Throwing Away Receipts is Like Tossing Money in the Trash. Here’s Why
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As a freelancer, I always keep my receipts.
Whether I'm snagging the receipt from coffee with a client or carefully slipping a receipt for a new box of pens into my wallet, I always hang onto these small slips of paper, since many of them could be a potential tax deduction.
Even if you're not a freelancer, you can still save big by hanging onto your receipts. Here’s how.
Check Your Receipt for Accuracy
Just last year, Whole Foods had to pay an $800,000 settlement after repeatedly charging consumers the wrong amount for items they purchased.
Since overcharging is fairly common, always examine your receipts. Make sure you weren't double-charged for any items, you received the advertised or sale price and the cashier accurately recorded your coupons.
Check your receipt before you leave the store. It's much easier to ask about the 50-cent discount you should have received when you're still there, than to find the error at home and spend the gas, energy and time to go back to the store to haggle over less than a dollar.
Ask for Price Matching and Retroactive Discounts
Do you think you're done receiving discounts when you purchase an item and leave the store?
If you find a lower price or a better sale on the item after the fact, you can often receive a “retroactive discount.”
If you find a better deal at another retailer, ask if the store matches competitors’ prices. Here’s a list of popular stores’ price-matching policies.
Many stores will give you this price if it’s within a certain length of time after you purchased the item, usually less than a month, and you have the original receipt.
If you forget a coupon, you can typically bring it in later, as long as you have the receipt. Be sure to ask about store policies.
Take Surveys to Get Rebates
Closely examine your receipt, not just to make sure the prices are accurate, but also to see if you can find any additional savings opportunities.
Many retailers will offer links and QR codes to surveys you can take about your customer experience. Taking these surveys can be a great way to save money.
You'll often receive a free product for taking the survey, or be entered into a raffle for a store gift card or other prize.
And don't forget to fill out any rebates you may find on your receipt.
When I purchased a computer, I saved over $200 just by mailing in the rebates on the receipts.
Be sure to carefully follow the instructions, since stores will often reject your rebate claim if you don't follow them to the letter. You may have to mail in original receipts and bar codes for rebates, so be sure to keep a copy for yourself.
Also, check for coupons that come with your receipts. They're often selected based on your purchase history.
Even if you're not a freelancer, some receipts are valid tax deductions.
How Do You Keep Track of Your Receipts?
When you're hanging onto your receipts for tax purposes (for years, in some cases), where are you going to put them?
You could just toss them into a shoebox and hope for the best.
Or, you could take some time to create an organizational system that will make them easy to find and preserve them.
Keeping physical receipts is always a good idea, since many stores require the original receipt. Consider plastic, sealed and waterproof containers to safeguard them.
Avoid keeping receipts in a garage or other area where cold, heat, humidity and precipitation could cause damage to the fragile paper.
Also, mice and insects might find the receipts and turn them into a nest or destroy them. Steer clear of garage storage unless you have rock-solid storage containers.
While you’ll still want to file a hard copy, creating digital files is also a smart move. You can purchase a receipt scanner and use it to create digital receipts, then file them by month or retailer.
Or, you can use an app. TechRepublic recommends a few of the best apps for creating digital receipts.
Shoeboxed is a free app that lets you manually enter receipt information or take a photo of the receipt. You can then select categories, including receipts you need for tax deductions and others for reimbursement. This app can also scan business cards.
Certify is a free, cloud-based app that can be used with your computer or smartphone. Upload receipts to your “Certify Wallet” and it will ask you a few questions to keep track of information you may need later.
If you scan a hotel receipt, it will ask the dates you checked into and out of the hotel and even the reason for your stay to help you remember client visits, conferences or other potentially deductible stays.
Your Turn: Do you hold onto your receipts? And what’s the best freebie or discount they’ve helped you earn?
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Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.