He Says/She Says: Saving Receipts

He Says/She Says: Saving receipts

In the He Says/She Says series, we discuss financial topics where we agree to disagree. Now say “He Says/She Says” three times fast. Well done.

If you were to ask me which reality show I’d most likely appear on, I’d probably say Wipeout, House Hunters, or American Gladiators (circa 1990, not the failed 2008 revival). If you asked Joanna the same question about me, she’d probably respond with just one answer: Hoarders.

Joanna thinks I have an unhealthy obsession with saving receipts. I’d prefer to think I have a healthy obsession with saving our financial bookkeeping. I’m an organized, minimalist at heart and don’t have many packrat characteristics. But those small, rectangular slips of paper appear regularly in our civil disagreements.

Joanna: “Can I toss this Target receipt?”
Me: “Nope. I don’t know if I want to keep that hoodie yet.”

Joanna: “I’m throwing this Cracker Barrel receipt in the trash.”
Me: “I’ll throw you in the trash.” (note: this is the best comeback I can usually come up with)

Saved receipts have saved the day on many occasions. Proof of purchase for warranties, exchanging “thoughtful” gifts, returning defective products, tax deductions, travel reimbursements for work, etc., etc. Thus, anytime I consider throwing a receipt away, a voice calls out from deep within my financial soul that refuses to let it escape my grip. Most financial gurus recommend holding on to tax-related receipts for SEVEN years — their advice, not mine. So generally, I err on the side of being cautious and hold onto most important receipts (high dollar purchases, electronics, etc.) for that time period. Admittedly, some Chick-Fil-A receipts will slip themselves into that pile, too. After all, it’s not like they’re taking up any space! They’re just little paper lifesavers that deserve a home in a dusty file folder I won’t touch for… *cough* fifteen years.

But finances aren’t the only reason I’ve saved receipts. When I was younger, I got in the habit of saving receipts from special events and moments. My first date. Lunch at a (lousy) Mexican restaurant on Spring Break. But upon meeting Joanna (a.k.a. Receipt Slayer), I’ve stopped journaling my life through receipts. Which means we’ll never remember that one time we stopped at that gas station outside of Vegas. I can’t even remember the significance because I don’t have my paper memento.

So pop quiz, hotshot (bonus points if you can name that reference). Where do you stand on the great receipt debate? Are you a “hoarder” or a “slayer”? Weigh in with a comment below.

(Original photo by compujeramey)

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  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup December 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Oh receipts. I am like you Johnny, I keep them. My wife throws them away right when we get home. We have been screwed multiple times because something was broken or missing and we needed to return the item. Well, no receipt because the lady threw it away already. It is frustrating and I am dealing with it all of the time.

    I am going to go with Speed on the hotshot quote. I believe it was Dennis Hopper that said it.

    • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Ding ding! Correct movie and actor — well done.

      It seems like every time we need a receipt, Joanna happened to dispose of it days earlier. Not weeks or months ago, but just enough days where a dumpster dive is warranted. And then midway through my trash fishing, she usually remembers that she probably threw it out the week before. Not cool.

  • Reply DC @ Young Adult Money December 19, 2012 at 10:21 am

    I didn’t used to save all my receipts but I do now because we track all of our spending. I use the receipts to populate our spending spreadsheet, then put them into a box where we have each month’s receipts stored (i.e. Nov 2012 receipts, Dec 2012 receipts, etc.).

    • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 11:49 am

      Truth be told, I could probably be more organized with my receipt storage. And your method might just be that way for us in 2013.

  • Reply Budget and the Beach December 19, 2012 at 11:00 am

    You guys are too funny! I’m really enjoying reading your blog because it makes me laugh. I’m in the middle (so what’s my nickname?). I do save important ones and ones for my business write offs, but I hate receipts in general. They just seem to make there way all around my house, and possibly even breed with each other to make more receipt babies. Not sure how you two will settle that argument. lol!

    • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

      “…and possibly even breed with each other to make more receipt babies.” Haha! That’s amazing. That would make a really good stop motion YouTube video.

      If you’re halfway “slayer” and “hoarder,” you’re a “slayder.” Like Slater (from Saved by the Bell), except with a D.

  • Reply Lyn @ Pretty Frugal December 19, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I’m a hoarder. I have a shoebox full of receipts. I will give myself credit for throwing away any receipts for things have have already been consumed (food, clothes I’ve already worn), but I keep lots of other things. I have to go through the box once a year (I’m being generous to myself here) and get rid of the receipts I don’t feel like I ‘need’ anymore.

