Go Buy A Shredder Right Now

A shredder is an indispensable tool for keeping your identity safe and secure. If you receive credit card offers or have old bank statements littering your files, then you can’t do without a cross-cutting shredder to slice and dice your personal information into an indecipherable medley of confetti. Frugal For Life points out a few of the many reasons we all should be devout shredders.

I was reading some different articles about shredding paper while I was doing research into the type of paper shredder I had wanted to buy. It seems that the range in percentage of people who use a paper shredder are between 18% – 51%. That’s a lot of people who don’t shred paper and are susceptible to identity fraud.

I haven’t had that happen yet, thankfully. But reading the stories in the paper or seeing news on TV definitely makes me aware that I don’t want to be part of that club.

Since dumpster diving is perfectly legal in most areas of the country, you don’t want your information floating around that is easily read. I will qualify this by saying that the majority of dumpster divers (like myself) are honest people and wouldn’t even consider a crime of that nature. However it is the small percentage that always seems to ruin things for everyone and make life difficult.

Cross-cutting action is key. Committed identity thieves can piece together strip-shredded documents, and credit card companies readily accept torn applications.

Shredding can also be productive and fun. Instead of throwing out shredder leavings, use them as packing material, pet beds, or makeshift confetti for impromptu ticker-tape parades. If you don’t want a shredder at home, use one in the office. If you have kids, consider a hamster-powered shredder. Just get a shredder. And resist the urge to shred the instructions.

Buy a Shredder [Frugal For Life]
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    and if you ship a lot of things, the shreddings make good free packing material!

  2. wallspray says:

    It is evil to use shredded paper as packing material. I’ve received a package packed as such and it gets everywhere. There is paper dust. It’s just a bad scene.

  3. kittenfoo says:

    i used to own chickens, and would line the henhouse with finely shredded papers. then i composted them. not likely someone would have got my identity that way. now that i live in town, i sift the shredded stuff thoroughly and hand it to the curbside recycling team when i’ve accumulated enough.

  4. homerjay says:

    @wallspray: Sorry, that was probably from me. :)

  5. AlexDitto says:

    I should probably get a shredder, but right now I usually just throw any sensitive documents in the sink, and swirl and shred until they turn into a nice pulpy mass. Then, into the garbage.

    Hm… yeah, I should probably just get a shredder. Problem is, it’s so much fun to shred, I’d probably shred things I shouldn’t. Like papers I might need.

  6. forgottenpassword says:

    any sensitive papers I need to dispose of I rip to shreds ,then soak in water & wad it up in a tight ball (sometimes into seperate balls)then throw away (sometimes in seperate wastebaskets). Ever tried to unravel paper once its been wet,then dried & molded into a nearly solid ball? Just about impossible.

    I dont produce/recieve a lot of sensitive papers. I get most of that stuff in electronic form over the net.

  7. mopar_man says:


    I’d sooner paper dust and paper shredding than those packing peanuts.

  8. @kittenfoo: A lot of people put it at the bottom of the cat’s litterbox when it’s particularly sensitive documents. NOBODY is going into your shreddings once cats have peed on them.

  9. Typhoid says:

    I shred anything I suspect, and use it as firestarter in my fire pit.

    When I don’t have time for a fire, I empty my cat’s litterbox into the bag of shreddings. Have fun with toxoplasmosis, identity thieves! When I had a bunny it was her cage lining.


  10. moore850 says:

    A bunch of kids famously reassembled strip-shredded documents in a gymnasium one time, so definitely cross-cut or confetti shred everything. The only problem I have is finding a high enough-volume shredder. It takes forever to shred even one day’s worth of junk mail because most shredders can only do a few “sheets” at a time (depending on thickness).

  11. Juliekins says:

    My cats, who are TERRIFIED of the vacuum cleaner, absolutely adore the shredder. If they hear me shredding documents, they come running. They stare, transfixed, as the paper disappears into the machine. When I’m done, they look at me all “hey, why did you stop? We were having fun!”

    So aside from helping to save yourself from identity theft, you might entertain your pets too.

