Thursday, May 30, 2013

Using eBates to Get More for Less

I'm known among my friends as the expert at getting the best deals shopping on the web.  Today I thought I would demonstrate my usual pattern for shopping.

I'm headed up to Seattle in a few weeks for an Accounting Technology Bootcamp.  Several of my good friends will be there and although my lime-green-roll-up iPad keyboard is cool, I decided I needed a new iPad keyboard that was a bit more classy.  I wouldn't want my friends laughing at me (at least not more than they already do).

I've always liked the iPad keyboard cases that Brookstone makes and sitting on my desk is their latest catalog advertising a code for $20 off any purchase of $100 or more until 7/7/13 (20GIFT).  To make it even better, Groupon currently has a $50 for $25 deal at Brookstone. So I decided that was all the prompting I needed to get a shiny new fancy-dancy keyboard for Glenn, my iPad.

And to sweeten the deal, Ebates offers cash back at both Groupon and Brookstone!

So, here's how I got a gorgeous blue iPad keyboard case ($99.99) and blue aluminum sylus ($19.99) for a grand total of $81.22:

First I logged in to Ebates, looked up Groupon and clicked on the link.  That took me to the Groupon site but was tracked by Ebates so that I would earn 3% cash back in to my Ebates account for any purchase at Groupon.

Over on Groupon, I purchased the $50 for $25 at Brookstone deal.  I then waited a few minutes for the purchase to process and pulled up the voucher in the My Groupons section of the site.  I opened the pdf voucher on to one of my other monitor screens.

Total amount spent so far:  $25 (Groupon) less $.75 (3%) cash back earned from Ebates = $24.25

Next I went back over to my Ebates account, looked up Brookstone and clicked on the link.  That took me the Brookstone site with Ebates tracking me so that I could earn the 5% cash back they offer.

I did some browsing of the iPad keyboard selections, watched some of the videos, read the reviews, and decided to get this keyboard case in cobalt blue:

Bluetooth® Keyboard with Tech-Grip Case for iPad® Tablets

And because I was feeling generous towards myself, I also go this pretty stylus in blue:

Aluminum Tablet Pen

The Brookstone site was also offering a free shipping code on purchases over $99 (SHIP99) but they only allow the use of one code on each purchase.  The 20GIFT code ($20) was a better deal so I used that one.

So here's how the rest of the dollars add up:

Keyboard case $99.99 + stylus $19.99 + shipping $9.99 = $129.97

$129.97 total purchase less $20 coupon code (20GIFT) and $50 Groupon code = $59.97 payment due.

$59.97 less $3.00 (5%) Ebates cash back earned = $56.97

$56.97 + $24.25 (from above) = $81.22 total money spent for an original purchase of $129.97 = $48.75 money saved.

I always keep my eye out for good deals on sites like Groupon, Living Social, Amazon Local etc and then look to see if I can combine them with a cash back offer from Ebates.  It only takes a few minutes or even just seconds extra for each purchase but the savings really add up quickly.  Almost all my shopping on the internet I do through an Ebates link.  They send me the cash back I've earned quarterly and most quarters my payment is over $100.

Super easy money to earn shopping for the items I need!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

iPhone/iPad Scanner Apps

Recently I've noticed that several companies have put out iPhone/iPad apps for easy receipt scanning.  Although I absolutely LOVE my high-speed Fujitsu scanner, I have thought at times that it would be nice to be able to use my phone's camera to scan business receipts, especially when I'm on the go.  So I decided to download a sampling of the apps (well, three, anyway), try them out and report back here to all of you on my findings.

One of my requirements for each of the apps was that they sync to DropBox.  All three of these apps do that.  They also sync to other cloud services but DropBox is my favorite and is the one I use with all my clients.

Now... should I start with the app I've decided I like best and will be using on a regular basis or should I leave that one to the last and make all of you suffer through the first two?

So, yes, being the evil one that I am, I will start with my least favorite of the three:

Scanner Pro by Readdle
$6.99 (interestingly, this is the most expensive of the three apps that I tried)

Disclaimer:  This app is also programmed for the iPad (no second purchase required) but I did not try it on my iPad yet.  It is possible that my main complaint about the app (image quality with longer receipts) could be improved via the iPad app.  Even though I have an iPad, I was really looking for a scanner app for my iPhone since I always have my iPhone with me and do not always have my iPad with me.

App Setup:  very easy and self-explanatory.
DropBox:  very easy to connect the app to my DropBox account

Scanning:  Receipt scanning is as easy as taking a picture.  You can then edit the exact borders of the receipt via the app and save it.  It was easy to rename it (I have a certain way I like to name my scanned docs) prior to uploading it to DropBox.

The first scan I did was a short restaurant receipt and the quality was fine.  But the second receipt was a much longer postage receipt and I did not like the image quality as the receipt looked squished and distorted.  Up until this point, I was loving this app.  So many of the receipts we get these days are extra long due to the advertising and survey stuff that businesses just seem to *love* including whenever they can (seriously people, I'm trying to reduce the amount of paper in my life, not take mindless surveys that I have no time for!).

With the long receipt and the poor image quality, this app went to the bottom of the list.

