There are few things in life I find more tedious than completing my tax returns. As a self-employed consultant I need to track a number of different expenses and differentiate between business and private; purchases, phone calls, kilometres travelled. Of it all, those kilometres are the ones that usually do my head in. I’m not good with logbooks, even when I had the book positioned so that I had to always move it in order to grab my sunglasses. Invariably I forget to complete it when I get back home and then I'm faced with gaps of days when I cannot recall where I went and when. Yeah, my short-term memory is not great.
Come last week in August or Feb (c'mon, who does theiur tax early huh??) I'm cursing myself and my ill discipline.
For years, I’ve been wanting a logger - a device to plug into the cigarette lighter that would log my trips for me and categorise them to boot! Then about a year ago I spotted an electronic logging device that was designed with tax returns in mind. I procrastinated. Then I took fulltime employment and the need went away. Fast forward a year and I’m back working for myself…
So, before I ordered I decided to look around a bit. One or two things about the device had me a bit worried. For one thing, it had to be affixed to the dash with a cable running down to the cigarette lighter socket; not a taxi accident, but iffy. The socket would then not be available for charging phones and tablets. Very iffy. I looked at devices to ’split’ the socket into two or three; spaghetti of wires or clunky device. Meh. Then I read a warning that the device should not be left in the sun on the dash. Warning bells rang - I WOULD be forgetting this puppy on the dash and it WILL be one of those 35+ degree days. Not good. Otherwise it wasn't too bad. R899.00 including delivery.
Then Google turned up the GPSLogBook, for all I could see much like the other logger, but with a few distinct differences that meant a lot to me. One, the device itself plugged into the lighter socket - no wires. Great. Two, it clearly stated there was no need to worry about overheating in the sun. Better. Three, it has a USB socket in exactly the right place to accommodate cables to charge tablets or phones. Nice! R849.00 delivered.
Someone with some UX naus has had a hand in designing the website, although I have to say there’s the distinct impression that a bit of ‘copy-cat’ has been employed there if you compare it to the other logger’s site. Nevertheless, finding the info I needed was a breeze, and placing the order easy. Order placed Thursday, SMS to confirm they had received the order and manage expectations w.r.t. delivery. Another SMS on Monday to confirm delivery for the next day, delivery Tuesday.
Minimalist, neat packaging; sufficient instructions to get registration done painlessly and quickly. Time to plug it in and see what happens.
I have to confess to pulling it out after every trip to begin with, just to check that all was working. Now I have a reminder set on my phone for late Friday afternoon to prompt me to pull the miniUSB cable out of my laptop bag and plug the logger into my Mac. The Sync app wakes up and starts uploading the data to my account, after which I’m logged in and the week’s trips are there to be reviewed and any new destinations classified.
You can choose to identify a geographic “zone” as a circle with a radius of between 10m and 500m and classify it “business” or “private”. You can choose to draw out the boundaries of the zone as a polygon rather than a circle. You can choose to set a time limit for stopping in one place as defining the end of a journey to be anything between 3 minutes and 20 minutes.
By default, you are faced with a list of your latest trips, those that ended in defined zones, classified already.
A click on a trip pops up a map with a pin in the unknown destination. Clicking on that allows you to set the radius of the zone, draw a polygon to define the zone borders, name the place, classify it and add a comment about the trip.
A quick run through the unknown trips, classifying them and… reports, summary or detail, configured for SARS submissions or for your own purposes are there for the producing and printing.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive review and I have not played with any other trip logger, but this one is doing just fine for me. I’m even seeing logging trips as something akin to fun. OK, so not quite a barrel of laughs, but fascinating nevertheless. I guess it will wear off, but as the number of unclassified destinations reduce this is looking like taking a lot of pain out of my tax returns. I’ve also just realised that jobs which involve charging for kilo’s traveled are going to be just that much easier to bill.
Money well spent. Tax deductible too! ;)