What do you do with your receipts? Many people just toss them away almost immediately after check-out or just put them in a random place and then forget them. I used to be like that until I realized that the importance to save receipts. A simple receipt may help us save money in multiple ways. Here’s how:
1. Save receipts for easy return and exchange
Stores such as Costco and Kohl’s can refund you without a receipt, but some stores such as Sears and Kmart require the original receipt to get a refund or exchange.
Sometimes, even though a store allows a refund, if you do not provide the original receipt, the refund price will be the current price with a certain percent off. I learned a hard lesson when I returned a Christmas-themed item after the holiday without a receipt. Since all holiday items were at half price at that time, I could only get 50% refund. I would definitely not let that happen again!
2. Scan receipts for cash back
There are free rebate apps that allow you to scan qualifying items on your grocery receipt to earn cash back. There is no extra cost, you simply take a photo of the receipt and submit the image. Then you get cash deposited to your account.
Ibotta—The process is super simple. You browse cashback offers from the app, unlock the offers that you are interested in, make a qualifying purchase, and submit receipt image. Sign up for Ibotta now (it’s completely FREE) and you will get $10 welcome bonus!
Checkout51— It is quite similar to Ibotta in terms of usage, though their weekly offers are different. you need first browse the offer list and select the products that you plan to purchase. Buy those products at any store. Then you take a photo of the receipt to redeem the offer. It’s FREE. Join Checkout51 Now to start saving on your favorite brands.
3. Review your receipts to spot errors
After checking out, before you leave the store, take a quick look at the items and their prices. This will help avoid being overcharged. For example, sometimes, one item may be accidentally scanned twice.
Occasionally, a new weekly ad price has been reflected in the price tag on the shelf, but the price has not been updated in their store computer system. So, you may notice that you are charged more than the price you see on the shelf.
4. Review receipts to identify impulse purchases
If you are an impulse spender and are not sure how to control it, my tip is to review your receipt to check whether there are items that you do not really need while you are still in store. How many times did you get home and feel regretful for an impulse purchase, but you also did not want to bother driving back to return the items, so you simply keep them?
We are often attracted to buy something we do not need because of the appealing packaging, the big discount sign, the statement of urgency (e.g., valid this week only), and other environmental/sensory stimuli. Look at the item list on the receipt right after the checkout. Since you are away from those stimuli now, you can give it a second thought, get a chance to change your mind, and make a return easily if wanted.
5. Save receipts for health flexible spending and
If you contribute to Flexible Saving Account (FSA) for dependent care and healthcare and are enrolled in Health Saving Account (HSA), you need to keep the child care receipts and itemized receipts for health care expenses for reimbursement. In addition, there are many FSA-eligible or HSA-eligible over-the-counter (OTC) products, so you also need to save the receipt of those items to get reimbursed.
<Related: 21 Ways to Save Money on Medical Bills>
6. Save receipts for manufacturer warranty
To use your manufacturer warranty, you are usually required to provide the receipt as a proof of purchase. For major purchases such as home appliance, you need to save the receipt for years so that you can use their in-warranty services smoothly.
7. Save receipts for tracking expenses
There are many personal finance apps that can help people track spending and budget automatically, but for various reasons, not everyone is ready for adopting the high-tech methods yet.
The old-school way for tracking spending still works. Save receipts and organize them by week/month and by category (groceries, utilities, etc.). You can use a notebook to record spending or enter the expense into Excel for easy calculation. If you just start a budget, saving your receipts for a few months allows you to see where your money goes each month. It helps you understand how well your current budget works and whether any expenses can be cut.
8. Save receipts for Self-employment tax deductions
If you’re self-employed working primarily from home, your business-related expenses such as office supplies, tools, equipment, transportation, and meals, are tax deductible. You need to keep those receipt and make a good note about their business purposes. It is suggested to keep the receipts for at least 6 years for tax documentations.
How long should we save receipts? There is not a strict rule on how long you should keep a receipt. I usually keep the receipt for groceries, personal care, and small household items for about 30 days. The receipt for major purchases needs to be kept much longer, at least until the warranty expires. Any receipts that are used for tax purposes are saved for 6+ years.
Not sure how to store your receipts? Here are some excellent cheap receipt holders I would recommend.