How long should you keep copies of paid bills? I am trying to organize and would like to get rid of as much unnecessary stuff as I can. Thanks for your help.
Keep copies of tax returns for at least three years, that's the usual tax audit period unless they suspect you of fraud. All other bills I keep only two months. I pay bills all at one time , rubber band the receipts, write the month on them and toss two months later. I do keep my cancelled checks about a year. If you ever need a copy of a credit card bill, the company will provide it for free.
tossing paid bills is NOT the thing to do. most contain your name, address, and account number. 3 of the things needed for identity theft. shred them when you are ready to get rid of them. i actually use mine to light my fireplace.
any bills that are business related expenses should be kept along with that years tax return. for that matter, any bill or receipt that can be used as a tax write off should be kept. to save space, switch to electronic billing on any available accounts. no paper to keep up with. you just have to keep up with the receipts.
i keep mine for 5 years, as that is how far the state tax commission will go back on an individual. businesses are 7 years.
i DO get my CC bills electronically, so i have no paper bill on most things. in those instances i keep the receipt for tax purposes, and just print off the bill if the whole thing can be a write off/deduction. all this goes in that years tax folder.
each year i clean out the file drawer and put the prior year's folders in a small box. this goes inthe top of the closet and the oldest info goes in the burn bin. i have 2 years worth to dispose of this year, as i did not do at the start of 2005 due to moving.
cancelled checks should also be destroyed. think about it, to use a check on the web all you need is the routing number and account number. my mother found this out the hard way.
My bank has a note by the teller's wicket that recommends that if you pay bills by "credit" (read "debt") card ...
... ask for a new card account on which there is only a very low credit limit, for internet intercourse is quite public, thus risky.
Hope you never suffer from identity theft - it's very draining, in terms not only financial but also time wise. Plus emotionally.
A PITB - Pain in the Butt!
Hope you all have a satisfying and joyful week.
If you're a homeowner, keep all bills for improvements, etc., for as long as you own the house. Many of these items can be used to adjust the basis of your house and reduce your taxes on any profit you make when you sell.
Some cards, such as my Citibank Visa, support "virtual" account numbers. A one-use number mapped to your account inside the card bank.
I use online bill pay so I throw away all paper bills. After reading this, I should probably buy a shredder...
I pay for many of my purchases (not a large number, as I live alone - and frugally) in cash.
We get milk in cartons about 3" square and about 7" high - some of which I rinse, cut off the top that's built like a house roof, cut down one side of two of them, slide them together and staple them so that they form a small file box. Just the right size to hold a number of envelopes.
Label a dozen envelopes (preferabley windowless, being more sturdy and don't snag the receipts) "January" to "December", collect sales receipts for each month as it comes, using paper clips.
Now my box has a dozen envelopes in it, with "Feb" at the front, in which I've been collecting receipts this month, "March" behind it.
At the end of this month, I'll put this envelope, containing all of the sales receipts for this Feb. at the back of the box, leaving "March" envelope showing - filled with the receipts for stuff bought last March. I remove them, remove the paper clip, staple them, and place them into another empty envelope that I label "March 2004" and put into a similar file box stored at some distance from my desk.
That way, if I find a receipt for an item that I bought during the past year that got dropped somewhere in the house, car, pocket, etc. I can place it into the relevant file envelope currently in play. I've been known to find receipts over a year old - and I know where to put them, as well.
Not having "Quicken", I'm still keeping paper records, so when I find the neglected receipt, I can update the account book as well - adding the "$1.57" item to the "Expenditure" column, plus over in the appropriate individualized column on the right - and subtracting it from the "?" expenditure item at the bottom of each month's page, to which items were added where the total of the receipts didn't match the amount of money in the wallet.
Keep a register of checking account on the back of the page (or, possibly, on the back of the "January" page for most of the year, moving to the back of the "Feb" page, etc. as needed.
Not as careful about this item, though, as it is a reconstruction of the cheque register that I carry with my cheque book (Yeah - Canadians spell funny).
I enter pre-authorized payments on the cheque register, as well - as required, if I'm not to end up with the account overdrawn at times.
And I've arranged to have accounts at a bank where I can have the account operational without having to pay them monthly fee to maintain it - with additions for writing over a certain number of cheques monthly, overdraft protection, etc.
And - I am *not* about to pay them for the privilege of making a deposit (though most don't charge for that).
Hope your accounting system is fairly simple - and working effectively for you.
If you don't boss your Dollars - they'll boss you.
By the way - I use those milk-carton-file-boxes to sort out mail from family, current bills that need to be paid (after writing on the envelope what day is deadline to avoid penalty), receipts for charitable contributions to use for deductions from income tax liability, income tax-related mail from stockbrokers, bank, insurance cos., pension plan, etc. that I need for tax preparation, also.
SHRED, SHRED, SHRED!!
Not only is it important to prevent ID theft, but it's also fun! YOu can get a decent shredder for probably $25.
As for how long to keep stuff, if I were organized, I'd get rid of CC bills after a year. As it is, they tend to collect in the file cab for longer. Altho, if you buy anything big w/ a card that promises an extended warranty--keep that bill, in case you need to use the warranty. Phone bills and stuff you can get rid of more often--keep last month's, tho, in case they charge you a late fee or something. I keep my oil/electricity bills for a year or more so I can look for patterns of usage, and estimate what it'll cost for the next year.