when to toss bills, etc.

pammyfayNovember 12, 2007

There has been a lot posted here and there about when you can be reasonably secure that you're tossing old bills, mortgage statements, bank and credit card statements, etc., that you def. won't need.

But I've seen more conflicting information than reliable sources.

What's your standard operating procedure on this, and what source did you take the info from?

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western_pa_luann

My short answer is - when you are done with them!

The long answer is that it depends on YOUR circumstances and YOUR tax deductions. Things that are necessary for me to keep may be things that you toss right into the trash...

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 10:29PM
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duluthinbloomz4

I agree with above - when you're done with them. For routine bills - phone, electric, cc companies, etc. your check register is as good a record as anything; couple the register with your monthly bank statement and you've got everything. And for one thing - if a check doesn't clear or you miss a payment, the company billing you will certainly let you know. And the blizzard of one page tax documents that start arriving each January are also good replacements for the 12 months of paper/receipt saving.

Some things I hold on to for a year, then do a purge after my tax returns are in. Tax returns with all the statements, 1099's and what all, I tend to keep in a file for ten years although keeping them for seven years seems to be the standard answer. I also keep brokerage account statements, asset purchase confirmations, stock dividend reinvestment confirmations forever - that is a pile of paper, but absolutely essential to determine cost basis.

Paper pile up is one of the the worst organizational issues. It took me quite a few years of saving everything before figuring out what was important and what wasn't.

Truth be told, though, it is a comfort level thing. Look at the kinds of paper you're saving and ask if you've ever had to refer back to it for anything.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 11:54AM
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jannie

Keep tax returns and W2 forms forvver. If you ever apply for Social security Benefits, the only acceptable evidence of missing earnings are your tax return and W2s. Me, I keep most bills for two years, then shred them. I have a rolling tickler file I use.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 12:04PM
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talley_sue_nyc

If anything is ever connected to my taxes (receipts, statements, W2s, etc.), I *move them* immediatelyy (not at the end of the year) to my tax-return file and LEAVE THEM THERE.

Then I am free to throw anything else away.

And I usually do.

I decided my comfort factor is a year. But in all honesty, almost all of the *statements* can be tossed immediately after they're paid.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 1:10PM
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zone_8grandma

I have to agree with the above posters - you do have to stay within your own comfort zone.

I keep tax returns for 10 years (if I ever did need an older return, I can get a copy from the IRS).

I keep two months' bank statements, then shred. I don't keep bills after they are paid.

When my late MIL died, DH and I spent HOURS shredding every check she had ever written (some fifty years' worth). We wore out the shredder. It cured him of holding onto paper.

I generally do a major purge around tax time.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 5:24PM
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jannie

Not true, the IRS doesn't keep returns you filed more than seven years ago.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 6:55AM
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bizzymrs

I have a question about toss medicare/tricare statements for my deceased father--he passed away 2 years ago and i have rubbermaid tub packed with all of these statements (organized by year)--when is it ok to shred all this stuff?
I have not been contacted by any medical provider/hospital (I am his sole heir and was executrix of what little estate he had). Just want to make sure I'm keeping enuff or too much.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 6:34PM
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duluthinbloomz4

bizzymrs: I have every confidence you can start shredding the bulk (or all) of the papers in your RubberMaid tub. A hospital/medicare, etc. bill that was not presented in a timely fashion (usually within 12 months) is not anyone's responsibility - and the hospital or whatever will simply eat the charges if they have the nerve to send a bill after all this time.

But do shred them - they carry Social Security numbers and information you wouldn't want an identity thief to get ahold of.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 2:37AM
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jannie

When MIL died, my DH (her son) was the executor of her estate. He had all her mail and bills forwarded to him. He kept the paperwork for a year,then shreaded everything. He kept her death certificate, which was needed when he cashed in some savings bonds they held jointly.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 11:18AM
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mary_c_gw

Bizzymrs,

Shredding all that stuff really isn't necessary. Your father has been gone for 2 years, so identity theft is just not a problem!!! Your father's social security number is no longer a risk to you.

Toss it immediately, it'll be gone, and you're out a difficult completely unnecessary chore.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 2:25PM
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neesie

I just want to remind everyone here that there is an easy alternative to shredding: BURNING!

I, too, do not hang on to a lot of paper. I keep a paper grocery bag inside of my garage (just a door away from my kitchen) and toss stuff in there that people would normally shred. Every once in a while we have a bonfire in the yard and ooops, there it goes. Easy!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 2:57PM
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xantippe

I did recently come across a situation when keeping old bill stubs was essential. We bought a house last year, and because my fiancee (now husband) and I operate on a cash basis, my fiancee at the time had no credit score. None. To buy the house, we had to provide two years' worth of bill stubs: electric, water, and I forget what all else. We had to do pay stubs, too, for two years! Eeeek.

This is the only case I know where paper hoarding was a good thing. So, if you know anyone who might be in a similar boat someday, tell them to keep their stubs.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 1:31PM
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talley_sue_nyc

but if you hadn't had them couldn't you have asked the utility company for statements to cover that same time period?

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 1:53PM
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western_pa_luann

I keep things because I don't want to pay the utilities to reprint them for me.

Here, they charge $5 per page minimum. So if you need 24 months of electric bills, you gotta pay at least $120 (AND they are NOT timely about it).... and that is just one utility. Those copies can really add up.

I'd rather hang on to my originals for a little while longer than to scramble and pay later.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 5:20PM
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catkin

Thanks to the original poster! As a result of this thread, I finally went through some old banking statements, canceled checks/carbons and burnt everyone of them! Yay!!!! I also went through some kitchen drawers and organized/decluttered them.
My kitchen counters got a good de-stuff-ing, too! I find myself looking at and admiring how nice they look without all that STUFF!!!

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 8:55PM
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marie26

If you know that you will be closing an account (telephone, utility, cable type), how many months of bills prior to its closing must one keep?

I'm ready to go through these files again and since I think I will be moving sometime next year, I want to get rid of as much as possible. My plan would be that when I move, I'll put all of these (closed) files in a box for storage.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 4:49PM
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wantoretire_did

Marie26 - If you are selling, you should probably keep heat/hot water/electric bills for the prior year to show buyers. Otherwise, you can toss them.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 7:43AM
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