11 Reminders Why You Need to Save Your Receipts

by David Ning · 20 comments

receiptsGoing through my drawer full of receipts over the weekend was like driving through Manhattan during rush hour.  The long and painful process involved looking through them one by one and trying to figure out which ones are really worth keeping.  In hindsight, I should have thrown out the ones I won’t need but maybe it’s the “better safe than sorry” mentality that kept me from sorting them out from the get go.

“Why do I even keep those receipts”?  I asked myself numerous times.  Below, I thought of 11 reasons why I save those seemingly useless pieces of paper.

  1. Refund – What if I needed to return something?  Having a receipt is surely the only way for a hassle free exchange or return (assuming the terms on the back of the receipt says I can).
  2. When you don’t shop at Nordstorm – Whatever I said is not correct if you shop at Nordstorm. This department store’s return policy seems to be “we don’t have one”. I heard Costco has a pretty relaxed policy as well. Use it, don’t like it and return it anytime.
  3. Reimbursements – If you work for a company where you have to make purchases for them, you better save your receipts to get reimbursed. Whenever I see people filing expense reports with only one receipt worth less than $5, I always wondered “Why can’t you group them together and file less?” That was until the accounting department send us an email telling everyone to file those expense report no later than a week after the expense is incurred. Alright, if you want to do more work, I will shut up.
  4. Check Against Your Credit Card – I know so many people who never check their purchases against the credit card statements anymore. It’s such a shame because they might be paying for things they didn’t even buy. Worst yet, overpaying tips that they never authorized.
  5. Get Tax Reductions – As more and more taxes are filed online, it seems like there’s no need to keep those receipts. Just wait till you get an audit. You will be sorry then.
  6. Price Matches – Your credit card could have a program, the stores have them and your spouse might even offer it. The only proof of purchase though is through your receipt. Keep them.
  7. Save It for Warranties – Unless you want to fake a receipt (illegal in case you didn’t know), keeping those receipts just in case is a good idea. This is especially true for electronics, because usually the first thing they ask after you get on the phone is “When did you buy it”.
  8. In case the Cashier Never Activates Your Gift Card – I’ve ALWAYS worried that the cashiers will do something wrong with those gift cards. Now I have proof that it does happen.
  9. Show Proof for Services If it Wasn’t Fixed the First Time – Ever get something fixed and it starts breaking again within a week? Show them your receipt and tell them it wasn’t fixed correctly the first time.
  10. Record it in Your Budget – If you don’t save your receipts, how will you remember to write it down in your budget? Whether you do it everyday or once a week, just save those receipts because even if you CAN remember them, why waste your brain power when you don’t have to?
  11. Figure Out How to Use Up Your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) – If you can’t use up your FSA, wouldn’t you want to know what you bought before that qualifies? Receipts are a great place to start.

Maybe some things are just necessary after all. Save those receipts.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

FFB January 23, 2009 at 7:05 am

You’re so right with #4. Always save those restaurant receipts to check against your credit card. One time I found an extra $10 added as a tip when I had already left cash. Because I had the receipt I was able to find out and contact the credit card company for a credit.

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Lamont Proffit December 11, 2010 at 9:58 am

Before you contact your CC company contact the restaurant first. They can give you a credit and at the same time catch the person who added the extra tip to your CC. Restaurant Manager DC

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Dan Englander January 23, 2009 at 9:22 am

Good list. I would also add insurance claims to the list. When you need to file an insurance claim, you guarantee that you get the most amount back from the insurance company if you can prove what you bought and how much it was worth.

Dan Englander
Sheoboxed.com, Where Receipts Go

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elementaryfinance January 23, 2009 at 7:01 pm

This is a great article. I know I can use a kick in the backside when it comes to this. Thanks for posting. On my site, we also explore some of the basics of finance. Stop by sometime.

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Stock Investing Guru January 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm

You’d be surprised at some of the things you can deduct from your tax returns. Ask your CPA and save those receipts.

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Vik Dulat January 27, 2009 at 1:45 am

I think the best one on this list is the matching principle. You want to make sure all the charges on your credit card are yours and matching the receipts with the purchases is the best way.

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Lucy Naden October 4, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Williams Sonsoma is very much like Nordstrom.. I took a pot that I had had for several years back to the store because I wanted to replace it with the same size pot – not because I wanted to return it. The person who waited on me insisted on taking the pot back and replacing it at no charge. What a pleasant surprise.

