I finally have a system that works

marie26March 22, 2007

Finding a receipt has always been an impossibility for me. I'd keep them in boxes or ziploc bags but going through them all was just too much work.

I read about this is a magazine and implemented it on January 1, 2007. I purchased a file folder with 13 sections and labeled them according to store or category, whichever made the most sense. I keep all medical information in one of the folders and even stick the prescriptions to a piece of paper as I get them so that when I need to send in flexben, it's ready to go. Before it felt like such a chore to take forever to gather the information and prepare it to fax over.

There is something I need to return tomorrow when we go into town and I found the receipt instantly. This would always bring me so much stress and now I have a sense of relief and accomplishment.

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This is a huge problem for me. I especially have a hard time during a large project like kitchen remodel(DIY) when you make so many purchases.
So that I'm sure I understand, you might have a file marked Health/Medical, Home Depot, Macy's, Target, CVS, etc? You just have to think hard about the 13 stores you shop at the most? I may have to try this. Most of my receipts end up shoved in my purse and then in frustration, as I am about to go into a store, shoved in a basket in my car. Weeding thru those receipts is no fun. Sometimes I am able to tape or staple the receipt to the corresponding bag or item to be returned. This doesn't happen often enough.
One other question please. Say you are in Macy's buying a dress. The clerk usually asks you if you want the receipt in the bag or with you. What do you say? How do you get that pesky receipt from the store to your file?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 8:11AM
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When I do my Christmas shopping, I bring the bags home and put all the receipts in one drawer. (It's a narrow drawer in my dining room sideboard) If anything needs to be exchanged or if something breaks or doesn't work,I have the receipt. I gave my two daughters Ipods last Christmas, can you believe both broke?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 8:42AM
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Since I'm usually wearing jeans and a jacket when shopping, I've gotten into the habit of stuffing the receipts into my pocket. This helps me have the ones that I need to update the check book if I've used the debit card. The reason I started this is because there was a time when a receipt was in the bag and I had it near me when sitting down in the center of a mall and the bag was stolen.

I live in a rural area with a local town nearby that has 4 supermarkets, 1 K-Mart plus gas, drugstore, etc. But the major chain stores are 1 hour away.

With that in mind, 3 pockets are for the supermarkets (2 that I don't go to that often are in 1 pocket). Another pocket is for the supermarkets in the "city". I know it's weird to keep these but it's a habit.

One pocket is for gas, bank withdrawels, deposit receipts and lottery tickets.

Another is for restaurants.

Another is for local non-food stores including K-Mart.

Then there's the one for the major chain stores.


One to-do pocket (still need to do the things in there, though)


    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 10:22AM
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I have receipts under control, as well.

i throw them out.

Well, not quite. Here's what I do.

--if I buy something big, like the stereo or an appliance, when I think I might need the receipt for proof of warranty or something, I immediately staple the receipt to the inside of the owner's manual, and file the owner's manual in the "owner's manual" expanding file

--if I buy medicine or anything that qualifies for flexible benefits, I transfer it to my tote bag, carry it around for 3 months, and finally send it in for reimbursement from Flexible Spending.

--if I buy clothes, or supplies, in which I *might* need to reeturn something, I let that receipt float in my wallet until my wallet gets wide enough that I can't stand it anymore. Then I go through my wallet and toss the receipts I don't need, and keep the ones I think I might need, leaving them to float in my wallet until such time as this periodic review tells me it's safe to throw it out.

I like this because it doesn't create yet ANOTHER home for just-in-case receipts. And it's less work, I think.

Receipt in the bag or in my hand? NEVER in the bag. This comes from having lost a shopping bag of many things I'd purchased, all with the receipts in the bag. Whoever snagged that bag when I walked away from it for 5 minutes could simply return all those items and take my cash. (it was the days before debit cards). Also, since I store them in my wallet,

I don't return very many things. My mother is always trying to encourage me to buy stuff that I *think* will work because I can always just take it back. ARRRRGH!

She doesn't realize that it was a MAJOR achievement of scheduling to get to the store in the FIRST place. I don't shop. Going to the store is a 40-minute trip one-way. The last thing I want to do is end up with another "chore" of having to make a special trip to return something that's the wrong color blue.

Once I know I need to return something, I don't bother to try to match it up with the receipt--usually. Sometimes I will fold the receipt inside the clothing (or whatever), and set the bag by the door or on my dresser. But if I don't, then I simply check my wallet before I leave the house.