    As a side note, I also keep receipts from special memories, especially ones having to do with my significant other.

    • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 11:59 am

      Glad to know I’m not alone in my receipt journaling.

      I think part of my problem is not setting hard/fast rules. If I wear it, trash it. If I ate it, trash it. etc. Even as I type that I feel the receipt hoarder in me second guessing those rules… not good.

  • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Life changed. I’m going to go get a handbag today so that I can start this new life of reckless abandon. Also, I might be interested in some of your contraband. If we agree on a price, I’ll choose a phone booth rendezvous point.

    And since you correctly answered, “Who is the greatest actor of the 21st century and beyond?” I’ll give you credit for your Speed answer.

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty December 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

    I usually save receipts until I am convinced that I will be keeping everything on them. Then I toss them!

    • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      You make it sound so easy. I envy your judiciousness. I’m not good with black/white decisions. Lots and lots of gray area in this brain of mine.

      • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty December 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm

        Truth be told, I rarely buy anything….aside from groceries. When I do buy something, I usually have mulled it over for months and am pretty serious about keeping the item before I buy it anyway. Makes things easier.

  • Reply Canadianbudgetbinder December 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I’m totally the same as you mate but the thing is Mrs.CBB and I are both like you. In my Budgeting Series I talk about tracking receipts and the importance. We keep our receipts, like you in case we need to return something or if we need them for reference in the year. Once the receipt is no longer any good to us we get rid of them unusually once per year. So yes I’m a receipt hoarder just like you… wanna see haha.. probably not because you’re staring at your own pile! Cheers mate. Mr.CBB

    • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      I need to set a “Receipt Purge Day” on my calendar for next year.

      And I can’t see the rest of your comment because it’s blocked by the large mountain of receipts piled up in front of my monitor. Sorry.

  • Reply John S @ Frugal Rules December 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    My wife and I go around and around about this as well. If one is lying around for more than two consecutive seconds it gets pitched by my lovely wife. As you can guess I am the hoarder of the two of us. If it’s for something major we’ll (read me) try and keep it for the length of the warranty. Beyond that we’ll generally pitch after the billing cycle is over.

    • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      Hoarders unite! Sounds like your receipts see the light of day a full two seconds longer than they do in my home.

  • Reply Newlyweds on a Budget December 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I have a receipt drawer. If I think I MAY return something I keep it. Then a few months later, I throw them all away. Most stores will at least give credit if you don’t have the receipt. I don’t worry about tax-related receipts since we just do a standard deduction.

    • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm

      Standard deduction suddenly seems a lot more appealing. I really like the idea of a receipt drawer. Joanna probably does more. That will mean having to empty our current “restaurant matches/loose change/random batteries/ziplock bags with random crap” drawer…

  • Reply Kyle | Rather-Be-Shopping.com December 19, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Throw them AWAY! I don’t even take a receipt from most places, especially the gas station. They end up in my pocket and typically go through the wash. Once a debit receipt gets entered in the checkbook they are history. De-clutter at all costs, unless of course it is a big-ticket item then those get filed.

    • Reply Johnny December 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      I’m actually OK at denying receipts at the gas station. Because even my hardheadedness knows I can’t return my gas. But even still, some of those slip through the cracks and end up on our counters, as well.

  • Reply Chris December 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Ironically, I was searching in my truck today for a USB drive, and I noticed my console is overflowing with enough receipts to rebuild a tree. I started keeping receipts as a form of punishment/accountability/insanity. I haven’t done it in a while but I usually take them out of my truck and tape them onto paper in chronological order and make copies. Then I put said copies in a three-ring binder. I try to do it once a month but I’m lagging behind (by 3 or 4 months). I look at all the dumb irresponsible purchases I made and berate myself (this was much more relevant when I smoked). PF was made for the eccentrics like me, and I love it.

    • Reply Johnny December 20, 2012 at 1:10 am

      It sounds like together, we have a small rainforest in our possession.

      That system you’ve got actually sounds semi-sane and useful. That might be a subconscious reason why I choose to keep receipts littered around our house. And the best solution to de-cluttering is not getting receipts (SPENDING MONEY) in the first place.

