How to Use Your Smartphone to Organize Receipts

Most of us have figured out some elaborate system involving folders and paper clips (or maybe a trough and shovel) to organize receipts. But now with these new-fangled inventions, you can make the receipt sludge pile a thing of the past.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #405

Yay! We live in the future with matter duplicators, instant teleportation, and a free, money-less society in which the world’s abundance is shared with all who need it. No … We don’t … Just kidding! And in our world of scarcity, the 1,500 families that own everything want to make sure than no one ever has anything they’re not supposed to. So when we travel, go on work lunches, or buy stuff that’s deductible, refundable, or returnable, we have all kinds of receipts to collect and take care of. Eight years ago, I did a ground-breaking episode that disrupted how the world manages receipts. That was in the pre-cell phone era, however.

Listener Giles Bartlett wrote in and asked me, “In the 21st century world, how do I organize receipts?” Wise, observant Giles! Thank you for pointing out this additional opportunity to completely disrupt receipt management. As the Get-It-Done Guy, I must rise to the challenge. If smartphones have changed the game, then once again we must Win The Game and wrangle all receipts into submission! Bwah hah hah hah hah! (I haven’t had my coffee yet this morning.)

Your new receipt-wrangling toolkit: Your smartphone camera and PDF technology to capture and store receipts.

Get a Scanner App and Capture Receipts

Get a scanner app. This is different from just a photograph app. When photograph a document with your phone, it’s different than making a photocopy. Photos can come out too yellow, the words might not be so clear, and the cropping might be off. A scanner app is an app that’s designed to fix these problems. You want a scanner app that’s designed to sharpen the photo, make it black and white, remove extra shadows, and correct the shape of the image if it was taken at an angle or distorted somehow. It’s also nice to have one that lets you adjust the compression of the scanned receipts, so you can choose the tradeoff between image quality and file size.

You also want a scanner app that will organize your receipts in ways your photo stream will not.

There are scanner apps that can consolidate multiple photos into a single document. If your receipts or documents are confidential, you can password protect what you scan. The scanner app I use is Readdle’s Scanner Pro, which has all of these features and more…

Write the Category on the Paper Receipt

When you get a receipt, write directly on the receipt which category it should be placed in. If it’s a meal, write down “meal,” who you’re with, and what you talked about. If it’s the Motel Six bill for your annual trip to the “Advances in Fungus Fertilization Techniques” convention, write “lodging, mushrooms” on the receipt. When it’s time to submit the receipts to your corporate masters (or to your governmental masters if it’s a tax-related receipt), you’ll know exactly what to do with them.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.