“Do you want your receipt?’’
We hear that question so often as clerks complete our transactions that we can be tempted to tune it out, dismissing it with a quick head shake as we dash off to the next receipt-generating errand.
But we shouldn’t. Taking that receipt can pay off...literally. It's a small piece of paper that can add up to big bucks.
Here are 6 reasons why you should always say yes to the receipt:
1. Errors Can Cost You...Or Pay
To err is human. To really mess up takes a computer, a busy store, and a harried cashier. So check your receipts to make sure your coupons were deducted, sale items were charged correctly, and purchases are not listed multiple times. Over time you may be throwing money away simply by not checking your receipts carefully.
Many states now have pricing laws to prevent consumers from being overcharged by retailers. If you find a mistake on your receipt, you may be entitled to a refund of the total cost of the product, depending on your state's consumer protection laws.
Look over your receipt before you leave the store, and if anything looks off, bring it to the customer service counter, where at the very least you may get a refund for any overpayment.
2. Get Free Coffee...and More!
My favorite convenience/coffee shop offers a free coffee with purchase of a certain item. But I often dart into the store after dark when the coffee will keep me awake, so I would toss my receipt even when I bought that day’s special.
I mentioned that to the cashier, who told me to show my receipt the next morning and get my coffee then, when it will help kick-start my day. A sweet deal...with extra milk!
3. Uncle Sam Wants...Your Receipts
When tax time comes, receipts reflect potential deductions. Tax rules change and every situation differs but save receipts can help reduce your tax bill.
If you are self-employed, for example, the cost of business travel and office supplies can often be deducted.
You don’t need a fancy organizing system; I throw my receipts in a shoebox. What matters is having proof for Uncle Sam, and those receipts do the job.
4. Track Spending
Feel like your money is as elusive as Bigfoot? Take a closer look at your receipts. Scanning your receipts might provide financial insight, as well as inspiration for your next shopping trip. Seeing your spending habits in black and white can help you get a better grasp on where your cash is going.
For example, you may notice a lot of frozen meals popping up on your receipts. Pre-packaged food is convenient, to be sure, but fresh food and making your own meals is cheaper and healthier.
All those famous names you're spotting on your receipts don’t always beat store brands, but they are more expensive. These might be clues that you're spending more than you thought you were.
5. They're Coupons, Too
Remember to look at the backs of your receipts. They sometimes include coupons for local businesses. It could be a good chance to find a new favorite breakfast shop or get a discount on dry cleaning.
And when you patronize those businesses to use your coupons, don't forget: save those receipts, too!
6. Surveys Can Pay
Many receipts feature survey questions at the bottom. Forty-one of the 51 largest U.S. retailers included a survey on their receipts. The companies get a sense of what you like and don’t like about their business and you get a free cookie or money off your next purchase.
Some offers are better than others, of course, but they're well worth checking out. A former co-worker actually won $500 by completing a survey at the bottom of her receipt, simply to report that she loved their chocolate ice cream.
This doesn’t happen often, of course, but it’s worth the chance. And your opinions count: Your perspective could lead to a better shopping experience in the future.
However, and this important: when you answer a survey or provide any kind of personal information to a retailer, whether it's your name and email address, how many kids you have, or what flavor ice cream rocks your world, they're gathering data they can use for not just research, but to build a picture of your spending habits to target future marketing. So fill out those surveys with caution!
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