Thursday, June 17, 2010
Organizing Details – What to do with Receipts
Receipts - everyone has them, but nobody wants them. As with most things organizing-related, most of us are never really taught what to do with those pesky slips of paper, so they tend to get pretty messy and out of control. Here are a few ideas for how to deal with receipts:
Don’t take them. At almost every purchase we make, we’re offered a receipt, even when it’s completely unneeded. Of course, once it’s offered to us, we usually take the receipt and then have to deal with it once we get back to our home or office. Unless you’re expensing or deducting a purchase and need the receipt for documentation or recordkeeping, try to not take it from the cashier. If you’re quick, you can even tell them to not print a receipt at all. The fewer receipts you take, the less you’ll have to process later – and your pockets will be less cluttered!
Recycle or discard. But what if you do bring receipts back with you – what do you do with them then? Most of the time, I see clients’ receipts get stuffed in a bag, box, or drawer and they are never seen or heard from again. Instead of cramming them away, as soon as you get back to your office or home, immediately look at your receipts and decide which ones to keep (if any), and recycle or shred the rest. It’s a pretty safe bet that you’re keeping way, way more receipts than you actually need. Ask yourself what you’re keeping each receipt for. Is it for a tax deduction? Keep it. Is it because you need it for a work expense? Again, keep it. But do you really need those old grocery receipts and movie stubs? Probably not. Be ruthless when going through your receipts.
What to keep – and how. Of course, there are certain receipts that are worth keeping. Typically, this list includes things you are planning on returning, items that have warranties, artwork, and other things that you want the cost documented for insurance purposes. One way to store these receipts is in an expandable wallet file, which can be separated by vendor, date of purchase, or category. This method is really easy and very quick. Another method that I use with clients is to scan receipts, using a tool like Neat Receipts or a service like Pixily, both of which help facilitate the process of getting your receipts onto your computer. Once the receipts are safely stored on your computer, you can then usually recycle or shred the actual paper receipt.
Of course, there are more ways to deal with receipts than what’s listed here. What are some of your favorite strategies for managing receipts?