Space is always in demand, no matter what size RV or motorhome you have. For fulltime RVers and those on the road for extended periods of time, finding ways to handle record keeping and storing important documents, insurance papers and financial information can be quite a challenge.
Jennifer and I spend half to three-quarters of the year on the road and after years of trial and error, we have finally come up with a filing system that works when we’re on the road.
Here's a vlog that explains in depth the resources we use. It came about after a fulltime RVer named Judi asked us for RV living ideas on how to store the records and papers they need, without having to resort to filing cabinets – which she has no room for.
Here's a rough transcript of the video…
First though, lets talk about mail – the source of much of the paperwork we accumulate that needs to be filed. Over the past five years, we’ve made every account possible an online account and we’ve opted to get all our bills by email and we have set up online accounts for everything from cable to credit cards to banking to our utilities.
That means most of our mail is junk mail. Advertising flyers, shopping publications, and charity solicitations. For us, what works best is just putting a stop on our mail for the time we will be gone.
You can do that online at the USPS website (https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail) or ask your letter carrier to give you a little yellow card they have to start and stop your mail.
Now for fulltimers, it’s different. If you’re staying in one place a long time, you can have your mail fortwarded there and then just keep doing that as you travel. That only works, though, if you are staying in places for a couple months at a time.
Perhaps a better solution for fulltimers is to sign up with a mail forwarding service. There are a bunch of them. The one I’m familiar with is called Dakota Post (https://dakotapost.net).
They will get all your mail, then bundle it up and ship it to you in one package monthly, weekly or on demand. They also have a Virtual Mailbox feature that lets you see images of your mail instantly online so you can decide whether it should be forwarded on to you, scanned and emailed or shredded. Cistj for Dakota Mail ranges from $12 to $28 a month.
So that takes care of your mail. But what about financial files and tax records? I’ve already noted that we have set up online accounts for pretty much everything we spend money on. That means we can pay all our bills online, with just a couple of mouseclicks.
And that takes me to the best tool of all, in my book. For the past several years we use a program called Quicken Online (www.quickenonline.com). It is awesome. All our credit and debit cards and bank accounts are connected to it and I can reconcile every account and balance our checking accounts. Every cost is categorized and filed in a register and I can assemble detailed reports for my records or my accountants anytime. Now because we run a couple of businesses on the road, Quickbooks online is the solution we use. It costs starting at $5 a month.
You may be able to get by with just the Quicken product (www.quicken.com). It starts about $35 for a year’s subscription.
There are free services and other software packages that you can find, too. Quickbooks and Quicken happen to be the biggest and best known. My point is get an online accounting program of some sorts and use it. It will make your life on the road so much more easy and it keeps all your financial files safe and in the cloud.
I also use an app called SmartReceipts (https://www.smartreceipts.co/). It works on both the iPhone and Android platforms and turns your smartphone into a receipts scanner. We use it to track our fuel costs, campground expenses, meals, entertainment, grocery expenditures and just abut everything else. You take a photo of the receipt with your phone and the app categorizes and totals every expense. You can generate spreadsheet reports whenever you want. No more shoeboxes filled with receipts.
Now everything we’ve talked about so far deals with financial, banking and credit card files.
But there are two other services I use and rely on to organize, file and track all the other documents, notes and important records that we accumulate.
I can’t get along without Evernote (https://evernote.com). It is a cross platform app that literally declutters my life. Evernote is designed for note taking, organizing, tasks lists and archiving important documents like insurance papers, passwords and online account access info, medical records and the like. You create notebooks to file information in. Think of a notebook as a master file. I probably have 50 of them. I can access it on my computer or my smartphone. Evernote lets me store everything that matters in one place and lets me find it when I need it, fast. They have a free account that is probably fine for most people. I bought the premium or plus account for $35 a year. I can’t overemphasize how powerful Evernote is. It is a giant online filing cabinet, perfect for RVers.
There’s one other kind of online filing system I use, this one for the digital data that I need to store and manage and share with others. It’s Dropbox (http://dropbox.com) and it provides a secure file sharing and storage solution for all my photos, important emails, videos and other electronic files that I want to access on my various devices like tablets, laptops and smartphones. I can share the files with others and it automatically synchronizes them whenever I edit or add new info. The only downside with Dropbox is to get enough storage room – for me that’s a terabyte – you have to purchase a $99 a year subscription.
We haven’t talked about medial and files. Today Electronic Medical Records are the norm. Chances are your primary care physician and your local hospital already have a patient portal. All your tests are there as well as doctor notes. Make sure you sign up for them and, then, when you travel, should you need access, it’s all easily retrievable.
So there you go. That’s how Jennifer and I solve the problem of filing systems and documents and records. Technology organizes everything for us. And it’s all encrypted and secure.