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6 Reasons to Keep Receipts…Or Not!

6 Reasons to Keep Receipts…Or Not!

When we work with clients in person to sort out their papers and create systems for them, we always run into the issue of keeping receipts.

For purposes of this article, we’re speaking about personal receipts for managing your household. Businesses should keep all receipts and should definitely use financial management software like QuickBooks or Peachtree to track and report on the information.

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Most personal expenses, however, are routine and irrelevant, and keeping all receipts would be a waste of time and energy. Do you really need a receipt to prove that you bought some gum along with your gasoline?

There are essentially 6 reasons that people should keep receipts:

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1. Proof of purchase for warranties: Receipts for any major purchase such as appliances, electronics, or jewelry should be filed in your warranty files and retained as long as you own the item. We usually make files with the major heading “Warranties & Instructions” and then have folders for subcategories of Major Appliances, Small Appliances, Electronics, Computers & Peripherals, etc. depending on the person’s buying habits.

2. Proof of major expenses: Receipts for any major expense for your car should be kept in a file for that vehicle, as long as you own it. Major home improvement expenses should be kept in a file for “Home Improvements & Repairs” and then kept with your tax records after you have sold the home.

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3. Merchandise returns or exchanges: If you possibly could return an item (or if you gave it as a gift), you may want to hold onto the receipt for 30 days or as long as the store’s return policy applies (some are only 14 days). After that point, you can either throw away the receipts or file them if you need them for warranty reasons. We recommend having a spot for these kinds of pending receipts, such as a slot in a letter sorter or a “waiting” folder, and cleaning it out periodically when full.

4. Expense reimbursements: You may need to be reimbursed for work expenses made with personal funds. First, find out if your company can give you a credit card to use for these items in the future to keep things simpler. You also might enjoy using NeatReceipts, a scanner/software combination made just for this purpose.

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5. Budgeting and reconciling: You may be trying to make sense of how much you spend in certain categories. With online banking providing more and more data, do you really need to track everything? Sometimes we talk with our clients about what I call “Quicken Guilt,” the feeling of inadequacy of not entering every receipt into financial software and reconciling everything to the penny. If you feel you must keep receipts for this reason, we recommend having a simple January-December expandable accordion file to quickly and easily put them away.

6. Tax deductions: If you are going to tell the IRS something, you need to be ready to back it up. We recommend having an income tax file for each year. Always have at least one year’s tax folder made up in advance so you’ll be ready when the paper arrives. When you do have a receipt that will be tax deductible, you can jot a quick note on it first and then drop it in your tax file. Tax organization needs can vary widely depending on your situation, but most households don’t have that much and one folder will do.

Other than these reasons, you generally do not need to keep receipts, so liberate yourself and throw some away today!

Lorie Marrero is a Professional Organizer and creator of The Clutter Diet, an innovative, affordable online program for home organization. Lorie’s site helps members lose “Clutter-Pounds” from their home by providing online access to her team of organizers. Lorie writes something useful, funny, interesting, and/or insanely practical every few days or so in her Clutter Diet Blog. She lives in Austin, TX, where her company has provided hands-on organizing services to clients since 2000.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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