It’s the moment of truth: You just had your furnace tuned up, with a fancy new filter that leaves dust mites equal parts frustrated and terrified. Carl, your new favorite furnace tech, pulls off a carbon copy of your work order (in a flattering pink shade) and hands it to you. You walk Carl out and bask in your dust-free, perfectly temperate climate, looking down at your fuchsia receipt. As you begin to crumple it into a ball, a sliver of doubt appears.
Should you keep this slip of paper? (Answer: Probably.)
It’s worth getting a scanner (or even a scanner app on your smartphone) and filing all these receipts away in Dropbox or iCloud — or going retro with a filing cabinet if you’re feeling sassy. Here’s why:
1. Know when to spend
Are you good at breaking things? My washing machine had problems from day one. Turns out, I was way too ambitious about the size of load it could handle — but didn’t learn that until a technician wearing those weird paper booties came to my house.
You need only a few of those experiences before you realize it’s not worth throwing good money after bad. If you keep your receipts and maintenance records, you can figure out when it makes sense to just buy a new one and push your old large appliance into a rock quarry. (Except for the rock quarry part; don’t do that.)
2. Selling your place
People go a little nuts when buying a home. When you’re selling, chances are good that you’re going to run into a buyer who is over-the-top bananas meticulous. They’re going to want to know not only how many years old your new gutters are, but also what time of day they were installed, the blood type of the man who installed them, and also whether Saturn was in retrograde at the time. (It affects gutter strength, you know.)
And that’s totally cool; they should do their due diligence. But when they come at you with questions, you need to be ready to throw down your receipts as though they’re a royal flush.
3. Insurance fistfights
Let’s say insurance pays for a new roof after a tree falls on your house and damages it. You’re happy until four months later when, for reasons unknown, the insurance company decides it paid too much and wants some money back. What in holy heck? (It’s true; I’ve seen it happen.)
If you have your maintenance records and your receipts for the repairs, then you can fight it. It won’t be fun, but it will keep money where it belongs — in your pocket.
4. Budgeting brigade
Repairs are inevitable and maintenance should be too, lest your home veer into shanty status. It’s all a pain in the pocketbook when it happens: $100 here, another $450 there. And the worst part is, it always feels unexpected.
Here’s a good idea: Hang onto your maintenance records, and when you have a year’s worth, crunch some numbers to set up a maintenance budget for the year. Budget a little higher at the start, but do this every year so more data will make it more accurate. That way, when something goes wrong, you will have the money ready to spend and it won’t feel as though you are taking it away from something else.
Have your receipts ever saved your bacon? We want to hear your story! Tell us about it in the comments below.