    Also, if you buy a crosscut shredder, buy the oil. It seems silly, but it really will extend the life of the shredder. My weird cats try to lick the oil, too, so I have to be very careful to wipe up spills and put the oil away when I’m done oiling the shredder.

  12. RocktheDebit says:

    @FitJulie: Oh, God. A few years ago I was the official document shredder at my office and would have to shred hundreds of pages at a time. I was constantly reaching for the shredder oil or the WD-40.

    Thank you for reminding me that my present job is better in some ways.

  13. timsgm1418 says:

    still think I’d prefer it over that horrible styrofoam that is full of static and gets everywhere@wallspray:

  14. Jacquilynne says:

    (This is not a ‘my identity got stolen via my garbage’ story, much as it sounds like it will be.)

    I always thought the whole ‘someone might steal your identify out of your garbage’ thing was totally overrated. I mean, what are the odds, right?

    At one point, while cleaning out my car, I came across my long expired passport. It was at least 3 years out of date and had a big ‘void’ stamped into it. I don’t remember why I decided I wanted it back in the first place (the government had offered to dispose of it for me) but since it had spent several years in my trunk, I figured keeping it was a low priority, so I tossed it in with all my other trunk garbage.

    About a month later, my expired, thrown away passport showed up in my mailbox. Not returned by mail or anything. Someone put it in my mailbox.

    I have no idea who that might have been, where they found it, why they decided to return it, or anything else. All I know, is my passport came back to me.

    I bought a shredder the next day.

  15. Melt says:

    If you are buying a shredder, you really should go for the new diamond cut shredders. Not strip, not cross cut, but diamond cut. It turns all paper to confetti. Check out this podcast with Frank Abagnale (from Catch me if you Can fame) as he explains more…


  16. spanky says:

    If you have kids or pets, though, be careful. Lots of kids and pets have had their tongues and fingers mangled by paper shredders. If you do get one, keep it someplace inaccessible and unplugged when it’s not in use.

  17. ohiomensch says:

    @FitJulie: I use pam cooking spray on shredder blades, works fine, and dont have to buy anything I don’t have on hand already.

    I would say to anyone who does not have a shredder, don’t buy a cheap 29.00 one. I have burned up 3 shredders before I finally sucked it up and bought a decent one. Had it for a couple of years and it shreds not only paper but cds and credit cards too.

    For credit card offers and convenience checks, I usually tear them in half, and shred each half separately, and throw away one half at home and the other half I throw away at some other location. Like work.

  18. matto says:

    Shredders are great, but they don’t shread the pre-approved credit card offers that are mis-delivered to your shady neighbor by your lazy, government worker mail carrier. Only opting out of pre-screened credit offers can prevent that. [www.optoutprescreen.com]

  19. Karyn says:

    I wonder if anyone knows a means to stop credit card statements coming to one’s mail versus electronically, for instance. I have a few too many credit card statements from years-old accounts (fixed income, long debt history, trying to pay them off, I wince when I read some comments here ::sigh::). While I do shred, it takes a lot of time/energy.

    I pay *nothing* by snail mail.

    Some credit cards allow you to receive bills via email, but Wamu, for instance, says BY LAW they HAVE to send me paper statements. Yeah, um, okay.

    So, I have done the DMA thing to cut back on junk mail, etc. but does anyone know any other means I might be missing for cutting out paper statements (with one’s credit card account numbers emblazoned in several locations on the statement–or, gawd forbid–convenience checks attached!)?


  20. Karyn says:

    @ohiomensch: For credit card offers and convenience checks, I usually tear them in half, and shred each half separately, and throw away one half at home and the other half I throw away at some other location.

    I do this too when it’s inconvenient to shred everything, and I always hoped it would thwart all but the most determined thieves. Stopping these statements and having companies never send them unrequested would be ideal.

  21. Megladon says:


    This is all great, but it does nothing when large corporations can “lose” our info and all we get is 1 year of “notifiaction” if someone decides to go out and bend us over by using our # with nothing happening to them for it. As great as shredders are, we need to attack the real source of the problem most people have, the corporations lack of responsability.

  22. BoC says:

    @wallspray: It is evil to use shredded paper as packing material. I’ve received a package packed as such and it gets everywhere. There is paper dust. It’s just a bad scene.

