Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

The Paper Shuffle Jamboree…

Okay, okay. I admit it: I’ve again put off cleaning out the accrued PAPER until the stuff started spilling out of the closet.

That would be because…I hate paper. The reasonable approach to paper is, IMHO, to ignore it. Yet I’m a compulsive saver of paper, partly because I run chronically scared of the IRS and partly because Ex-DH, the corporate lawyer, never, ever threw out a scrap of paper.


Remember when banks used to send you your canceled checks? He would keep every one of them. We had an old bureau drawer that had every canceled check we’d ever written, neatly arranged chronologically in row after row after row. Since we’d been married for over 20 years, that made for a lot of rows.

So it was impressed upon my malleable little brain that you must never throw out a piece of paper that has anything to do with a financial transaction.

Result: in my old age, I drop every receipt for every purchase, no matter how trivial, into a grass basket.

The basket was getting pretty jam-packed. And of course the usual array of statements was piling up, though I’ve been a little better about pushing that variety of paper.

You’ll recall that the last time I took it upon myself to clean out the paper nests, I burned all that debris in the fireplace. Years worth of it.

That was messy.

This time I don’t have such a backlog of the stuff — only about a year’s worth.

Well, except for the collection of statements from Fidelity dating back to early 2013…

This time I decided to save about six months worth of credit-card receipts — especially the ones from Costco, where one is allowed to return a product at any time during the remainder of one’s natural life span. For the second six months’ worth, I would save only Costco receipts, receipts related to the business, and receipts having to do with car and maintenance and house improvement. The rest of it: out.

§§§ Well, goddamnit, the lovely Macintosh has decided it won’t read my camera’s card, so I guess the photos I snapped either don’t exist or cannot be retrieved. Really, how can I describe how much I hate this damn new computer? Almost as much as I hate the damn new Toyota. Which is a lot. §§§

To put it into words — the project, not the hatred — running all those receipts through the paper shredder filled up the shredder’s (capacious) bin twice and resulted in about a bushel and a half of paper strips. If I were into papier-mâché, it would’ve been a gold strike.

By way of simplifying this chore the next time it comes around, I decided to make file folders for each month — a file folder just fits inside said grass basket. So all the January receipts get segregated, the February receipts, the March receipts, and so on. This will make it a lot easier to throw out the ones that aren’t worth saving…which is most of them. I created a separate folder for Costco receipts, which will go in there higgledy-piggledy but which aren’t so numerous as to make sorting them a migraine nightmare. Also made a folder for car receipts and one for capital improvements on the house.

A nuisance. But it means all the receipts that really should be saved will be set aside. So I hope the next time it’ll be a little less of a nuisance.


Author: funny

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  1. They talk about moving more and more to a paperless world but I tell you, I don’t see it!

  2. My thought is…”it’s generational”… I too have saved and continue to save every receipt. Reasoning that should an IRS audit take place…I’m ready. BUT as you point out this takes lot of space. Recently I have started going thru these …”archives”… and shredding the “ancient stuff”….It’s been an education….Seeing what we actually paid for an item 20-25 years ago, old bank statements, electric and phone bills was/is enlightening…Rather nostalgic…I recently sold a musical instrument that we had bought for DD1 on craigslist for $125. It was lightly used (one year) and the buyers were “ecstatic”….Well I guess they were I found the receipt from 25 years ago…I had paid about $350…back then.

    • Well, whatever your generation, you STILL are required to keep at least 7 years’ worth of records if you run a business — any business, even something as tiny as a freelance wrilter’s hustle. Many accountants will tell you that you’d better have records going back further than that. And if you have stocks or mutual funds, you have to know the “cost basis” to figure out how much tax you owe…that means you need a record of how much you paid per share way back when.

  3. Well actually the way it was explained to me…the “7 years mantra” is an “urban myth”. Should an audit take place and the IRS discovers a problem within the 7 years they may go back as far as they wish. And it’s your job to provide the supporting documentation….In other words…”quilty until proven innocent”…LOL. So lets say there is a problem with the depreciation schedule on a “long held” piece of rental property on income tax filed 5 years ago….It is my understanding they may go back to the time of the original purchase to uncover wrong doing….(in my case over 39 years)… So I would think the saying…”it’s better to have it and not need it….then to need it and not have it”…. applies.

    • I’ve heard that, too. And essentially that means “keeping stuff forever.” The ex- used to say you should keep ALL receipts and documents related to your business permanently.

      The practicality of simply keeping track of that much paper aside, just think of the sheer amount of storage space you’d need. I have a four-drawer cabinet in the garage jammed tight with paper, plus six more file drawers in the office. If I don’t die soon, the entire house will have a file cabinet in every room.

      In fact, you could scan it to disk. But just imagine the time suck involved in that! And since electronic media are demonstrably not “forever,” to be sure you had a permanent record, you’d pretty much have to print out and store everything, anyway.

  4. What I do is keep the income tax in a folder in the file cabinet. But I keep the receipts in “banana boxes” in the attic. Each box is marked by filing year and receipts are in gallon size plastic bags by category. The truly worrisome thing is if there is a problem and the IRS does go waaaay back…Forget the cost of the tax due….it’s the penalties and interest that are the killers. I will share that some of the “heat sensitive” receipts can be very hard to read as they tend to darken over time.

    • Heat & light sensitive. This time around I found that even receipts that were just a year or so old had gone blank.

      Friend of mine has one of those little hand-held scanners. He just runs every receipt through the thing and stores it to disk. That way, if you’e saved them by date or by purpose or by product, it would be relatively(!?!) easy to track one down. And you’d have a back-up in case some of them faded away like the Cheshire cat. But if you also tossed them in banana boxes, you’d have hard-copy back-ups, at least of those that survived the test of time.

      Between the separate personal and corporate tax returns, just now I have TWO WHOLE LEGAL-SIZE FILE DRAWERS full of damn tax returns.