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Hints from Heloise: Use spreadsheet to track donations

Keeping record of charitable giving helps at end of year

SHARE Hints from Heloise: Use spreadsheet to track donations

Dear Heloise: It seems that sending a donation to a charity just generates more letters. I have those I want to contribute to once a year. I had trouble remembering if I had already made a contribution when I received each letter. I now begin each year with a spreadsheet that has columns for the date, charity items donated or check number and the amount.

I keep every receipt when purchasing items to be given to worthy causes, and I record the information on the sheet. I assign a number on the letter of solicitation or replies from the charities, with the corresponding number on the spreadsheet. I can quickly look to see if I have given for the year before making another contribution. At the end of the year, I have a complete list of charitable giving, and with the spreadsheet I can quickly add the total.

I was surprised when I did this to see that the very small things mount, and for income-tax purposes it was more than taking a standard deduction. I also use a spreadsheet to keep a record of my travel for charity, such as my miles delivering Meals on Wheels and other volunteer work. —Paula in Texas

Paula, little amounts can really add up! This is a good way to keep track, and as you said, it's surprising! —Heloise

Dear Heloise: Recently, I had a problem with my computer at work where it wouldn't let me network with any of the other computers in my office. So, I called our computer guy, and he said to shut down the computer completely and see if this fixed the problem.

So, I gave it a try, and guess what? It was fixed when I turned my computer back on. So, from now on I am going to try this first — because I might just be able to save a service call! —K.M. in Texas

Yup, this does work many times. Also, if the printer is "misbehaving," try turning it off, checking all the connections and praying! —Heloise

Dear Heloise:The hint for putting sensitive paper information in the bottom of the cat-litter box is a good one. However, since I don't have a cat, this is what I do: I take a permanent black marker and mark out all sensitive information. On credit-card applications, for instance, I black out my name and address and scribble all over the application blank. I then tear it into small pieces since I don't have a shredder. I figure anyone who would try to reconstruct that would be desperate but not have much success getting a credit card. —Carol from Minnesota

We also got a comment from Jane, via e-mail. She says: "To further aid in avoiding identity theft, after shredding my documents I divide the shreds between two or three plastic grocery bags and add some water to them before tossing into the garbage can. Identity thieves can have fun going through the gunky papier-mache mess! —Heloise

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column. © King Features Syndicate Inc.