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retail employee November 10, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I work in retail and am offended by the insinuation that your cashiers do not know what they are doing. In most instances it is a computer error that has caused your gift card from not working, not your cashier. The flippant way you write about this is offensive and like many other attitudes towards cashiers dehumanizes them. Yes, I read the link about the cashier selling a card twice, but still it is almost impossible that the cashier swiped the same card at the register twice when it was already in someone else’s possession. Maybe it was the manufacturer of the gift-cards that printed the same number twice or messed up the magnetic strip. Cut the person across the register from you some slack. And yes, always save your receipts because most corporate return policies are not as forgiving as Nordstrom.

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Stoney November 12, 2010 at 6:50 am

Another reason – a recent court case in Massachusetts where a property owner had discarded his old receipts for his property taxes and discovered ten years later that the town supposedly never received the taxes and never notified him that he was delinquent (how likely is that?) until he went to subdivide his property. Even though he had claimed the real estate taxes he had paid on his income taxes, it wasn’t sufficient – the court wanted checks or receipts showing payment. This is in a municipality where there are known problems. So he had to pay back taxes, interest, fees, the town’s attorneys fees, and court costs – I think the final costs were over $40,000. Now THOSE were some receipts worth keeping.

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fran November 22, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Another reason to save your receipts is you need to photocopy them. These receipts fade after a certain time and when you have electronics and extended warranties by the time you need it the print will be faded.

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ronika November 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm

And of course if you are a small business owner you should save your receipts to record and track your expenses. In addition to being potentially tax deductible, it helps you plan and budget your expenses for next year.

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returns co-worker January 6, 2011 at 8:14 am

Not all retail companies are like Costco or Nordstrom. Most places require customers to show proof of purchase for return, exchange, and warranty services. Maybe it is because most places do not have the deep pockets to offer services to all, including those who might not have paid for it through buying something first. It is not a lot to ask. And having receipts make my job so much more efficient… isn’t that what you all like? Hassle-free customer service?.

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Joe Baumgartner January 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I have saved receipts ever since I was divorced. In 1989 it was common for the spouse with the children to complain that the father was not providing anything for the kids on his days with the kids. Then, the dad was taken to court and was asked for proof that he did or did not provide for them. Because the court sided with the children, the courts in this state usually sided with the Mom and the man got an order to increase his support payment. If there are receipts the court will wonder what the Mom was trying to do.

Now after these many years I still collect the receipts. But there are other reasons.

The receipts help with insurance on collectibles: there is nothing like a quick cell phone picture(s) and a receipt(s) to at least prove that you did buy something.

Pictures of jewelry, especially uniquely designed and or expensive things are so much better than trying to describe it if there are pictures available. Again, the receipts are being saved by you so this unpleasant event is protected by a few minutes of your time.

I use Microsoft’s Excel for my budget work: as I collect reicepts I add them to this spreadsheet. Then, if something is lost or stolen, I can approximate the date of purchase. I also think that buying everything on a debit or credit card provides receipts that are usually more descriptive.

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robert January 19, 2011 at 3:37 am

I save all my receipts, then I scan them and save it on my computer forever. You can never tell when you might need them. I like the idea about taking a picture, I am going to start doing that too. I bought a computer program at Costco and the next week I get the Costco coupon book in the mail, there was a coupon for a discount on the program. i took it back to return it so I could get the discount. I had not opened the program yet but the clerk checked it out like I was stealing something. She open the program then removed the security tape and acted like I was returning a used program. I told her why I was returning it and Iwould take the same program and purchase it again but she marked it unsellable even though I told her it was unopened and unused. I guess I was insulted by he insiuation I was returning something I used. 5 minutes later I purchased the same program and received a discount with the coupon.

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Vicky Jo January 21, 2011 at 8:27 pm

You left a great reason out. In nicer stores, if you buy something and then it goes on sale the next day (I think within 14 days is typical, but the policy is different from business to business), they will make a “price adjustment” and refund you the difference. Woohoo. :-D

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putra February 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Yours are very good, I guess it most people often forget these things, nice tips.

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Kit February 25, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Another reason is to have proof of where you were at that time. Spoken by a legal advocate helping people defend false accusations.

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shopping sal May 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I have found out the hard way that Nordstrom resells everything that is returned. Used or not. We’ve bought a pair of shoes that were worn, Cosmetics that were used, clothes that smelled, etc. That is why their policy is more lenient.

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Yasmin May 15, 2011 at 10:15 am

please change Nordstorm to NordstROM. Thanks.

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Leslie October 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

I used to be horrible at saving receipts until I became a lot more budget conscious and started checking every transaction. I can’t tell you how much money and headaches this has saved me. It is amazing how many bar scanners have the wrong price attached to them and you don’t realize right away….check out lines are designed to get you out the door and not go through your bill. Kudos on mentioning the gift cards, I have received and given many gift cards that were not properly activated. Better to be safe than sorry.

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