    Do what I do; get a few sheets of newspaper and cut/fold/tape until you have an envelope, fill 50-75% with shredded paper, then seal up the open end. Viola! (Nearly) instant packing pad things!

  23. stonestix says:

    Our sheriff’s dept. has free shred-a-thons several times a year. I signed up for e-mail alerts and can take everything to be shredded at one time. It’s a small county office, so it’s likely that other towns offer this as well.


    There are lots of shredders on the market that can handle credit cards (and CDs). It means shelling out more than $10 though.

  24. BoorRichard says:

    ebay is a good place to buy a NIB shredder. i bought a $200 fellowes powershred for $19.99 plus $35 s/h. there were plenty more, too. i thought about buying two or three but then got real.

    i second the advice to get a beefy one. you want something that can handle staples, unopened full envelopes, credit cards, etc.

  25. gr8chief says:

    I certainly wouldn’t use any sensitive documents as kitty litter, those felines would be charging a lot of adult cat toys on my card. You can get some great bargains on shredders at Hippo Deals, they happen to be not far from where I live.

  26. matto says:

    @stonestix: You missed my point. It’s impossible to shred mail that you’ve never received.

  27. Maverick says:

    I used to work in that office pictured.

  28. MercuryPDX says:

    @ohiomensch: Gotta Second it. I’ve gone through three “inexpensive” under $50 shredders only to have them all break after a few months.

  29. Landru says:

    My office has been shredding bins and they allow people to bring stuff from home. A service comes once a month with a huge machine mounted on the back of a truck and they shred it on the spot.

  30. SacraBos says:

    Love the hamster-powered shredder idea. However, the product shown in the article is overkill. Just put the sheets in the cage, and the hamster (or gerbils) will happily shred it into bedding for itself. The only problem is I would need a small army of hamsters given the amount of crud I get sometimes.

  31. here’s a tip for maintaining your shredder. instead of spending stupid amounts of money for the commercial grade “oil” and application tool, just squirt a line of baby oil on both sides of a piece of paper, and send it through the shredder. cheap, fast, and effective. I do this every other week or so and my shredder is still going strong (cheapo 6-sheet cross cut that I got at staples for $10)

  32. SacraBos says:

    My Credit Union (okay, hold down the cheering for CU’s…) has a periodic “shredding day”. They have large commercial shredding trucks, and you just bring it in and they shred it in the parking lot in your presence. Last time, I hauled in several garbage bags worth of stuff, and in a couple of minutes months of shredables was disposed of!

  33. brennie says:

    I can’t remember seeing any stories about identity theft as a result of dumpster diving on this site (they are usually about databases being stolen/compromised, phished accounts, or cloned accounts). What percentage of identity theft comes from dumpster diving?

  34. I take all of the catalogs, sensitive mail, cardboard boxes, packaging, and other assorted paper, and stick it in a bigger box/paper dog food bag. About every two months, I get enough of a pile and a free Sunday, and hold a massive fire in my 6 foot fire pit. Good luck to the identity thief who tries to reassemble the ashes of anything, or reaches into the fire b4 it burns. I also take care of any aluminum cans during this process too, and end up with cool little T1000 like puddles at the bottom of the fire.

  35. jarchie219 says:

    A few seconds in the microwave effectively destroys CDs. It might work for credit cards too

  36. littlejohnny says:

    hmmm. Contrary to some of the other posters I’ve had some very good luck with a $15 crosscut shredder I bought from staples about 4 years ago. I don’t get much junk mail, and I only shred the credit card application page, so I guess it doesn’t get a whole lot of use. I have used it to shred old credit cards though. I guess sometimes you get lucky.

  37. 46and2 says:

    why do the few woman who post here make so many pet references?

  38. Promotional assistance provided by the following:
    Shredder Manufacturers
    Life Lock
    and the other fear mongers who would have you believe that everyone is liable to be a victim.

    (Not saying that ID theft isn’t a real problem, just that it is highly overstated by the culture of fear)

  39. swalve says:

    @brennie: Yeah. My guess is on none.

  40. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    Apparently none of you city dwellers have woodstoves. Growing up, we saved any scrap of paper we could to use as fire starter in the stove.