Receipts by Tidal Pool Software
Free or $4.99 for the Pro version; $9.99 for the HD Pro iPad version

The only difference between the free and paid versions is that under the free version, you are limited to 10 receipts so it's basically a trial version.  Since I did not intend to test more than 2 or 3 receipts with the app, I went with the free version for the purposes of testing.

This app does have a separate HD app for the iPad and it is an additional purchase.  So to get the Pro version for both your iPhone and iPad, you would be looking at $14.98 ($4.99 + $9.99).

OK - this app is waaayyyy more than just a receipt scanner.  It is a full expense report and receipt program.  For someone who needs to submit expense reports, this app would be the total bomb and they would love it.  I have a few clients with outside sales people for whom I plan to recommend this app to.  I'm also going to show this to some of the staff at my church since most of them have iPhones and expense reports and receipt copies are a constant challenge for us.  But for me, my business and my needs, it is way overkill. 

Although this app is very detailed and has a ton of functionality with a lot of optional settings, I found the set up, connection to DropBox and personalization of the settings quite easy.  It took me a little bit of time to explore all the menus and go through all the settings but once everything is set, I would imagine that I would rarely, if ever, need to change them.

Unlike the app above, this app keeps the pictures of your receipts as jpg files.  I prefer the pdf format for my digital files but jpg is not a deal-breaker.

You can set up multiple accounts in the app (customers, jobs, months, etc... however you want to define it) and then it comes with the basic categories set up (dining, travel, supplies, etc).  But it is very easy to add your own categories or edit the ones that were included.  This will work great for a company such as my church where we have a custom set of expense account numbers that employees are to code to.

After you have "scanned" (ie taken a picture of) all of the receipts in your expense report and saved them to the appropriate categories, the app will create an expense report for you, either in Excel, PDF or CSV.  You can then email the whole thing to someone or upload it to a designated folder on DropBox directly from the app.  Other cloud services are supported but I only tested it with DropBox.  If you prefer, the app will zip up the expense report and all the receipt "scans" (ie pics) in to one file.  This is an optional setting and one that I preferred for simplicity.

Overall, GREAT app.  But it was quite overkill for what I needed.

And now for my favorite app of the three.... drumroll please.....

LazerScanner by Tektrify Inc.
Free or $3.99 (on sale for $1.99 at the time of writing this)

The title is linked to the paid version of the app.  I honestly cannot find what the difference is between the free app and the paid app.  But whenever I find an app that I like that does not contain advertising, I will go ahead and purchase the paid version if there is one so as to help reward the app developer for the time and effort they put in to creating and maintaining the app.  It's just the right thing to do.

 So far I LOVE this app!

Set up and connecting to DropBox was super easy.  This app will also connect to other cloud services but I only tested it with DropBox.

This app is just a scanner.  You can scan a receipt, a pic or a whole document.  You can edit the scan to improve the image quality if necessary and save it with a name of your choosing.  Uploading to DropBox is super fast.

So, this one is the winner.  Overall, it's just a better, more simple app and accomplishes exactly what I wanted in a receipt scanning app.

One final note in regards to scanning receipts regardless of whatever method you choose... Make any needed notes on the receipts with a pen prior to scanning.  If it is a deductible meal receipt, notate who you met with and the purpose of the meeting.  If it is a Costco (or similar receipt), notate anything that isn't obvious (ie equipment, unusual supplies etc) on the receipt as well as notate any personal items on the receipt that need to be excluded for tax purposes.

I hope this entry has helped you if you were considering a receipt scanner app for your iPhone.  The less paper you get out of your life and the more organization you have, the better! Your accountant or bookkeeper will love you for it!  (clients of mine... are you listening?)


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Did you over pay your taxes?

I was recently at a client's office preparing an interim Profit & Loss report for them as they are trying to purchase a new home.  As I was reviewing their expenditures this year, I cam across a large check to the IRS for last year's taxes.  The final number on last year's P&L was way too small to have resulted in a tax due that large.

So I yelled over to my clients (who were sitting just a few feet away), "Holy crap!  How on earth did you owe this much tax for 2010?"

Since he and his wife hand everything over to their CPA for preparation of their taxes, his wife jumped right up to look through their files to find their copy of last year's 1040.

She handed it to me to review and within a few seconds I had spotted a glaring error that resulted in a large overstatement of revenue thus a much larger tax liability.

So, I printed out the documentation to prove this to the CPA and my client sent off an email right away requesting he amend their returns (state also) ASAP.

Between the IRS and the State, they will probably see a total refund come back of around $15K.

So, if you have your tax returns prepared by someone, do you review them?  Mistakes can be made, even by the best.  Humans make mistakes.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Paying vendors via direct deposit in QuickBooks

Starting with version 2010, you can now pay your vendors via direct deposit in QuickBooks.  The $1.25 per payment still applies but with the savings of check stock, printer ink, envelopes, stamps and most importantly, time, the fee is well worth it.  And you could charge the fee back to your vendors since it is a convenience for them to receive payment electronically.

You must already be signed up for and fully activated for direct deposit services for your employees.  If your company does not have payroll or has not activated direct deposit, you will need to do that first.

