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Keep a Trail to Save Your Tail


The dilemma

We called our insurance company to suspend coverage on our car for the 6 months we’d be in Canada for my husband’s temporary job assignment. Instead of suspending coverage, the insurance agent  recommended we simply put the car on “storage insurance” in case something happened while it was sitting in my parent’s driveway. We obliged and agreed to the cost of $5 per month. Fast forward 5 months (one month before we move back home) and we receive a bill in the mail that totals the amount for 6 months of full coverage.

No paper trail

We called our insurance company and learned that our car was never placed on storage. Since all communication was done over the phone before we moved, the receptionist had no paper record of us requesting to switch to storage. Since we still had a month left before our move-back-home date, she kindly offered to switch the car insurance to storage for the last month and change the bill appropriately. Thirty dollars definitely beats a bill for over $300!

Try again

I called the company back a couple days later and explained our frustration with the circumstance. We were originally going to drop the insurance altogether but now we are expected to pay the full amount all because we agreed to this “storage insurance” they recommended to us but never activated. Thankfully as I walked through rough dates of when we made calls to the office, the receptionist was able to dig deeper for us. Through a simple miscommunication, it was assumed that we wanted to change back to regular coverage only a month into our stay in Canada. The problem was corrected and we were sent a new bill with a new amount due that reflected 6 months of storage insurance.

Lesson learned

receiptMy husband and I aren’t very aggressive people. It’s likely due to my desire to please people, but I have a really hard time speaking up and being assertive when I’m screwed over. I’m working on it, but I still like having hard evidence like a paper trail to present when defending my point. This type of paper trail saved us a significant amount we were promised to have taken off our closing costs when we bought our home but the mortgage representative simply forgot to do. I know the company we opened Roth IRAs with keeps notes of every phone and email conversation, but this obviously wasn’t the case with the car insurance company. My plan is to request an email confirmation regarding any decision made over the phone that way my butt is covered next time!

Have you even been screwed over by not keeping a paper trail of records?

This has been a guest post from Jessica. She is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness, and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget For Health.



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. It’s always good to keep a paper trail of anything that has to do with money or any transactions you have with another person, especially if you’re not doing it personally…it’s better to have it in writing.

  2. Oh, rule of the thumb: get it in writing. There are so many miscommunication issues when it comes to money, that it’s better to be swamped in paperwork than rely on anyone’s word.

    • It seems easier to miscommunicate today since we rarely need to go to a physical branch to deal with a problem. Everything is a phone call or click away now.

  3. I can’t count how many times over the phone agreements were reached and then never happened. One time was with our auto insurance broker who said he was going to move us to a cheaper insurance company, which he did, but then he did not cancel our previous insurance company. I try to do everything over the internet now, and like you, if an agreement is reached, I ask for a followup email of the agreement, or I send an email detailing the agreement.

    • Thanks for sharing, Bryce. It’s a frustrating situation but we obviously learned our lesson and will be smarter with handling future problems down the road.

  4. I think too many times people really on things like Quickbooks and Turbo Tax because they don’t want to pay a tax accountant. Not only are they leaving a great deal of money on the table, but they might become victim of a tax audit.

  5. Always good to have it in writing or at least in email. Glad they were able to work it out and everything went well in the end. It is more of a pain to get it in writing these days because everything is electronic, over the internet or phone. But that makes it a little easier to mess up the details of the agreement without you having a clue. Taking that extra step and getting it in writing will save you some hassle.

  6. Yep, always get it in writing. Or these days, in email is even better since emails are typically archived by businesses interested in proof in event of any legal action. Much harder to lose an email these days than a letter.

    Having been recently laid off, and dealing with the unemployment bureaucracy, I never would have survived without an extensive paper trail. Every interaction logged with person, time, location, and conversation. It gives you power, which is critical in an unequal negotiation like that.

  7. At the very least you should keep a paper trail of your most valued assets, such as your bank accounts, retirement, real estate etc… With the increased threats of hacking and cyber-crime, it would be prudent to keep some hard copies in a safe place.

    • Agreed. I have to admit that even I haven’t been all that good at it.

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