This article, written by Cool Mom Tech, was originally published on Citi’s Women & Co.
We always dread the day we commit to poring over extensive year-end credit card statements and envelopes full of crumpled taxi receipts with such terrible printing—it’s hard to tell if we paid $20 for that cab ride or $80. Let’s face it: Tax time is stressful, whether you’re brave enough to do your taxes yourself or take them to a preparer or CPA.
Still, there are a few tech tips that can really help get you organized, lessen the stress, and make your overall financial management less daunting. Think of the move to digital financial management as a valuable investment of time; once you do it, it’s done forever. And then the real time and energy savings begin.
1. Stop using cash
We realized we’re better off putting as many purchases as possible on a credit card that we pay off each month than we are paying cash — even for a $4 latte on a business trip. This way, we have a record of every transaction through our credit card company, and a genius year-end summary of charges that helps us add up expenses much faster than going through individual receipts. Not that we don’t end up with some receipts, but when the majority are online, managing finances gets easier in every way.
2. Set up online bill payments
You can use your smartphone to photograph receipts. Probably the best financial organization move you can make is going paperless with every one of your bills. While there are a few checks you may still need to write here and there, paying everything online through your bank keeps you super organized. You can also use services like Citi’s Online Bill Payment, which lets you set up one-time or recurring payments to virtually anyone in the U.S. It’s fast—you can pay all your bills in minutes—easy to use, and comes with an Online Bill Payment Promise, so you’ll know that your bills will be paid on time. Then, when April rolls around, you’ll have fast, easy access to your payment history. It’s better for the environment, saves you money on stamps, and beats having boxes of paper scraps all over the house. Which is something we know far too much about.
3. Scan receipts immediately
Digitizing all your receipts is absolutely the way to go — even though we freely admit we can be procrastinators in this regard. But when we do take our own advice and scan receipts each night, financial management becomes infinitely easier. Just look for a great scanner made for receipts, ideally one that helps you sort everything into folders immediately. There are even portable scanners made for travel: If you’re on a business trip, you can scan the receipt, email the digital file, and toss the original so you won’t have a wallet bursting with receipts. There are also apps that digitize paper lists just by photographing them! Pretty amazing — and beats typing all that info into a spreadsheet.
Tip: In lieu of a scanner, you can use your smartphone to photograph receipts, then send them to your office when you need to file expenses, or save them in digital folders for your own records.
4. Create digital folders for your receipts
Speaking of those folders, if you itemize your deductions, having folders in your cloud-based storage can make it way simpler to file and organize receipts. Start one folder for meals, one for flights, one for supplies, and so on. We find this system is better than creating folders by month or by trip, since it’s how tax worksheets are organized. Then, just drop your scanned receipts into the proper folders. At tax time, all you’ll need to do is add up the info in the folders if you’ve been diligent.
5. Back up your returns digitally
It’s a good idea to photograph your passport, Social Security card and other important documents so you have a visual record of them if they’re lost or stolen. Same goes for your tax returns.
6. Find an app for that
There are some terrific apps — covering everything from your kids’ allowances to gift card management — to help you stay on top of your finances going forward. Plenty of them are free, while some charge small monthly fees. What’s most important is that you find one that works for you, even if it costs you a few dollars.
For good recommendations to get you started, check out Women & Co.’s Apps to Help You Streamline Your Household Finances.
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