Spring Clean Your Way to Savings
By Andrew Johnson
Springtime means opening the windows, sweeping out the dust from over the winter and starting anew. It is also the opportune time to clean out your wallet or purse, that junk drawer full of receipts and those overflowing file cabinets. But where to begin?
Go through your wallet and purse and fish out any receipts you may have accumulated. Review which ones you need to keep and why you kept them. For example, has that gift receipt expired? If so, put it in your shred pile! Do you have receipts related to holiday rebates? If so, sit down today, fill out the form, and either load on-line or put in the mail.
Next, get rid of all the other paper clutter that could be a paper trail for identity thieves. Do you have credit card offers lying around that need to be dealt with? Or, how about passwords scribbled on post-it notes? Do you have other receipts tacked on a bulletin board or shoved in a kitchen junk drawer? How about all the paperwork from filing your taxes? Rake them all together!
Once you’ve raked together all your sensitive papers, it’s time to decide what to do with them. For tax documents, in most cases, you should plan on keeping tax returns and any supporting documents (e.g., W-2s, mileage logs if you itemize, etc.) for at least three years after the date you filed or the due date of your tax return, whichever is later. Always consult your tax preparer, if you have questions.
Receipts not related to refunds or extended warranties can be set aside for shredding. Do you have a pile of credit card offers taking up space in a drawer? Get them ready for shredding, too!
So, once you decide what you need to shred, how do you handle it all? Tearing the documents in half and throwing them out is not the way to go! A home shredder is a good idea. It is recommended that you buy a shredder that cross-cuts. In other words, you want all that paper ending up looking like confetti, and not in strips. Home machines are not typically heavy-duty, so be careful as to how much you shred at a time. If your shredder is not equipped to take on staples or other metal, be careful to remove them from the paper to avoid damaging the blades.
If you have a lot of sensitive documents, many communities now offer Shred events. They enable you to drop off your documents for shredding for free, or for a small fee, and even watch it being shredded while you wait.
Highly sensitive documents (social security cards, passports, birth certificates, wills) should be locked up in a fireproof file cabinet or lockbox. Gather all other pertinent papers, like insurance forms, tax documents, mortgages, and put them in a secure location. Inform trusted family members where the documents are located and/or location of a key for the secure file cabinet or lockbox.
A little planning this spring, alongside your traditional cleaning, can set you up for a great financial year!