I find that many people get stuck in a “just in case” mentality when it comes to paper. But if your files are overflowing, you know that more does not necessarily make you merrier. The more paper you have, the more time you’ll spend looking for that important little scrap with a crucial phone number on it…or that winning lottery ticket…or that oh-so-important legal document…you get the picture.
In honor of tax season (a great annual reminder to clean out your files), here’s what you should keep and what you should shred so you’ll free up your time to go out and spend that big refund check you’re expecting.
• Credit Card applications
• Expired cards (driver’s license, credit cards, bank cards, student ID’s, etc.)
• Any unwanted paper that contains your social security number (or that of any family member or anyone else for that matter)
• Credit card receipts for items you can’t return (like that Starbucks you had this morning) once you reconcile with your account.
• Canceled checks and ATM receipts once you reconcile with your monthly bank statement
• Prescriptions you are no longer taking
• Monthly bank and investment account statements once reconciled with your end of the year statement
• Pay stubs once you receive your W-2 or 1099
• Monthly bills IF you don’t write them off on your taxes (e.g. cable, water, power, cell phone)
• Any end of the year bank statement that is more than 7 years old
• Credit reports
• Vital records such as marriage, birth and death certificates
• Original Social Security cards
• Legal paperwork related to a divorce or custody arrangement
• Insurance policies and any potential claims information
• Car titles for cars currently owned
• Real estate documents showing a transfer/sale of property or a pay off
• Medical records
• Current copy of your resume
• Appraisals for jewelry, artwork, antiques, etc.
• Tax returns
• Most current Social Security report
• Military service information (e.g. discharge papers)
• Receipts for items you may return or may need for warranty purposes (until they expire)
This list is in no way comprehensive. Everyone has different reasons (e.g. taxes, a legal dispute, a business write off) for hanging on to different paper. And it’s important to note, you should always check with your accountant and attorney prior to getting rid of anything in question. “When in doubt, throw it out” doesn’t always apply to paper!
But if you don’t need it and want to protect your privacy and security, fire up the shredder (a cross cut shredder that also shreds CDs, credit cards and other media is best) and enjoy the delightful experience of watching it get ripped to tiny pieces.
Save shred time by visiting an upcoming shred-a-thon in Chapel Hill. If you live elsewhere, check with your Attorney General’s office or local police department to find a shred-a-thon near you.
CHAPEL HILL – SHRED-A-THONS (Orange County)
Saturday, April 18th, 9am-12pm
Howard, Perry & Walston – Coldwell Banker, 1600 East Franklin St, Chapel Hill
Local Sponsors: Attorney General Roy Cooper, Howard, Perry & Walston, ProShred
**Limit: 2 banker boxes for businesses
Wednesday, April 22nd, 10am-2pm
University Mall, 201 South Estes Drive, Chapel Hill
Local Sponsors: Attorney General Roy Cooper, Chapel Hill Police Department, A Shred Ahead