When a cashier hands you your receipt, you probably just think of it as one more annoying piece of paper.Many people toss their receipts in the nearest garbage can on their way out of the store. It’s particularly tempting to toss it when you paid cash and you don’t even have to enter it in the checkbook. But receipts are actually very useful pieces of paper that can help you save some money. How? Here are some savings that you’re likely to find on a receipt and some instances where keeping your receipts can save you money.
Errors: Before you leave the store, check to make sure that all of your items were priced correctly and that any coupons were applied correctly. This is particularly important if you were distracted while the items were being rung up. It’s much easier and convenient to have an error corrected while you’re in the store than it is to do it a few days later. Some stores will give you an item free if you catch incorrect pricing so it’s worth a minute to stop and verify your receipt.
Coupons: Some stores print the receipts on paper that has coupons already printed on the back. These are frequently for local services, retailers, and restaurants. We always eat 2-for-1 at our local Mexican restaurant thanks to our grocery receipts. Other stores print coupons on the bottom of the receipt for you to tear off and bring in on your next visit.
Surveys: Many stores have surveys on the bottom of their receipts so they can find out about your store experience. Many times these are for a chance to win a gift card. These are of dubious value because the odds of winning are low. However, if you have the time it can’t hurt to enter. The ones to watch for, though, are the surveys that give you something free for completing them. Sometimes a restaurant will offer a free food item if you take their survey. Other stores might offer money off your next purchase. These surveys are rarely long or complicated so it’s an easy way to score a freebie.
Freebies: Occasionally I’ll get a receipt that says something like, “Bring this receipt to the local minor league baseball game and get a free ticket.” Last week I got one from a local office supply store that offered me a free dog treat at the pet store next door if I brought in the receipt from the office supply store. The pet store had made a deal with the office store to get the customers of the office store to visit the pet store. If the retailer is sponsoring an event or is in cahoots with another retailer you may get a freebie on your receipt, but you won’t know if you don’t look.
Returns: This isn’t something you’ll find on the receipt, but it is another reason to keep your receipts. If you have to return something, the only way to guarantee that you’ll get all of your money back is to keep your receipt. Without a receipt the retailer doesn’t have to take the item back at all. If they do, they will likely only give you the current selling price. If the item you have has gone on clearance, you may only get a small fraction of what you originally paid.
Rebates: If you toss the receipt and then later discover a rebate for something you bought, you’re out of luck. Most rebates require the original receipt or at least a copy of it.
Price adjustments: If you buy something today and then it goes on sale in the immediate future (usually one to two weeks), many retailers will refund you the difference between what you paid and the sale price. They’ll only do it, though, if you have the original receipt.
If you want to further increase your savings, you can pick up discarded receipts and take advantage of those coupons or offers. Many people can’t be bothered with their receipt and just drop it in the parking lot. Their discards can give you extra coupons or surveys that you can use to get some discounts or freebies for yourself.
Don’t forget to check all of the other stuff that the cashier hands you with your receipt, as well. At my grocery store I leave the checkout with the receipt, a printout showing my fuel rewards, a few extra coupons, and sometimes a special offer for discounted tickets to the theater or some other special event that’s coming to town. My store also issues gift certificates when you reach a certain level of rewards points. It looks like a receipt, though, so it’s easy to throw away. Before I toss any of the paperwork in the garbage, I check it over to see if there’s anything I can use. Don’t just automatically throw away everything that the cashier hands you. You may throw away something valuable.