Silly Scraps of Paper

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I’ve been trying hard to become more electronic in my daily interactions and transactions, but at the end of the day I still seem to have loads of paper in my pockets and wallet.  I’ve tried to set up some experiments to analyze what I actually collect on a daily basis, but I found it too annoying.  I usually end up throwing out, or filing, the scraps long before I do any analysis.

Accumulation of paper receipts.

As a small business owner, I must now dutifully collect and manage most paper receipts for my taxes.  I know from experience that if I don’t make something easy for myself, the chances of it getting done are pretty slim, especially if the task is tedious.  Over the last 4 years I’ve refined my process for dealing with paper (and electronic) receipts.  My system is not fancy, but it’s fast and easy, increasing the chances of me actually doing it.

After years of keeping a pen in my mailbox to instantly label mail “return to sender”, I decided to replicate this practice (rule 3 below).  Here are 3 quick and easy rules I created.

  1. I dedicate places to collect and store paper receipts when I’m on the go.  Typically I designate the inside pocket of whatever jacket or purse I have with me, or a special spot in my wallet.  I have multiple spots so I always have an option regardless of what I’m wearing or doing.  This is especially useful when I’m traveling.
  2. I dedicate places in my home to store the paper receipts.  Again, I have multiple spots to ensure I always have a quick access spot to dump my collected receipts.  I have one bowl near the front door, a common spot to unload my wallet.  I have another box in my office, which is the “official” holding spot for the receipts until they get entered as expenses.
  3. I prepare the dedicated places with the tools I need (e.g. pen, stapler, labels, envelopes, post-it notes, etc.).  For example, I like to staple the original receipt to the credit card slip.  Then I use a pen to write the amount and a short description directly onto the receipt, in case the receipt ink fades.  Each box contains a stapler and a pen because this makes it easy for me to prepare receipts instantly.

This process saves me hours of time in searching each year.

3 comments for “Silly Scraps of Paper

  1. Anonymous
    23 May 2017 at 12:31

    very helpful – thanks

  2. James
    25 May 2017 at 14:23

    Deletest, I may be able to help you. First, places like Macy’s and CVS are now able to email you your receipts. So that should help. Second there is a machine that copies your receipts and puts them in whatever folder you want (I just seem to remember the name of the specific machine i’m thinking of). What you can do is just scan all your receipts and put them in one business folder for your accountant to sort out. This way she has every receipt for the business. It is my opinion that trying to analyze what you collect is a crazy waste of time. If the receipt is relevant or possibly relevant to the business, scan it and keep it. Again let your accountant sort it out. But the more things get on-line the easier it will to keep your digital receipts in the exact folder you will want it in. And then you can more easily match the folder to the relevant part of the business. It’s not hard just extremely tedious.

    Good luck Deletist.

    • The Deletist
      25 May 2017 at 15:25

      Yes! Automation, scanning, and taking pictures of receipts are all excellent options for dealing with paper. Thank you for mentioning this!

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