Finances: You can never be “TOO” hands on

Whoa! We’re actually generating content here that is not directly connected to travel or flying. What have I become?!?

Seriously though, let’s talk about something dirty for a minute – one of those off limits topics. Money. Finances. Greenbacks. Benjamins. Uhhh…other slang terminology for money…

As the title suggests this blog post will be about managing your accounts a bit wiser. “You can never be too hands on” is a mantra I adopted last year a bit later in life than I’d like to admit. I’d operated under the assumption that auto-pay was a gift from the financial gods, I could set it – and forget it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The last thing you want to do, or want to indulge in, is anything that involves forgetting your accounts.

So last year I took a much more proactive stance with my finances – it’s like I’m becoming an adult or something in my 30’s. It was bound to happen I suppose, despite being a pilot, and all my best efforts to prevent such an occurrence. The single most important thing I think I can say that I did was taking all of my accounts OFF of automatic payment. The act of having to sit down at the start of each month and navigate to each account and view the balance and make the payment reinforces the burden and responsibility of having accounts at all.

To keep that all in order I use a cash flow analysis spreadsheet in excel to track all of my balances, minimum payments, etc. So, coupled with taking all of my accounts off of auto-pay the CF Analysis sheet in excel has been the single strongest element of my new financial micro-management tactic.

For international pilots a lot of what we do overseas is either a claimable expense to the company we’re contracting with, or a claimable expense on our tax returns each year – especially if you’re smart about your taxes and have a small business license to claim items against. Personally, I own North American Helicopters registered in Washington State. Imagine my surprise when that name wasn’t taken. Also – bonus, in acronym form NAH is also my initials. Coincidence? No way. Illuminati? Eh.

Anyways, back on track. Yesterday I posted on my social media a simple status update attached to a photo of a fist full of receipts. Receipts that for one reason or another are claimable either in tax returns or back to my company.

And the response was pretty good – I had a more than one person send me messages asking me how I was able to pull this off without a computer or scanner. And a bunch of people commending me on being more adult than them. It was then that I realized I was the adultier adult most adults our age look for when they need an adult. Damn it.

Fist Full of receipts

So I figured, I’d share with you all my technique – my plan – and my structure, in the hopes that it helps some of you get on top of managing your finances. A few weeks ago I got the bug to digitize this giant stack of physical paper that was cluttering up a desk drawer of mine; however I had no interest in buying or using a scanner and despite my overwhelming capacity to learn and use new and exciting technology both fax machines and printers still are the bane of my techno-existence. I hate both technologies equally and passionately. If I had to pick one to hate more it would be printers as I rarely encounter fax machines. And if I had to pick one type of printer to hate the most it would be a wireless all-in-one printer, scanner, copier, fax.

So yeah, mini-rant over. I wanted to do this, without any of the traditional means to do so. My search led me around the internet super-highway a bit until I found out that I already had the most powerful and functional tool for this process on my phone. It came with my phone, and it is free. How could the most powerful and effective tool for this process be free you ask? Easy – it’s the Google Drive app.

No shit. Yup. I promise.

There it is. Top left of my Utilities folder on my new Samsung S7 Edge. Now, granted it wasn’t there when I went looking for it, but my new philosophy benefits more from having it easily accessible. It’s a free download in the app store and links right up to your Google Drive account. WHICH – if you have a gmail account or google play account (because you aren’t an iSlave to the Apple regime)  – you already have a Google Drive account. Just log in with your current credentials.

Once you’re in – the little plus sign at the bottom right hand of the app (for this and all future references to app layout I’m only familiar with the android version so if it varies in the iSlave device you’re using don’t blame me for not knowing that mmkay) is your best friend. Tap that, create folders and more. Here’s a look in my 2016 folder.

There are some folders missing here that some people might want, and I’ve condensed some that could be expanded. For instance I don’t have a “gas” folder for fuel purchases, because I don’t pay for fuel right now. And “Misc Purchases” covers essentially everything not categorized in the folder structure. “Tech”? Well if you didn’t know already; I’m a gadget guy – and as such, I buy a lot of new tech, so it needs its own folder.

I was going to post an example of the PDF receipt, but that a ton of personal info on the internet, no can do. The Google Drive app uses your phone camera to capture the receipt and turns it into a PDF file, with or without flash it creates a perfect “scan” of your receipt.

The scan button it top right of the options that pop up when you hit the plus sign in app. See it. It says scan. And has a little camera icon. Yup. Click that. Once you do you’ll get a screen like the one below – a simple camera display. The option for flash is on the bottom left and I use the flash – I find the images are sharper, and it doesn’t wash out at all. Snap that, the next screen will be a preview of the scan. Confirm or retake the picture (*cough* I mean scan) and you’re done.

And there you have it, a simple way to keep your finances tracked. You always have your phone with you whenever you’re out buying things – it makes sense that you just take a picture of the receipt right away there, as soon as they hand it to you open up your google drive, navigate to the folder you need, and scan the receipt in. You’ll never find yourself searching for another receipt again and when it comes time to file taxes or fill out reimbursement slips everything you need is safe, high resolution, and in the cloud.

Just having the information is a step in the right direction. Taking your hands out of your pockets and putting them back on the steering wheel when it comes to finances is the real key to success. We’re all getting comfortable and used to quick and easy gratification. Auto-pay features were meant to be a convenience, but once you start to detach from your accounts, you’re essentially detaching from your money – and nobody wants to be detached from their money. So – summary time.

  1. Create a spreadsheet of all your accounts, balances, and payment amounts if they are accounts owed.
  2. Take all of your accounts owed OFF of auto-pay.
  3. Track your spending and purchases by scanning and filing your receipts for everything. That way if you ever wonder about a charge on your card you can go back and look at the receipts. And if you’re in an expense claiming position, ta-da!

My folders now include monthly breakdowns within each years category. So for example:
2016 > Food > April > All my scans for April 2016


Published by wanderingnick208

Nick Henderson is an FAA rated commercial pilot, world traveler, blogger, podcaster, photographer, and all-around good guy. His love of travel, adventure, food, and fun has taken him around the world and back again.

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