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Trust Only in Fire

in Case Study, Mistakes, Money, Security

No, not another quote from Conan the Personal Finance Barbarian a true statement, that I learned from Michael James, but also in my jobs over time.

The only safe way to dispose of any sensitive papers is to burn them yourself, and then you dispose of the ashes in whichever way you wish. If you have  a shredder that is better than nothing, but unless you burn whatever comes out of it, don’t be so sure it can’t be used by someone (yes I am being paranoid, but better safe than sorry is my view).

The following is a short excerpt of me burning some actual records. Note the set up is simply a “fire log” which is made of wax, a mandarin orange box (which burns very quickly), and a pile of important papers in the box. Set the log on fire (after opening the fireplace flue, and making sure you have a fire extinguisher close by in case of problems), and then watch your records disappear.

You cannot dispose of anything other than paper this way, but I may show you how to dispose of a hard drive in the near future (on video as well, it will be MUCH more entertaining). Credit cards and the like are best destroyed using a shredder.

Remember to remove all plastics from your records, and this will create a lot more soot in your fireplace chimney, so you may want to get it cleaned out by a registered sweep more often as well.


  • Tiny Potato August 24, 2010, 10:37 PM

    I can’t recall where I posted this before, but save the papers until winter and burn it AND get “free” heating!

  • Andy R August 24, 2010, 9:47 AM

    The shredded paper does burn real quick. Shred and burn is better than just burning. If you don’t shred, burn AND stir, you soon find that even loose paper may not burn completely, leaving charred fragments that “THEY” may forensically reconstruct to rip you off.

    BTW, an open fireplace is so last millennium and quite energy inefficient. Install an air-tight unit, use a stainless steel pipe inside the old brick chimney, then you can slow cook those financial records, and scrub the soot yourself with the brush and pole kit from Canadian Tire. In the winter, we have few recyclables since they all get converted to BTUs.

    • bigcajunman August 24, 2010, 9:53 AM

      My apologies, but I am nothing if not old school.

  • Michael James August 24, 2010, 8:39 AM

    It might be fun to shred and then burn. I’m guessing that shredded paper would burn incredibly quickly.

    • bigcajunman August 24, 2010, 8:54 AM

      Another film clip opportunity, I shall try that next!


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