Update February 2017: this service is now known as Squirrel Street, and their smallest monthly pricing is significantly higher than it was in 2012. However much of the review still applies.
I’ve been using Shoeboxed now for long enough to review it, I think.
Problem: as with every adult household, we have lots of incoming documents like bills and super statements and similar, and the high initial overhead on deciding whether and where to store them, plus re-sorting them later and so on has never been something we’ve been on top of. Come tax time, in particular, we were usually opening piles of envelopes and hoping for the best.
In 2007 or 2008 we started scanning and shredding a lot of things, but that still left going through and labelling the scans as a problem, plus when I went on maternity leave in 2010 we didn’t have access to a sheet-feed scanner anymore and got behind and never caught up. Back to the “giant unsorted pile of paper” solution.
There are a few services that accept mail on behalf of people and send scans (Pass the Post, Keeping You Posted) but these tend to be quite expensive if you want them to handle all your mail, and also there’s still a time-critical decision step (scan it or send it to me). It tends to be aimed at travellers or businesses. It was annoying enough though that every few months I hit the search engines and eventually lit on Shoeboxed.
What Shoeboxed does:
- accepts documents either sent by mail (not one at a time, many in a big envelope) to a US or AU postal address, or uploaded
- scans the physical document if any
- does data entry for the major data within (for bills, say, the sender and the total)
- makes them available after logging in on their website
- makes them available over an API to other services like bookkeeping websites
What Shoeboxed doesn’t do:
- directly accept individual physical mail on your behalf (they do have a service where you can get online receipts sent to them, I haven’t used it)
- full OCR of the scanned documents
There’s a very very limited Free plan involving uploading (not mailing) up to 5 documents a month for OCR plus unlimited uploads if you do your own data entry. The next plan up in Australia, which we’re on, is $20 a month, and includes all the features I listed
- overall, it pretty much does what we want: gets paper out of our house and into an easily searchable online form with scans available
- because it isn’t fully OCRed I still have to go through non-bills in order to note what they are, eg, a mail from childcare could be a fee change or a newsletter or a note about illness and if I need to find it in a year I’d have to search on the name and look through them all
- the processing speed on the Lite plan (contents of envelopes appear on the website in 3–5 days) has been a bit annoying on occasion, I’ve found myself scanning really time-critical documents and uploading them
- the processing speed on uploaded scans is great, the data entry is usually done within the hour
- the usage reporting doesn’t incorporate the bonus scans one gets by doing things like signing up for an annual plan, or answering demographic surveys. Very annoying!
For our needs, it’s definitely an improvement over our home-rolled solution. We’re scrambling to get 250 documents to them before our annual purchase bonus expires.