Organizing Store Receipts for Easy Returns


November and December tend to be the two months of the year where we buy and receive a laundry list of gifts. The one key to making any holiday run a little bit smoother is organizing the receipts that come with each purchase. All those little tiny strips of paper are sure to get lost in your purse, wallet or shopping bag if you aren’t careful. A week or two after Christmas when your son’s sleeper doesn’t fit and your husband’s shirt is just a little too big you want to be able to dig up those receipts so you can enjoy hassle free returns.

My solution: a small plastic binder that can store receipts easily and efficiently. There are many ways to organize, but I like to label my binder tabs with the stores I frequent the most. My labels look a little like this:

  • Macy’s
  • Home Depot
  • Marshalls/TJ Maxx
  • Kohl’s
  • Target
  • CVS

Every single time I return from shopping, (whether it’s the holiday season or not), I gather up my receipts and place them directly into the appropriate compartment. If you have a spare minute write a description across the top of your receipt. For example, “red sweater,” “racing cars,” “blue sheets,” etc. I keep a pen clipped to the side of my binder so I can easily pull it out and write down exactly what I bought. Of course, this is easier for some stores than others. If you bought twenty things at Target just write down the key items you may one day need to return or try to classify them. For example, “pool toys” or “groceries.”

Once you write down the description, file that little piece of paper into your binder. Then weed through the compartments every few months and shred any receipts that are no longer useful. For example, Target permits returns for ninety days after purchase. If ninety days have passed go ahead and shred that tiny piece of paper.

Most stores list their return policies prominently on their websites and many permit returns for a short period of time; typically thirty to forty-five days. Make note of the timeline for returns so you can keep receipts on hand for as long as they are relevant. A few stores, like Kohl’s, will accept returns for much longer periods of time. I wouldn’t keep a Kohl’s receipt for years, but I wouldn’t hesitate to keep it stored away for five or six months.

During a particularly dark period in my life I attempted to alleviate stress by shopping. One week I would walk out of a store with a bag full of items and a few days later I would feel guilty and return everything I purchased. Thankfully I am no longer in this predicament, but during that time I learned that staying organized was the only way to receive full credit for my purchases.

Just a week or two ago I cleaned out the closets and found $54.36 worth of stuff we didn’t really need. Without my handy-dandy receipt organizer I wouldn’t have been able to return any of these items!

Do you have a method for storing receipts? Have you ever been a serial returner?

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