Best way to track expenses after losing our house
October 14, 2017 8:41 AM   Subscribe

We lost everything in the fire in Santa Rosa. We need a really good, easy collection and categorization system for our receipts and expenses. We have one iPad and two phones which Apple replaced. We got out with ourselves, one car, my purse, our elderly dog who we had to put down Wednesday because it was getting close anyway and the disorientation and pain of being thrown around the back of the car all night was too much.

Not much more to say except thank you for any suggestions.
posted by Gusaroo to Work & Money (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
God, I'm so sorry. I'm from Marin and have a lot of friends who lost their homes in these fires.

When my parents had losses in the Valley Fire a few summers ago, the first thing they did was call their insurance people. I'm sure you did this, already. But some companies want losses accounted for in a really specific way, and others just give you a lump sum. I'd want to know what they needed first before deciding.

When I've tracked expenses, my system is to use Google Sheets to track it because you can see it on any device anywhere with internet. That and taking pictures of all receipts and order confirmation forms is what works for me.

Is there any way people here can help with the practical or financial side, like a gofundme? I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. These fires are so fucking devastating.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:56 AM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am so sorry for your losses! How awful.

If you are mainly getting paper receipts, I suggest using an app like Genius Scan or Evernote to scan the receipts and save them. Genius Scan is the one I use. It auto-names files by date and timestamp, but you can name them yourself if you'd rather use a different categorizing system (like, "housing," "medical," etc.). It's free and it's no more difficult to use than using your phone's camera.

People really seem to like Evernote and it's certainly more multifunctional, but I found it to be a little cumbersome.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:58 AM on October 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

So, so sorry this has happened to you and your family.

I used Shoeboxed for this back when I freelanced, but it’s been awhile. iOS, web app, exports data in a variety of formats, etc.

Take care.
posted by notyou at 8:59 AM on October 14, 2017

I am so so sorry for all your losses.

My recommendation would be to go with some web-based personal finance software that will let you photo scan your receipts, and a quick google suggests that Quicken definitely does and it's harder to tell about the others, maybe other Mefites can confirm.

You could certainly just use a spreadsheet, but a) finance software might make the whole ledgering situation easier, and b) you must be absolutely sure you capture every single receipt. Every pair of socks, every new toothbrush, get a photo before you leave the store. And you must thoroughly document every kind of assistance you receive lest it zombie back up as "income" later and you need to prove the nature of that "income". Somewhere around #80 on the list of things you need to do in the near future is get a referral to a tax advisor. In the meantime, document everything and do it as much in one place as possible.

Whatever you use probably has the ability to enter basic notes or $0 lines that you can use just to note where you spent that day/night, the address, everyone you spoke to on the phone or in person that you might need to refer back to later. Trauma does bizarre things to memory formation and retention; just assume you're not going to remember a lot of the day to day detail from right now.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:16 AM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry for your loss.

You need to review your insurance policy/ies and then talk to your agent to determine how reimbursement is handled. Don't invest a huge amount of effort in organizing the task until you know what the task is.

Don't forget to check your credit cards as well...some offer insurance on loss of recent purchases with the card that may be more generous than what your insurance offers, especially if you don't have an item replacement rider (i.e., if your insurance is going to pay out only on the depreciated value of your goods).

If you're tracking current expenses now, I agree with everyone who says to take pictures of receipts. You don't need to be worrying about a bunch of fluttering slips of paper right now. I find Evernote quite usable but some do think it's a little cumbersome/overfeatured.

Best of luck going forward.
posted by praemunire at 9:17 AM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This thread from Reddit might be useful.
posted by WizKid at 9:38 AM on October 14, 2017 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I'll put out a plug for my favorite expense tracking app. I have used it for my business for years but I added a new log this summer to just track my out of pocket expenses for my home remodel. You can auto back it up to Dropbox and then export to a spreadsheet format so you can work with it. It has a very quick interface for taking a photo of your receipt and then I do a super lazy thing and also take snaps of receipts that come via email though it does have an attachment feature if you want to attach a pdf or jpg or something.

Xpense Tracker.

If you were going to go this route, I'd have you and your spouse maintain your own expenses and then merge them in a spreadsheet. I don't think it has shared access. Or just have one of you maintain the log and daily enter in any receipts and expenses. You can create your own categories if you've gotten direction from your insurer.

I'm so sorry.
posted by amanda at 10:33 AM on October 14, 2017

I'm so sorry.

I really like Expensify. It has a bunch of business features for doing expense reports, but you don't need to use all that: you can just track your expenses and have it spit out a PDF file with all of them itemized and the receipt copies. Their app allows you to take photos and enter expenses. It will store unlimited receipts for free and can also automatically "SmartScan" your receipts so you don't have to enter the information manually (10 free smartscans/month, unlimited if you pay them $5/month). Scan every receipt the moment you get it, and then you don't have to worry about losing them.

If there's anything Bay Area mefites can do to help, please give a shout here or in the metatalk thread.
posted by zachlipton at 11:19 AM on October 14, 2017

Take photos of receipts, put them in a shared Dropbox, then call one of those people that said “let me know if there’s anything I could do to help” and let them sort it out in the app. So sorry.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:39 PM on October 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

You may find very useful one of the Doxie scanners. This is a standalone scanner, no computer required. It scans to an SD card that you can then plug in where you need it.
posted by megatherium at 6:31 PM on October 15, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your input. I’m just now returning to this since we have spent every waking moment dealing with insurance, doctors, replacing meds, friends and family, and most importantly looking for housing. It was a tight market in Sonoma County before the fire, and now we’ve lost an additional 10% of inventory. Ugh...

Praemunire, really excellent point. We’ve started on our inventory through insurance website, and are getting a better handle on what we need to track. I’ve been an Evernote user for a awhile so I may just go that route.
posted by Gusaroo at 2:44 PM on October 23, 2017

« Older What do I do with an enormous wooden cradle?   |   Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols" sung by adult... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.