The whole paperless society chatter never took into account the blizzard that hits at this time of year. Wallets, purses and pockets overflow with receipts. Many frazzled shoppers cram them into drawers or inadvertently toss them in the recycling bin.
But come Dec. 26 when they realize how many returns need to be made, they’ll rue not spending a bit of time keeping their holiday receipts in order.
My system is ridiculously easy. I have one file marked Christmas gift receipts and another marked Christmas Purchases Miscellaneous. After I return from a shopping trip, whether for gifts, food or decorations, I pull out every receipt and put it into one of the two files.
For gifts, write the name of the person and the items on the receipts. Tiffany’s diamond ring, Dad’s pajamas, Aunt Flo’s candle, etc. This is particularly important if you tend to buy a lot of presents in a single category. Books are always on my list and I’m at the bookstores many times prior to Christmas. Even though the name of the book is on the receipt if you buy 10 to 15 books, my average every year, it’s easy to forget who got each one.
There’s another purpose in this two-file approach to holiday receipts. I’m always curious — aren’t you? — about how much I spend every year. Ninety per cent of the folks I work with on budgeting haven’t a clue what they spend over the holidays.
How can you possibly create a budget or cut back in a given area or at a certain time of the year if you don’t know how much you have been spending?
In the early part of January, before the holiday bills hit your mailbox, take an hour and add up your gift and non-gift purchases. You may pat yourself on the back for thrift, but if you broke the bank you’ll have a better idea about how and where to trim next year.
Alison’s Money Rule:
During the last days of Christmas shopping panic, your new best friend is a file marked Holiday Receipts.
– Alison Griffiths is a financial journalist, author and host of Maxed Out on the W Network. Write to her at email@example.com.