Purchase Receipts Calculator for
Easy Personal Expense Tracking

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Show you an easy system for tracking expenses that works no matter how busy you are or how hectic your life is.

This free online Purchase Receipts Calculator will help you to tabulate and categorize your personal expenses from your purchase receipts.

After entering your receipts you can then print out a report that includes the time and financial opportunity costs of each expenditure, plus the total opportunity costs for each spending category and sub-category. Knowing these opportunity costs will help you to gain control over your spending.

Finally, the calculator's printed report will provide you with an organized and easy way to enter your personal expenses into your preferred personal finance software.

The Importance of Keeping Track of Expenses

Living within a budget is a critical part of maximizing the happiness profits earned by you and your family. But the only way you can "live within" a budget is by having a realistic budget to begin with.

In my experience the biggest reason most people fail at budgeting is because their budgets are based on overly optimistic spending forecasts instead of on historical facts. And after several failed attempts to live within these unrealistic budgets, most people just simply give up trying.

So if you truly want to maximize the emotional returns on the money you earn, the first step is to build a detailed and accurate record of your past spending. Once you have historical facts from which to base your budget on, the odds of successfully living within your means increases dramatically.

Keeping Track of Expenses the Hard Way

Most personal finance "experts" will tell you that the key to tracking your spending is to carry a notebook around with you and write down every penny you spend.

Well, that advice might have worked 20-30 years ago, but in today's hectic, fast-paced world, thinking you will stop to write down every expense as they occur is just not a realistic solution for keeping track of expenses.

After all, not only do you have multiple sources from which to spend money (cash, checking, savings, debit card, credit cards, money market account, etc.), but you can also spend money in multiple environments (online, offline, etc.). Plus, where we used to live our lives in 6-hour blocks of time, we now live our lives in 2-hour blocks of time.

Add all of these time pressures and financial complexities together and it's no wonder why so many people give up trying to keep track of their spending.

An Easy System for Personal Expense Tracking

Did you ever stop to consider that someone is already keeping track of your spending? It's true. Nearly every time you spend money the person or business receiving the money keeps a record of what you purchased and when you purchased it. And you, as the consumer, have the right to insist they provide you with a copy of that record ... otherwise known as a receipt (sales slip).

In other words, instead of always stopping to write down what you are spending, all you need to do is always insist on getting receipt, and then accumulate all of your receipts until you have time to enter them into your spending journal.

Of course, if you misplace or throw away those receipts, insisting on getting a receipt for your purchases won't do you any good.

How to Track Expenses Using Purchase Receipts

I have been using the receipt system to successfully track my own spending for years. In fact, the Purchase Receipts Calculator on this page is actually a tool I built for my own use several years ago. If you've given up on keeping track of your spending, I strongly encourage to give this system a try. Here are the basic steps to using the receipt system.

  1. Never, ever leave a spending event without a detailed receipt. In most cases the receipts you get will have the date, a breakdown of what you purchased, and the last four digits of your spending source if purchased with plastic. If the receipt you are handed fails to include these important bits of information, you will need to manually add them at that very moment.
  2. Don't allow a clerk to put your receipts in a bag. One of the things I learned early on in my use of the receipt system, is that shopping bags are like the Bermuda Triangle for receipts. I would see the receipt get put into the bag with my own eyes, yet later discover that the receipt had gone missing.
  3. Designate a spot in your purse or wallet to place all receipts. Take my word for it, if you put your receipts in different locations on different occasions (pocket, purse, glove compartment, etc.) you will end up losing track of valuable records of your spending.
  4. Designate a high-visibility spot on your desk for accumulating receipts. Periodically transfer the receipts from your wallet or purse to a designated, highly visible spot in the area you do your bill paying and money management.
  5. Designate a block of time each week for recording receipts. Think of a time each week that you almost always have a block of discretionary time, and designate that time to transfer the important information on your receipts to your preferred personal finance software. Early Sunday mornings have always worked the best for me.

