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How a $2 notebook saved me $600

It proved to be indispensable when our water heater began leaking and a hinge on my printer broke.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 8, 2012 1:29PM

This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site on MSN MoneyIt's nothing special, and it's certainly not high-tech. But a $2 binder has saved me more than $600 in the past year alone.


Image: Money (© Comstock/Corbis)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, because we were outside the one-year full warranty period. But I pulled out my binder, looked at the warranty information and discovered that we are covered for 11 years for leaks.


My hubby pulled out the faulty water heater and headed over to Home Depot with copies of the receipts and warranty. We were up and running with a new one within a day. Savings: more than $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 and called Lexmark's customer service department. In three days a new, upgraded printer was on my doorstep. Savings: more than $200.


While I do aspire to go completely paperless someday, I have found that my binder is a simple way to keep important receipts available when I need them. I also print out confirmation emails for software I download 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. (Post continues below video.)

If 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 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 spent money.

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 the company's 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.


More from and MSN Money:


Aug 8, 2012 2:07PM
Filing paperwork in categories to retrive when needed!  What an idea, why didn't I think of it?
Sep 8, 2012 11:24AM
I copy and paste my online receipts or any other important info on an email and save to a particular folder.  This way if my computer goes out I can retreive the info I need.  Sure has saved me a bundle.  Can always back up on a thumb drive or cd/dvd too but this seems to work for me.
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