Begin entering receipts.

We have talked about receipts in the past.  They can become overwhelming if you don’t take care of them regularly.  I strongly recommend putting your receipts in an envelope each month and processing them (at least?) once a month.

So how do you “process” your receipts?  Each family handles its finances differently. I start by entering my receipts for the month into Quicken.  You can use a a spreadsheet (I did so when I had only one bank account and paid cash for everything.)  You could also use another financial program.  You can be like my parents and write every expense down in a notebook.  I strongly recommend including the date of the purchase, the store, and the amount, but I also would encourage you to keep track of how you are spending your money.  For example, I separate even my grocery store receipts into groceries, blow money (to elaborate, any soft drinks purchased in our home are purchased from blow money budgets, not with our grocery budget), household (laundry detergent is an example), and health and fitness expenses (the OTC Nexium I have to have).  In Quicken, I split the transaction.  I used separate lines when I used a spreadsheet.  Determine what method works for you.

Let me talk about Quicken for a second.  (I promise that I’m not getting paid to do so.)  I used Microsoft Money for years and am still bitter that it was discontinued.  But I decided in 2010 that Quicken was a decent substitute, even if it didn’t keep track of investments and had a clunkier interface.  Since then, I’ve learned about and downloaded Microsoft Money Plus Sunset, and again, I like it better, again because of its cleaner interface, its ability to track investments, and its various calculators and planning tools.  (I will say that I don’t connect to any of my accounts using either of these programs.)  Regardless of whether you use either of these or another program entirely, I will say I definitely prefer using a program to using a spreadsheet because I can reclassify money spent more easily and more quickly if I decide to rebudget.  And I don’t have to keep adding up amounts spent on, say, my gasoline budget each year as I would with a paper notebook.

At any rate, start entering/recording your receipts if you haven’t been already.  Start with February’s and go backward, month by month until you catch up or get to the cut-off date you previously determined.

One more thing:  I keep my receipts for non-cash items until my next monthly statement arrives and I verify that all of the amounts are correct (and that the items won’t need to be returned).  But if I enter a cash receipt and know I won’t be returning any items on it (such as a receipt to Krispy Kreme or even a Food Lion receipt for milk), I shred that receipt as soon as I enter it.  Consider doing the same to get rid of paper as expeditiously as possible.  I was able to spread a handful of receipts for January and February today.  The rest of the receipts for February go back in my envelope until I clear them with my bank or credit card statement (in March).

Time required:  However much you need.  I spent hours on this process, but I was a couple of months behind . . . and I was watching the Daytona 500 (even though I said I wouldn’t), so I wasn’t really giving this task my undivided attention.  🙂

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