receipt-holdersOne of the most familiar items to go homeless in any work environment is the receipt.  You may be frustrated with how messy they look everywhere, but the solution is never as easy as throwing them all out, because they DO matter.  Not ALL of them matter, but without a clear plan, one tends to keep them all, just in case.

As I have written before, there are three good reasons to keep receipts:
1. For Taxes (income and property)
2. In case you want to return an item
3. Home insurance records

I find that receipts for capital gains, potential returns, and for home insurance are fairly rare and can go in separate files in my file cabinet.  Receipts for income taxes, on the other hand, come in on a daily basis and therefore require a system who’s ease matches their frequency.

Here are four elements that make a receipt collection system easy:
1. Vertical. When a receipt holder stands up vertically, it frees up vital work surface, unlike a shoebox.
2. Visible. When a receipt holder is clearly-labeled and out where you can see it, you will be more inclined to use it.
3. Minimal. Keep it simple.  I don’t see the point of trying to subdivide all your receipts by month or by category, as you go.  At year’s end I was able to divide all of my 2010 receipts by category in just 9 minutes.  It’s easier to categorize all at once than by incorporating overly complicated sub-categories into your systems.
4. Topless. A barrier as simple as a flap can discourage use.  An open top makes it as easy as possible to just drop receipts in.

In the photos above are two examples of easy-to-use systems.  The structure for the first one is a combination of a steel vertical organizer with a two inch file jacket.  Receipts can be slippery devils.  The closed sides of the file jacket prevent the receipts from slipping out of the sides.  This jacket has two standard manila folders to create two simple subdivisions: cash receipts and credit receipts.

The second system is a clear string envelope in a clear vertical incline sorter.  The envelope is in backwards and the flap (with its string) have been cut off.  You’d be amazed at how many receipts fit in this neatly.

Both of these systems couldn’t be easier to use, which is important for an item as unrelenting as a receipt.

Perhaps you are wondering “Hey, wouldn’t it be simpler just to buy a receipt scanner?” To be honest, I have never tried one of these devices (that some of my clients swear by) but I will say this.  Even if a receipt scanner can read a low-ink receipt and automatically categorize it in Quickbooks for me, I do know it still takes at least a few seconds to feed these receipts through the scanner.  In the super busy lives we lead, dropping your receipts in an open desk folder still beats feeding receipts through a scanner.  It will be a lot easier to scan them if they are all collected in one place.

Whether you plan to scan them or not, my vertical, visible, minimal, topless systems will give you receipt control.