  41. Trick says:

    Anything with my name and address is shredded. No questions asked. I don’t shred my credit cards or data CD’s, I cut them up and dispose the different pieces in different trash cans… making sure no parts can be put back together and used against me.

    Sounds pretty paranoid but that is the way we have to live these days…

  42. MotherFury says:

    I just spent a week shredding 1993 & 1994. I plan to spend the next week shredding ’95 & ’96. There has to be an easier (less time consuming) way to get rid of this stuff.

  43. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @MotherFury: As my good buddy Beavis used to say: “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!”

  44. frndlybnny says:

    Actually, you can “opt out” of those credit card offers: go to OptOutPrescreen.com. I checked it out; no it’s not a scam. You can even look it up on the Federal Trade Commission website if you want to. The only bummer is, if you do it online, they only stop for five years. In order to PERMANENTLY stop them, you actually have to send them a signed snail-mail form. Either way, it takes about 3 months for them to come to a halt. But I think it’s worth it: I’m currently a doctoral student, so because I’m in “college” I’ve been getting these things every frickin’ day.

  45. enine says:

    Shredding what gets to you is fine but it doesn’t help with the stuff that you don’t get. Back when I had a bunch of store credit cards among all all my other bills there was usually one bill a month I didn’t receive. I started online bill pay from my bank so at least my payments didn’t get lost (or if they did the bank had to take care of it). I then canceled all but a couple cards and consolidated them with the banks I had other accounts with to reduce the number of bills and statements.
    There were still time I receive mail addressed to other people, when they are nearby I’ll just take it to them, too far away it goes under the wiper of the mail truck. Our neighbors have brought mail to us before that was put in their mailbox. So sometimes paper with your information on it is being lost or delivered to others and your shredder won’t help there.
    When you run your credit report ( and you do often right) look for the opt out of pre screened offers at the bottom and do it. Then consolidate all your cards down to just a couple and sign up for paperless statements for everything you can. Eliminate the paper at the source.

  46. darkclawsofchaos says:

    @matto: Try owning a P.O. BOX, that helps, and another bonus is if any package is delivered by USPS, the office holds it if sent to the PO BOX. That is way better than finding your package on the doorstep soggy and exposed

  47. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Don’t throw it all away in the same place at the same time. They can’t put the paper back together if parts of it aren’t even there.

    I also like to mark out the information I don’t want anyone reading first (both sides of the paper).

  48. DogHead says:

    Follow the three rules:

    1) Fire.
    2) Fire.
    3) Fire.

  49. suprnate says:

    I was at Bed Bath & Beyond today and they have two models of cross-cut shredders on sale for about $30 and $50. I picked up the cheaper one and seems to work fine. Got one of those 20% coupons lying around? Perfect opportunity.

  50. scoopy says:

    @forgottenpassword: Whenever I get a sensitive paper, I open it up, put superglue all over it, then close it and place it in the oven at around 250-300 to dry. Once it driees, I then lay it out on my lawn and mow over it. Next, I pick up the pieces and pour maple syrup all over them. Finally, I put it in my birdcage and let my parrot dump on it for approximately one to two weeks. At this point, I bury the remains in my neighbors yard.

  51. scoopy says:

    @Trick: The best way to prevent identity theft is to just shred yourself.

  52. lukobe says:

    sure, get a shredder. but beware of Fellowes. they say their shredders take 8 sheets. they’ll crap out at 5. be safe and do 3 at a time at the most.

  53. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    That picture is going to give me nightmares! Can’t sleep, shredder will eat me…..

    Personally, I like this 50 HP model:


  54. What I do is take the credit card statements, and put them into the shredder.

    Then, I take the shredded confetti, and I put it in a blender with a mix of water and bleech. After it turns into a pulp, I drain it, and allow it to dry.

    Then I take the dried pulp, and douse it in kerosene, until it becomes a gelatenous goo. I then spread the goo over the bottom of my barbecue grill, and light it up.

    Once it finishes burning, I let it cool, and then take the ashes, and divide it into six containers.

