I am an anal person. I should have been an accountant. I keep track of every penny I earn and every cent I spend. I’ve been this way for years.
I haven’t always accomplished the results I intended but I’ve made it a mission to record every receipt.
Why, you might ask?
I think I started from the little bank books recording my paycheck deposits, then I started keeping the little paper receipts shop owners place in the bag along with whatever you bought. Everyone does it, even today.
I may have picked up this habit from my father who kept an intense ledger of family expenditures. Many a night I’d see him sitting at the kitchen table going over receipts and writing them down. On Sunday’s he’d take me to his office and while I played on the typewriter, he’d work the tabulating machine meticulously checking numbers and cost and profit and salaries and however he was cooking the books.
On my meager salary I didn’t want to pay someone to prepare my taxes so I started saving receipts. At first a shoebox held the little wonders that were going to save me from paying taxes to legal folders crisply marked with “Grocery” or “Electricity” or “Illegal Substances”. If I had been raided, I had all the evidence neatly arranged.
File cabinets were set up to hold the folders until the first of the year when the tax forms arrived. Technology had presented the calculator to help from counting fingers but all the numbers had to add up.
Each year the tax forms would change and the instructions (written in government lawyer speak) didn’t help much as to what could be deducted and what could be claimed. For those deductions you had to have proof in case you were audited, so another file cabinet had to be used for past years receipts.
To keep things organized these little thin strips of paper were stapled together to mark the month or place of business frequented or some sort of fashion that was worthy of a number cruncher.
When the purchase became larger, like a car or a house, the receipts also grew and additional filing had to accommodate the extra paperwork.
Some weeks were too busy so the pile would sit until later to sort and try to remember the store and the purchase. A written ledger was started to duplicate the receipts trying to make some sense of them.
At the end of the year the numbers never added up because receipts were lost or never received from the store.
To make matters worst, the ink on the receipts fades. After a year or two (or maybe a week) there is nothing to read. Now I had folders with stapled scraps of blank paper.
Luckily computers came along and Bill Gates (in all his wisdom or luck) convince the world to stop using written ledgers and start using digital spreadsheets. Apple also had ‘numbers’ which is their spreadsheet app but it didn’t travel well to PC users, so I learned Microsoft (also available on the Mac). The accountants never understood how I could work in the Apple environment and send them spreadsheets that work on their PCs. Some people know the secrets.
The best part about spreadsheets is I could set up formulas to add, subtract, percentage, average, etc. I checked some other software when calculating time and cost doing freelancing but every year there would be an upgrade or a new faster, fancier version in the mail.
So today I keep a meticulous record of every penny I pay and it all adds up correctly. Logging expenditures has become a daily ritual to record the receipt while the ink is still readable. I even itemized the articles purchased but not each extra cost. I also keep track of every meal I have per day but not the calorie count thought I probably ought to start.
Taxes have become easier without all the deductions and saving receipts so the short form accomplished returns. Still I have a folder with my first tax returns.
Receipts? I save them for a year and then shred them. There are enough electronic backups so why hoard?
Why didn’t I learn this in economics class? Oh yeah, I took typing instead.