Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM
Originally published: October 16, 2006
Every once in a while something related to technology and personal finance lands on my desk that makes me go “wow.” So now I have a collection of neat things to tell you about -- Web sites and tools that can make you more organized and efficient, if you’re willing to take the time to start using them.
NEAT RECEIPTS. The first product is, in fact, so neat that it has the name Neat Receipts. It’s a little scanner bar about the size of a very thick ruler that plugs into your computer. But it has the power to reorganize all the significant pieces of paper that mess up your life. Neat Receipts converts pieces of paper to digital format, and stores them neatly on your computer, where you can sort them, organize them in categories, and generally bring order from business cards to credit-card receipts to documents like warranties for your electronic products.
Business-card scanners have been around for a while, but this one is impressive as it scans both sides of the business card, in color, including the notes I write on cards to remind myself of why I kept them in the first place. Then you can import the cards into programs such as Outlook, Plaxo or vCard.
But the real value of Neat Receipts is its ability to scan all those small receipts for credit cards, airline tickets and taxicabs. (I’ve been sorting mine in plastic baggies!) How amazing to scan even the blurry, faded receipts clearly -- and then sort and categorize them by expense purposes, as well as organize for tax purposes according to the form or the line on the tax return where they’ll be used.
The Neat Receipts scanner costs about $230 and is available in many electronics stores, or at www.NeatReceipts.com.
QUICKEN 2007. I’ve been a Quicken user for a decade, and have recommended it for years. I recognize that I have an advantage here, because the Quicken PR people come to my office every year and demonstrate the latest version. But I write about the product only every few years, because it really didn’t seem worthwhile to pay for the upgrade every year as the differences seemed minimal.
The 2007 version of Quicken really is different. It has a completely different feel and process, though the basic tasks remain the same. Best of all, it took just a couple of clicks and a very few minutes (while I held my breath) to transfer all my data files into the new version.
The home page of Quicken 2007 is no longer a jumble of facts, numbers and graphics. Instead it focuses on the two key categories in most people’s financial life: What’s coming in, and what’s going out. From that premise you can organize your finances easily.
Even if you pay your bills online at providers or through your bank’s Web site, it’s worth downloading and integrating all your bank accounts, credit cards and investment accounts in this one place.
Quicken 2007 is available in office supply stores and online at www.Quicken.com, at prices ranging from $29.99 for the basic version (which is all you need if you just want to organize your checking) to $69.99 for the Premier version, which adds planning and investment tracking services.
INVENTORY MANAGEMENT. Quicken also recently introduced Quicken Home Inventory Manager, a new and very useful program that enables users to create a home inventory for insurance purposes -- the kind of information you’d be so grateful that you had stored offsite at your office or safe deposit box if your home were destroyed by a hurricane, tornado or fire.
The program guides you to catalog everything in your house -- from furniture and appliances to artwork and collectibles -- and quickly attach up to five digital photos per item, as well as a written description. You can also attach receipts, insurance appraisals, warranties, or even scan the price tag. Store the information on a backup disr easily print out a report for insurance claims. It costs just $29.95, and is available at Quicken.com.
As you can see, I’m a fan of organization -- if it’s easy to do. That’s why I’m spending lots of weekend time scanning business cards and taking new digital pictures for insurance purposes. Because no matter how easy these new products are, they still require that you do some work to make them useful. And that’s The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.