To activate direct deposit for vendor payments, follow these steps:

From within your QB data file, click on Employees --> My Payroll Service --> Account/Billing Information

A screen will pop up showing all of your account and billing information.  In the Direct Deposit section, click on the Activate link:

Then the screen below will show.  Enter your Direct Deposit PIN # in the box and click Continue.
If successful, you will receive the following confirmation screen.  Click on Return to QuickBooks.

To set up a vendor for direct deposit, go to the Vendor Center, click on the vendor you want to set up and then click on the Edit Vendor button: 
Then click on the Additional Info tab.... and click on the Direct Deposit button:

Click the box next to "Use Direct Deposit for..." and fill in the bank account information for the vendor. Then click OK:

Use the Write Check or Pay Bills feature in QB to generate the payment to your vendor.  Keep in mind that two business days are required for direct deposit.  Weekends, holidays and other non-banking days do not count. So if you want to pay on Friday, December 31st, the direct deposit must be processed no later than 5pm PST on Wednesday, December 29th.  .  The QuickBooks software will alert you if you attempt to process a direct deposit payment without the required 2-business day gap.

We recommend you use "DD" as the check #: 

And be sure that the "Online Payment" box is checked.  This should be automatic if the vendor is set up for direct deposit.  Note:  If you want to issue a manual payment (not direct deposit) to a vendor that is set up for direct deposit, simply uncheck this box on their payment.

After saving the payment, this box will pop up:

If you just have the one payment OR are done entering all the DD payments you need to send, click on the Send to Intuit box.  If you have more payments to send, click the Close button and continue to enter your payments.

When you are ready to send the payment(s), either click on the Send to Intuit box after entering your last payment or go to Employees --> Send Payroll Data:

That's it!  This is a great feature that Intuit has added and I know many of my clients will be taking advantage of it!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Great tool for creating business plans

TODAY only... GREAT deal on Palo Alto Software's Business Plan Pro.  I've heard over and over the through the years that this program is the best one out there to use for creating a business plan.  Grab it now at this great price!

Buy it here:  Business Plan Pro

Monday, June 7, 2010

Great tool to use to check your Facebook privacy settings

Here is a great and free tool to use to check your Facebook privacy settings.  The tool will scan your settings and let you know if you have left any "holes" open.

Reclaim Privacy


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Break the Addiction to Paper

OK, there are a lot of you out there who are addicted to paper.  Come on, admit it.  You know who you are.  I know who you are and you aren't kidding anyone.  I know you're addicted.  You just love to print, print, print.  And if I'm your bookkeeper, you know you can't hide your addiction from me.  I see the piles of paper when they appear on my desk at the end of the quarter or end of the year.

You feel that every time you make a purchase for your business (or even for personal needs) online or pay a bill online, you need to print out the receipt or confirmation as proof of the transaction.  Your motives are correct.  But the execution needs improvement.

Paper sucks up resources, both in the form of money and time.  And if you are trying to be eco-conscious, you're not doing it right.

First let's talk about the money.  Printing to paper costs money in the form of paper, ink/toner and the added electricity to run the printer.  Then you have to buy something to keep all that paper in whether it be a box, file folders or binder(s).  Then you get to pay your bookkeeper (that's me) added time to organize and review all those pieces of paper.

Now, time.  In my world, there are only 24 hours in a day and I'm betting it's the same in your world (if you have found more, we gotta talk!).  Printing to paper costs time.  First, there is the added seconds waiting for the printer to spit out the document.  Those seconds of time over and over add up to a lot of time spent waiting on paper.  And that's if your printer works properly.  If it doesn't respond or worse, jams up, you've lost even more time trying to get a record of that receipt.

Then what do you do with that piece of paper?  First you probably throw it into a pile with all the other pieces of paper that are similar.  You hope that in that giant pile of paper, all the receipts for similar purchases will somehow magically make friends with each other and sort themselves.  Doesn't happen.  Trust me.

So then you have to spend more time sorting and organizing the paper.  More time lost and time is money.  Hint:  your bookkeeper (again, that's me!) charges by the hour. :)

Ok, so if you're still with me and have read this far, what is the solution?  Do you need a 12-step program?  Inpatient or outpatient?  Will your insurance pay?  Is Dunder-Mifflin to blame?  WWMSD?? (What Would Michael Scott Do?)

I've got really good news for you!!

The solution is easy!  And FREE!  Yes, you read that right.  EASY and FREE!  We love those words, don't we.

On every computer that you work on, you need to download a simple and free program that installs a pdf printer to your system.  It is called Cute PDF and it is a completely safe and highly recommended program.  Myself and many of my computer and accountant buddies have used it for years. Once installed, every time you print, you will see it as a choice of printers.  Simply choose the CutePDF printer instead of that nasty ol' money/time-sucking printer you've used in the past.  Then a box will pop up and you can choose where to save the pdf file and what to name it.

In an upcoming post I will discuss the best methods for naming, storing and backing up the plethora of pdf files you will accumulate as you get used to your new stream-lined method for receipt & confirmation notices.

Stay tuned!