We Need To Talk About Your Receipt Stash…
Recently, I helped one of my clients to wade through at least five year’s worth of receipts. I always help sort through receipts when tackling offices, but they’re usually more interspersed with other papers. She had so many receipts, however, that we had to dedicate practically an entire session just to focusing on them.
These receipts weren’t in a disorganized state, I should mention. To the contrary, they’d been carefully filed by month inside mini accordion filers, and the outside of each of those was labeled with the month range and year contained within. Not that she’d ever once opened them to retrieve a receipt.
Neatness does not denote necessity.
By the end of the task, we’d filled an entire outdoor, large-sized (50 gallon?) recycling bin, freed up two large and crucial office drawers, and reached the conclusion that her old way of dealing with receipts had to be a thing of the past. She had to stop keeping most all receipts.
(You know how many receipts out of thousands she ended up keeping? Seven. And even those were ones she knew she probably didn’t really need.)
I was reminded, once again, of the almost mystical power that people ascribe to papers, and the tendency with which people automatically keep any and all papers–in this case, receipts– unless they’ve been expressly told they don’t have to.
Please allow me to be the first or most recent person to tell you: you do not need to keep most of the receipts you’re given.
Image credit: Apartment 34; photography by Aubrie Pick via
There are two reasons why you might need to keep a receipt:
1. It’s a tax deductible expense, or, 2. You need to return something.
Let’s break this down.
Here are a few common types of receipts which, if they aren’t tax deductible expenses for you, you do not need to keep:
1. Grocery store receipts
Sure, immediately tossing these kinds of receipts means you’ll run the risk of very occasionally eliminating the possibility of retrieving spent money. But, were you ever really going to get your act together in time to return that bushel of bad grapes to Whole Foods on your next trip there? Were you?
Or would you have been better off composting the spoiled fruit and not having to add a crumpled up receipt to your list of Things To Manage And Keep Track Of?
2. Restaurant/ take-out receipts
If there is a scenario in which you need to ask for compensation/ address a concern with a food order, it is going to be immediately, as in: you get home, start eating and want to vomit.
If you’re going to inform a dining establishment you believe they tried to poison you, you’re going to call them right then and there if at all.
You won’t need a receipt because the transaction will have been recent enough and personalized enough that you will still in their system. No restaurateur cares about your dumb receipt. I’ll bet.
3. Receipts for personal services, such as trips to the spa, to the manicurist, to the hair stylist, etc.
The same reasoning listed above applies equally to these personalized, service-based transactions.
If you have a hideous experience at your hair salon, go home and realize they’ve painted your hair a lovely shade of Exactly What You Weren’t Going For and call up to request that the situation be rectified, that salon is not going to ask to see your receipt. They’ll have a record of the stylist who served you, the services you received, and how much you spent. Receipt: null.
4. Receipts for ATM transactions
It is wise to retain your banking receipts until you’ve had the opportunity to verify your bank statements reflect accurately the deposits and withdraws you’ve made.
However, the dawn of E-banking has made doing this Simpler than washing your face. So verify that thing and be done with the receipt already.
Image credit: Liz Plahn
5. Receipts for clothing
Now, receipts for clothing can be a bit trickier. Even when we’re consuming consciously, most of us still prefer to reserve the right to return clothing items. It’s that whole Seinfeld-dressing-room-lighting thing: we want to ensure that what we thought looked good on us in the store still does now that we’re home.
So, I understand the desire to hold onto clothing receipts on a temporary basis. Realistically speaking, unless there are other extenuating circumstances at play (you’re spending time on an island surrounded by a moat filled with gators and you can’t get back to the store for at least 4 weeks), I believe that a two-week period is a more than sufficient amount of time for you to decide whether or not that clothing item was a wise shopping choice.
Longer than that, and the whole issue begins to slip to the far recesses of your mind, a.k.a. by the time you remember it again, the return window will have long ago elapsed, and the only form of compensation you’d be eligible for anyhow would be store credit.
-Keep the receipt in an organizer of some sort (a long, plastic zip pouch, or accordion receipt organizer) to give yourself a chance to try the item on another seven times. But consider that receipt slot a monthly situation. I.e. when it’s a new month, the receipts from last month have got to go.
-Start shopping more exclusively at stores with crazy flexible, user-friendly return policies. Stores that don’t require you to keep physical receipts in order to accept returns.
6. Receipts for toys or games or books for your children that you aren’t sure they’re going to be interested in or not
Return whatever it is. The children have enough playthings.
…Get the picture?
Other Posts You May Love
Search The Blog
Simplify Your World
Sign up for the email list to get inspiration and simplified tips sent right to your inbox.