Why Collect Receipts?

Collecting Receipts

Crazy Old Man Collects McDonald’s Receipts

Do you collect anything? Knick knacks, Christmas ornaments, stamps, coins – maybe stickers? We all have a lovable relative who collects something charming like ceramic frogs or model airplanes or have a favorite uncle who has 300 bowling trophies. I’ve seen an suv or two with collections of two dozen political opinions or several years of travel destination bumper stickers plastered across the back end.

What about collecting McDonald’s receipts? I ran across a story today about someone who does exactly this. Here’s a quote:

My dear 80-something year old dad is normal in every respect. Except, he collects McDonald’s receipts. Yes, that McDonald’s. At last count he had 808 of the damn things. He keeps the hard copy and has built a spreadsheet to categorize his prized collection.

From letter to Drew Magary in Vice’s FunBag

Despite what would motivate anyone to collect years of little slips of flimsy paper receipts pulled from the bottom of a greasy food bag with flecks of clinging salt from french fries – fast food receipts represent only a small portion of the total numbers of receipts we all collect. Maybe we toss out our receipt collection after filing taxes early each year, but we still collect those receipts. Are we nuts?

Collecting Paper Scraps is Nuts, Right?

No – we tenaciously gather those little scraps of paper with faded lists of two or three word descriptions and itemized prices and the amount of tax paid on the total order. We pull a stack of faded flimsy paper bits from our wallets and purses every now and then to move them to a shoebox or add to the stack in a file folder or the receipt box in the closet or the larger box in the corner of our home office.

Reimbursement for Business Expenses

Why? Well, there are actually lots of good reasons to keep receipts. First and foremost is taxes. Those of us who write off business expenses need to show proof of legitimate spending to our accountants or to the accounts payable department at the office. We need receipts to prove the expense to the IRS. Everyone agrees here simply because there is a financial incentive involved – reimbursement.

Proof of Purchase for Return, Refund or Repair

Well it turns out there is another financial incentive to keep receipts and it’s the next most common reason most of us collect receipts. That is proof of purchase. Why do we need proof-of-purchase? Well, lots of reasons actually. So you can return an item for a refund, or so we can get warranty repairs or replacements when something stops working sooner than the manufacturer promised. That makes collecting receipts worthwhile.

Loyalty Programs or Frequent Buyers Clubs

What else justifies keeping stacks of fading paper lists of how much we’ve spent and where we spent it? This one also represents a financial incentive to collect receipts. Loyalty programs like frequent flyer clubs or buy 10, get one free reward from the corner deli – “Club Sandwich”. This sometimes gets transferred to punch cards or stamps on a loyalty card – but starts with that receipt. Spend frequently with a business and you are rewarded with future discounts or freebies.

Budgeting & Financial Record-Keeping

Hmmm, that’s three financial incentives to collect receipts. Here’s another. Budgeting and record-keeping. Some folks want a record of how much they’ve spent on food, gas, clothing, rent and utilities in one month to predict how much they’ll budget for that same expense in the future. This offers an opportunity to enter each into a spreadsheet (budget) or financial software to help us moderate or change our spending behavior.

So collecting receipts is really a sound and entirely reasonable thing to do for almost everyone. Why is it that nobody has made that easier to do? Welcome to the future of receipts. You can even limit your collection to just McDonald’s receipts – if you like. We’ll provide more financial incentives in the form of coupons, discounts and cash-back rewards.

While researching this piece, I learned of a McDonald’s receipt survey. An here’s a story about a McDonald’s customer that found (Silver – “Bald)” on his receipt. Check them out!

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