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Paid bills and filing question

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  • Paid bills and filing question

    I am trying to find out how other people deal with filing (if they do) their paid bills. Also which bills they may keep and for how long. Right now I keep all my paid bills - credit cards, car insurance, life insurance, phone, cell phone, utilities, etc. Obviously this is huge amounts of paper.

    Some of it has value - there are business calls or purchases with credit cards which i can deduct on taxes. Some of it I keep because I don't know why. I don't know if I would ever need it. It is just a habit that has grown over the years.....fueled by uncertainty (mighten I need this some day). So I lean towards holding rather than throwing.

    Any thoughts

    Thanks in advance

  • #2
    Toss 'em

    I try to follow this principle: "When it doubt, throw it out. If the document is really important, someone, somewhere else in the world has a copy."

    Like you, I used to keep a record of all my paid bills. However, I pay them through Quicken, so I have a record of payment there. In the last several years, I can't remember a single time I have ever referred to the paper copy of the paid bill.

    Toss 'em.


    • #3
      Alternatively, if you can't bring yourself to just toss your old bills, but you don't reference them very often, don't spend a lot of time and effort filing them. Get a box or something and just toss them in there. Date the box when you start it, and when it gets full, date it again. Yeah, you'll have to go through a lot to find something, but you'll likely spend more time, space, and energy setting up and filing them neatly than you would looking for something later on.


      • #4
        Another quick solution is to invest in a cheap scanner and simply scan the bill in right before you toss it. Adds a few seconds (it takes about as long as a slower copy machine), but worth it if tossing the paper gives you angst.


        • #5
          Here is the routine I use:
          1. I have a folder labeled for each bill (Telephone, Visa, Discover, Power, etc.)
          2. I have a folder for credit card slips that have not been billed.
          3. On a daily basis I put any credit card slips accumulated into the folder mentioned in #2. If I am going to be able to use that receipt as a tax dedcution, I write "TAX" on it before putting it in the folder. (I may also write a quick note on it so I will know why it was tax deductible.)
          4. As bills come, I toss them in the tickler folder for the upcoming weekend. That way I get the checkbook out 1 time and writes all of the checks at one sitting.
          5. As I am paying credit card bills, I pull the receipts which match those particular bills. I separate any slips marked "TAX" into one stack. They go into a folder marked "Income Tax 2004" (which will be emptied, sorted, and organized when it comes tax time. The other receipts are stapled to the part of the bill which I keep (the part that lists the itemized charges).
          6. The bill is filed in the back of the appropriate folder. (Visa, Telephone, etc.)

          Every couple of years, I will purge that filing cabinet and move any of the folders containing bills older than a year to a footlocker in the garage. At that time, I also throw away the oldest bills from the footlocker. Generally, I wind up keeping bills, recipts, and checks 7-10 years.


          • #6
            A strange occurrence years ago now has me keeping bill statements indefinitely. Bought a bed from Macy's, which I returned due to profoundly poor craftsmanship (sag central). They came and picked it up, and the next month's bill reflected the 4-figure credit. 5 years later, I get a bill, with the charge reinstated. If I hadn't kept that credit-proof statement (then, a result of my "piles" syndrome), I'd have had a serious problem.

            I've had the full Adobe Acrobat product since version 3 (now at 6; I stopped at 5), and that version is fine for this purpose (read: get it for minimum bucks). I now scan all statements into Acrobat (File -- Import), using a simplistic electronic filing scheme (2003/Accounts/Creditors/AmEx_2003.pdf, 2003/Accounts/Professional/Licenses-Pa_2003.pdf, etc). That, in turn, allowed me to declutter the basement, as I no longer needed all the file cabinets. Once a year, post-tax time, I move it all to a CD.

            FWIW, I already had a multi-function machine, with an auto-doc feeder. This system worked so well, then I added a cheap flat-bed scanner, for receipts. Bonus: tax-time is no longer the huge pain in the skleeboop it once was! Acrobat allows me to yellow-highight line items, perfect for creating a no-fuss tax-deductible trail. Incidentally, scanning the OLLLLLDDDDD bill statements? One of my "someday maybe" tasks, which the GTD system coerced me into tackling, once and for all.