How I Keep Up On My Mail, Bills, And Receipts - Part 2 - How I Handle Receipts And Track Our Finances

11:25 AM


Welcome back to Part 2  - All about how I handle receipts and track our finances.

For years I entered and paid bills for an engineering company on top of keeping up on my own papers.  The stacks of invoices were thick, and the checks printed out were many.  I did this job at home at night - it was good for some extra spending money, but after awhile handling all of that paper weighed heavily on me.   I didn't want that feeling of paper looming over me in our personal finance area so that job did help me develop habits to help keep ahead.



All the receipts and bills that come into our house are tossed into this wire basket at the top of our stairs.  Every few days when I'm heading downstairs to my desk I'll grab whatever is in there.  Also, when I return an item via UPS or USPS I write the name of the company the return was sent to on the slip right as they hand it to me so there will be no guesswork later.  Those slips get tossed in the basket too. (I put things on the ledge to take downstairs too - that's what the wrapping supplies are there for)

There are two important things I use on the computer to keep everything organized:   

Quicken for the PC
& Online Banking

I enter everything from purchases to returns, household bills, deposits, and withdrawals into Quicken.  In Quicken you create accounts for checking, savings, credit cards, and you can track investment accounts as well.

I put the entered receipts in a drawer by my desk.  My savings and checking receipts go into a different little metal bin after I have recorded them in Quicken.  If you have more than one credit card just make sure you store charges from each card together.  You can paperclip them together or use an envelope.  It makes going through and finding receipts so much easier.  For example I have a Target folder on my desk.  After I enter a Target receipt in Quicken I store it in that folder until I get my statement.  I might only have three to five charges at that store per month so I can collect them together in that folder and easily highlight them against the bill when it arrives.

I do one more thing with my main credit card receipts before the bill ever arrives which keeps me very light on paper.   Keep reading ... and I hope I'm making sense.

I sign into online banking every few days for the following reasons:

1.  To stay ahead of any charges I don't have the receipt for
(aka family has used the card but not given me the receipt)

2.  To see if there was an online purchase that didn't get recorded

3.  To keep track of my accounts and balances incase of fraud
(our credit card has been stolen more than once so to me this is really important.  One time someone went from Kroger to Kroger charging just below the amount where you would have to sign.  I don't know why the card company didn't notice the strange activity.  The person got away with over two thousand dollars.  This is the reason why I started to check often.  Fraud ends up costing everyone)

So, this is the extra thing I do which keeps me sane :  When I am in my online banking I click on my credit card.  I print out the new cleared charges.  I know where to start by checking the last paper I printed out.  I highlight all the new cleared charges on the computer screen - right click - and print.  I then staple this fresh sheet of charges on top of the last paper I printed out so the most recent charges are on the top of my stack.

I do not print out the pending charges.  I give them a quick look to make sure nothing seems weird, but I wait until my charges clear to print them.

Now is where I start to get rid of extra paper I don't need without waiting the entire month for my statement to arrive in the mail.  I match up my credit card receipts to the charges on the paper I just printed out.  I highlight each match with my green highlighter.

If it is a receipt that I no longer need - like lets say groceries or gas or the movies I toss it out right as I highlight in on the paper.

For the receipts that I might still need - like lets say a sweater I'm not sure if I'm keeping yet I will put a little green x in the top corner and then I paperclip receipts like that together.  That way I know that I've already handled the charge, and I'm just keeping the receipt until I make a decision on the item.  If it is a receipt for something like a lawnmower I will staple it to the manual which I keep in our file cabinet.

After I've gone through the receipts that were in my drawer I look at the sheet I printed out and handle any of the items that aren't highlighted off.  I can ask my family questions about charges while the purchase is still fresh in their minds.  I can go into my email and get amounts for any online purchases that I forgot to record.  I can record any Tim Horton charges that they didn't give me the receipt for (which is always) I will also know if there are any items I have returned but not gotten credit for yet because the slip will still be waiting in my drawer.  One time a company forgot to credit me for a side table I returned.  It was good I had that paper with the tracking number.   One email and it was taken care of, but without good tracking I would have easily missed it.  

Once I have an entire sheet all highlighted with everything accounted for I make one long vertical green highlighter line through the company names which tells me I don't have to glance at that paper until my statement comes in the mail.


If I take a few minutes every few days I find it saves me lots of time and aggravation in the long run.  When my credit card statement arrives I am so organized with my highlighted sheets.  No more shuffling through a months worth of receipts shoved in a drawer, and searching for their match on the statement.

I start with the bottom sheet of the printed out charges (oldest charges) and quickly use that highlighted sheet to highlight the matching amounts on my statement.  I rip off each finished sheet as I go and then shred them in our shredder.  I then reconcile my highlighted credit card statement in Quicken.   Then my bill is ready to pay so I go right into online billing and set up the payment.   Then  I'm finished, and know my bill will be paid on time.

Hopefully these tips will help you keep up on your paperwork.  You don't have to use a financial program on your computer - even just keeping up on your credit card purchases can ease the stress of receiving your statement each month and save you lots of time.

I will talk about how I pay our bills next in Part 3.  Hopefully it won't take me two weeks to get it written out :)  To read Part 1 - How I Deal With The Mailbox - click here.







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