    I dump the first container down the toilet, and flush three times. The second container, I scatter the ashes over the azalias. The third container, I scatter on the freeway. The fourth container I dump in the ashtray outside the 7-11. The fifth container, I dump in a wastebasket at work, and the sixth container, well, I hold on to that, and keep it with the other “sixth containers” in a large bucket that I keep in the garage. I figure that if they can’t get the sixth part, they can’ get my identity.

    I shred everything. The only thing I haven’t shredded is my favorite book, “I’m Not Paranoid: They Really Are Out To Get Me”

  55. RandomElginGuy says:

    I got a shredder this Christmas just for the sake of it.
    At first I was only shredding confidential stuff, but I decided to shred all my mail. This way it would take far far longer to sort out the shredding’s to get the original documents. Unless somebody was out to get me they would probably just look in another bin for somebody else’s details who is less secure.
    Better safe than sorry.
    Although I believe that Identity Theft would probably be more likely to happen online.

  56. Fitwit says:

    Fully agree with the premise, but when you get credit offers, write ‘Send no credit offers’ and mail every bit of what they sent you, back to them, in the envelope they provided. Great fun ! I write on it so they don’t think I want the credit card, although there is no signature on the form.

  57. alexiso says:

    Shredding is something I dread doing. It takes forever but I do it. However, during the summer when my friend’s have bonfires, I take the “burn box” which contains stuff that should’ve been shredded but I became too overwhelmed to take care of and use it as kindling.

    Other methods:
    Give it to my cat to chew up.
    Opt out of everything which I’ve done.
    Go paperless on all your bills which I’ve done.

    Thanks for the tips about baby oil or the pam cooking spray for keeping the shredder in good condition, it never crossed my mind I needed to oil it.

  58. Anonymous says:

    I give my goat all my important docs.

  59. linoth says:

    @FitJulie & ohiomensch: Yes and yes. Having worked in an office supply store, some companies WILL NOT honor their warrenty unless you tell them that you were using a shredder lubricant. And the oil usually isn’t a massive expense. I think it’s something like $4, use it once a month. Not sure what they’ll say if you tell them you used Pam, but I imagine that’s better than letting the mechanism go dry.

    I also agree on not scrimping on your shredder. Find the shredder that says it can handle exactly what you need and then buy a model or two above that. Things last longer when you work them at, say, 60% of their capabilities compared to working them at the very limits. A little bit more money now, or a lot more money in a few months to replace it.

  60. Ragman says:

    Buy a shredder that’s rated at least 12 sheets – those will also shred credit cards and cd/dvds. Plus it takes less time to shred a stack of documents. I like to dump the litter box into the trash with the shreds as well. If they want it, they better want it bad!

    I once found some kind of birth certificate document laying in the alley behind my house. It had mom’s, dad’s, and baby’s SSNs, addresses, DOB, occupations, etc. Wasn’t anyone I knew, but it spooked me finding that trove of info. They can be unknowingly thankful their info met my shredder.

  61. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    @BoorRichard: I have never seen any $200 shredders on Ebay for $20, who would sell them that cheap and can you PM me if you see a good deal? I like those Fellows models but I can’t afford $200.

    I have bought 3 shredders so far, none lasted.

  62. enine says:

    As someone who has to scoop a litter box daily putting your papers under litter doesn’t scare me in any way. I would just put on rubber gloves and dig right in as would anyone else whose ysed to dealing with it every day.

  63. dps says:

    At our credit union, every teller and every desk station has a trash can that goes into the shredder. I toss my stuff in a shoe box til it’s full and then take it in on my next trip. They gladly accept it with credit cards, data cd’s and staples.

  64. spookytay says:

    If you don’t like shredding, contact a local paper shredding company. I’ve been working for one for 20 years. We get people who stop by all the time and it only takes a minute to shred bags and boxes worth of stuff.

  65. jimmy37 says:

    If you are gonna shred at home, how ’bout using that paper as mulch in your garden or compost it?

    As for shredding CC applications, I make a game of it. I tear out and shred the offer codes and my address. The rest gets sent back to the CC co. And since today’s CC statements don’t have your full name and number anymore, I don’t bother shredding them, I recycle them.

