Why You Should Keep Your Receipts After Doing Holiday Shopping

Ben Allen  | 

What happens to your receipts after you buy something at the store? Do you leave it in your pocket, wallet or purse until the ink is all rubbed off and the text becomes illegible? Maybe you toss it in the bag with your purchases, and forget to pull it out? Do you even take the receipt, or ask the checkout clerk to toss it? Perhaps you have a glovebox in your car filled to the brim with receipts that go back years, mixed in with trash and insurance information?

Receipts are quickly becoming a nuisance for people. You aren’t going to return that $2 pretzel from the gas station, but you still likely get a receipt for it. More and more, people automatically discard or forget about their receipts on all but their biggest purchases.

When it comes to the holidays, though, keeping track of your receipts is incredibly important. Keeping your receipts not only lets you exchange unwanted gifts, but it can be a useful tool if your credit card is stolen, and they also help with tracking your budget to make sure you don’t overspend.

Exchanging Gifts

Shopping for people can be hard, especially when you have to get a gift for people you don’t know very well, like your Great Aunt Sue who you haven’t spoken to in ten years, or a coworker you’ve never talked to in your company’s gift exchange. Even for the closest of friends and family, it’s possible to get the wrong gift, whether it’s a shirt that’s too small, or an item somebody already got them.

This is one of the biggest benefits to keeping your receipts, especially around the holidays. If somebody doesn’t like a gift, they can get it returned or exchanged with very little hassle. Sure, some stores allow exchanges even if you don’t have a receipt, but it’s much easier with one.

Most stores even have gift receipts that hide how much a gift costs, or which other items you purchased, but still allow the give reciever to exchange what they got. Just make sure you get both your receipt and a gift receipt.

If you think some of your gifts might need to be exchanged, make sure you understand the store’s return policy. Most stores allow for 30 days to return any product, but some have other restrictions. These can include if a product has been opened, requiring proof of it being damaged or defective, and requiring all parts to be present in the return, including instruction manuals.

Proof in Case of Credit Card Fraud

Let’s say you fell victim to a scam on Cyber Monday, and some criminals stole your credit card information. They decide to go on a shopping spree and buy all of their presents on your credit. Come January, you get your bill and you realize something is wrong. Instead of having to pay a couple hundred off, you have thousands of dollars due. It’s not until now that you suspect that your credit card has been compromised.

You call your credit card company and tell them what happened, and during this whole process arises the task of figuring out which purchases are yours, and what belongs to the criminals.

Receipts can act as both a record of your purchases, and proof for your credit card company. As you work with your credit card company, the receipts will help you easily find what you purchased with your card, separating what was legitimate, and what belonged to the criminal. Having that record can also help convince the credit card company that you are a responsible person who just got unlucky, and not somebody just trying to duck out on their bill.

Help Keep Your Budget on Track

Budgeting your money during the holidays means not having a mountain of debt to deal with come January. Know how much money you’ll spend, and then follow up on it to make sure you don’t go over. If you don’t have a personal budget, make one, as the holidays are a very common time for people to overspend and go into debt.

While in the heat of the moment when buying an item, you don’t have time to pull out your phone, notebook, or checkbook, and record how much something cost. But with receipts, after you head home, you can pull them out and put them into a spreadsheet (or whatever tracking method you use) and make sure your budget is sound.

This is especially helpful if you apply for in-store credit cards in order to get extra savings while shopping. It’s quite likely that you will forget how much went on that card, and checking your balance can be difficult until you get that bill in the mail. But, a receipt can tell you exactly how much money you spent on the card and adjust your budget accordingly.

How Do You Keep Them Safe?

Even if you only hold onto your receipts during the holiday season, where you store them is incredibly important. If you leave them in a pocket or wallet for a week or so, the wording fades quickly, making it worthless. This is because receipts are made from thermal paper, which literally burns the wording into the paper, instead of using ink. If you store a receipt in a warm place or somewhere it will get rubbed a lot, the writing fades away.

Instead, store your receipts in a safe, cool, stable location. This could be a lockbox in your closet, a jar in your kitchen away from the oven/stove, or in a shoebox under your bed. Bad places to keep your receipts include: your purse, wallet, pockets, car, countertops, or basically anywhere it can encounter heat and/or regular movement.

Your receipts are much more valuable than you might think. Yes, it’s likely you won’t need to keep one for when you buy a snack at a gas station, but when doing your holiday shopping, keep them safe. That way, you can keep track of your budget, be able to return gifts, and if the worse happens, straighten out your credit card.


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Ben Allen is a freelance content creator and digital marketer who believes in helping small businesses succeed. He spends his free time bragging about his two daughters, eating stuffed crust pizza, and playing video games.

This post was updated October 25, 2017. It was originally published October 29, 2017.