How Long Should You Keep Documents Before You Shred Them?

How Long Should You Keep Documents Before You Shred Them?

You probably know that shredding paper keeps your information safe and is great for the environment.

But figuring out what to shred and when to shred it isn't as obvious.

Keep reading to learn when to shred documents like financial records, and a few types of documents that you may not realize that you should be shredding.

Financial Documents

When it comes to choosing to shred documents instead of throwing them away, anything related to your finance is a given. But figuring out how long you need to hold onto these items is a different matter.

Certain situations, such as having large amounts of debt that you're trying to overcome, past identity theft issues, or making large purchases can necessitate keeping some financial documents for longer.

But below you'll find general information about how long you should be holding onto each type of record and document.

Bank Statements

You'll get a new statement each month telling you how much money you have and how much you've spent. Since your old statements are no longer accurate, there's no reason to hold onto them after a new one shows up.

Most banks now offer primarily online bank statements. While this can make it convenient to check your account on the go, you may want to think twice.

Unsafe internet connections and viruses can put your information at risk. Take precautions to protect your valuable information, or check with your bank about sticking to paper statements that can be safely and securely shredded.

Credit Card Bills

As soon as you get your credit card bill in the mail and pay it, those items become prime shred documents.

Highly sensitive documents like bank statements and credit card bills are among the most important items that you should be shredding.

Remembering to shred these documents as soon as you can helps to ensure that you don't forget and end up misplacing or throwing away that document. Doing so could put you at risk of identity theft, which is not only stressful but also costs the average victim more than $1,300.

Other Bills

Like credit card bills, most bills can become shred documents as soon as they are paid.

The only type of bills that you should keep for longer is anything tax or warranty related. Both of these types of bills should be kept for at least one year after they are paid.

Anything Home Improvement Related

Receipts, records, and bills of sale, or any other documents related to your home or improvements or additions that you've made, need to be kept as long as you keep the home.

If you ever sell your home or have damage that you need to file for insurance over, you may find that you need some of these documents. These should be stored in a secure, fireproof location to prevent losing them, as they can be difficult to replace.

Vehicle Records

Like documents related to your home and improvements, any items related to your vehicle should not become shred documents while you still own the car.

This includes any sales receipts, warranty information, repair information, oil change records, and anything else related to your vehicle or parts that you buy for it.

Checks and Paystubs

If you're still receiving pay stubs, you'll need to hold onto these for one year, until you receive your W-2 from your place of employment.

While the ability to deposit checks via a smartphone is convenient, it requires you to hold onto and then dispose of those checks after they are deposited. Like paystubs, these should be kept for one year, or until you file taxes for the financial year in which you received them.

Sales Receipts

When receipts become shred documents depends on what they are receipts for. Grocery receipts only need to be kept until after the period in which you could return any items on that receipt.

Receipts for electronics, appliances, and anything else that has a warranty need to be kept for the lifetime of that warranty. You may need to present your receipt in order for the warranty to be honored.

Items You're Shredding But Probably Shouldn't

Most people realize that important personal documents that include financial records or other sensitive information should become shred documents. But there are other items that need to be shredded that are less obvious.

Here are just a few of those documents. Most can be shredded right away, or as soon as you are finished using them.

Birth or Death Announcements

Cards or other documents announcing the birth of a baby or death of a family member need to be shredded.

Death announcements can be tempting to thieves because they indicate that a person's identity may become easier to steal. They may also indicate that the deceased person's home is now empty, which could prompt a theft.

Identity thieves are also known to target kids, so you should shred birth announcements rather than tossing them as well.

Travel Plans

While this may not prompt an identity theft, travel documents can alert thieves of when you'll be out of town and your home will be empty. Shred these as soon as you are finished with them.

Junk Mail

While junk mail may seem more annoying than dangerous, it could actually be used to steal your information.

Some junk mail includes barcodes that are filled with information about each recipient. Tech-savvy thieves have the ability to lift this information and use it against you.

Job Applications

If you scan and submit a job application online or otherwise end up with a copy of your application, you should shred it rather than tossing it. Otherwise, you could be handing criminals information like your birth date, phone number, and even your social security number.

Create a System for When to Shred Documents

Now that you know when to shred documents, it's time to create a system to help you remember when each item needs to be shredded is essential.

Otherwise, you may end up shredding some items too soon or holding onto other, unimportant items for too long.

Create a chart letting you know how long to keep each type of document, and keep it close to your shredder. Shred documents right away, rather than letting them pile up in a container where they could end up getting misplace or tossed in the trash by accident.

Complete your shredder system with a high-end shredder that will effectively shred each item so that there is no chance of identity theft. Shop our wide selection of models today to find the perfect one for you.