Keep, Toss, Or Shred? How To Do A Financial Spring Cleaning


Photo: Easy traveller via Flickr

Most everyone has “that place” in their house. Whether it’s a room, a filing cabinet or – let’s be honest here –  your kitchen counter, it’s where the detritus of a year’s worth of mail goes on to live in perpetuity. 

Knowing what to keep and what to toss can be a stressful question for many consumers, especially when we’re talking about bills, financial statements and important documents you think you “might need one day.” 

To take out some of the guesswork for you leading up to tax season, Your Money tapped Anisha Sekar, VP at NerdWallet and the finance whizzes behind TD Bank for their advice on what to keep, toss, shred, and save. 

SAVE: Credit card offers

Per Sekar:

'Don't throw away credit card offers without skimming them first. Last year, credit card issuers went all-out with signup bonuses to woo new customers, and they'll continue to do so this year.

You never know if a mailing will offer, say, 100,000 miles, giving you the opportunity to take the signup bonus and run.'

SHRED: Billing statements

It's perfectly OK to get rid of billing statements -- so long as you've got electronic records online and have examined them all for errors.

'You should always keep a copy, online or not, in case you need to dispute a charge, but you're in the clear as long as you've got your e-statement on file. Check with your bank about going entirely paperless to reduce waste, and make sure that if you do throw away your billing statements, you do so in a way that prevents identity theft,' TD Bank says.

TOSS: Home improvement documents

Any records from home improvements won't be necessary, unless you need them for tax purposes if you sell your home, TD Bank says.

SAVE: Late payment notices

If you've gotten late payment notices from your bank in the mail, don't toss them out.

'Depending on your credit card, you might get slapped with a late fee or a penalty interest rate. By law, you'll have 45 days before the penalty rate goes into effect, giving you time to dispute any errors and to work on getting your balance down while your interest rate is still reasonable,' Sekar says.

SHRED: Your Cable Bill

Per TD Bank:

'Once verified for accuracy and the payment has been applied, you can shred bill statements such as utilities, phone and internet, unless you write a portion of these off for a business expense.'

Don't skimp on your shredder, though. Use one that doesn't just cut paper into strips, since they can be easily taped or pasted back together. Opt for a crosscut shredder instead.

SHRED: Canceled checks

TD Bank's advice:

Only save canceled checks if they are needed for tax reasons.

SAVE: W-2's

The general rule of thumb for tax statements is to keep them for seven years, TD Bank says.

That includes tax return documents, receipts for donations, support forms, etc.

SHRED: Pay stubs

Once you've gotten your W-2 for the year and cleared it for any errors, you're free to shred your pay stubs, TD Bank says.

TOSS/SAVE: Receipts

This depends on a couple of factors.

Once a credit card purchase shows up on your account and you're sure you won't return it, it's cool to shred or toss the receipt, unless you need it for taxes.

For big ticket items, like electronics, jewelry and furniture, it's best to keep receipts just in case something goes wrong.

Or, save yourself the trouble of hoarding receipts by downloading the app. The site allows you to snap a quick photo of a receipt with your smartphone and shoot it over to your online account for safekeeping.

SAVE: Investment statements

Per TD Bank:

Dividend reinvestments -- keep these statements for seven years after filing your tax return.

Brokerage statements -- keep a copy of your year-end statements for tax purposes; shred the rest.

Now that you've cleaned out your filing cabinet...

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