Easy Expense Tracking with Evernote and Workflow for iOS – Brett Kelly

Easy Expense Tracking with Evernote and Workflow for iOS

I’d like to tell you about my friend Andrew.

He’s also my accountant.1 And he’s awesome.

Part of what makes our relationship copacetic is that I try really hard to keep my financial stuff in order, particularly when it comes to tax-related nouns. Because, while Andrew is a patient man, I know that if I were him and a client showed up with several folders full of papers, receipts, and other jibber jabber it’d suck for him.

So I’m always on the lookout for ways to streamline my various record-keeping processes, if only to keep my accountant happy and not annoyed by me.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I use Evernote to track my expenses. Each year, I create a notebook called [Year] Taxes (e.g., “2015 Taxes”) and share it with Andrew. If I need to capture a receipt or something, I fire up Evernote, snap a photo of the receipt, give the note a meaningful(-ish) name, and drop it into that year’s tax notebook.

All fine and good, but it takes more than a few taps to accomplish this since you have to navigate around Evernote for iOS. Well, it did before the inimitable Workflow for iOS became available. Now it’s super quick using a workflow that I call “Record Expense.”

When the workflow runs, it does the following:

  1. Prompts you to choose an expense type from a canned list (you can edit this to better suit your needs).
  2. Prompts you for the amount of the expense. The amount is going to end up in the note title because it’s way easier for Andrew to skim a list of notes in our Evernote notebook than to try to find dollar amounts within several dozen poorly-shot receipt photos.
  3. Launches the system camera (rear-facing) so you can take a photo of the receipt.
  4. Finally, it creates a new note in Evernote with the expense type and amount in the title field and the receipt photo in the note body. That note is deposited directly into my taxes notebook.

It’s pretty slick.

If you want to download the workflow, you can do that here. If you hit that link from your iOS device—and you have Workflow installed—you’ll be able to add the workflow with a couple of taps. Fancy!

Customizing the workflow

Most of the receipts I need to capture while out and about fall into one of three categories: meals, office expenses, or auto expenses. At the top of the workflow, you’ll see a “List” action:



Add or remove items from this list until it looks just like you want it to.

Now, as far as the Evernote notebook—which, in the workflow as it is now, is called “2015 Taxes”—that notebook has to already exist in your Evernote account. If it doesn’t, Workflow will display an error. I’ve also heard rumblings from others that workflows like this will choke if the notebook name has special characters in it.2

You know, it’d be pretty cool if you used some Workflow magic to dynamically name the notebook by munging the current date and grabbing the year…

Too much work. I’m happy to modify this workflow by hand once per year.


Hope you guys dig this. If it’s not obvious, I’m crushing on Workflow pretty hard. Expect more posts like this.

Photo courtesy of ben_osteen

  1. I don’t mean “friend” in the LinkedIn sense; we actually have meals and drinks together. We’ve been to each others’ homes and all that. We actually like each other. ↩
  2. This hasn’t been my experience, but I’m just one guy and I’m not about to argue on the Internet.  ↩

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