Some people would prefer to burn their receipts, and that is certainly your prerogative. My husband’s family lives on 700 acres and has a fire department-approved contraption in which they burn paper garbage and receipts. That said, my mother has breathing problems that were not brought on by smoking (acid reflux, actually), and the smoke from burning trash leaves her gasping for breath for days, so I always encourage people not to burn if they live in even remotely tight quarters. For those who live in cities and particularly in apartments, burning them isn’t exactly feasible anyway.
I suggest a shredder. I have owned a $12 one that (didn’t quite) fit over the top of a wastebasket. I’ve owned a $50 Black & Decker one that I really liked but that overheated from time to time and took forever to cool. I had a really awesome $200 one at the law firm where I worked, and I loved it. I currently have an industrial one that is an old one, but that shreds a lot of paper with each pass and will also shred credit cards, CD’s, DVD’s, etc. My big shredder also has a temperature monitor on it, but I have never overheated it. Choose your shredder based on your needs. If you have 25 years of receipts to shred, you might want to consider spending more money. (Shredding three years of receipts took me about an hour with the shredder I have.) If you have a year’s worth of receipts to shred, I think you can get away with a less expensive one. I get so much junk mail (more on that later) that I typically use the shredder daily anyway and leave it set up in my guest room. If you live in a tiny house, you definitely won’t have space for the one I have. Another consideration: My shredder cost hundreds of dollars, but it is well over seven years old, if I recall correctly. My mom has the $50 Black & Decker version I bought around six years ago. And the $12 generic shredder I had was in use about a year before it died. So you may spend more money and get more use out of this item. As always, your mileage may vary.
One final note: I would advise you to buy a cross-cut shredder. I’m always trying to do whatever I can to foil identity thieves, and you should be, too.
DISCLAIMER: We’ll start sorting through receipts to shred soon. I will link you to A pack rat’s guide to shredding on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Information pages in the meantime. I would also like to point out that I do not classify as receipts any of the following: pay stubs, receipts for home improvements, bank statements, credit card statements, utilities bills, and particularly anything to do with any kind of taxes including canceled checks or receipts from federal, state, or local taxing authorities, even if these are receipts. We will organize all of these later! If you’re wondering whether you should shred something, call your attorney or accountant. I am neither.
Time required: None for me because I already had one. If you buy one from Amazon, you could be finished with your research and purchase in less than an hour, not counting unboxing.