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Summary:

I’m constantly surprised at the cutely obvious names of some web services – finding a brand name that’s sublimely obvious but if successful is very likely to be as linguistically ubiquitous as ‘googling’ or ‘hoovering’. Shoeboxed may just well be one such brand – I wonder […]

How Shoeboxed Mail-In Classic works

I’m constantly surprised at the cutely obvious names of some web services – finding a brand name that’s sublimely obvious but if successful is very likely to be as linguistically ubiquitous as ‘googling’ or ‘hoovering’. Shoeboxed may just well be one such brand – I wonder if in five years time, we’ll be ‘shoeboxing’? Infact, most of us probably already are…

Launched around a year ago, Shoeboxed provides a simple service for uploading, storing and organizing all those paper receipts that are stuffed into real shoeboxes around our homes and offices, into over-sized wallets and purses, largely lost or disorganized until summoned by our accountants and tax authorities!

Shoeboxed encourages users to digitize their receipts with a scanner, before uploading the resultant image to the service. For those who don’t wish to spend their time scanning potentially hundreds of receipts, the company offers a mail-in program that is essentially a Netflix-style user experience; you mail in receipts, Shoeboxed scans and organizes; receipts are returned to you with an envelope for subsequent mail-ins.

What’s actually more useful than storing and archiving a receipt’s image, is what can be done with the related metadata. After all you could even use Flickr, Scrnshots or Skitch to privately store receipts. Shoeboxed will allow you to categorize, name, quantify and analyze your purchases. This data can be exported to other applications (Excel, Quicken) or as a report to understand your personal metrics.

The pricing plans seem reasonable, ranging from free to $60/month, though the basic package lacks the mail-in option, it’s a useful enough set of features. The high-end package is most likely quite valuable for workers generating several hundred receipts each month. In this case, the time spent on ordinarily organizing this could be converted back into billable time by outsourcing this activity to Shoeboxed.

To an extent, it’s difficult not to see Shoeboxed as a simply a great feature or product of a broader service. For example, Wesabe enables users to share and analyze their spending patterns; in this context adding Shoeboxed-like features to Wesabe would be immensely valuable. Perhaps, Shoeboxed future includes more automated and crowdsourced analysis of your spending or indeed deeper integration (and maybe acquisition?) by broader financial web services and even encouraging integration with tax authorities in various countries.

In the meantime, Shoeboxed’s basic mail-in plan appears to be a useful and valuable starting point to experiment with – though international mail-in is supported, receipts aren’t returned but destroyed by the company.

For many web workers, it could provide a simple solution to an irritating problem.

  1. Imran, nice find! This seems like an invaluable service. I wonder if it integrates with any of my tax software.

    Any shoeboxed users out there?

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  2. [...] Web Worker Daily has been one of my favorite blogs out there for a while because, well, I’m a web worker. Interesting articles and good writing have given it a place on my bookmarks. That’s why I was so excited to see an article about Shoeboxed on Web Worker Daily today. [...]

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  3. Even more useful would be a service that allowed you to easily ‘drop in’ (via desktop/web widget perhaps?) electronic recipts (whether received via email or cut-n-pasted from webpage, etc) as well as scanned-in paper receipts (duly converted into machine-readable format). Ideally, it would then remove any duplicates, import into a databse and let you slice, dice, view and export the information in myriad ways.

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  4. I’ve been a Shoeboxed client for a few months now. The service works great. I don’t use it for any automated exports to accounting systems but I do use it for getting my receipts reimbursed by my company after business trips. It’s great for that.

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  5. Hi Jim,

    acutally Shoeboxed let’s you exactly do that. I’m using their free service and whenever I get an electronic receipt, it just gets forwarded to my Shoeboxed email address. Their algorithms take it from there and the receipt gets entered automatically into my database…

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  6. Cool. I’ll drop them a line. Thanks, Imran.

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  7. @Marc — I was just figuring out how best to reach you. You can reach me at nick at team dot shoeboxed dot com.

    @Imran — thanks for a great article. I’ll make sure some Shoelove gets sent your way…

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  8. @Marc, @Nick glad you guys have been able to connect…though I’m a little hesitant about recieving some ‘Shoelove’ :$

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  9. Great idea. It’s something I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of weeks. I would love to get rid of the pile of receipts that gather awaiting my tax return!

    However, I wonder if the tax man would accept an electronic version of a paper receipt?

    I’ve actually been thinking of scanning in most of my documents actually, to create some space in my bulging filing cabinet.

    Personally, my needs are simple. I would just opt for scanning the docs and storing them in a private flickr set and use it’s tagging features to search for the relevant docs. I digress… :)

    But, a useful service for those who need it.

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  10. Hey all,

    Just wanted to drop in and answer the IRS question.

    @Tarique: The IRS has been accepting digital receipts since at least 1997 under certain conditions, all of which are met by the Shoeboxed organizational system.

    The conditions are things like the fact that your receipts must be legible and that they must be submitted to the IRS within the accepted time frame typical for all receipts.

    Read more from the IRS. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-irbs/irb97-13.pdf

    Also, one of our value adds over a self-tagging service like Flickr is that we do the scanning, tagging and indexing for you as part of Receipt Mail-In.

    @Imran Regarding “Shoelove”, it sounds a lot less odd when Nick says it in person with his British accent… :)

    Taylor

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