Evernote announced price hikes last week, and no sooner had that news hit the Internet than people began casting about for alternatives. I admit, I was one of them -- although I'm a happy premium user, I'm also someone who keeps an eye on annual costs.

However, after a week of doing some preliminary maintenance on my info-hoard (I'm now down to 14,311 notes, all neatly tagged and sorted) in preparation for trying out some migration to other platforms, I realized something: The financial savings I'd see in moving to another information-management platform would be offset by the time and effort I'd sink into learning a whole new way of saving, sorting, searching for and using my notes.

Evernote works for me because it is so intrinsic to everything I do.

At my job, it's where I stash everything from press releases to interview transcripts, from background research to product documentation, from emails to screenshots.

Evernote is where I save all the documentation associated with the boring and necessary tasks of adulthood. I keep PDF versions of all my product manuals in there. Because I live in a hundred-year-old house in earthquake country, I keep both a whole-house inventory and copies of my earthquake insurance policy in my Emergency Planning notebook. I track charitable contributions, investment portfolio statements and FSA invoices. Vaccination records, mortgage paperwork, my car title ... it's all password-protected and it's all there in case I have to pull up a document quickly. 

And Evernote makes the fun parts of my life easier. I've planned countless weekend hiking trips merely by searching a few keywords and creating a linked itinerary. For another example, my "Cook & Bake" notebook has 674 recipes, all tagged by ingredients -- a move that helps with everything from impromptu meal planning ("What do I have that requires only chicken, spinach and a red onion?") to grocery shopping to throwing Thanksgiving for 20 people. My iPhone is a vital pieces of kitchen equipment because I can use it to load Evernote, find the right recipe for the occasion, and cook anywhere

How did Evernote become so vital to every facet of my life? I credit three factors:

1. It has keyword tags. Although Evernote lets you sift things into notebooks, then stack the notebooks in a rigorously hierarchical and organized fashion, it also lets you tag your notes with keywords -- perfect for people who tend to do well with simple or streamlined organizational "buckets" for their assets. Keyword tags also permit you to do quick searches with very specific results. Keywords made finding my assets quick and easy.

2. It has multiple entry points. There's the browser plug-in that sucks up Web pages (handy for saving confirmation screens when you fly, just in case you don't get an email). There's the If This Then That integration that allows you to automatically create archives of your social media activity (Evernote's ability to search a Twitter archive or Facebook status archive is far superior to anything either of those social networks offers). There's the ability to email notes directly into Evernote if you're a paying user to the handy desktop plug-in ... there are a lot of ways to chuck things into Evernote quickly.

3. It is not restricted to text alone. Yes, it's nice to use Evernote's text editor for taking notes or writing first drafts. But Evernote's real utility comes from how it's basically a really big hard drive you can access from the Web, your computer desktop or a mobile device. And it's a hard drive that's not picky about what's stored on it. Some of us may have used a utility to turn our Amazon Kindle purchases into PDFs because we are big into the idea of owning a digital work that's not dependent on a proprietary vendor format, then saved our library to Evernote. Some people have Word docs, or spreadsheets, or image files. All of them can get tossed into Evernote, then retrieved and read quickly and easily.

Notice how the factor in all of these is "quickly and easily"?

At the end of a week spent researching alternative apps or alternative work routines, I found that the question "How can I replace Evernote with something cheaper?" had itself been replaced by another question: "How much do I value my time?" 

Evernote saves me time. And right now, I'm okay with paying $70 a year for a product with a proven record as a useful tool. If Evernote ceases to be useful to me, I'll reassess. But for now, the $20 price hike is a lower cost than the time I'd sink into learning how to re-do everything. There's a reason for the saying "time is money." I want one. I'm willing to spend the other.