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Receipts: Which to Keep and Which to Pitch

Receipts: Which to Keep and Which to Pitch

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    A shoebox full of receipts seem to be the norm for most of us, whether or not we manage our money online. Every time we make a purchase, we shove receipts in wallets, pockets or purses. We bring them home, sometimes sort them and drop them into a shoebox. From there, we ignore them until tax time — often even longer. But we don’t actually need most receipts. While some we may need to hold on to for taxes or records, the grand majority can be out of your house within a week.

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    Short-Term Keepers

    Receipts tend to fall into two categories: those you need to keep at least long enough to double check them against your purchases when you get home and those you need to hold on to for a bit longer. The short-term keepers can be thrown away as soon as you’ve taken care of checking them — I tend to shred these sorts of receipts, but many don’t have any sort of information you really need to worry about.

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    • Cash Receipts: If you keep track of where you spend your cash (as opposed to using a debit or credit card), you may need to note any receipts for cash spending on your money management software. After that, you can get rid of it.
    • Clothing Receipts: Once you’ve put on an outfit and taken off the tags, you can generally get rid of the receipt.
    • Restaurant Receipts: It’s generally worth keeping receipts from restaurants at least long enough to check them against your card statement if you left a tip on your card. There is a chance that the tip can be altered or misread, and you’ll need your receipt to dispute it. If everything checks out, and your meal wasn’t a business expense, you can trash the receipt.

    There is a school of thought that you should keep a receipt until you get rid off whatever you purchased — for instance, you should hold on to a receipt from the grocery store until you finish off your gallon of milk. That’s because you can get reimbursements in many situations (like recalls) or may need to take the item back. It comes down to your personal choice just how long you want to keep receipts for things like groceries and gas, but generally, less than a month seems like a good choice. Otherwise, though, most personal expenses aren’t even short-term keepers. Your grocery receipt may not even need to make it out of the store’s door with you.

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    Long-Term Keepers

    There are some receipts you may need to hold on to significantly longer than the month it takes for your card statement to arrive. Receipts can be used as proof of a whole list of different things, from tax deductions to warranties, so you’ll need to hold on to a few receipts. I know many people that scan these important receipts to make sure that they have them handy. The IRS does accept scanned receipts, but if you’re trying to work with a credit card company or insurer, you may need to hang on to the original.

    • Business Expenses: If you own your own business, most expenses are tax deductible. Hold on to those receipts, though — in the event of an audit, they come in handy. That includes some receipts you might otherwise get rid of, like gas or meals, as long as they are business expenses.
    • Job Search Expenses: You can deduct many of the expenses associated with a job search, so hold on to those receipts.
    • Employer Reimbursement: With most companies, you’ll need the receipt for any expense you’re reimbursed for. It’s generally worth making a copy to hold on to until you actually get a check — you’ll likely have to turn the original over to your employer.
    • Medical Expenses: Between tax deductions and insurance, holding on to any receipts for medication, doctors’ visits and procedures is a must.
    • Big Purchases: Hold on to the receipts for big purchases, like appliances and electronics. Defining how big can be tricky, but consider how you paid for it — if you used a credit card, you may have a warranty beyond what the store offered you, as long as you have the original receipt. You may also need receipts for big ticket items in order to make an insurance claim.
    • Warranties: If you purchase any product with a warranty, you’ll want to keep the receipt — you may need it to claim the warranty or even prove that you have it. When possible, it makes sense to keep warranty receipts together with the product that they came with. Taping them inside owners’ manuals can be an easy way to keep track of them.
    • Donations: It often takes an extra step to get a receipt for a donation — but it’s worth it. You’ll need it if you want to write your donation off on your taxes.

    Just how long you need to keep receipts for depends on just who might ask to see them. A good rule of thumb is that anything related to insurance or warranties can be thrown away once you get rid of the item in question — if you replace your stove, for instance, you’ll want to keep the new receipt, but you can throw away the receipt for the old appliance. For the IRS, how long you need to keep receipts can vary significantly: the very longest you might need a set of receipts is seven years.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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