Files You Can Discard

Content Updated October 3, 2007

You don’t have to keep every piece of paper forever. Here’s a list of items you can eventually throw out.

Tip: If you are worried about throwing something out, get yourself a scanner and scan your documents into your computer. Burn them onto a CD or DVD and store them in a fireproof or safe deposit box.

Monthly

  • ATM statements (after you receive your regular bank statement and verify that the ATM transaction is on the bank statement)
  • Receipts for items you can’t return, are not tax deductible, and don’t have a warranty

After 1 year

  • Cancelled checks for routine purchases and bills (groceries, electric bill, etc.)
  • Utility bill statements unless you have charges that you are deducting from your taxes (make sure you don’t throw out the entire year’s worth of statements because you may need them to prove residency for some accounts, even for library cards; just throw the ones that are 12 months old or older)
  • Credit card receipts for items that are not tax deductible
  • Paycheck stubs (except the very first and the very last paycheck from an employer) once you have compared them to your W-2 and your social security statement (you may want to keep them for 2 years in case you want to look them over for comparisons during next year’s tax preparations)

After 7 years

  • Tax records (including your W-2, tax forms, receipts for tax deductible items, and statements that include tax deductible items)
  • Records regarding previously owned real estate
  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Investment statements
  • Records of loans you’ve paid off (including personal loans from family and friends; receipts, cancelled checks, contracts, statements, and so forth)

After they expire or are no longer active

  • Warranties and receipts for items covered by the warranty if the purchase is not tax deductible and the item can’t be returned
  • Insurance policies with no possibility of filing a claim
  • Contracts (you may want to hold onto contracts that may be necessary to defend you if you are sued or if a dispute occurs)
  • Stock certificates

After you no longer own the item

  • Vehicle records (give to new owner)
  • Large appliance records (give to new owner)

After the account is closed

  • Credit card statements for cards that are paid in full and do not have charges listed for tax deductible items