Neat Receipts Keeps Me On Top Of My Receipts

I’ve detailed how I organize my bank statements before. But sorting through a month’s worth of receipts at once has become a real burden. Back in December, the one item a day shopping site, had a Woot-off where a succession of products are available for an undisclosed period of time. A Neat Receipts scanner came up and I took the bait. But it wasn’t until last week that I actually started using it.

And boy am I sorry that I didn’t start using this product earlier. It is a snap to scan a receipt, have the software read the contents of the receipt using OCR, and file them away in a database. In the box you get a USB-powered scanner, the software that does all the heavy lifting, a calibration card, a carrying case incase you take the scanner with you on the go, and a stand for propping the scanner up when you’re not using it (see below).

My Neat Receipts scanner in its case on the handy desk stand.

Setting up the scanner was a snap. First install the software and scanner driver then connect the scanner to your computer using the included USB cable. The first time you run the Neat Receipts software it will ask you to calibrate the scanner using the calibration card. Between when I opened the scanner box and the time I actually started using the Neat receipts system I had lost the calibration card. Luckily it’s not vital. You can print out your own replacement card using a standard inkjet printer. During first scan I put the receipt in face-up. When I saw the result, I was confused as it was completely white. It turns out you have to scan the receipt face down. The scanning processis really snappy as demonstrated in this video.

After you scan a receipt, the software will analyze the text and fill in the appropriate fields like vendor, date, sales tax, and price. The accuracy was pretty spot on. I only had to correct info for a few receipts. One problem I ran into is the software doesn’t share info from other receipts. For example you can enter address information from the receipt into the database. If you always shop at the same grocery store, NeatReceipts doesn’t automatically fill in this information from the first time you entered it. This seems like it would be a no-brainer to implement.

The software is clunky but fairly easy to learn. The main functions include viewing your scanned receipts, fields to enter information about the receipt, folders to categorize your receipt collection, and a search field for finding specific receipts.

 Screenshot of Neat Receipts 3.0 software

The folder organizer works just like any file system: drag and drop. I don’t really understand why you might need more than 3 folders or so. One of the real advantages is the receipts are fully searchable. Any receipt can instantly be brought up with a simple search. This is the main advantage of the whole system.

If you need to export your receipts you have multiple formats. Any receipt, or group of receipts, can be exported as a PDF, Excel spreadsheet, or Quicken/QuickBook/ TurboTax file. I was hoping you could easily export all of your scanned receipt images to Quicken to embed with the appropriate transactions. Both programs know the date and how much the transaction was making it a snap to match up. But alas, exporting to Quicken only includes the financial information to enter as transactions. This is useless to me as my financial transactions are automatically downloaded from my bank over the Internet. Exporting the receipt info to Excel is easy with their spreadsheet mapping tool which lets you match which fields go to which columns in your spreadsheet.

It is important to backup your database with their backup tool which lets you save a single file to a safe location. One of the downsides of the Neat Receipts scanner is all of the information is stored in a proprietary .nr file. This means you will need to keep a copy of the software around if you ever want to view it later. This certainly isn’t a problem now, but 10 years down the line it might be.

So after getting everything up and running the Neat Receipts scanner has made my life much easier. Every night Instead of throwing my days receipts into an envelope I scan them into my computer. If I ever think I might need the phyical copy I’ll stash it away, otherwise my receipts end up in my trash can. After stapling my receipts to my bank statements for the past two years, I realized I’ve never needed to go back to one. This way I have everything saved and searchable in digital space rather than cluttering up physical space. Add the fact that I can pull up any receipt with a simple search query and I’ll never go back to organizing little papers by hand.

Grocery Shopping With A Scan Gun At Giant

Grocery shopping got a little bit smarter and a whole lot more fun at a nearby Giant. After a day of errands at Arundel Mills mall, Kristina and I stopped at the Giant off of New Hampshire Ave. This store has the Scan It gun which lets shoppers bag their groceries and calculate their total as they shop. We didn’t see a lot of people using them but we found it easy to use and quite handy.

When you first walk in to the store you see this…

The Giant Scan It Center is where you scan your Giant Bonus Card and pick up a scanner.

This is where you scan your bonus card, pick up a Scan It gun, and grab some plastic bags to fill while you shop. Before you put an item in your cart you simply hold the yellow button down and scan the barcode with the gun. It shows you the price of the item and adds it to your total. Removing an item is as simple as selecting Remove and then scanning the item again.

The Scan It keeps track of the total as you shop.

Scanning fruits and vegetables is a little tricky since they don’t have barcodes on them. There are produce scales around to select and weigh your produce and then a printer prints out a barcode sticker which you can scan.

Buying produce requires you to weigh it on a special scale which prints out a barcode to scan.

At the end of your trip you scan a special barcode at the register and hand the scanner to the cashier. Then you just pay and off you go!

The only negative aspect of the process is the Scan It device displays specials with a loud cash register sound every so often. Most of the specials weren’t relevant to what we were shopping for. The brochure says “there are extra savings exclusively with SCAN IT!” but I didn’t notice anything. Kristina and I shop with a list which means we tend to ignore anything that isn’t on it.

Ads cycle through the Scan It device

Technology like this is a good stop gap until RFID technology overtakes the old fashioned barcode. I think within the next 10 years, there will be a console on every grocery cart that tracks what items go into the cart as well as helping shoppers identify where things are located. Having more information while I shop is a welcome improvement. This eliminates any confusion about pricing and helps us stay within our grocery budget. Now there will be no more surprises at the checkout.

I hope this technology makes it to the Giant where we usually shop at, though we might just go a little bit further to this Giant for our weekly grocery trips.