Home > Personal Finance > How a $2 Purchase Has Saved Me $600…and Counting

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It’s nothing special, and it’s certainly not high-tech. But a $2 binder has saved me over $600 in the last year alone. I use this binder to save receipts and warranty information for major purchases. It came in handy recently when our water heater started leaking. I immediately assumed we would have to spring for a new one since we were outside the one-year full warranty period. But I pulled out my binder, looked at the warranty information and discovered we are covered for 11 years for leaks. My hubby pulled out the faulty water heater, headed over to Home Depot with copies of the receipts and warranty, and we were up and running with a new one within a day. Savings: Over $400.

Not long after that, I was opening the cover on my Lexmark printer when a hinge snapped off the cover. Once that piece was broken, I could no longer close the cover properly, and that meant I could not scan or print. Again, the printer was a few years old so I assumed I’d have to buy a new one. But I pulled out my receipts, called Lexmark’s customer service department, and in three days a new, upgraded printer was on my doorstep. Savings: Over $200.

While I do aspire to go completely paperless someday, I have found my binder is a simple way to keep important receipts available when I need them. I also print out confirmation emails for software I downloaded online and stash them in this binder. If my computer dies, as it did last year, I have the information I need to reinstall those programs.

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Free Tool: Credit Report CardIf you prefer to store everything online, you can use Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive or another cloud-based service to do that. Just scan your receipts and save them in a folder where you can find them easily. (Evernote has an advantage here in that it is very easy to search for words on the receipt rather than by filename.) If you prefer to store copies on your computer, you’ll want to make sure that your computer files are backed up in case of a disaster or hard drive failure. I use Carbonite for that purpose.

Another low-tech tool I find helpful: an accordion-style file organizer I bought for $1 on clearance. I use it to store my receipts for everyday purchases. (To clarify, these are receipts for ordinary purchases. Purchases for larger or more expensive items go in the binder.) All my January receipts, for example, go in one slot. The next slot holds receipts for purchases made in February and so on. When I get through a year, I will start over. I throw away last year’s January receipts and use the January slot for the new receipts. This means receipts for smaller purchases are also available for easy returns if needed. Plus, it’s always interesting to leaf through last year’s receipts and see how I wasted spent money.

[Related Article: Can You Afford to Be a Full-Time RVer?]

More tips:

Make copies or scan copies of those annoying thermal receipts that fade quickly. Do this right away before you forget it about it and end up with an illegible receipt.

Compare warranties before you buy, especially for larger items, and find out whether your credit card company offers automatic extended warranty protection for purchases you make with the card.

When shopping for a large ticket item, also do a quick search for complaints/compliments about the manufacturer or retailer’s customer service. I would definitely buy a Lexmark printer again, thanks to their excellent customer support. But the extended warranty my husband bought at Office Depot for his laptop (I wasn’t with him or I would have nixed that purchase!) has been a nightmare to claim. Wish I had known.

Do you have a system for organizing receipts and keeping track of warranty information? If so, be sure to share it in the comments below.

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Image: Gerri Detweiler

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  • Gerri Detweiler

    I spoke with Herb Weisbaum, a.k.a. Consumer Man on his radio show about this story and he added another tip: When you make a major purchase log the item, serial number, purchase price etc in a spreadsheet which you can keep for insurance purposes. Simple but brilliant!

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