Until now I've kept all my bills, but it's too much paper.
Gas, Water, Electricity, telephone, etc. Why is it a good idea to keep them? For how long should I keep them?
In general, you don't need to keep bills around for more than a few months. The exceptions are:
However, I get almost all of my recurring bills electronically now. They get saved and backed up. In that case, its easier to just keep everything than to selectively delete stuff. It takes very little space, is easier to find things than in paper files, and is much less hassle when moving than boxes full of paper.
Shred it all. You might want to keep a record going back at most a year, just in case. But just in case of what? What is a good idea is to have an electronic record. It's a good practice to know how your spending changes over time. Beyond that, it's just a fire hazard.
The thing is, I know I'm right in the above paragraph, but I'm a hypocrite: I have years' worth of paper records of all kinds. I need to get rid of it. But I have grown attached. I have trucked this stuff around in move after move. I have a skill at taking good care of useless things. I've even thought of hiring somebody to scan it all in for me, so that I can feel safe shredding all this paper without losing any of the data. But that's insane!
In normal cases you don't need it beyond 3-6 months. Beyond this destroy it.
However in certain cases its required to be kept;
For example if you need to prove that you are legally occupying a place/property and do not have relevant documents, the utility receipts can play a role in establishing that you were occupying a place and using it.
In case you are not originaly a resident by birth, and your citizenship is at dispute, these records help.
More so if the records are not maintained properly by the utitlity companies themsleves as in most developing countries.
In India, these help for many individual who are occupying goverment properties for decades and then resolution is passed that people staying for past 25 yrs now own it, other become illegal and are evicted.
For such cases, you could keep a history record say one per year, for past 5 years, and then one for every 5 year of a particular month ... basically in a systematic way.
Other than that, just junk them.
I'd imagine you want to keep the utility bills around to dispute any historical billing errors or anomalies for perhaps 6 months to a year.
Beyond that, you always have the financial records of making the payments -- namely, your bank statements.
So what benefit is there in keeping the paper receipts for utility payments around for longer than that? I say shred them, with extreme prejudice -- while wearing black Chuck Norris style.