Many of us are quick to get rid of our receipts. We tend to view receipts as small scraps of trash to be thrown in the bin as soon as possible, rather than tools we can use to save.
What we often fail to consider is the fact that receipts can be versatile tools that give us access to a number of money-saving opportunities — even more than your average coupon can.
If you treat your receipts with the respect they deserve, it will save you more than you think. Here are 10 ways to keep more money in your pocket by saving your receipts:
1. Missed Discounts and Sales
If you’re like me, you probably like to do a quick Google search before you buy an item to make sure that you’re getting the best price. But you shouldn’t stop there — you may be leaving money on the table that you can earn back with your receipt.
I recently purchased some home supplies from a local Bed Bath & Beyond, but forgot to bring one of those 20 percent–off coupons. I knew that this particular company accepts expired coupons so I figured that maybe they would honor the discount coupon if I went back and showed proof of my purchase.
So I brought my receipt into the store with the 20 percent off coupon and received store credit for the difference. Who knew? An extra trip to the store was well worth it.
Likewise, a friend of mine bought a fan for his new house from Home Depot for $270, only to find a couple of weeks later that the same fan he purchased just a couple of weeks earlier was now only $220.
While his initial reaction was that he had just lost $50, he followed up on the Home Depot website, spoke with a company representative, and was quickly refunded the difference between the price he paid for the item and the current sales price.
To take advantage of the best price when making a larger purchase, bookmark the item’s sales page online.
Make sure to check once a week during the price match period to see if the price drops.
If it does, it doesn’t hurt to ask the company for a price reduction, as many large retailers have generous return policies (though they obviously vary from store to store).
2. Customer Surveys
Don’t let your mind wander when an employee is spelling out the details of a survey or giveaway on a receipt. Pay close attention, as you could receive additional savings on future purchases.
Many retailers offer links or QR codes to surveys if you share your experience as a customer. In return, you’ll often receive discounts and freebies. And don’t forget to enter any giveaways or raffles as these could result in cash prizes, gift cards, and other goodies!
3. Tax Season Preparedness
As a freelancer, I know the value of receipts when it comes to business expenses and costs for supplies or equipment.
Because I’m self-employed, many of the receipts I save for business-related expenses can turn into money I don’t have to pay on my taxes. Even my client dinners can be deducted — at least in part.
“Meals are 50 percent deductible if they are used for a profit motive and not in your everyday life,” says certified public accountant Greg O’Brien. “Eating at home, however, is never deductible.”
Store all of your receipts in a safe place, and at the end of each month record any tax-related expenses so you’re not scrambling a few days before the tax deadline. In addition to preventing you from losing your receipts, this will help keep them from getting crumpled or torn.
Receipts can also help if you find yourself in hot water with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and need a paper trail.
“Save your receipts to help yourself prepare for your upcoming taxes. If any of your numbers are ever off, having all your papers in order will go a long way in saving you time and stress,” says David DiNardo, CEO of the financial advising company Envolta.
Consult this list from the IRS to view all the eligible tax deductions. Additionally, it may be best to employ a professional come tax season to ensure you don’t write off an illegal expense.
4. Local Coupons
You know those extra images and long paragraphs on the back of receipts? Don’t overlook them, as many of them contain coupons and special offers for local stores.
Take a few seconds to review them for potential discounts and savings. Be sure to grab the coupon off your pizza boxes — I usually find $2 to $4 coupons for my next order.
When my husband was looking to purchase and build a brand-new computer, he researched a ton of prices and stores, both online and off. Once he found all the equipment he wanted, he noticed that some of the items came with different rebates and offers.
But in order for us to get a refund of over $200, we had to keep the receipts to prove the final price and purchase date.
Even if you make a purchase online, keep the email confirmation or purchase order as those could earn you some good cash in rebate offers.
6. Pricing Errors
Pricing errors happen all the time. In fact, I spot overcharges while shopping a couple times a month, so I always double-check the price of the item with the receipt before leaving the store.
It’s usually easier to get the discount you should have received while you’re still at the place of business, rather than when you bring back the mispriced item later.
“Double-checking if you were charged for anything you didn't want a buy is a habit everyone should have,” says DiNardo. “You would be surprised by the number of times cashiers or clerks make this mistake.”
Take the extra 30 seconds to look over the receipt to make sure you weren’t double-charged for any items, and that you received the correct sales price recorded on any coupons you used. Doing so can build good financial habits that can save you stacks in the long run.
7. Easy Returns
Keeping your receipts allows you to feel less buyer’s remorse by guaranteeing a full refund or in-store credit if you change your mind — provided of course that the business you purchased from has a sensible return policy.
After seeing all the ways receipts can save you money, those white pieces of paper don’t seem so pesky now, do they?
Where to Keep All This Paper?
Now that you’re aware of the different ways that receipts can save you money, how can you keep track of them without losing them? Here are three easy ways to store your receipts for future use:
1. Tax Filing
Throughout the week, as my husband and I make purchases, we set the receipts aside in a designated tax folder.
Then, every Monday, I go through them, set aside the ones we need to keep, then shred the others. We use a home office scanner to save copies of our receipts to a digital tax file on my laptop. This system helps us manage our documents so we can save money on receipts effectively.
“Keep your receipts in a file by category and then transfer the data to your budget spreadsheet or app. It makes things easier for your financial planner, which can save you on his or her fees,” says retired financial planner Dan Gallagher.
2. Bookkeeping Software
Most digital bookkeeping programs come with mobile apps that allow you to snap an image of your receipt while on the go. In the past, I’ve used bookkeeping software like QuickBooks to keep copies of receipts tagged with the corresponding expense transaction. Alternatively you could use Wave or FreshBooks if you want a cloud-based solution.
3. Mobile Apps
Another great option for easy storage of your receipts are various free mobile apps like Expensify, Shoeboxed, and Ibotta. You can save both physical receipts and digital ones from online purchases that are sent to your inbox.
Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.