Squirrel Street – How all of my bills and receipts finally found a home

Squirrel Street (formerly Shoeboxed Australia) may have just taken me from being 100% reactive at tax time to 100% proactive and that (in my books) is a massive win! Although it has an unusual name Squirrel Street takes all the receipts out of your “shoeboxes” and makes them accessible online. For me, I hope that this will make preparing my tax return  more straightforward and streamlined and I may just be on the way to a 100% paperless tax return.

A major benefit of Squirrel Street is that their scanned receipts are Australian Tax Office (ATO) accepted, so for those of you that are Australian and submit a tax return to the ATO each year, Squirrel Street is an accepted storage mechanism for your receipts. For those of you outside Australia and New Zealand, Shoeboxed US also operates in the US and Canada as well so you are covered there. As a guy I can say that my tax return is usually the last thing on my mind each year, I find myself scrounging for my receipts, donation receipts, work related expenses and all the other things that I need to put together my tax return each year.

I also tend to submit my tax return online at the *very* last minute possible before the deadline as it takes me so long to set aside a day to hunt down all the receipts… so anything that makes my life easy is definitely a win. I found Shoeboxed some time ago, which since rebranded in Australia to Squirrel Street (to be honest I have no idea how I stumbled across it) but the idea of being able to shove all my receipts, bills and other documents into an envelope and have them magically appear online for me to search, access and categorise sounded like a dream come true.

For the first month I decided on the Business $99.95AUD plan which came with 500 “documents”. This includes documents that you mail in, scan and upload yourself (that you opt to have automagically processed) and snap and upload with the Squirrel Street Mobile App. This was more than enough for me to clear out the last year of backlog (I figured this financial year was more than enough) and get a really good feel for the service. With the exception of the occasional receipt that I have to re-label (as the receipt may have been entered with the company name of “Vendor” and another “Vendor Australia” where sometimes they could be one or the other) I have to say I am really happy with the results.

I have also set up a forward that takes the document details and automatically uploads them into Evernote to enable extremely easy searching of all the receipts via another mechanism (and I treat this as a good backup).

After you mail in a series of receipts you will start to see them appear in your account classified including the category (which can be automatically or manually set), total amount, total tax, date and company/person that was paid:

Shoeboxed Example Receipts Screenshot

As you can see from the above image, there are numerous categorisations, the Yellow categories are ones that I have added and assigned to a particular store/vendor that I want then to be listed under, it will also tell you (where it is listed on the receipt) whether it was paid by Cash/Credit or Debit Card/Cheque etc.

There are a range of other great features and I have to say I am really looking forward to having more of a play and finding out just how good the searching and reporting features are come tax time. As soon as we hit June 31st I am going to be giving Squirrel Street a run for its money to see just how easy it can make my life for submitting a tax return and keeping all the receipts on file for my records.

There are lots of other little features that I have yet to get my hands dirty with, I have dabbled a little bit in searching and sorting and uploading business cards as well (which is insanely easy from the mobile app). Support has been extremely helpful and been able to explain things to me when I ran into some early issues understanding how the email integration worked.

Why would you:

  1. You find yourself struggling to keep track of your receipts/invoices/bills throughout the year
  2. You want the time saver of just stuffing all your receipts into an envelope, posting them in, and having them appear in an account for you to categorise, search and archive
  3. You run a small business and need what you could almost define as an online bookkeeper
  4. You would like to better prepare for audits
  5. You would like to share your receipts electronically with your accountant (Classic plan and higher)

Why wouldn’t you:

  1. The price is something that people may be put off by, I guess it is one of those things you need to weigh the convenience against the price
  2. You prefer not to store your receipts and invoices online.

The two things I liked most:

  1. Being able to set up email rules on my mail account to automatically send monthly invoices from all my online subscriptions straight into Shoeboxed without any intervention from me
  2. Receiving free envelopes that can be fillled with receipts and sent back (available on the Classic or higher plans) that then magically appear in my online account (you can then opt to have everything shredded or instead mailed back to you). Correction: New envelopes are posted out after the old ones are received and processed

The two things that I liked least:

  1. User interface was a little confusing in the beginning, even as a geek it took me a while to understand where some things were and there were certain things in the UI that confused me then (and still confuse me now)
  2. The FAQs seemed a little bit light on information when I ran into problems which required me to contact support, (don’t get me wrong, the support was exceptional) I would just like to see their FAQs rounded out a bit.

Hints if you want to give it a go:

  1. Make sure you check out the Squirrel Street email address under your account, it will let you forward emails to the address which will then be processed and added to your account (very handy, especially if you set up some auto forwarding rules in your email client for those that come in each month).
  2. If you are in for the long haul, by signing up to the yearly plan you can get between 250 and 1000 “kick off” scans to help you clear out your backlog as well as 2 months free for the year. As I was not 100% sold on the idea originally I will admit I just did this by paying for a larger plan for the first month so I could give it a good trial first but they do have a 30 day money back guarantee.
  3. If you can go for the Squirrel Street Classic or higher plan you will get emailed “magic envelopes” weekly which are reply paid envelopes that you can just fill and send back, this makes the whole process brainless and painless :D. (Note: your receipts will not be returned to you on the Squirrel Street Lite plan).
  4. If you send/upload/email more documents than your quota for the month there will be overage charges (depending on your plan) therefore make sure you plan early and plan accordingly.

I will keep this updated when I post the next stage of my review in a month or so’s time.

*corrections made to Magic Envelope delivery details April 16, 2014 12:54 pm

*changes made to rebrand Shoeboxed Australia to Squirrel Street April 28, 2017 9:05 am

Collusion – bridging the gap between iPad and Paper: What I know thus far

After you have had a look at this be sure to check out my latest posts on Collusion for all the updates on the best stylus for the iPad..

