Shred of Evidence

The day after Thanksgiving, always a Friday, is one of those gimme days if you do business primarily with small businesses. Few small businesses force their employees to work that day or if they do, it is for a shortened schedule. This means that not only can I expect to twiddle my thumbs on Thursday but Friday as well.

Having more time than normal without billable activity, Friday morning I decided to shredding some documents that have been piling up for quite a while. I believe the accepted practice is that there is no obligation to keep financial records for more than seven years. Of course, it’s a different story if you like to look back years later and remember the good or bad old days depending on how things have gone since then.

This being 2011, I decided to destroy all personal checks from 1998 and on up until 2003 that could be grabbed in one large fistful of envelopes. Considering how much paperwork I keep, I knew that this would take a few fistfuls on more than one occasion. I also took the opportunity to start shredding old sales, cash receipts, accounts payable and general ledger journals from my business for the year 2000 knowing that the immensity of it would require more than one sitting.

Here I was carefully observing each check before I put it through the shredder to see if it would tickle a memory or two of unique purchases I did thirteen years ago. Although nothing stuck out like a sore thumb, a lot has changed since 1998. I was able to come up with a few observations while scanning more than a year’s worth of checks:

1. Most checks I wrote back then would not be written today. Paper has been replaced with online payment as well as the use of a debit card. Besides, today the cashed check no longer gets returned with the bank statement. Instead, I receive a scanned copy of both sides of the check. It takes up less space in the envelope and presumably less postage cost.

2. Some of the people and companies whom I paid for whatever service have been replaced by a different person or entity, such as a dentist and mortgage provider. In fact, I’ve changed mortgagers more so than I have dentists.

3. Charities that I gave to in 1998 have been replaced by a different assortment. That’s just how it goes,
I suppose.

4. I wrote checks to names of people celebrating life-cycle events including weddings and I have no clue who they are today.

5. Even with paying the property tax escrow factored in with the regular monthly mortgage amount back then, I am now paying about $150 less in mortgage per month. That’s what pre-paying extra principal and a few re-financings will do.

There will be less to shred in another dozen years, I guess, and I wonder if the prices I see on the scanned checks will seem outrageously low or a reminder of what things really cost before the
economy totally collapses. Check back with me then.