On Keeping Bills (offshoot from the "Clutter" thread)

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Timedess, Sep 21, 2004.

  1. Timedess

    Timedess Guest

    well... i confessed to being a clutterbug in that thread.... i am still in need of going through the office... pray for me as i tackle that this week!

    but... i really wanted to address this 'how long should we keep old bills' question.... i was told years ago by a tax consultant, to keep ANY records from self-employment for AT LEAST TEN YEARS, preferrably forever just in case.... i asked about 'regular bills- like utility bills' and was told two years should cover it.... NOT!!!

    if anyone has read my thread on the 'bogus debt collection' in the countryside families board, you'll know what i'm talking about.... (i'll be posting an update there soon)... find out what the STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS is in your state for utility bills, and keep them THAT long.... in oklahoma it is 7 years. different states have different statutes of limitations.

    personally, i have a goal to sort all of the 'kept' bills that i still have (that have survived other declutterings :haha: ) and file them, with payment info such as bank account and check #, in separate-but-together files that i can easily access but which are not IN THE WAY! i WILL go back ten years- if i can- and get my current bills up to date and organized as i can get them....

    like i said, pray for me this week....... :rolleyes:
  2. New Mexican

    New Mexican Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2004
    New Mexico
    thanks for this, Timedess.

    I HATE paper everywhere, and since I am not an organizer by any means, it is just that.............everywhere. Why do they DO this to us?? And the complain about landfills being full!!! HA!!!!!!!!!! :no:

  3. landlord

    landlord Well-Known Member

    Sep 8, 2004
    My clutter.. I blame it on the mailman.... :haha:
  4. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2004
    SE PA, zone 6b
    One thing you do want to keep: Anything that will be added to the capiital basis of your home (needed at sale of same) or proof of purchase for investment stuff. A CPA should be able to tell you the difference between capital improvements and maintenance items. The rules change from time to time, so I would keep all records having to do with the house other than utilities or yard improvement. Once in my long life I had a fit and threw out 20 years worth of old files. I'm sure when we came to sell, we missed a lot in determining the basis for the property.

    On utility bills, I usually keep the last bill of the year. I have long thin boxes into which I put everything (receipts, investment records, utility bills, worksheets, etc.) having to do with a given year. I mark it boldly with the year, and put it someplace out of the way that is reasonably mouseproof. I have a file in the office area into which I store the actual tax returns.

    I have another file inside that has all the warranties, manuals, etc. of all appliances. I staple the receipt of each item to its appropriate manual. I have another file that holds anything having to do with loans, mortgage payments, credit cards. At the end of the year, I only keep the last bill of the year, which usually shows the entire year. I have one file for contributions. For my small backyard nursery, I have a separate file that holds manila folders for the various expenses and income?? for the business. I label files following the tax returns.

    Then I have stacks and stacks of clippings and junk that might be useful someday. I hardly know what to do about this stuff. However, I am faced with the necessity of simplifying drastically. My daughter tosses almost everything with the comment that if she needs anything, she'll look it up on the internet. She's right, of course. I have started going through some older boxes and am amazed at what I kept. Well, my goals have changed a great deal in the interim, and I find myself wondering what on earth I was thinking of!! I have eliminated all the books except the ones I knew I would read again. That was painful.

  5. deberosa

    deberosa SW Virginia Gourd Farmer!

    Dec 13, 2003
    Floyd County, VA
    I've been toying with this idea and wonder if anyone else has tried it. Working with computers as a profession, this year I implemented an imaging system for my employer.

    The same thing can be done with a scanner - many are under $100 for a simple scanner.

    If I scanned the papers into folders on my computer and then cut CD's I could have all of those handy documents filed! If I found stuff on the internet I could maybe load it electronically into a folder - but haven't tried that yet. There are many downloaded documents I know I could put there.

    Has anyone attempted this? Might be my winter project. There are so many cool ideas around, I can't bear to throw it away!

    The other thing I did that helped ALOT was get a PO Box. I got it because my mailbox is a bit exposed and mail theft has become a bigger and bigger issue. The side benefit I discovered was that the post office has two huge garbage bins and a worktable! I drag the pile of stuff over to the worktable and start pitching! I pay my bills right there when they arrive. Throw away all of the envelopes, etc. I usually walk out with only a couple of pieces of mail!
  6. Timedess

    Timedess Guest

    Ahhhh- but my kids (and I) are too addicted to "checking the mail"!!! :haha:
  7. Barb

    Barb Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2002
    West River SD
    Anything taken off my tax returns is kept for at least 10 years. It is all filed seperately in manilla envelopes by year (ranch receipts seperate). All receipts for any repairs, additions etc. to the house are kept in an ongoing file and sorted. These are all kept together from every year. If I want proof of when I purchased the shingles with a 20 year warrenty and at 10 years they are falling apart I know where the receipt is. Anything current , meaning this calendar year is kept in a metal standing file (sorted by catagory). Jan 1 it is sorted into what is need for the IRS and what can be thrown. Then it is put into marked envelopes. All warrenties & instructions have their own file drawer and the purchase receipt is stapled to the inside cover. I instantly know when & where it was purchased and for how much (and what a part # is). I keep sentimental stuff like the deed from our first home in the box with the IRS stuff and when we go through the box every few years it gets reviewed and some of it will get tossed. When the box is full it is time to go through it. Once you do this it is easy to spend just a couple of hours at years end to go through the files and keep everything neat and easy to find. And yes everything is also kept on the computer. I can find on the computer what year something was purchased and then look for the actual receipt in the stored files.
  8. Momo

    Momo Well-Known Member

    May 29, 2002
    North Alabama
    Does this mean I don't need to keep every check I ever wrote. Sigh.......... Or every utility bill , or warranty..What a concept. No wonder I have so many file cabinets.
  9. Denise K.

    Denise K. Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    Eastern Washington
    When you keep receipts you may want to make a copy. Many of the registers seem to use paper that the print fades after a very short time. I usually just scan the receipt and then staple it to the original receipt and the warrenty manuel. (Helps me find it in the files) Another thing I do with major purchases washer, dryer, etc is I take a magic marker and somewhere out of site usually on the back panel. I write date of purchase, where, etc. Then if I need to find the receipt info . I know what years file box to look in. It helps when I need to order a new part or want to verify the warrenty info.
  10. vickinell

    vickinell Well-Known Member

    Oct 10, 2003
    WOW! I 'm impressed. I hope to be that organized one day. I keep each bill in it's own sleeve(clear protector) in alphabetical order, in a binder. I label the spine of the binder with the year, and start a new binder each year. I have been doing that for five years. I also keep a small spread sheet of how much I pay each month on my bills. I reduced it first so that it fits in my wallet. It's like a graph, I can tell at a glance, what I paid in the past and what to expect during certain months. At first I used a budget book reccomended in a book for 2 years, but switched to this method.

    I also keep an index card in my wallet and record how much I spent for gas each purchase per month.
  11. cowgirlone

    cowgirlone Well-Known Member

    May 9, 2002
    Great thread! Thanks for all the tips folks. :)
  12. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    I have a friend who has for 50 years put all the bills, reciepts, checks, and anything to do with money in a large cardboard barrel after they were done filing taxes each year. I don't know how many barrels they have filled, but I'd bet he could show you a check stub for every week that he drew a paycheck since 1953. He might be hard to convince that you needed to see them.