How to Organize Receipts

Receipts come in various forms and sizes and are usually thin pieces of paper that are hard to archive. Many people have piles of receipts and no idea how they should be organized. Here are some suggestions.

Steps

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    On a note pad make a list of categories and subcategories for your receipts. Ideas for categories can be easily adapted from programs such as Quicken or MSMoney.
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    Purchase inexpensive file folders for each main category. Label the tab of the folder with the name of the main category. On the front face of the folder, write the subcategories that will be contained in that folder. Organize folders alphabetically by category.
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    Start at the top of your unsorted pile of receipts and handle each only once.
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    As you sort through the receipts look at the date on each and remove any that are not for the current year. Compile a set of files for each tax year.
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    Determine the most appropriate category or subcategory for each receipt. Place your receipts in the corresponding folders.
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    As you add new categories add new folders. If you initiate a new subcategory, write it on the front of the appropriate category folder.
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    Handle each receipt carefully. If a receipt is very small or nearly illegible, staple it to a larger sheet of paper, and write identifying information on the sheet: date, category, location and purpose of expenditure, tax status, reimbursement options, check number, etc.

Tips

  • Receipts can also be organized digitally in several different ways. Receipts can be scanned and then stored on your personal computer. Make several folders in the same way as described above for paper receipts. You can also organize receipts online in several different ways. Websites like Shoeboxed.com are designed specifically for organizing receipts and creating statistics and expense reports. Use these to help create or update a personal budget.
  • Keep all your receipts for major purchases (TVs, computers, appliances) for warranty dates and to help you resell them later.
  • Store your folders in a portable file box. It can be stored securely and quickly brought out to work on personal finances.
  • Organize receipts inside each folder by date. This will help you find them later.
  • At the end of each tax year wrap your completed folders in heavy construction paper. Mark the package with the year. Start new folders for the next year.

Warnings

  • You can become inundated with paper if you save all your receipts. Know which receipts will be needed in doing your taxes or documenting other matters, and be sure to save all of those receipts. Receipts for personal expenses relating to non-deductible items you are not going to return are candidates for immediate discard.
  • Destroy -- rather than discard -- any receipts showing sensitive financial information such as credit account or bank account numbers.

Things You'll Need

  • Legal pad
  • Black ink pen
  • File folders
  • Stapler, staples
  • Copy paper
  • Trash bin
  • Optional: document shredder

Article Info

Categories: Budgeting