Why Use the Purchase Receipts Calculator?

By now you are probably wondering why you would want to enter your receipts into the Purchase Receipts Calculator, only to have to then enter the same information into your personal finance software. Here are a few reasons I use the calculator before entering the information into my own personal finance software.

  1. To Stay Fully Aware of the Opportunity Costs of My Spending. On the printed spending report, every itemized expenditure lists the calculated time and financial opportunity costs they created. Just seeing how much you are giving up in return for what you are getting can help to make a significant increase in the emotional returns you are getting from the money you earn.
  2. Allocate Sales Tax to Responsible Spending Categories. One of the most time consuming tasks in the receipt system is the process of separating taxable purchases from non-taxable purchases. In other words, if I have a receipt that includes items from more than one spending sub-category, and I want to allocate sales tax to the responsible expenditures, I need to first separate the taxable from non-taxable, and then multiply each categorized taxable amount by the sales tax percentage. The calculator does all of the calculating for me. So even if you choose not to enter all of your receipts into the calculator, you might still find it useful for those receipts that cover multiple taxable and non-taxable expense sub-categories.
  3. Detailed Hard Copy of Spending Record. If something happens that causes me to lose the data stored in both my expense tracker software and my back-up copy, I will still have a written record to rebuild my data from. Plus, one thing I don't like about personal finance software is that it stores your information in the background of your life (out of site out of mind). My printed spending and opportunity cost reports sit prominently on my desk (foreground) where I can't help but notice them.

If you notice a spending sub-category that you think should be added to the calculator, please let me know (include a reference to "Purchase Receipts Calculator" when submitting the Contact Me form).

With that, let's use the Purchase Receipts Calculator to tabulate and categorize your spending from your purchase receipts.

Purchase Receipts Calculator
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Instructions: Enter your current age, the age you plan to retire at, your real hourly wage, the annual interest rate you expect to earn on your investments, and your local sales tax percentage rate.

Next, for each receipt, enter the date and a short name of who the receipt is from. Then select the payment source, enter the reference number, and enter the total from the receipt.

Next, for each spending sub-category the receipt contains, select the category and subcategory, and then enter a memo and the amount (if different from the amount that is automatically filled in). If a receipt has more than one spending sub-category, and one or more of them are taxable, enter the taxable sub-categories first with the sales tax check box checked. Also, regardless of whether it's taxable, try to always leave the sub-category with the most items on the receipt for the last entry.

Once you have allocated the total receipt to various spending sub-categories, click the "Add Receipt to Purchase Receipts Calculator" button. Finally, after adding 5-10 receipts, click the "Create Spending Report" button to view and print your expense breakdown along with their time and financial opportunity costs.

Mouse over the blue question marks for a further explanation of each entry field. More in-depth explanations can be found in the glossary of terms located beneath the Purchase Receipts Calculator.

Important The calculator is for entering and printing results only and does not save your entries. If you refresh or leave the page you will lose your data. Therefore you should only enter 5-10 receipts at time, print the report, reset the calculator, and then enter another 5-10 receipts and repeat the process.

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Opportunity Cost Variables
Help Current age (#):
Help Retire age (#):
Help Real hourly wage ($):
Help Expected annual return on investments (%):
Help Sales tax percentage (%):
Paid To
Ref #
Receipt Items
Tax? | Category
Help Receipt remainder:
Help Receipts Entered
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Purchase Receipts Calculator Glossary of Terms

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Current age: Enter your current age.

Retire age: Enter the age you plan or hope to retire at. The calculator will calculate the number of years till you retire and use that for calculating the opportunity costs of your spending (will appear on printed report).

Real hourly wage: Enter your after-tax, after work-related-expense hourly wage. If you're not sure what your real hourly wage is, please visit the Real Hourly Wage calculator (opens in a new window). The calculator will use your real hourly wage to calculate the amount of time you are spending (included in printed report).

