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Receipts: Which to Keep and Which to Pitch

Receipts: Which to Keep and Which to Pitch

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    A shoebox full of receipts seem to be the norm for most of us, whether or not we manage our money online. Every time we make a purchase, we shove receipts in wallets, pockets or purses. We bring them home, sometimes sort them and drop them into a shoebox. From there, we ignore them until tax time — often even longer. But we don’t actually need most receipts. While some we may need to hold on to for taxes or records, the grand majority can be out of your house within a week.

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    Short-Term Keepers

    Receipts tend to fall into two categories: those you need to keep at least long enough to double check them against your purchases when you get home and those you need to hold on to for a bit longer. The short-term keepers can be thrown away as soon as you’ve taken care of checking them — I tend to shred these sorts of receipts, but many don’t have any sort of information you really need to worry about.

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    • Cash Receipts: If you keep track of where you spend your cash (as opposed to using a debit or credit card), you may need to note any receipts for cash spending on your money management software. After that, you can get rid of it.
    • Clothing Receipts: Once you’ve put on an outfit and taken off the tags, you can generally get rid of the receipt.
    • Restaurant Receipts: It’s generally worth keeping receipts from restaurants at least long enough to check them against your card statement if you left a tip on your card. There is a chance that the tip can be altered or misread, and you’ll need your receipt to dispute it. If everything checks out, and your meal wasn’t a business expense, you can trash the receipt.

    There is a school of thought that you should keep a receipt until you get rid off whatever you purchased — for instance, you should hold on to a receipt from the grocery store until you finish off your gallon of milk. That’s because you can get reimbursements in many situations (like recalls) or may need to take the item back. It comes down to your personal choice just how long you want to keep receipts for things like groceries and gas, but generally, less than a month seems like a good choice. Otherwise, though, most personal expenses aren’t even short-term keepers. Your grocery receipt may not even need to make it out of the store’s door with you.

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    Long-Term Keepers

    There are some receipts you may need to hold on to significantly longer than the month it takes for your card statement to arrive. Receipts can be used as proof of a whole list of different things, from tax deductions to warranties, so you’ll need to hold on to a few receipts. I know many people that scan these important receipts to make sure that they have them handy. The IRS does accept scanned receipts, but if you’re trying to work with a credit card company or insurer, you may need to hang on to the original.

    • Business Expenses: If you own your own business, most expenses are tax deductible. Hold on to those receipts, though — in the event of an audit, they come in handy. That includes some receipts you might otherwise get rid of, like gas or meals, as long as they are business expenses.
    • Job Search Expenses: You can deduct many of the expenses associated with a job search, so hold on to those receipts.
    • Employer Reimbursement: With most companies, you’ll need the receipt for any expense you’re reimbursed for. It’s generally worth making a copy to hold on to until you actually get a check — you’ll likely have to turn the original over to your employer.
    • Medical Expenses: Between tax deductions and insurance, holding on to any receipts for medication, doctors’ visits and procedures is a must.
    • Big Purchases: Hold on to the receipts for big purchases, like appliances and electronics. Defining how big can be tricky, but consider how you paid for it — if you used a credit card, you may have a warranty beyond what the store offered you, as long as you have the original receipt. You may also need receipts for big ticket items in order to make an insurance claim.
    • Warranties: If you purchase any product with a warranty, you’ll want to keep the receipt — you may need it to claim the warranty or even prove that you have it. When possible, it makes sense to keep warranty receipts together with the product that they came with. Taping them inside owners’ manuals can be an easy way to keep track of them.
    • Donations: It often takes an extra step to get a receipt for a donation — but it’s worth it. You’ll need it if you want to write your donation off on your taxes.

    Just how long you need to keep receipts for depends on just who might ask to see them. A good rule of thumb is that anything related to insurance or warranties can be thrown away once you get rid of the item in question — if you replace your stove, for instance, you’ll want to keep the new receipt, but you can throw away the receipt for the old appliance. For the IRS, how long you need to keep receipts can vary significantly: the very longest you might need a set of receipts is seven years.

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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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