Reader Kate submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
When I buy something, should I put my receipt in the bag or in my purse/wallet? I think I would prefer in my purse, so that I can empty them all out onto my banker’s spike at once, but I am often rushed thru the checkout line, so it tends to get stuffed in, rather than filed in my wallet.
The worst thing about receipts is that they’re always handed to you at the most inconvenient time. You’ve just started grabbing your bags of purchases and the store clerk reaches out her hand with your receipt. You hastily grab the receipt and either stuff it in a bag or cram it into your pocket or push it to the bottom of your purse. The process itself is flawed from the very beginning.
In these hasty situations, I always tell the clerk to put it in the bag. When it goes into the bag, I’ll be forced to deal with it when I get home and have more time to think about how to handle it. If I put it in my pocket or purse, it runs a greater risk of being forgotten or mishandled.
Receipts fall into one of four categories and should be dealt with based on their type:
- Useless. These are receipts for consumable purchases you paid for with cash, things like coffee and food. Once you eat or drink the item, you’re certainly not going to return the product. The receipt has no identifying information on it since you used cash and should be tossed into the trash immediately. In fact, if you can refuse the receipt, do it. Let the store deal with the trash.
- Business. These are receipts for business-related expenses. You have to keep these no matter what, and most accountants require that you still keep the original receipt. I keep a zip top bag in my purse with the month and year written on it with a Sharpie. I’ll jot a note about the expense on the back of the receipt and then slip it into the zip top bag. At the end of the month, I reconcile the receipts against my credit card statement and then toss the whole bag of receipts into an expandable file at the back of my filing cabinet. At the end of the financial quarter, I pass the receipts and my bank statements on to my accountant.
- Large ticket items. These are receipts for items like cars and furniture. For some reason, these receipts are usually physically large, and therefore don’t get lost or crammed into purses or pockets. I’ll scan these when I get home and put a copy of the digital file into my monthly to-do file on my computer. When the bank statement arrives, I reconcile the purchase and move the digital receipt to a receipts file in my documents folder. The original receipt immediately goes into a “Large Purchases” file in the filing cabinet and remains there until we get rid of the item. Since these large purchases are rare, most people don’t have difficulty processing them.
- Everything else. These are receipts for all of the other purchases in life. For most everything, I pull receipts out of my purse or pockets when I walk in my front door and immediately snap a picture of the receipt with my cell phone. Then, I’ll drop them in the shredder right there. Whenever I charge my phone, I sync the images off my phone and transfer them to my monthly to-do file on my computer. When my bank statement comes, I reconcile the amounts and move the digital receipts to a receipts file in my documents folder. I don’t shred receipts for clothing or grocery store food until after I’ve worn the clothes once or eaten the food on the receipt. I just clip these together with a binder clip and shred them whenever the binder clip gets full.
I’m not sure I 100 percent answered your question, so I would love it if our readers could add even more ideas into the comments on this topic. I’m always looking for better ways to handle receipts. I sincerely can’t stand them.
Thank you, Kate, for submitting such a great question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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