Friday, March 4, 2011

Desk Organization: Receipts

I confess. I'm a receipt saver. You never know when you might have to have that little white paper tape for a return. But oh, the mess they bring into my life! They get thrown on the desk, doomed to pile up until I can't stand it any longer. Then, they get stuffed into a file for months on end until my annual purge every December 31st.

It's not working for me.

A desk revolution has to take place; for my sanity. Let me introduce you to my new system...

Shocked I'm sure. But give me a chance to explain. 

First, you need to know that more than likely, I'm not going to reform my habits. So I have to have something that will take into consideration my current tendency - stuffing them someplace. 

Second, I don't have a business, other than blogging, where I need to save a bunch of receipts for income tax purposes. I just need to save them long enough to know I don't need them for a return.

Third, I love jars (but you already knew this about me, didn't you?). What's not to love about using a jar for organizing anything?

Here's how the system works...

I have two jars. One for the current month...  

and one for the previous month...

Whenever I come home from shopping, all I have to do is stuff the receipts in the jar for the current month. At the end of the month, I just rotate the lids so that the one I just finished filling reads "Last Month". Then I can empty the old jar with the receipts that are over a month old (and older depending on when I purchased them during the month), and I can shred, burn, compost, or toss them. I put the lid back on which now reads "This Month" and I can start filling it all over again.

"WAIT!", you say. What about those important receipts that go with warranties? See this file below? I have three files for items that I occasionally (and I do mean rarely) need to save receipts for longer than two months.

One is for my Costco purchases (big box discount store). Since they take returns for an extended amount of time, I put a sticky note on the receipt to indicate what the "big purchase" was and then I file it. However, since Costco keeps a record of my purchases and they don't even require a receipt, this is totally redundant. I seriously need to get over this file.

A second is for tax purposes. Okay, earlier I said I didn't need any of these for taxes, but I do keep a few for documentation, particularly related to home improvements. They have a file of their own and at the end of the year, they go in a labeled zip lock bag and are tucked away for seven years in a rubbermaid container up in the storeroom.

The third, is a file for large paper receipts such as those you get with an Amazon order. Since they're too big for my jars, I just neatly file them. And since they're all the same size, it's not messy. (Why am I saving these? I've never, ever used one of these for a return. CATHY!!! Help! I'm a hopeless receipt saver!). I'm going to at least try to have a mini-revolution of this file and try to shred these four times a year instead of waiting a full twelve months. It should keep the files from getting so packed.

What I haven't addressed here is a system for those who really do need to save receipts for tax purposes, particularly those who have a small business. I wish I could tell you those little papers aren't really necessary or that you could just scan them on to your computer, but apparently the IRS requires a hard copy original to back up that scanned receipt. So not much point in scanning, is there? If you have a solution for other readers, please chime in and share!

How do you save household receipts? Would the jar method work for you?


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