Sunday, May 13, 2007

Organizing credit card receipts

For many people, handling credit card receipts is an exercise in frustration. As in so many other areas, a good system is the answer to turning something frustrating into something extremely easy. Outlined here are the nuts-and-blots of the system we use at our home.

  1. Label a file folder for each credit card you have. Include store credit cards as well as major credit cards. These folders become part of your reference filing system.
  2. Label a file folder “Credit Card Receipts.” This folder will be placed in a tickler file folder. I like to use a colored folder so that it is easy to locate.
  3. Label a folder “Tax Deductible Receipts.” This file folder may go in your tickler file for the time of year you will be compiling your tax returns.
  4. In the evenings, empty you pockets, briefcase, etc. of any credit card receipts you have collected during the day.
  5. Take the loose receipts and put all of them in the back of the Credit Card Receipts folder. Filing to the back of the folder keeps the folder in chronological order and makes the job of matching items on the statement with their corresponding receipts much easier. Do not worry that receipts from different credit cards are being mixed together.
  6. When the credit card statement comes, throw it in the tickler file for the day you want to handle bills. Saturday is usually a good candidate. When Saturday comes, you will no doubt have several bills to pay, and you will handle them all at one time.
  7. Pull the Credit Card Receipts folder and begin with the first statement. For each line on the statement, pull the corresponding credit card receipt. You should have a receipt for each item on the statement. Any missing receipt is a red flag that you should take seriously. It is a sign of either holes in your system or fraudulent charges. If it is the first, shore up those holes. You will then have a reliable way of determining when you are being charged for something you did not purchase. Are there others in your family who also use credit cards? If so, they must be diligent about getting their receipts into the Credit Card Receipts folder.
  8. As you are matching items in the statement to the receipts, set aside any which will be tax deductible.
  9. Once you have matched all items to the receipts and the statement has been verified as being correct, write the check and tear off the portion to be returned.
  10. Take any of your tax deductible receipts and drop them into the Tax Deductible folder. If you need to write any explanation on any of them, now is the time to do that.
  11. Take the remaining receipts and staple them to the statement.
  12. File the statement in its folder in your reference files.

Should you need to go back and find a receipt, it can be in only one of two places. It can be stapled to the statement in the folder for that credit card. It can be in the Tax Deductible folder. It can be in no other place. Should you need to return an item and need the receipt, simply think in terms of the approximate time the purchase was made and with what card. It will take only a few seconds to scan the statement for that time period and locate the month when the purchase was made. Once you have the correct month, thumbing through the receipts to find the correct one takes only seconds.

Having a good system is almost as easy as having no system at all in terms of the time you will spend to maintain it. A good system is a huge time-saver for all the times you need to find a receipt and the money-saver when you need to dispute fraudulent charges.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Workshp on June 20--Jacksonville, Alabama

I will be conducting a session of "It's About Time" at the Jacksonville State University Inservice Center on June 20. The workshop will be held at the Fort McClellan Center. The workshop is free and is open to all Alabama teachers. To register online, simply click here.

The workshop includes:
  • How to use “tickler files” to keep your desktop clean and your paperwork under control.
  • How to use a daily planner as an effective tool to keep your organized and on top of your day.
  • How to document quickly and easily.
  • How to handle tasks which recur, whether each month or each year.
  • How to handle multiple projects easily.
  • How to organize the files on your computer in a logical manner.
  • How to back up your computer easily.
  • How to gain “chunks” of time by controlling interruptions.
  • How to “batch” similar activities.
  • How to establish priorities, delegate, and learn to just say “no.”
  • How to organize files and folders so you can find what you want.
  • How to back-up your data easily so that a hard drive crash won’t be a catastrophe.
  • How to handle tasks which recur monthly, quarterly, or annually.
  • How to handle documents you must “revisit” and update regularly.
  • How to use e-mail effectively.
  • How to organize correspondence so that you can find that memo in seconds.
  • How to use Google to put most any information at your fingertips quickly.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The book of your life—Calendars from past years

One look at your calendar for the coming days provides all of the date and time-specific information on your life. This post focuses not on the days ahead, but on days gone by. What does your calendar from yesteryear tell you about the progress of your life?

If you look at your calendar from a year ago, what does it tell you? Of what value is to you? Do you even still have it at all? For many of us, last year’s calendar went into the trash can before the sun set on New Year’s Day. For those who do save their calendars, the pages are full of appointments which now hold little or no value. The events which are significant get lost amid all of the events which are now trivial.

I recommend one simple habit which for me has transformed my past calendars from trivial to significant. At the end of the day, I aim to spend a few moments thinking through the course of the day. My purpose is to identify those events which might be worthy of review months or years into the future. Did I come up with an idea which will make life easier for me or someone else? Did a conversation I had today have a potential impact on future opportunities for me? Did an event of lasting significance happen in national news?

If the answer is “yes,” I create a new all-day event on my BlackBerry and record the significant event. At the same time, I delete appointments and all-day events which pose no long-term significance.

Some many be reluctant to delete past appointments in the event they are asked to reconstruct a time line. In my case, I will have the notes from any meeting, complete with date and time recorded. This documentation is all I need.

Each month, I print a hard copy of the previous month from Outlook. On one sheet of paper, I see what is significant about the month without the noise of the insignificant. This calendar page is filed permanently.

I began this exercise about 4 years ago. It has been extremely rewarding in helping me see the high points in my life and the important events of the times in which I live. The process takes seconds a day. It is of value forever.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hoaxes revisited

I have written about hoaxes we all receive in e-mails and how to separate fact from fiction in them using a quick Google search. PCWorld has published a list of the Top 25 hoaxes, which I think makes for enjoyable reading. You can read it here.

How many of these have made their way to your in-box?