Wrangle Your Receipts in 2016

As seen on Huffington Post

Every time you go shopping, do groceries and pay for parking your wallet tends to increase in size.  Unfortunately this is not because it’s getting filled with cash, it’s those pesky paper receipts.  You finally get so fed up that you rip them all out of there and either throw them out or shove them into a drawer somewhere.  But what if there was a better way?  Most of us tend to have some kind of filing system in place for the important paperwork but receipts from everyday purchases tend to get overlooked. Well, those days are over, so let’s push those papers into the spotlight today.

Do I need to keep this?

First of all, I am not an accountant and everyone’s situation is different so check with your provincial/federal guidelines for the important stuff that you may need for tax purposes.   That’s a whole other blog post and we’re going to focus on the easy stuff today.

Gas, restaurant and grocery receipts don’t need a very long life in your wallet, or anywhere for that matter.  As long as you’re a person and not a business they can go pretty quick.  The old rule of thumb used to be to keep them until you reconcile them with your monthly bank statement and then shred them.  Most of us don’t get statements in the mail anymore, so take a few minutes every few days, or at the end of the week to log on to your on-line banking and check your transactions.  If you keep a spreadsheet with a monthly budget be sure to enter them in and then they can go.  A lot of on-line banking will let you generate pretty pie charts to see where your money is going, so even the monthly budget spreadsheet may not be necessary.

The only other thing I will say about grocery receipts is that sometimes food spoils even though it’s not expired or you got a bad apple or something and and you want a refund.  If that happens a lot to you, by all means, hold onto it for a few extra days.

Withdrawal slips and other bank transactions tend to fall into the same rules as gas and grocery.  Make sure it makes sense with your statement (be it paper or electronic) and then shred it.  Except for taking out cash (and I’m sure they’ll figure that one out eventually) most banking transactions can be completed on-line, so consider making the leap over if you haven’t already.  Anytime you can go paperless it’s a good thing and a lot of banks let you deposit cheques through an app.  No paper records to keep and all the details are at your disposal.  Can’t argue with that!

Clothes, shoes and electronics.  Anything with a guarantee or warrantee or that can possibly break you need to hang on to until that guarantee expires.  Same thing applies to items you may need to return.  Honestly, most of the time you couldn’t pay me enough to make my kids try on clothes in the store, I would much rather buy 1 or 2 sizes that I think will fit them and return what doesn’t work.  Once you have worn the clothes or shoes you generally can’t return them anyway so keeping the receipt is pointless.  Hang onto it for a few weeks (assuming you began using the product) to ensure it’s not defective and then say goodbye to the receipt.

When should I do this?

If you’re short on time to go through your receipts, think about using some of that dead-time.  Waiting at the Dr’s office, the long line at the grocery store, watching a mindless tv show, parked in the car waiting for your friend that never shows up on time.  All great opportunities to take a minute to go through your wallet.  I like to keep a little plastic baggie in my purse for the receipts that need to be disposed of but I don’t want to throw in the garbage while I’m out.

Where should I store it?

With all that being said if you really like to keep these papers for longer but don’t have the space, or just don’t want the clutter, consider using an app.  I like using Wave (no affiliation), but there are tons of them out there.  These apps allow you to take a picture of the receipt (even the super long ones), categorize and edit them with the store name and the amount and then save them on-line.  This also helps if you want to see where your money is going or if you need to generate a report for your accountant.

But Allison, you now say, what do I do with all the receipts I am keeping? They can’t just hang out in my wallet and I don’t want to put them into my filing system! Fear not readers, the answer is as simple as a coupon-sized expanding folder. These things are small, compact, have different sections and can easily be labelled to suit your needs.  You can pick them up at an office supply store or a lot of times, the Dollarstore .  My favorite category to make is the “possibly to return”, it’s like a holding zone for the things I’m not sure about.  Just make sure to go though it every few weeks and declutter.

Happy Organizing!