You open the mailbox and out come catalogs, bills, statements, junk mail and offers for everything from life insurance to a timeshare in Tahiti. In the house, it all goes in the stack of unsorted documents and unfiled files.
Here’s the good news: You may need the information, but you don’t need all that paper. Luckily, there is a smart way to simplify. Go paperless.
For some, it might take a little getting used to, but a month or two in you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Purging the paper habit will take you from stressed-out paper shuffler to supremely organized individual.
Here are five reasons to do so, along with some how-to tips.
1. Reduce Clutter
By going paperless, you get rid of the physical statements, the files, file cabinets, and the hassles of keeping up with it all. Just sign up for Paperless or E-Statement options from your bank, cable, utility, cell phone and others that offer the service. Create digital file folders for each account, and keep your E-statements there. Your bank’s online pay portal will have records of all your payments.
If you have to receive paper statements from a business, invest in a desktop printer/scanner. Several good ones are available for less than $150 at office stores or online. Scan the statement, rename it (because 8377462.img won’t mean anything to you a week from now), and save it to the proper folder.
2. Organize Your Time
With digital records, everything is easily accessible. No digging through stacks or files, and you can save hassles at tax time as well. With a couple of clicks, you have a year’s worth of expenses and fees, organized and ready to go.
3. Increase Security
Paper statements and payments are highly susceptible to theft. When you pay and file online, your sensitive documents are behind strong passwords that you, of course, change every 60 days. Want further protection? Google ‘how to restrict file access’ and designate which folders you want available only to you.
4. Expect the Unexpected
Who knows when fire, flood or a hurricane could devastate a home? In those cases, paper files could be ruined or destroyed. A great way to disaster-proof the documents and finances you’ve filed digitally is to purchase an external hard drive and a waterproof/fireproof file (each available for $75 or less). About every 14 days, back up all your files on the hard drive, then store it in the file (which is a great place to keep items like birth certificates and passports as well).
5. Save the Planet
Going paperless is a great way to keep paper out of the environmental equation, thus reducing your carbon footprint. Any paper documents that you’ve scanned can be shredded and recycled. Plus, since the average American gets about 41 pounds of junk mail a year, you can reduce the amount you receive by opting out of unsolicited offers and catalogs. Websites like DMAChoice.com and CatalogChoice.com can help you do that.
While all of this may seem daunting at first, well… it can be. Don’t try to do it all in one weekend. Break up the tasks into chunks, and make it a family affair. After all, the kids are probably better at things like scans and digital files anyway!