There are a lot different ways to keep a budget. Using receipt software might not always be the first thing that people think of when they start to get serious about better budgeting, but it can be a powerful tool to help you see where your money is going. Receipts have the original line-item data about what exactly you purchase, and can easily tell you exactly what you have been spending your money on.
In the past, it has been difficult to budget by organizing receipts. Free receipt scanning software like Shoeboxed can really help, though. You can organized, categorize, and export all your receipts easily in one place. Statistics are automatically generated about your receipts and your spending habits, which can help you in your budgeting.
Along with the receipt software on Shoeboxed.com, you can sign up for Receipt Mail-In, which makes it easier to keep track of every single receipt that you have. All those pesky paper receipts can be organized in your Shoeboxed account. By making it easy to get all your receipts in one place, Receipt Mail-In is a great budgeting tool and a great addition to the free receipt scanning software portion of Shoeboxed.com.
The first step to becoming a mindful consumer is to practice being mindful in the present. Erin Doland from Unclutterer has a 30-second challenge. Close your eyes and entertain thoughts relevant to everything that is going on around you. Shut out your to-do list, stop thinking about your boyfriend/girlfriend, and don’t let your mind swirl. Are your ideas focused? Are your muscles tense or sore? Is your breathing rapid or deep?
Being mindful of the present, and only the present, can be very difficult. I didn’t make it longer than five minutes, without losing focus on the present. Practice during your everyday activities. Next time you shop, ask yourself, “why do I need this?” Figure out how many hours of work it would take you to pay for the product. You’ll find that when you rationalize your purchases, it’s easier to stay within your budget.
While the article touched on what can be done in the moment to become a mindful consumer, I think that it’s essential to train your mind to evaluate purchases through reflection. If you’re a “math” person, examine your spending history statistically. You can use Shoeboxed’s graphs (found at the bottom of each of your shoeboxes) to analyze how you’ve been spending and evaluate specific purchases. Does your spending have an upward trend? What could you do to curb it? When you shop, try to visualize where your purchase would fall on the graph. Would this purchase continue your upward spending? Would this purchase deviate extremely from your average spending on products of this type?
If you’re more of an “English” person, grab a journal and a pen. Reflect on some of your purchases. You can look over your receipts, to help you remember what you’ve purchased at what cost. Did the purchase live up to your expectations? Did the product last long enough to warrant it’s initial cost? Do you use the product often? If you find that your purchases haven’t lived up to your expectations relative to their cost, research and see if there are cheaper/better alternatives. Next time you shop, compare purchases with those you’ve reflected on. Will the purchase fulfill your needs and expectations?
Reflect and clear your thoughts to rationalize your decisions. Being aware of how you are spending your money, is the first step to curbing unnecessary expenditures.
I do lots of different things at Shoeboxed – I guess that’s the nature of working 16-hour days. One of the most entertaining parts of my job, though, is actually using Shoeboxed. We want our user experience to be second-to-none, so we all use Shoeboxed religiously to organize our receipts, and we are all veritable Receipt Mail-In addicts.
Before I started using Shoeboxed, I never did any kind of serious budgeting. Living off my parents, the money coming in always seemed reconcilable with what I was shelling out. I was content just looking at my bank account online to check my balances. But I really wasn’t able to track my spending with any sort of accuracy. Debit card statements are notoriously hard to read because of shortened store names and little reference to what you actually bought.
But then I started using Receipt Mail-In, and with basically no effort, I now know a LOT more about my spending habits. I’m now religious about asking for a receipt from cashiers, and a never forget to keep it in my wallet. I dump it in my Receipt Mail-In envelope as soon as I get back to my desk, and then mail it in whenever I feel like it. (Yes, even though I work about 30 feet from the Receipt Mail-In operation, I use USPS just like everybody else) I have hundreds of receipts in my account, and it was really interesting for me to realize that most all of my receipts are for food. Here is a sneak peak into my personal account:
It really made me step back and realize how much money I could save by eating out less, and eating at less expensive places.
So this morning? I’m eating cereal instead of going out for breakfast at one of the restaurants across the street.
Receipt Mail-In is the first receipt organization service that makes organization into a reasonable task. Sure, a lot of people save receipts, but it it so time consuming to scan the hundreds of receipts required to get the detailed analytics that Mail-In users (like me) are privy to. Aren’t you curious what you will find out about your spending habits with Receipt Mail-In?