8 Ways a Paper Scanner Makes Life Beautiful

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Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500Last week I bought a paper scanner. But it wasn’t just any scanner. It was the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Scanner. And it’s changed my life.

Sound a bit dramatic? It’s not.

Imagine an organized, type A personality kind of person. Now imagine the opposite of that kind of person. I’m the opposite.

The result is I stuff paper everywhere. Tax time is a dreaded experience as I attempt conquer shoeboxes of paper. And I typically delay submitting health insurance claims or Flexible Spending Account forms because of the paper. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my lack of organization costs my family money. I hate it.

So with the hope and expectancy of a young child on Christmas morning, I bought the Fujitsu ScanSnap. And I’m glad I did. Here are 8 ways the paper scanner has changed everything.

1. Tax Receipts: All receipts for charitable donations are immediately scanned and uploaded into a folder in DropBox. So that receipt for money we gave the local marching band last Saturday is scanned and in its proper place, rather than lost in the bottom of a drawer.

2. Medical Receipts: Medical receipts that we need to submit to the insurance company for reimbursement are scanned and saved. We can then use the original to submit with the insurance claim form. No more copying and saving the paper in a file somewhere.

3. Insurance Claim Form: Speaking of insurance, we’ve completed all the information on the form that never changes. Then we scanned the form and saved it to DropBox. Now when we need to submit a claim, the form is already 75% complete.

4. Business Receipts: All business receipts are scanned and saved in DropBox (can you tell we love DropBox?). I described this process in more detail in an article on tracking business receipts and finances. Now the files and files of paper are gone. More importantly, I actually know where the receipts are located.

5. Scanned Signatures are a Snap: I’m in the process of opening an inherited IRA. The advisor needed my signatures on the application and other forms. Signed, scanned, and sent. Done and done.

6. Statements: So many of us keep boxes and boxes of bank statements. The first step is get rid of what you don’t need. But what you do need can be scanned in seconds. With the ScanSnap, it automatically scans both sides of the paper, which makes scanning something like a bank statement really easy.

7. Honey, can you scan 82 pictures for me? My wife and daughter love to scrapbook. And they love to make me part of the process. I’m the Chief-Picture-Scanning-Officer in our family, a job I loathed until we got the ScanSnap. Have you ever scanned photos by placing them one-by-one on a flatbed scanner? I have. It’s awful. Now I drop the pictures into the ScanSnap’s feeder, and it scans every picture. And even better, it uploads them directly into iPhoto. Even Steve Jobs would be impressed.

8. The Important Stuff: If you died, would the right people know where your will is located? How about life insurance policies? Investments? This has become very real to me as I handle my step-mother’s estate. Scanning this information and saving it in a safe place that the right people know about gives you a lot of peace of mind.

The real change for me is the feeling that I’ve got my act together. When I need something, I know right where it is. And I’ve gotten rid of a ton of paper.

Published or Updated: October 30, 2012
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. I can see how this would be of great use to those that need help organizing. In fact, I could see a need for it even for those who are organized. I keep all my tax documents in a nice folder, all organized. But I still have to search through each pile to find the document I am looking for. By having it digital, I can find it easily by file name. I might have to add this to my Christmas list now!

  2. dan says:

    What you have brought forth is something I’m very interested in. However, I have also been looking at the neat scan and it’s programs have you compared the 2?
    I do you want to thank you for bringing all the information you given to us. It has been very informative.

    • Ryan says:

      Dan, I looked into Neat Scan, and almost bought it, but the more I read reviews, the more I disliked their product. First, the pros: it’s an all-in-one solution, with built in software that can “read” your receipts and automatically categorize them and file them where they need to go. It sounds wonderful, and that almost sold me. But then I kept reading more reviews and I didn’t like what I read. The two main complaints are that the database gets very buggy as it grows in size, and there are limits to how much information it can handle. The second problem is their software is proprietary, and there isn’t a good way to recover or export your saved data into a new document management system (these observations are all about a year old, as I haven’t looked into this product since then).

      After literally hours of research (reading professional sites, blogs, watching video reviews, etc.), I bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M. I love it. It does everything Rob says, and more. It also has OCR technology, which makes the pdfs you create searchable on your computer, so you can use the Spotlight in Mac, or the “Search” feature in a Windows computer, and start typing for what you are looking for and the content of the scanned pdfs will be indexed. This is a great way to find all the documents that might have an account number, date, address, etc.

      The only thing I would say about the ScanSnap is that you might not need the 1500 model if you don’t have heavy duty scanning needs. I would have been fine spending a couple hundred dollars less on the lower model, then buying the software on my own. If you use a Mac, I would recommend the ScanSnap 1300 with PDF Pen Pro. It will save you some money and give you just as much functionality.

  3. Peter Cung says:

    I honestly am a mess and have papers lying around too. This might be a lifesaver for me since it automatically syncs it to DropBox (I’m sold on the convenience aspect). Going off on what Dan said, have you compared other scanners? Would be interested to hear. Either way, Rob, big fan of the website and looking forward to more tips from you!

    • Rob Berger says:

      Peter, I did compare the two, and in my view, the ScanSnap wins hands down. One big difference is that it works with Adobe pdf files, while NeatScan does not.

  4. Pat Friel says:

    I love my ScanSnap and added the capability to scan to a hard drive and Evernote simultaneously. You have you cake (saved stuff) and eat it too (access it from anywhere).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLO4kAro4_s

  5. Kathryn Burks says:

    I have a MacBook Air and purchased the S1300, but have not been able to figure out how to get the documents that I have scanned to save to the computer. This has been very frustrating. I wanted to organize my receipts and tax documents, but cannot figure out how to do it.
    I need help. What is the PDF Pen Pro? Where would I get this?

    • Rob Berger says:

      Kathryn, everything we needed came with the scanner, including a version of Adobe Acrobat Pro. Have you installed all of the software that came with the scanner?

  6. Karla Henrichon says:

    I have been thinking of doing this too but my biggest fear is what if my computer crashes? Do you think that carbonite system is worth getting as well?

    • Rob Berger says:

      Karla, it’s funny that you mention Carbonite. I was listening to Dave Ramsey on the way home from work tonight and Carbonite was a sponsor. I’ve never used them. I use DropBox, which is free.

      • Sheila says:

        Thanks for the info Rob!

    • Lara says:

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  7. peth says:

    One thing not mentioned was the price. I was looking into a Neat Scan. I had not heard of the Scan Snap. I thought the Neat Scan was pricey just to scan tax docs so I guess the SS is more money? I will, however include it in my research, THANKS!

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