I save every receipt I'm given--every grocery purchase, every clothing purchase, every restaurant meal and every gas station receipt.
Why? There's a deduction to be had for the sales tax. As an example, in Texas, every gallon of gas comes with a twenty cent sales tax.
Over time, I've found that I can deduct more than $500 a year for sales taxes, depending on how faithfully I've collected those receipts. A couple of times a year, I sit down to run a calculator tape on a batch of receipts.
The task would go much faster if I would just total the sales tax numbers. But I frequently find myself stopping to look at the items purchased. With the distance offered by several months of not having seen the receipts, the exercise is almost like looking at items unearthed during an archeological dig. You also note patterns you don't pick up on while you're making the purchases.
Some of my discoveries:
1) An inordinate amount of money spent on dental floss. I'm a passionate flosser. To this day, I've never had a crown or root canal, and I'd like to shuck off this mortal coil forty years from now in the same condition.
2) Since Dinah's arrival at my house, I've replaced her collar and name tag on an average of once every six weeks. When she first came to live with me, based on lots of experience with kittens, I purchased three collars and tags at once. I buy break-away collars so that the cat doesn't end up strangled by a tree or fence post when the collar snags. And, like their lost mittens, kittens never bring their collars home.
Dinah lost all three of her new collars in two months. Each collar plus engraved name tag costs $16 ($1.30 in sales tax).
The good news: If Dinah runs true to form, by the time she is two years old, she'll stop losing her collars, meaning she'll learn to crawl through only those holes that her whiskers can clear. Tribble's twenty-one and has worn the same collar for the past ten years.
3) Seafood. Until I looked at the receipts, I hadn't realized how much seafood I eat. If I'm eating alone at home, I'll toss shrimp in a pan and sautee it with green peas, green onions, water chestnuts, pine nuts and spinach and eat it over fettucine. I don't eat fast food--with the exception of Long John Silver's. I love their fish fillets. When I go out to dinner with friends, invariably we eat seafood at Pappadeux's or Joe's Crab Shack. My poor body has probably accumulated enough mercury to make me glow in the dark.
4) Books. Big surprise. I spend A LOT of money on books (both new and used) every month. Fortunately, now that I'm writing professionally, in addition to the sales tax, I can now deduct the cost of some of the books.
5) And, finally, there's the soup. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know about my obsession with soup. If not, read here.
Some day an archeologist is going to review my pile of receipts and conclude that I was a lonely librarian with gorgeous teeth, sitting home alone eating soup and fish and abusing pets to the point that they constantly ran away.