You’ve just come back from a business trip.
You need to submit an expense report, but unfortunately that means you have to deal with all those receipts.
Where should you start?
How should you organize things?
In this post, I offer several tips to help you organize all those little bits of paper with ease.
Clear off your desk or workstation.
You don’t want to wrestle work manuals, your keyboard, books, magazines, and anything else you may have on your desk. A clean space makes it easier to see what you’re doing.
Don’t have time to clear things off? Make use of a desk or table in an empty office or conference room.
Round up materials.
Collect any and all receipts that need to be processed.
You should also round-up several blank sheets of paper (8 1/2” x 11” size), a pen, clear tape, a stapler, scissors (just in case you need to do some trimming), and a large binder or paper clip.
Be sure to have your trip schedule, calendar, or itinerary handy.
Sort receipts by date.
This is by far the easiest way to sort receipts. It’s also a helpful way to jog your memory.
You can review your trip itinerary and then check if you’ve got a corresponding receipt for that task or meeting.
For example, if, on the first day of your business trip, you took a taxi to the airport, an airline flight, and a taxi to your hotel, you’d know you need a receipt for each leg of your journey.
If you already know you’ll need to sort your receipts by general categories (such as lodging, travel, meals, entertainment, supplies, internet, etc. ), you should do so at this point.
Begin by placing the stack of receipts on your left hand side. Pick up one receipt and place it in front of you on the table. Continue with each receipt, creating a little receipt timeline of your trip. You should have a stack of receipts for each day of your trip.
Once you’ve assembled receipts by date, you can then…
Sort receipts by time.
Pick up the furthest most pile of receipts on your left (this should be the first stack of receipts, and the first day of your trip), and sort that pile into chronologic order.
When you’re finished with that pile, continue on to the next until finished with all the days of your trip.
Assemble and affix receipts.
Pick up the stack of receipts from the first day of your trip, and assemble them on a sheet of paper as if you were writing a letter, or reading a book, left to right, and then down vertically.
Once you’ve finished covering the sheet of paper, tape down the receipts, label the sheet of paper “1,” and continue the process, making sure to label each of the sheets of paper.
Assemble the sheets of paper together with a binder or paper clip.
Complete your expense report.
Now, all that’s left to do is to fill out your expense report. You may have to itemize each item by hand on a form, or type up/fill out an expense report on the computer. The process will be that much quicker, now that you’ve carefully organized your receipts.
Here are a few more tips to help you easily process those receipts:
Take a receipt envelope with you.
A clear or transparent poly envelope is a convenient way to store receipts when traveling. These folders are sturdy enough, so you won’t accidentally throw them away, plus, they’ll prevent receipts from getting wet, sticky, or dirty.
Presort receipts during your trip.
At the end of every day, organize your receipts by time. Fold the lot into neat packet, and place into your receipt envelope. Repeat as necessary. It will make the process go a lot smoother when you’re back at the office.
Understand your company’s expense report policy.
The above tips are just a guideline. Your company or organization might have specific rules or regulations as to how receipts should be prepared or filed. When in doubt, check with your company’s accounting department.
How about you? Do you travel frequently for work? Do you think you’ll use any of the above tips? Do you have any tips of your own to share? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!