Financial Records: Keep or Toss?

Are you a receipt hoarder? If so, Real Simple has a quick guide to how long you should keep various types of financial records, organized by how long you should keep them. For example:

Toss Every Month:
• ATM And bank-deposit slips, after you’ve recorded the amounts in your check register and checked them against your monthly bank statement.
• Credit-card receipts, after you’ve checked to make sure the item appears correctly on your monthly statement.
• Sales receipts for minor purchases, after you’ve satisfactorily used the item and if it has no warranty.

You mean we don’t need this Ruby Tuesday’s receipt from 1997? —MEGHANN MARCO

Deciding Which Financial Records to Keep [Real Simple]


Edit Your Comment

  1. So I don’t need every credit card/debit card transaction receipt since 1999?? Good to know…

    What about bills?? We learned this year that saving all cell phone/long distance bills for the last 3 years would have been a good idea…

  2. shoegazer says:

    Best. Commenter name. Evar.

  3. shoegazer says:

    I keep my receipts for major things like business travel (even though I charge it to my company), even after it shows up on the credit card, because invoice numbers and the like might still be needed in an audit. Everything else I just trash after a couple of weeks. Anything where they email a receipt number, I throw the paper copy too.

  4. brilliantmistake says:

    I keep receipts for everything that winds up on my taxes for three years. I was wondering about the new laws where you can deduct sales tax. Do you need to keep receipts for all of that? Seems like a lot, but I’d hate to get audited without them.

  5. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    If you don’t mind spending some cash, you can pick up a scanner and a copy of Adobe Acrobat. Scan your important or semi-important financial documents. Then box it and stow it. After X years go by and you don’t think you need them, just shred the documents and keep the PDF version.

  6. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:


    Are PDF files as valid as paper docs in case of some legal need?

  7. cindel says:

    You can actually scan your receipt and file them away. I thought the norm was 5 years to keep all records?

  8. Little Mintz Sunshine says:

    Be sure to take a good look at any credit card receipt more than a few years old. Many of the older ones I just looked over have the full credit card number on them. To be on the safe side, shred don’t toss.

  9. brokenboy says:

    Re: Deducting sales tax

    You choose between deducting state income tax or state sales tax. In some states with no income tax, this is a no brainer. In many states the income tax will be bigger.

    There’s a standard deduction based on your income that you can take without receipts. If you want to deduct based on actual purchases, yes, you must keep all receipts. The standard deduction is actually pretty generous.

    Even if you take the standard deduction, you can add on top of that big purchases from a few categories like cars.

  10. brilliantmistake says:

    Thanks, brokenboy. That’s helpful.

  11. “What about bills?”

    First and last of any bills, but particularly utility. Sometimes places want to know how long you lived somewhere or how long you got electricity from someone. First and last bill will help you settle almost any dispute that comes up later and takes up hardly any space.

    Otherwise I save them for a year in my little file box next to the bill-paying desk, and then I have a festival o’ shredding (non-tax-important) in January, or give them to my husband for long-term filing (tax important), which is supposed to mean 3 years but he never cleans out the long-term filing cabinet. Which is why I never come within 10 feet of it. I think it wants to kill me and have its papercutty way with him.

  12. A_B says:

    From the article: “Toss After One Year … Phone and utility bills (as long as you don’t have a home office, use your phone for business calls, or anticipate any need to prove long-term residency).”

    If they are including cell phone bills, NO.

    I keep every cell phone bill because cell phone companies always seem to “lose” that first document that shows when your contract started or how much I’ve paid in the past.

    I would make it a general rule to at least keep the physical copy of the first bill of anything you are under contract for and any document that explain when the contract started.

    For example, when I started with Sprint, I kept the original packing list of my cell phone, the first bill, and the “Welcome to Sprint!” letters.

    Once I was out of contract and terminated my relationship with them, I kept all the bills where they erroneously claimed I owed early termination fees and interest.

    Those documents were invaluable in making them go away.

  13. Sean says:

    Keep phone bills for seven years? I don’t even keep them for seven minutes; they go straight from the mailbox to the garbage can.

  14. itchy feet says:

    I’m in UR files, eating UR bills.

    (had to be done)

  15. Chairman-Meow says:

    Why is it that all the bad cats shown on the Consumerist are Orange Tabbys?

    Especially Orange Mackerel Tabbys.