Expected annual return on investments: Enter the annual interest rate you expect to earn on your investments. Please enter as a percentage (for .06, enter 6%). The calculator uses this figure for calculating the financial opportunity costs of your spending (shown on printed spending report).

Sales tax percentage: Enter your local sales tax percentage. The calculator will use this figure to help you assign sales tax to the sub-categories that you are charged sales tax on.

Receipt Entry Row

Date: Enter the date printed on the receipt. If you would like to be able to sort the report by Date, be sure to enter the date in a YYYYMMDD format (August 9, 2011 would be entered as 20110809).

Paid To: Enter the name of the business the receipt is from. To keep the printed report from getting too wide or tall, try to enter a name that is just long enough to recognize what store is being referred to.

Source: Select what method of payment was used to make this purchase. This is important for when you go to enter the receipts from the report into your whatever personal finance software you happen to use.

Ref #: Optional: Enter a reference number or name that points to the document or account used to make purchase. This could be a check number, the last for digits of the debt or credit card that was used, or the type of card used (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, etc.).

Total: Enter the grand total listed on the receipt. In order for the calculator to work properly, this amount must be entered before allocating portions to sub-categories.

Receipt Allocation Columns

Spending category list: Select a category to display the list of sub-categories available to choose from. To help you to think of your life as a business (in pursuit of happiness profits, not monetary profits) I have created these 5 main categories of spending:

  • Administration: Expenses essential to running the household, such as legal, accounting, tax preparation, communications, office supply, etc..
  • Entertainment: Non-essential expenses incurred for the sake of reducing boredom, increasing status, attempting to buy the affections of another, keeping up with the Jones', feeding unhealthly habits, etc.
  • Personnel: Expenses related to caring, feeding, clothing, and educating you and the members of your household.
  • Residential: Expenses related to housing the members of your household.
  • Transportation: Expenses related to transporting members of your household.

Spending sub-category list: Click on the sub-category you want to assign an amount to. The calculator will populate the next available row with the selected sub-category. If you want to change a sub-category already entered, click in the sub-category field you want to change and select the sub-category to replace it with (you will then need to click in the next blank field to get back on track).

Tax? | Category column: If you want the calculator to total your sub-categories on the report, be sure to use the selection menus for filling in the sub-category fields. If you enter them manually they will not be tabulated. If you want to assign sales tax to the responsible sub-categories, be sure to enter the taxable expenditures first and with a check in the sales check boxes. Leave the non-taxable amounts for the last entries. Note that if all items on the receipt are taxable, leave all sales tax check boxes unchecked.

Memo column: Optional: Enter a memo you would like to have appear on the report. Again, to keep from stretching the height and width of the report, keep the memo as brief as possible.

Amounts: You can enter any number of amounts in this field. Simply enter a plus sign (+) between the amounts and the calculator will automatically sum the entries and display the result in the Total column. For example, if your receipt has three Cleaning items and the prices are $3.25, $5.26, and $6.27, simply enter 3.25+5.26+6.27. This will save you from having to enter every item and amount for every sub-category.

Total: This is the calculated total of the amounts entered in adjacent column, along with the sales tax if the sales tax check box is checked.

Receipt remainder: This is the difference between the total of the receipt and the combined total of the sub-category amounts. If this amount is negative you will need to adjust your sub-category amounts down until this amount is equal to zero.

Add Receipt to Purchase Receipts Calculator button: Click this button to add a receipt to your list. This version has no option for editing or deleting an entered receipt, so you will either need to enter the receipt again and ignore the original on the report, or start over.

Receipts List: After clicking the Add Receipt to Purchase Receipts Calculator button the receipt will be added to a list below. Once you have a list you can then sort the list by a specific column by clicking the radio button next to the column title. This sort order will be used to sort the report as well.

Create Spending Report button: You can click this button at any time to view and print your spending report.

Reset button: Click this button to clear out all receipts and spending sub-categories so you can start over from scratch.

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