Expense Records for the Harried Business Owner

In today’s business world, many business owners spend as much or more time out of the office as they do at their desks. You probably make purchases on the go, travel for business, or even buy a lot online with emailed receipts. Especially at the end of the tax year, you may be wondering how many dollars in deductions you are losing because you tucked receipts away or did not get them into the bookkeeping system.

There is no reason to miss even a single expense receipt, including those from Dollar General when you stop in for a quick office item you forgot to order. Those receipts are easy to shove into a pocket, but they are also just as easily lost during the busy workday. There are three major providers of notetaking apps for phones and computers: Evernotei, Google Keepii, and Microsoft OneNoteiii. There are other smaller solutions, but these get the bulk of the business.

Many or even all the features discussed here will be in one or more of these solutions, but there are differences. Do your due diligence and choose the solution that meets your business working style and budget. Here are the features most busy people find most valuable.

Methods of Input into the System

Part of your day you are at your work computer. Other parts of the day you may work on a home computer, tablet, and your smart phone. You want a solution that allows you to get a receipt or note into the file system quickly and easily anywhere you happen to be. Some of the ways to input to one or more of these solutions include:

  • Clip web pages or portions of web pages.
  • Clip images from the Internet.
  • Do the same from tablet computers, and some clipping features on smart phones.
  • Take a photo with the app’s camera that goes straight to the note file system.
  • Record a typed note on any device.
  • Record a handwritten drawing or note on most devices.
  • Attach other documents to notes.
  • Take audio notes that go directly into the note file system.
  • Right-click to send a document or item from the computer file system to notes.
  • App camera identifies document edges for a photo scan into the system.

Consider these many ways to get information into the system and think of it in relation to that quick trip to Dollar General. The first opportunity you get, take a photo of the receipt directly into the note system. Attach a typed note of the business purpose or even a voice note.

Filing, Note Retrieval, and Other Features

Again, some of these features may not be available in one or two of the three solutions mentioned, so check their features to see what works for you.

  • Folders/subfolders or another filing cabinet-like way to group notes for storage. Consider the receipt from Dollar General. That photo could be sent into a Business Tax folder, or whatever name you give it.
  • Notes by default are filed in chronological order going backward in time, so the newest notes are at the top. They may be sorted differently if needed.
  • Notes may be merged, so several notes or images of documents taken on the road can be merged into one PDF file.
  • Tags can also be applied to notes to make them even easier to group the way you want to retrieve them later.
  • The Search function not only searches note titles but also the typed text in the notes. Any note, even one taken years before, can be quickly retrieved.
  • One or more of these solutions will index the text of pdf files you send to the system. You can then find those documents through a search on their contents.
  • One or more of them also indexes text in images, so document images get indexed, but also others, such as photos of signs. Text of any kind that is legible in a photo will be indexed so it can be found later. Now, if you spent $26.49 at Dollar General and took that receipt photo, later you can find it by the price or even an item description if you forgot where you spent the money.

There are possibly other features you will find especially useful, but the main advantage of using one of these note systems is saving time while never losing a piece of paper.

i Evernote features and pricing, from Evernote.com

ii What you can do with Google Keep, Google Support

iii Microsoft OneNote features, Microsoft Support

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