  66. Aanidaani says:

    Sounds a bit paranoid to me. Naturally you don’t want to leave important documents just lying around, but you shouldn’t be scared by the fear-mongering of the media. I mean, terrorists are all around us according to Fox, so shouldn’t we all start walking around with guns?

  67. jmjonesjr says:

    Jimmy James approves of shredding the shredder instructions, just for irony’s sake.

  68. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @FitJulie: That’s so cute. We demand video!

  69. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @spookytay: This is a great idea – I’ve been meaning to do this. I’ve got a huge backlog of old docs from uncluttering my parents’ place (I’m talking 5 Hefty bags full). No way do I want to shred all that manually.

  70. synergy says:

    @dps: That’s assuming that everyone that works at the credit union is honest. Or they shred it in your presence.

    I work in a place where there’s big Iron Mountain bins and all the sensitive documents of patients get thrown into them. Only problem is any unscrupulous person walking by can put their hand in it and take a huge amount of papers off the top when it gets full and get a bunch of information.

    So. I’d rather shred it myself.

    I’ve also bought a relatively cheap shredder and it’s still working fine. I don’t shred entire sheets, though. Only the parts with numbers and my name.

  71. That70sHeidi says:

    @forgottenpassword: This is a tried and true revenge technique as well. Ever tried to get shredded, wet then dried paper off of sheets and carpet? Yeah… :D

    I have yet to try the “wet it, shred it, wad it, cover a car in it” routine.

  72. JRock says:

    @Dooley: I save up my trash and have it jettisoned into space twice a year. Costs me a few mil, usually, but I think it’s worth it.

  73. Adam Rock says:

    I got an awesome 8-sheet/dvd+cd/credit card shredder from Target for $30 last week. I feed all paper I throw away to it so that my sensitive documents are well padded with “insensitive” documents like mail ads. It even eats paperboard and some cardboard.

  74. aikoto says:

    Cross cut makes more pieces, but microcut is better. Or burning it.

  75. RevWaldo says:

    A few little tips –

    The trouble with most shredders is that (lemme just pop the hood here so you can see) is that they contain vinyl gears meshed with steel gears. This makes the shredder quieter but eventually one good jam and the metal gear will eat the vinyl gear for lunch. If anyone knows someone who make a suitable-for-home-office-use shredder with all metal gearing, please post!

    You don’t need to shred or nuke CDs – just take a scissor blade and scrape a good chunk of silvering off the back. This’ll render it unreadable.

    Do your neighbors a favor and double-bag your shreddings when you put them to the curb. Otherwise one little hole in the bag and suddenly the shreddings are all over the block. (You’re thinkin’ the wind and/or rain will take care of them? Think again..)

  76. BugMeNot2 says:

    @spookytay has it right. I went through 3 shredders, each more expensive than the last. They all sucked. It would take hours to shred a weeks worth of mail! I finally wised up and pulled out the yellow pages.
    Now I have a waste basket set aside for docs to be shredded. It’s labeled clearly so my maid doesn’t empty it accidentally. Every few months, I take a banker’s box full of papers to a local shredding company. For about $5, they dump it all into a real industrial-grade shredder. I don’t have to sort out the sensitive info from the credit card offers, etc. Their shredder eats everything, including staples, CDs and credit cards. They even let you watch them destroy it, for the especially paranoid. That’s it! Problem solved.

  77. wHATEver says:

    After letting my shredding material pile up due to underpowered equipment, I finally broke down and Amazoned (is that now a verb?) a high-grade shredder. Unfortunately, I’m still on some non-profit mailing lists, especially one group that likes to put “things” in their mailers to make them stand out. This time, they stuck a nickel in there.

    I thought I had pre-filtered all of the material, but I missed it. That nickel got chewed up, then stuck up behind the plastic housing. I had to completely disassemble my nearly-new, $100+ shredder, hoping that I could: a) keep all of the parts in order; b) get to the now-pulled-apart nickel and extract it; c) put the shredder back together and have it still work; d) not go on a rampage against the direct mail company hired by that non-profit.

    It took me about 90 minutes from start to finish, but I did finally get the remnants of the nickel out, and get the shredder back together in working order. It only bears a few scars.