  • Reply Catherine December 19, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    haha, I think I’m sort of a health medium. I keep anything I think we even may possibly need in the future but I toss anything like dinner out/coffee/baby wipes I’ve opened and used etc etc. Hubby keeps all receipts for his job/travel separate but I too am usually after him to toss.

    • Reply Johnny December 20, 2012 at 1:12 am

      “Healthy” and “receipts” are two words that do not work together in my lexicon. At least this post has made me admit it. That’s the first step to recovery, right?

  • Reply Travis @debtchronicles December 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Oh Johnny, how I identify with your situation….although I’m usually on the other end. I hate clutter, and I hate random pieces of paper laying around. I am a slayer, and I have an insatiable need to keep the kitchen counter clear, and unnecessary papers thrown away. My wife was constantly getting angry with me for throwing things away.

    Then, I chose a seldom used drawer in the kitchen, and resigned myself to the fact that it was being designated as what I like to call the “Twilight Zone.” I throw everything in there: catalogs, flyers, coupons, receipts….everything I would have just tossed if it had been up to me. When Vonnie asks where the Bed Bath and beyond flyer we got last week went, I just point at the drawer. Every now and then we go through it and find coupons that expired 6 months ago, or receipts from McDonalds.

    Invariably she questions why I kept all that crap. I’ll take that over being accused of throwing something useful away. 🙂

    • Reply Johnny December 20, 2012 at 10:45 pm

      Haha. The “Twilight Zone.” And you’re spot on — better to be questioned than accused.

      I keep hearing about the drawer system. The 2013 me is definitely listening. I’ll just enjoy the 2012 hoarder me for a couple more weeks.

  • Reply Rob December 21, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Up until the day that I retired (this past October) I’ve been a dedicated receipt hoarder and at (rare) times it has served me well, especially on tracking where I last bought a specific article and for how much I paid for it back then. That said, my first “retirement project” is now to de-clutter the contents of our house before we eventually downsize to a smaller house and take out some significant (tax free) equity. Sooo, given that we only need to keep 7 years of financial receipts, I started to shred our old income tax returns, starting back with the 1968 copy. Currently I’m up to the year 2000 and, because the end of world (as predicted by the doomsday yahoos) didn’t quite happen today (so far, anyway), I can now merrily continue to shred more income tax returns up to 2005. Next will be the disposal of our old bank statements, along with their receipts. And so it goes. Well, it’s a hobby !!! 🙂

    • Reply Joanna December 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Despite what Johnny says, he actually gets away with keeping a lot more documents than I’d like him to! Our filing system is bursting at the seams right now, and I’m soon going to task him with de-cluttering as well!

      Now that you’re doing it, you’ve gotta admit there’s something super satisfying about shredding and throwing away all those old papers, right? 😉

      • Reply Rob December 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm

        If you say so, Joanna (actually so far it’s been a pain in the back removing all those freakin staples before shredding) !!! 🙂

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  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls December 22, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I generally keep receipts for gifts until I am sure the receiver does not need it.

    Anything tax related goes in with the rest of the tax docs for the required 7 years (although, I believe the IRS will accept scanned records now considering many documents are sent electronically anyway).

    Big purchases like furniture, appliances or electronics, the receipts are attached to warranty documents and retained until we no longer own the item…or passed on if we sell the item.

    Other daily receipts are trashed!

    • Reply Johnny December 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      At the end of the day, it sounds like you probably keep a similar number of receipts as I do. The difference is that you actually know why you’re saving each one. 🙂 I would be smart to adapt some of your tactics in 2013 (fingers crossed) and get myself out of the receipt doghouse with Joanna.

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  • Reply tthibodoux July 27, 2013 at 1:01 am

    There is a great book called Organize your personal finances in no time. It suggests labeling three folders “This month”, “Last Month”, “Two Months Ago”. Covers 3 months since most items have to be returned within 90 days anyway. I also write on the receipt “Warranty”, “Home File”, or “Taxes” and at the end of the 3 months I move those receipts to their respective files. If you absolutely NEED to save the receipts, do as a previous poster suggested and label an accordion folder by month. Then at the end of the year, close it up and label with the year. As you can probably tell, I am a hoarder, but my husband definitely LOVES to throw receipts away. I just pick his up off the counter and stick in the file.

    • Reply Johnny August 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      That system sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Thanks for the tip and book suggestion. Just another to add to my stack of “I’ll get to that sometime in the next 10 years.” 🙂

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