Organising a financial database (bills/ statements)

Hi all, i’m looking to organize my financial files (bills, statements) which per the above does rely on a group hierarchy. I cannot get Auto-classify to find the appropriate groups.
I am curious how others have set this up and if using separate ‘inboxes’ would either help or make this unnecessarily complex.

Current setup:
Currently using Hazel (100+ rules) to rename, OCR then put into the appropriate folders on disk. Then indexing to DTO (only as i couldn’t figure out how to auto-classify properly)
Tags - Only recently have i added tags; i understand Autoclassify/ See Also does not refer to tags.

The below are my bills/ statements which generally has the same vendor in each
Current group/ folder structures

  • Bank Statement
  • Credit Cards
  • Payslips
  • 401
  • House
  • Car
  • Rental House

Also looked into this post however its more generally used for the Classify/ See Also

While it’s theoretically possible to do (but certainly not out of the box), I am curious why you’d need it to auto-file these things. Based on your simple filing structure and the low volume, I am wondering aloud if it’s worth the effort. Academically? Indeed. Practically? I could see it being more pragmatic in a high volume situation.

I am also wondering, since you already have a successful indexing situation - and I’m assuming you’d be indexing into the specific locations within a database - are you wanting to have a non-indexed, portable database (my personal preference)?

I have done my finances in a DEVONthink database for 6+ years and it’s a rather simple affair, as yours appears to be as well. I could always automate this or that, but it’s so low-effort that I’ve never bothered.

1 Like

Hi jp,

Before buying a new MacBook Pro and doing a clean install, I had been using indexing to get files into DTPO. Using Hazel rules , scanned/OCRed files placed in a “staging” folder were analyzed, renamed and placed in the appropriate destination indexed folder. (Car insurance files in the Auto/insurance folder, monthly health insurance, bank and brokerage statements in their respective folders, etc.) of course there were many one-time scanned documents that had to dealt with individually.

However, during the clean install, I abandoned the index workflow and went with importing into DTPO in order to easily migrate the databases to the new Mac. I also knew that many of my Hazel rules were no longer appropriate (changes in insurance companies, newer formats used with other statements, etc.), i.e. the system had fallen into disrepair. I was also currently signed up for non-paper (web accessed) statements, so I had fewer scanned paper documents to deal with. Since the number of monthly statements, bills, etc. were quite finite, it was easy to manually deal with naming and filing files into their proper homes. Auto classify was never used due to my reliance on specific folders for specific file names. (My database stores docs going back over 10 years.)

Jim is right regarding the specific file structure and low volume. This is my situation. And yes, there are still many scanned documents that have to be dealt with individually, like a cat’s near death vet bills, but I don’t find the management time onerous compared to my previous workflow.

I generally put downloaded pdf files directly in their destination folders (DTPO group). (I usually go to each specific group, copy the previous statement file’s name, rename the incoming file’s name as the old file then edit the month (e.g. “2018-09-21 blah-blah” to “2018-10-21 blah-blah”) then place that file in the group. For other one-off file’s, I usually put them in the global inbox and deal with them later. Not as automated as before but with documents coming in at different times during the month, each batch is quickly dealt with.

i would say you are right with the effort involved here… its
probably about ~40-50 files a month at most. I could just rename it all - practically…1hr a month vs mucking around with Hazel rules every 3-4 months which could be 1-2 hrs each time depending on how many changes are done.
I know even with Evernote users, they live on tags, however you’re basically creating a tag hierarchy instead of a group hierarchy… thus same difference, however tags may lead to missed tags if you forget the structure.

re: indexing - yes, i’d prefer to keep it all in DevonThink so there isn’t multiple file systems and
the search is much much more powerful of course. Now i would not be ‘searching based on file names…’

Yes, i file rename with noTax vs Taxable to let Hazel put into the right folders for end of year tax time. The dates Hazel extract is a godsend for myself. This is a major pain in the bum as historically took 1month to find files/ missed files within the right financial year and for the right loans/ property etc. Now its 1-2 weeks.
Though one could say, put it into the right financial year folders and be done with it, even without renaming to the same degree. I guess at that time tools such as DTO was not known to myself and invested in a system which expanded over time ;(

So the key take aways here are:
Consider time to maintain hazel over time vs manual rename/ then put into DTO folder over fussing with Auto-classify.

Thanks for the food for thought… sometimes we invested so much time into existing systems (hazel filing), it does beg the question… was it really worth it for all those hours mucking around with it…

For the monthly statements, and there are a lot of them (credit cards, lawn service, phone, insurance which is not monthly, waste service, etc. I define a year group (e.g. 2015, 2016, 2017…) under each bill type (Amazon visa, LLBean visa,…, Verizon, waste…). I understand this type of organization does not work well with auto filling, and when I used indexing of files, I didn’t have to do that inside DTPO, Hazel did the work. Now, having abandoned indexing, I file manually and search using the basic search.

And this type of statement filing is not really dependent on DTPO to do its magic. It’s my other stuff that does.