YNAB. We spent a cycle inquiring about this option, but the technology just isn't there at the moment for us to work receipts into YNAB's current design. We've gone back to the drawing board on this but we aren't removing it from our realm of possibilities. It's going on a back burner for now, but once we have more utensils in the kitchen to work with we'll try putting it back on the fire. ;)

      Since we do plan to revisit this at a later date, we're still collecting any feedback, ideas or suggestions you'd like to share! If you have a moment, you can submit a Feature Request to pass along any details you think we should know about!

      Reply Like 1
  • 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 Like
    • Hi gmtom1 !

      I'm not a developer either, so I can't speak to specifics, but I've seen some pretty amazing things done with the API. The Zapier integration allows you to link YNAB to other apps, so while we aren't currently able to keep receipts locally in the YNAB app, it's possible the API could be used to create some type of alternative. Possibly link with another program that allows you to keep them somewhere else? 

      We're going to continue to look into receipt saving as an option, but I hope you're able to find something that helps in the meantime! :)

      Reply Like
  • 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.

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  • I don't particularly care if the receipts are saved or not.  The big win for me would be not having to enter transactions manually.  Just take a picture of the receipt and categorize it.

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  • 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.

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