A Simple System For How To Store Receipts

We’re often told to make sure we keep our receipt when we buy something. This is a guide to how to store receipts without cluttering up your filing system with hundreds of pieces of paper. And to make sure you can always find the one you want when you go looking for it.

A good habit to get into is to save all receipts for important items in one location.

Why Keep Receipts?

There are three main reasons to keep receipts safe:

  1. Warranty and repairs
    Almost everything comes with some form of warranty. Don’t be afraid to get things replaced or fixed when they break, rather than just accepting the loss – any electrical item falls into this category.
  2. Insurance
    If the absolute worst happens, you’ll want an estimated value of all your more costly items, from furniture and carpets to TVs and bikes.
  3. Ordering spare parts
    This is especially important for items that don’t have model or serial numbers printed on them. As an example, I tracked down replacement toilet seat brackets for our 7 year old, no-longer-manufactured toilet because I had kept the receipt with the original model number on it.

How To Store Receipts?

The easiest way is to keep them all together, in one folder or envelope. Don’t worry about filing them in any kind of order, unless you have more than around 30.

If you do have more than a few dozen, then it might be helpful to break them out into years. I keep all of ours, by year, in A4 plastic sleeves in the filing cabinet. Because I am super-obsessive about archiving data I also have a digital photograph of each one too (in case the house should burn down, but also because some receipts do fade over time). This might be a bit excessive for most people, but I find it only takes me a moment when I buy something important to snap the receipt with my phone.

You might ask why I still keep the paper copies if I have digital photos of them all, and the answer is that as much as I really want to be paperless, there are still companies out there that insist on original documents. One day this will change and then I will be happily at the front of the queue to go 100% paper-free.

Don’t keep receipts with anything else

Don’t add in instruction manuals or software CDs or anything else. To make retrieval as quick and easy as possible, your receipt folder should just contain receipts. Instruction manuals especially are best kept separately as they tend to be bulky.

Have a cut-off monetary value – I don’t keep anything much under £30 unless it has a lifetime/long-term guarantee.

As far as maintenance of this system goes, all you need to do is scan through the contents once every year or two and remove the receipts for any items that you no longer own.

Wash your hands after touching them

Receipts contain relatively high levels of Bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor which transfers easily to the skin and is absorbed into the body.[1] Wash you hands after touching or sorting through receipts, and try not to spend too long handling them.

What to save:

  • Large expensive items (electronics, cutlery sets, furniture, carpets, curtains, bathroom furniture, etc)
  • All electrical items, from TVs to stick blenders, for at least one year. Electrical items have a 1 year manufacturers warranty as standard and some brands offer longer.
  • Special items of clothing and jewellery
  • Bikes and high value exercise/leisure equipment

What not to save

  • DVDs, CDs and books (you are unlikely to ever refer to these again)
  • General clothing once you’ve worn and washed
  • Food (there’s no point keeping food receipts for longer than the food lasts)
  • Board games and non-electronic entertainment
  • Pretty much all low-value items

Personal fact

The oldest receipt in my folder is for the baby monitor I bought in April 2009. That monitor is still in the cupboard and has watched over all three of my children. This is how something completely unemotional can turn into a sentimental item, so I need to be careful about hanging onto it for too much longer 😉

Action points

  • Get a folder and label it
  • Gather up and sort through all your important receipts, and then file them away
  • Chuck the rest!

[1] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110509

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Sort that bundle of receipts out into a system that makes it easy for you to find what you're looking for. A simple guide to how to store receipts.

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