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Lean Bookkeeping [Lean Startup
Posted on January 11, 2019 @ 09:02:00 AM by Paul Meagher

My main resolution this year is to become more organized. With this goal in mind, I started to sort my farm receipts for the last 4 months (Sept to Dec 2018). So far, the setup below is what works for me:

Shown here are 4 open legal folders on the couch, one folder for each of the last 4 months of 2018.

I also cut strips of paper, folded them in half, and labelled one side with a label for the type of receipt that goes there:

  • Farm Fuel
  • Truck Fuel
  • Machine Maintenance
  • Small Tools
  • CCA purchases (purchase over $500)
  • Wine Supplies
  • Planting Supplies
  • Building Supplies
  • Fencing Supplies
  • Accommodation Supplies
  • Office Supplies
  • License & Registration Fees

I don't have to create the same number of category strips for each folder, just the ones that are necessitated by the types of receipts I encounter for that month.

I initially thought I would use the 3 slot trays to sort my receipts into the proper month. After sorting receipts by month I would then sort them into the proper category. You can see a three slot tray on the coffee table and on the sofa that I was using for this purpose. It turned out there are some inefficiencies with this approach. As I was placing receipts into the proper monthly slots, I found myself not wanting to mix them together. Instead, I wanted to put frequently occurring gas receipts together in a pile separate from other receipts so I wouldn't have to sort through them again. I also noticed that small tool purchases were popular and that it would be efficient to separate them out as well. I then started examining receipts in more detail and decided that I only want to do this sorting decision once. So I stopped presorting receipts into the monthly slots and am placing them directly into the appropriate monthly folder with receipts of the same type wrapped in a strip of paper with a category label on it. There are also a few miscellaneous folders for special transactions like a land purchase, vehicle and house insurance, and utility statements.

This example illustrates a fundamental principle of Lean Bookkeeping - that you should handle receipts as few times as possible.

Receipts are like a split piece of wood. If you have a wood stove you are probably aware of all the handling that you have to do on a piece of wood before you insert it into your wood stove. Lean Woodburning involves reducing the amount of wood handling as much as you can. For example, last summer I got split fire wood for the farm from a local supplier so my wood handling began with carrying it from the back of the suppliers half ton truck into my wood shed where I piled it into rows. This is an improvement over previous years when split wood was dumped outside the front door of the shed. I had to throw or wheelbarrow wood from the pile into the shed and from there handled it again to pile it. I also didn't have the lawn damage and mess that dumping wood causes.

In previous years, I took wood to the house by carrying arm loads of wood from the wood shed to the kitchen and placing them into a wood storage box beside the stove. This year I got lazy and loaded the wood onto a Costco dolly and leave the wood laden dolly in an inclined position beside the wood stove. I'm saving myself the work of unloading the wood, the weight of carrying it, and only need to make one trip to have a good wood supply in the house. The dolly beside the stove is not winning any awards for beauty but it works for me when I'm at the farm in colder weather.

Any receipts we generate are like a piece of split wood and alot of my disorganization around receipts comes from handling them too many times. I still have to transcribe receipt amounts into a digital format so there is more handling to come and more ways to lean my bookkeeping process. It would be nice if I was sufficiently organized that I digitized my receipts right away, but it is what it is and you have to start somewhere.

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