Since I don't cull the receipts in my wallet very often (and when I do, I'm careful), I always have it.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 10:32AM
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I LOVE Talley Sue's system! This is pretty much what we do too... and whatever might be needed for tax return we put in a big envelope for the year's taxes.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 5:05AM
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Ah-h. I must be missing the "careful" part as my "system" is about the same. But I am also into the possibility or the potential of an item. I'm not as disciplined as TalleySue. Most of the time I'm in a store when it occurs to me, "oh, that might work for.." or " I wonder if this is the size, color, length, that I need?". This results in many purchases that need to be returned:(

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 8:34AM
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Tre3, why not get a cheap 8 1/2 x 11 file folder with sections? My plastic file folder cost only about $5.00. Divide each one by project and everytime you purchase something, throw the receipt into the proper section. I think it would be easier to find a needed receipt if it's sorted by project instead of by store.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 11:47AM
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Marie, it's great to have a system isn't it? I implemented a very similar one, except I organized my file by months. Every receipt that comes into the house goes behind the month at the front of the folder. That way they stay in order, and it's easy to find the one I need. Trying to sort them according to store/project would be too complicated for us, and I've found the best way for everyone to be able to use a ''system'' is to keep it simple. I've had to look for four different receipts for returns the last couple of days, and it's so easy now. They get tossed when the credit card bill comes after the receipts have been checked against the statement, or filed in their respective places.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 12:11PM
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Marie I will think about this. I'm not much of a ABC person but more of a APFZ type of person. I would need many, many files to hold all the receipts for projects I bounce around on. I think the idea of store categories works best for me. I can almost always remember where I have bought something. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 12:51PM
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Congratulations, Marie. It's a nice feeling, isn't it?

I run DH's remodeling business and we use a bright blue expandable A-Z file. I have to enter all his company purchases into Quickbooks. After that, if the store we bought an item from starts with the letter "B" the receipt goes into the "B" slot, in no particular order.

While we need to keep all the receipts for tax purposes, I've only had to go in and pull out a receipt 1-2 times, so it's no big deal to look through all the "B" receipts.

We use the same system for the law firm where I work, and while the A-Z accordion folder gets much fatter there, the simple system still works great.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 3:49PM
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I keep a shoebox, no lid, just above eye level on a shelf in my study. ALL receipts go in there - debit account ones logged into Quicken first. All of them except major appliances - those I staple into the manual. The shoebox ends up fairly chronological with the deeper in the box the older.

IF, big if, I need a receipt, I ruffle down through until I find it. Rarely need one over a month old, but I have retrieved much older ones with a bit of pawing. Shoebox seems to fill by year's end. Pop the lid on, mark it, and start another. Low tech paper management works for me (with the higher tech Quicken cuing me with the date and store name!).

Those minutes I might spend digging out a receipt (happens rarely) are way less than the time I would spend maintaining a filing system. I'm too obsessive to make sorting decisions on all those receipts!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 11:03PM
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I used to have a box. I think I should have had a bigger box. Years ago it wouldn't have occurred to me to keep as many receipts as I do now. I was looking at the Australian government recall website the other day and there was a warning about petrol contaminated with diesel. You need a receipt in order for them to pay for any repairs. So now I have to save my petrol receipts too?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 3:56AM
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I love the organicness of many of these systems you're describing, and i think they could apply way beyond receipts:

sadiesadie: the receipt goes into the "B" slot, in no particular order... it's no big deal to look through all the "B" receipts.""

I do this often in other filing systems--like the owner's manuals. If I need it, I'll wade through the stack; no sense spending time parsing finely when I file.

I *have* sometimes made a single sub-category (let's say your DH buys LOTS of stuff from Bailey's Plumbing Supply; so I'd make a folder just for Bailey's and put it in the B, and the other stuff can go around it. Sort of like how they file records in the music store--the really popular groups get their own dividers, and the less popular groups are lumped together under "B."

celticmoon: "The shoebox ends up fairly chronological with the deeper in the box the older."

This "filing by strata" is often underrated, but it works!

And also from celtic moon: "Those minutes I might spend digging out a receipt (happens rarely) are way less than the time I would spend maintaining a filing system."

THIS is one of the organizing principles people sometimes forget. They get so caught up in creating the system, and making it thorough and clever and well labeled everywhere, that they forget out the time cost of that.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 9:48AM
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When I'm organised enough to find my box, my overflow from the box, DH's bag of receipts, all the receipts that have been dropped round the house and the receipts lurking in my handbag, I'm going to reread this thread and decide on a system.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 2:32AM
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I'm rereading this thread in hopes that I will be inspired to find a way to organize receipts that doesn't include my kitchen countertops as the storage container. Like most people, I save receipts for the possible event of a return.

Now, seven years later, the game has changed a bit since places like Target have "receipt look-up" based on the form of payment and scanning the bar code to confirm the purchase (so I really don't even need to keep those receipts), and Amazon, which keeps the record of your account forever, Macy's has the sticker on the tag which serves as a receipt if you lose it, Home Depot (same as Target), Barnes and Noble attaches your sales to a phone number, etc.

My system of choice is to keep receipts from store purchases in my purse for the month, but that is a lot of receipts. My latest car has a drawer under the front passenger seat, so that is where every piece of paper related to car care (not gas) is stored. It's absolutely wonderful. The same car has two glove boxes, so one keeps the usual owners manual, registration, insurance card, etc. The smaller glove box holds all of my coupons. Wow! Another major purse paper issue that went away thanks to a car with a great infrastructure. I should add that my car is always very, very clean. I only save coupons from stores, or coupons that are fabulous deals-I ordinarily do not buy the types of products that are couponed. Maybe I should keep my receipts in the car?