Image provided by CollusionApp.com

After attending the Beta Backers Party last night and writing up my initial thoughts on Collusion and the wonderful new stylus for iPads I thought I should do a second post this evening throwing together some of the juicy details that I was able to find out from the Collusion team about just what we can expect from the final product.

So here is what I managed to find out from the guys last night 🙂 enjoy and if you have any questions that you would like to know more on pop a comment here and I can ask the team at the next Beta Backers Party and be sure to check out the project on Kickstarter:

    • How large will the canvas be?
      Any single canvas will be very large in size, there will be a practical size limit but it will be very large.


    • Will the Collusion App for iPad work over 3G as well as WiFi?
      Yes it will, the team is currently working on putting together optimisations to help minimise the impact of the inherent unreliability/volatility of 3G connections.


    • Will the hardware device and pen be available in Black and White to those that have backed the project on Kickstarter?
      I was told this was dependant on two factors, firstly there needs to be at least 2000 backers on KickStarter as the batches will be in 1000 lots. The second requirement is that there would be roughly a 50/50 split of people that wanted black vs white.


    • Will there be an API available for other iPad apps to use the pen interface?
      As per the FAQ: The hardware API will not be opened. Once the fundamentals of the collusion platform are downpat (post V1) they will consider opening the software platform via API.


    • Why havent you used dropbox or [insert online service here]?
      Collusion’s cloud integrates both storage and real time collaboration – these elements have been optimised to work together to form the worlds fastes cloud collaboration service, whereas 3rd party cloud storage is simply that, its a different tool entirely.


    • Will an Android version be available?
      Not at this stage but “watch this space”!


    • Will there be another Beta Backers Party?
      Yep in a couple of weeks time (keep an eye on the Kickstarter project for details).


    • Will I be able to work offline?
      Yes, the specific method of how this will be achieved is still under development.


  • A bit behind the technology of the pen itself:
    • It uses ultrasonic sound and two microphones together with simple trigonometry to know where the pen is on your iPad screen.
    • The drawings, strokes, and lines you create are each individually stored as vector images. I will let you ponder the awesomeness of that yourselves


So thats it, I hope some of you find that useful, I will try to find out as much as I can each time there is a Beta Backers Party and look forward to seeing some of you there.


Collusion – bridging the gap between iPad and Paper: My first thoughts…

After you have had a look at this be sure to check out my latest posts on Collusion for all the updates on the best pen for the iPad..

Image provided by CollusionApp.com

I use my iPad all day, every day. However, one thing that the iPad sorely lacks is the ability to use a medium of input that we have had engrained in our lives since primary school… the humble pen. There are many different iPad stylus solutions around today, but none that I have used have offered any remote level of accurate input or natural “it just feels like using a pen” feeling that I want to get out of my iPad.

I have just come home from the first Beta Backers Party with the team from Collusion and I have some great news for anyone that owns an iPad. I have tried out the prototype and can say that the team at Collusion have thought long and hard about this problem and come up with an ingenious and extremely effective solution to bring natural pen input to the iPad.

Tonight, at the Beta Backers Party I used Collusion App and pen and my first response was “No WAY!!! That is INSANE!”. I thought the concept was great before using the device but after having a play I could not believe how well the concept has been executed. I can also happily say that the money I have put in to back the project on kickstarter has been well invested.

My likes:

  • Speed of input was spectacular and the input from the pen that was recorded was extremely accurate (even when writing small text)
  • I could write naturally with my palm resting on the iPad while writing without causing unwanted input
  • Drawing was great fun and the ability to draw diagrams, along side annotating text was a VERY welcome feature
  • The collaboration feature where we had three people writing on the one canvas while syncing with the cloud and the other iPads in the room, worked brilliantly and gave a whole new aspect to playing tic-tac-toe
  • The concepts behind the app for the iPad itself have been well thought out and although the app was a three month old prototype you could see the potential (see below)

My dislikes:

  • Unfortunately we could only see a three month old prototype of the app (however there is a very valid reason for this please see below) so there were the occasional glitches which have all been addressed and a couple of quirks here and there which are not present in the as-yet unseen version of the app
  • Regardless of the above… I want one NOW!!!

What we saw this evening:

Image provided by CollusionApp.com

Tonight the team showed us a prototype of the software that was put together by a single developer in six weeks and this was done three months ago. The reason we were unable to see the latest release of the app is due to new shiny version not quite being ready for prime time the team wants to make sure it 100% right before showing off all the bells and whistles.

Robert and Nav were there however Surmeet is at home resting up with the flu so couldn’t be there. However both Robert and Nav were extremely helpful and were able to answer MANY MANY MANY questions that I had regarding the device, what it will be like on final production and some of the upcoming features of the app.

I was able to try out the collaborative “canvas” feature of the application and saw real time synchronising to the cloud and other iPad’s in the same room.

While I can’t tell you EVERYTHING I found out about the Collusion app right here right now (waiting to hear back on what information I *can* say… I can tell you that on final release it is going to be EPIC and even from seeing the original three month old prototype I would have no hesitation in starting to work with the prototype tomorrow. So I am excited to think of just how streamlined the Collusion app will be on public release.

If you have any questions flick them through and I will be more than happy to pose them to the team when I next poke and prod them. If you have an iPad and you are in Sydney keep an eye out on the Kickstarter project as I hear there will be another chance to meet the team in a couple of weeks. I would *highly* recommend you come on down and have a try of the hardware and app in person as you will be blown away.

So to sum up:

  • Is it real: YES
  • Is it FINALLY the bridge between paper and iPad: YES
  • Is it coming: It most definitely is and I personally can’t wait