One of the worst culprits of clutter creation is receipts. Every purchase, big or small, results in a receipt, from a quick trip to the grocery store for milk to an expensive splurge at Best Buy. It’s tough to know which receipts to keep and which to toss, and even tougher to organize all those slips of paper (sticking them in a desk drawer is not a solution).
More and more retailers offer electronic receipts, emailed to you directly from the store. Convenient, except now you’ve got multiple types of receipts stashed in several places–your wallet, that overstuffed desk drawer, and now, your email. Fortunately, there’s a growing number of solutions to help consumers tackle receipt clutter. Below, four methods to help you get organized.
While you could use any run-of-the-mill desktop scanner and create your own system to digitally archive receipts, you’d be better off using a designated receipt scanner like NeatReceipts. The compact, lightweight scanner is small enough to fit in a briefcase or purse, and plugs into a computer via a USB connection. The accompanying Neat software extracts information from receipts, creating searchable digital records that can be exported to Excel, Quicken, QuickBooks, or TurboTax.
Thanks to cell phone cameras, you can skip the scanner and use smartphone apps to track receipts. The free app Lemon Wallet leads the pack with its simple design. Simply take a picture of a receipt, and Lemon automatically digitizes relevant information. You can organize receipts using tags and labels, and view your spending habits at a glance. Acting as a digital wallet, Lemon can also keep track of credit cards and accounts, brand loyalty rewards cards, insurance information, and more. Similar apps include Itemize, which takes a two-pronged approach: an app that takes photos and software that syncs with your email to detect electronic receipts, both archiving receipts in a digital wallet. Those devoted to popular notetaking and archiving software Evernote can incorporate receipt archiving into their existing Evernote routine by using the Evernote app to take pictures of receipts.
Too busy to take pictures of receipts? Try Shoeboxed, which allows subscribers to mail receipts and documents in a prepaid envelope. Shoeboxed will digitize your documents and categorize them in an online account. You can also forward email receipts, send documents via the Shoeboxed smartphone app, or upload scanned imaged online. Shoeboxed also offers solutions for small businesses, like IRS-accepted tax preparation documents and expense reports. In addition to receipts, Shoebox can digitize business cards and create contact lists that can be exported to email marketing tools and address books.
Tech start-ups not your thing? Create your own receipt management system! Do it digitally by taking pictures or scanning your receipts and organizing them in folders on your hard drive, or utilize folders and labels in your email to manage electronic receipts and digitized paper receipts. Or, buy a receipt file and keep the paper. Plastic, receipt-sized accordion files like this one sold at The Container Store make it easy to sort receipts by month or type. If you go this route, be prepared to sit down periodically and clean out your receipt file, particularly at the end of the year. Either that, or buy a desk with bigger drawers.