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Tips for Disaster Survivors

When you're working on your home inventory, it's hard enough to price all of the everyday mundane items, but what about those special items such as antiques or collectibles. Remember there is always someone out there who can price your items, it's just a matter of finding them. Here is one company who specializes in Historical Americana items. They give free informal appraisals or you can pay a fee for a formal one.

http://www.railsplitter.com

Ever since our fire in 2003, I’ve been obsessed with scanning everything. I’ve started scanning samples of my kids school work, pictures people give me, any bills or statements that can’t be retrieved online (although that is significantly less than a couple of years ago) and receipts. Yes, receipts.

I think before the fire you would’ve thought this was insane (and maybe some of you still do) but as soon as I got fed up with paper (about 2006) I started scanning every receipt I got. For two years I’ve been scanning everything on my flatbed scanner, but this past year I got busy and I have an entire years worth of receipts piled up on my desk just begging to be scanned. I dreaded the thought.

It was then that I decided to break down and buy a receipt scanning system from Neat Co. It’s a tiny little scanner (about 10.5x1.5x1.25) that is powered solely by a USB cable (a selling point on it’s own if you want to scan on the road). It comes with it’s own custom software called NeatReceipts. It “reads” the receipt and enters the information in a proprietary database that allows you to organize your receipts very nicely. The OCR software isn’t 100% perfect, but it’s close enough. I sat down, installed it and did almost ½ of my pile in just one evening.

By the way, the IRS has allowed the use of digital records (including scanned receipts) since 1997 and Rev. Proc. 97-22 (see page 9, column 2 of the linked document).

One thing that is starting to make me a little upset is the sales tax category. It automatically reads how much sales tax is on each receipt and puts the amount in it’s own category. I’m not upset at the software, but the amount of money I’m spending on sales tax (and sales tax on gas is not called out on the receipt)!!! It’s disturbing, but it might also be helpful when you go to take the sales tax deduction on your taxes.

Something like this might also be very helpful when tracking things like a large insurance claim. For example, if you’re tracking all of your replacement items to get the depreciation holdback, this software allows for you to organize your receipts, total them and print them back out. It even squeezes more than one receipt per page if the receipts are small enough to do so. If you can print to PDF from your computer you can print and email them to your adjuster or tax preparer.

Although there are a few quirky things about this scanner, all in all I think it’s another great way to keep organized.

Many of us found out the hard way that fire safes just don't help in a firestorm. Worse yet, many of the things we keep in there usually aren't covered by insurance. Here are a few tips for replacing these items.

If you can find fragments of your currency (paper or coin) you can turn it in the Federal Government and they can replace it. Check out their website for details:
http://www.moneyfactory.gov/section.cfm/8/39 (for paper money)
http://www.ustreas.gov/education/faq/coins/sales.shtml#q10 (for coins)

If you had stock certificates usually the corporation has their own procedures. For example here is the clause form the Time Warner website:

SECTION 4. Lost, Destroyed and Mutilated Certificates.
The holder of any certificate representing any shares of stock of the Corporation shall immediately notify the Corporation of any loss, theft, destruction or mutilation of such certificate; the Corporation may issue to such holder a new certificate or certificates for shares, upon the surrender of the mutilated certificate or, in the case of loss, theft or destruction of the certificate, upon satisfactory proof of such loss, theft or destruction; the Board, or a committee designated thereby, or the transfer agents and registrars for the stock, may, in their discretion, require the owner of the lost, stolen or destroyed certificate, or such person's legal representative, to give the Corporation a bond in such sum and with such surety or sureties as they may direct to indemnify the Corporation and said transfer agents and registrars against any claim that may be made on account of the alleged loss, theft or destruction of any such certificate or the issuance of such new certificate.  

To replace lost savings bonds, follow the procedures outlined on the Federal Reserve's website:
http://www.ustreas.gov/education/faq/markets/redemption.html#q3

Inspirational Quotes

There ought to be a national registry of child molesters and insurance company executives, because I hold them in the same very low esteem.

US Representative Gene Taylor (D), Mississippi

Testimonials

Thank you for your excellent work.

Waldo Canyon Fire Survivor, 2012