A few weeks ago, I posted this picture on my By George Organizing Facebook page:
Sadly, it was the receipts I had haphazardly thrown in my purse. My intent in sharing this was to show that even professional organizers can be a little messy and that there’s no such thing as “perfectly organized”. Thankfully, no one judged or condemned me for my cluttered handbag!
However, someone did ask about organizing receipts. I thought it was a great question for an Ask the Organizer post:
“What’s the best way to handle receipts? While we can throw them away, what if we need to keep them?” – L.Ward
Although I’m not an expert with receipts (as evident from the picture above!), I do have a few suggestions about handling those cumbersome, but oftentimes necessary, pieces of paper.
Although we live in an age where things are going more and more paperless by the day, there are ocassions when a physical copy of a receipt may be necessary. Here are a few ways you can manage and organize those tiny proofs of purchase so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Go digital. Most businesses are willing to email you a copy of your receipt so that you can avoid adding more paper clutter to your life. While this is a good idea, there are a few things you’ll want to consider:
- Do you want your inbox inundated with receipts? It can be difficult enough to find what you’re looking for in your inbox and adding more mail might be an additional burden. If you chose to go this route, you may want to create a special folder just for receipts so it’s easier to find them when you need to. Bonus tip: You can set up a special “trigger” that tells your email host to send receipts to a special folder so you don’t have to manually.
- Do you really want to be giving out your email to so many businesses? Although the convenience of emailing a receipt can keep you more organized, it also comes with the understanding that these companies will send you other email solicitations. That can increase the load of emails you’re receiving in your inbox without you realizing, or wanting, it. One solution to this might be to create a “special” email just for receipts, separate from your primary email address.
Snap and go. If you want to go digital, but don’t want to junk up your inbox, then you might want to utilize the snap and go method. The idea is to scan or photograph a copy of your physical receipt to an app or program. There are several great options out there that you can use including:
- Smart Receipts
- Receipts by Wave for Business
- ABUKAI Expenses
- Genius Scanner
- Clear Scanner
- Tiny Scanner
- Office Lens
- Fitfin Budget App
For a full description of each of these apps, check out this article that reviews each one in greater detail.
Once you’re done snapping your receipt, you then have the freedom to toss or shred it, knowing that you have safely stored a digital copy elsewhere (and yes, the IRS and most stores will accept a digital copy of a receipt).
File, don’t pile. If digital isn’t your thing and you want to keep the physical copy of your receipts, then the question becomes, how do you organize them so you can find what you need when you need it? While it can be tempting to just throw your receipts into a shoebox and do a search and rescue mission later, it’s not the most efficient way to store them.
Here are three options you might want to consider using to manage your paper receipts:
- File Box. You could store a small file box on your kitchen counter or desk to house your receipts. Each file could be labeled by category expense or by month to make retrieving a receipt much easier. I like the Bigso Desktop File Storage Box (Thin) – available on Amazon or at The Container Store.
- Accordion file. Similar to a file box system, but smaller and more convenient to take with you. You can grab this pocket size accordion file on Amazon for less than $6!
- Notebook of DIY Binder system. Using a receipt notebook (image below) or a 3 ring binder (you can DIY it with a simple binder and a few clear sheet protectors or clear pocket dividers), you can store your receipts just like you would other important papers.
While these aren’t the only remedies for your receipt chaos, they are the ones I either use myself or recommend to people. I also suggest the following:
- Ask yourself why you’re holding on to a particular receipt. Most people don’t need their receipts but keep them out of fear. If you don’t need it for an expense report, to validate a warranty, or to return a product, you most likely won’t need it. Even in the case of returns, most businesses will accept items without a receipt if you have the card you used at the time of purchase.
- If you decide to keep your paper receipts, make sure to purge regularly so they don’t overtake your spaces! Once you’ve decluttered, determine if it’s safe to simply toss the paper in the trash or recycling, or if it would be better to shred it.
- If it’s all too much, then consider using a service to help you out. Paid programs such as Shoeboxed allows you to simply stuff your receipts in a Magic Envelope, mail them in, and let the fine folks at Shoeboxed scan and organize them for you.
Until society becomes completely paperless, then managing with your receipts is necessary. But with a little bit of knowledge and effort, you can be a pro at handling those pesky slips of paper! Hopefully, I can too 🙂
How do you organize your receipts? Leave a comment and let me know!
*This post includes affiliate links which means if you click and purchase any of the items listed, I may receive a small commission.