Why You Should Think Twice Before Throwing Away Your Receipts

I am a collector of receipts. People make fun of me because I have a detailed file system, with categories for electronics, office supplies, travel, and more. But I’m the one laughing all the way to the bank, because my receipt hoarding helps me earn hundreds each year.

From hitting up the local coffee shop to buying a new sweater, you can end up with several crumpled receipts in your pocket at the end of the day. In an increasingly paperless world, it makes sense that you usually just toss those receipts in the trash.

However, ditching your receipts could be a costly mistake. As I’ve found out, you could be throwing money away.

1. Price adjustments

One of the best ways I save money is monitoring stores after I’ve made a purchase. If I see a new coupon or sale on what I bought, I visit the store’s customer service department and ask them to adjust the price. I can save as much as 25 percent by just watching the sales and taking a few minutes to stop in.

Your receipt on a recent purchase could save you money even days or weeks after your purchase. If you buy an item and it goes on sale afterward, you can usually get a price adjustment by heading to the store and showing your receipt. Stores such as Banana Republic, Best Buy, and even Walmart allow price adjustments within 14 to 30 days after the purchase.

If you do a lot of your shopping online, you can automate the price adjustment process by signing up for Paribus. Paribus connects with your mailbox and searches for receipts and compares them to retailers’ latest prices. If the price has dropped, Paribus files price adjustment claims on your behalf.

2. Product warranties

I bought my husband a tablet for his birthday that had a great warranty. Except I lost the receipt, so when it stopped working, the company wouldn’t honor it. I learned my lesson from that experience, so I hold on to receipts for items with warranties for months — even years.

Product warranties can be a lifesaver if an item you purchased breaks. A warranty can help you get a replacement in case a refrigerator or even a phone malfunctions. However, you usually need to show proof of purchase — such as a receipt — to qualify for the warranty.

Without the receipt, you might not be eligible for the warranty, and you could end up stuck with a defective item.

3. Tax deductions

Since I freelance, I have some business expenses that I can deduct on my taxes. I can deduct purchases such as a new computer or even the gel pens I like. However, when I was just starting out, I didn’t realize that. Because I didn’t keep track, I missed out on hundreds of dollars worth of deductions.

Your receipts can give you a significant break at tax time. For example, if you own your own business, freelance, or are job searching, the purchases you make can be deducted on your taxes. Those deductions can reduce your tax bill or boost your refund.

However, it’s important to have exact numbers; your taxes are not the place to estimate. Also, if the IRS audits your return, you might be asked to show proof of your expenses. Without receipts to document your purchases, you could end up paying penalties and fines.

When in doubt, hold on to the receipt; if you’re unsure if a purchase qualifies for a deduction or not, check with your tax preparer.

4. Returns

Most stores allow you to return your purchases if you change your mind, but some will only let you if you have a receipt. If you don’t have one, you could end up stuck with a lousy sweater or ill-fitting dress.

Whenever you make a purchase, it’s a good idea to hold on to the receipts or confirmation emails for at least 30 days to ensure you’re satisfied with the item and don’t need to return it.

5. Coupons

If you throw out your receipts as soon as you leave the store, you can miss out on significant discounts and special offers.

Stores such as Target, CVS, and Michaels often include valuable coupons at the bottom of their receipts. You can use those coupons during your next trip to save money. Without the receipt, you lose those savings.

Target now knows what brands I love, so I often get offers for discounted shampoo or nail polish. I can use those coupons the next time I shop.

6. Rebates

Apps including Ibotta, Checkout51, and MobiSave allow you to earn cash rebates by just submitting a picture of your receipts. If you shop at one of their participating stores — which typically includes grocery stores, pharmacies, and big-name retailers — the apps automatically scan your receipts and give you cash.

For example, as of August 2017, Ibotta is offering a $3.00 rebate on Ketel One Vodka. If you shopped at a liquor store and purchased that item, the rebate would be added to your account.

Signing up for these apps is an easy way to earn extra passive income. In one year, I earned nearly $200 with these apps. That’s certainly not life-changing money, but it’s a nice bonus I can use for holiday shopping or other splurges.

Managing your receipts (without going crazy)

Although your receipts can be valuable, dealing with the clutter can be frustrating. That’s why it’s important to come up with a system for managing receipts that works for you.

Some people who prefer paper copies like to keep files for their receipts. They might have separate folders for tax deduction receipts versus everyday purchases. By keeping the receipts filed, they can keep track of them and access them when needed.

Alternatively, you can take pictures of your receipts and upload them to a folder on your computer or cloud storage. You can easily categorize and delete them, or hold on to them for tax time.

Whatever way you choose, keeping your receipts for just a little longer can help you save money quickly and easily.

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