Anyway, I'm looking at a budgeting system that would include a way to deal wither receipts. MINT is a good app for that, can anyone recommend other apps or programs?

I love this quote from Talley Sue quoting others:

And also from celtic moon: "Those minutes I might spend digging out a receipt (happens rarely) are way less than the time I would spend maintaining a filing system."

THIS is one of the organizing principles people sometimes forget. They get so caught up in creating the system, and making it thorough and clever and well labeled everywhere, that they forget out the time cost of that."

Cupofkindness again: When I look at women's blogs on home management and budgeting, when I see those pretty binders and cute forms, I cannot help but think that I have far better ways to spend my time than work for countless hours making things visually appealing. Besides, what is more timeless than black when it comes to organizing stuff that you really don't want to call a lot of attention to anyway?

Tell me, how do you organize your receipts? Thank you!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 9:10AM
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Cupofkindess, I can't agree with you more. I keep VERY few receipts anymore since most of the places have a way to look up the transaction. Walmart still isn't using the lookups and consequently since there returns are so painful, I rarely shop there now.

I'm still making gardening purchases, so I keep those for a year till the guarantee is expired.

I recently tossed all our owner''s manuals since it's all online anyway. We found when something was needing to be fixed, the internet was our first resource. Not only can you get the manual, you can get info that may not be included in the manual. It wasn't till I was going through my filing cabinet, that I realized I was doing this. Out all of it went.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 10:19AM
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Yes, you are right! I don't shop at Walmart for the very same reason. It's painful to do business there. There is no value for the customers time....

Since I posted early today, I took a hard look at my handbags and if you can believe it, actually trimmed (with scissors) my July receipts because as you know, the cash register generates far more paper than just the list of your purchases. Once I did this, I bound my Target receipts with a binder clip, and put the rest of my store receipts in a snack-size zip-lock bag. I was so surprised at how little space they take up in my purse.

Larger receipts, like those from the doctor or plumber or catalog purchase, move directly from my purse to my kitchen counter- oops, I mean my perfect file system - and are treated accordingly. I'm trying to keep car-related paperwork in the cars.

My plan is to keep receipts in my purse for the month, then move the receipts the a zipper bank-type bag for a few months longer. I hope this works, I've tried everything else!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 3:36PM
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So after I posted, I went through the filing system I started in Jan. I had created a file for 2014 receipts, another for 2013 and older receipts and another for warranties.Now when anything new happens, it all goes into the same folder. It looks like I need to go through it about 2 times per year.

When I discarded the ones that were no longer needed and saw what I had, I tried to simplify all 3 of these things together. No real need to differentiate 2013 & 2014 except for a few insurance claims. I had only a few warranty receipts I needed to keep. Since I would need to transfer a receipt from the current year to warranties, I thought, why not just save the warranties in a small zip lock but in the same folder. I doubt I'll ever go through the warranty bag except to discard (at least I hope not to have to use those receipts).

Since I've been working on simplifying my home since last November, I've learned a valuable lesson. Keep the organizational system extremely simple. The simpler changes for organization that I have incorporated I have been ones that have been able to maintain with ease. Before I would try to keep up with took too much time for me. I don't want to think about the organizational process, I just want it to be done, out of the way, but easily accessible if I should need something.

The strange thing I have found though is the more I simplify, the more I want things even more simplified yet.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 10:15PM
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You are very wise. A complex organizational system is setting the stage for failure, in my experience. There is nothing that I can buy which will substitute for the real work necessary to stay on top of the paper, so I'm learning how the paper management system is really several parts that need to work together so that there is no stoppage of the paper flow at any one stage of the game. I love zip locks and page protectors, they allow me to compartmentalize papers in a folder and see the contents, which of course are in a hanging file....

I love your final comment too, Aloha:

"The strange thing I have found though is the more I simplify, the more I want things even more simplified yet."

I think that time has a very different value in middle age... something that maybe these young bloggers who set up very complicated home management systems don't quite see yet.

Today on a different thread on this forum, I found this quote:

"One thing you should keep FOREVER is your W2 forms from your tax returns. They are the only proof of wages for your Social Security and Medicare Benefits. Even if Social Security or the IRS may lose your records, if you have the W2 Tax Withholding Forms, they can reconstruct your wage record."

My husband and I were not on the same page about old tax records... I wanted to throw them out after 10 years, while he insists on hanging on to them. Well, after reading that quote, I realized that the relative physical/spatial cost of storing those files is trivial when compared to the enormous time and energy cost of trying to reconstruct any records that you might need at some point in the future. So even as I go through my files, I'm being very careful about what I toss, particularly about income, debt, and ownership records.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 12:00AM
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