1) Log your trip

I’m a data girl. I like to know what’s going on around me, near me, and all that happened before. My Google Calendar is stock full of events from my past, and of course, events for my future. To get some historical data on my grocery shopping habits, one of the things I like to do is to make a simple log of shopping visits. It takes me less than 10 seconds and allows me to search for previous shopping trips. Why would I need to know that? It helps me visually see the number of trips I do, plus keeps me encouraged on savings. I can see that last month my savings percentages were pretty high — couponing is paying off! There are two main ways you can track your spending.

Logging option 1

The simpler of the two, and the one that doesn’t require much effort would be directly logging the trip, your amount, and your total savings (coupons, rebates, and sale discount) to your calendar. Prefix your entry with something that you can easily search (so something you don’t normally put in entries) or add it to a separate calendar — just do something to categorize it.

If you are using Google Calendar, you can either go directly to the app or send a text using the below IFTTT recipe (or visiting the IFTTT  direct link). When sending use normal, human-readable language and the entry should add.

IFTTT Recipe: Log shopping trips to calendar connects sms to google-calendar

Logging option 2

From your mobile device or home computer, enter your savings into a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet will allow you to create graphs, easily access your historical data, and quickly compare data over a period of time. Although I love Excel, I like to use Google Spreadsheets since it is portable and has a form for quick access. The current savings tracker I use is a simple one, simply meant to record information. A copyable example is located here: http://bit.ly/1iXwngf  .  If you want to create your own, some of the fields you would want to include are the date, the store, the total cost, and the savings amount.

sampleshopping

3) Make a backup receipt

As someone who does all types of freelance work, works as a mystery shopper, and as an owner of a small business, I’ve gotten into the routine of taking pictures of receipts and storing them away for future recall, if needed. I can’t imagine not having something as quick as taking a picture with my cellphone to record by transactions. And, too, those same apps can be used for personal receipts, storage, and retrieval.

Scanning receipts after shopping purposes gives you the ability to add them to add them to digital budgets and you’ll have copies for tax purposes.

There are a copious amount of apps that allow you to scan documents and save those images to a place of your choosing. In general, you’ll want to find one with OCR capability — the ability to take scanned text and turn it into editable text.

Recommended apps: Good choices for receipt scanning are Evernote and Google Drive for personal use. I’d recommend something more robust such as Wave, Shoeboxed, or Genius Scan for business.

2) Get rebates, savings, points, cards, and cash!

Most recently I purchased an item that was on sale, had a coupon, and had a rebate on one of my rebate apps for $2.00! I got the item for around 70% off and I’m still plenty excited about it.

Rebate apps are useful prior to going shopping, to maximize your savings, or after shopping to get some unexpected savings. No matter how small your purchase, you’ll always want to check a rebate app. Some even give you a rebate for typical items: eggs, bread, cereal, and milk. It may not be much, but every penny adds up. And, if you are already going shopping, why not if you can get anything back in return?

Snap by Groupon

  • How to use: After shopping (or prior to) search through the app for items you’ve purchased, tap on the item, and click the add icon to add it to your purchase list. Afterwords use the app to take a picture of your receipt. Check off the items that you purchased on that specific receipt. Submit.
  • When can you cash out? After reaching $20.00.

Receipt hog

  • How to use: Use the app to take a picture of your receipt, and submit. Additionally, spin the app’s slot machines to earn points.
  • When can you cash out? The minimum amount of coins needed for $5  is 1000 coins. Awarded coins vary by receipt totals.

Savings star

  • How to use: Select the items that you purchased. Take a picture of your receipt. Submit. Alternatively, if your store supports it, add your loyalty card to the site. No need to upload a receipt — but you’ll have to wait a little while so your purchase is confirmed.
  • When can you cash out? After reaching $5.00.

Walmart Saving Catcher

  • How to use: Make purchases at Walmart and upload your receipt using the app. Walmart will compare local prices and check to see which prices are lower.
  • When can you cash out? Walmart reimburses you the difference in the amount of the item you purchased, and the lower price that’s found. Reimbursement is given via a Walmart egift card at any point.

Ibotta

  • How to use: Select the item you’ve purchased and complete the activities (usually a video). Scan the barcode of the item you’ve purchased, and scan your receipt.
  • When can you cash out? After reaching $10.00.

Checkout 51

  • How to use: Select the items that you purchased. Take a picture of your receipt. Submit. Alternatively, if your store supports it, add your loyalty card to the site. No need to upload a receipt — but you’ll have to wait a little while so your purchase is confirmed.
  • When can you cash out? After reaching $20.00.

4) Update Your Budget

I use the web service and app, Mint, to manage my financial outlook. Since it lets you attach links or files, I can easily add my receipt (that I took a picture of) to my transaction. When going over my budget to see what I can cut out, or find out why I spend to much, I have the actual receipt right away to review.

If you aren’t using a budget service such as Mint, and are instead using paper or a spreadsheet, simply name your files in a manner that would easily tie them to your budget expense record.  For example: Grocery Shopping [folder] > Bakers [store] > 10082015_133 [month, day, and year underscore, total].

5) Convert your receipt to text

Converting your receipt to text makes it searchable and, in some cases, the text editable.  One of my favorite uses for converted receipts are to store the prices and items in a spreadsheet. From there I have  created a grocery stock-up/rock-bottom price list. I can quickly see what my last price of an item was, and see if I’m getting a good deal with the sale that is going on. If the sale is substantial, then I know it is a great time to stock up on that item (not clear the shelves!).

There are some amazing apps on IOS that allow you to scan receipts and that will convert them just then. Android, not so much. Either way, I’ve noticed that they usually don’t have great storage options, and they don’t play well with other services. Because of that, I stick to either EverNote or Google Drive — two services I use on a regular basis anyway.

To use Evernote for receipt scanning, download the app, select camera, and select document. Your image will be scanned and will be searchable within the Evernote application (web or mobile). Evernote does not make the text editable.

To use Google Drive,  download the Google Drive app, click the plus icon to add a document, and click scan. The entire text conversion process has been a little iffy with me, but when it works, it’s fantastic. Because it makes the text editable, you don’t have to worry about entering your purchased items into a spreadsheet — you can copy and paste the text. Interested in learning more? Checkout this article on the entire Google Drive process.

Your thoughts

So what about you? Any apps or services I’m missing?  Anything you do differently?