Home > Personal Finance > 6 Reasons to Go Paperless & How to Do It

Comments 0 Comments

Last fall I opened one of my filing drawers to retrieve a health care receipt for my husband. He took one look at the file bulging with receipts for our Flexible Spending Account and, shaking his head, said, “I don’t remember my mom having filing cabinets full of stuff like this.” Whether it’s just our imagination (or our age?) it does feel like our files are starting to get out of control and it’s time to do something about it.

So I’ve set a goal to go paperless in 2013. I’ve identified six benefits:

  1. Save money. A credit union I belong to charges $3 for a paper statement. Online statements cost nothing. That’s a savings of $36 a year for just one account. Additionally, when I pay bills online I save money on postage. And it’s not just bills you can save money on. I have a Kindle so I can save money on ebooks versus printed versions.
  2. Help save the planet. My teenage daughter is very good at reminding me that I am contributing to the destruction of our forests when I waste paper. Looking at the boxes of paperwork stored in my home office, I cringe when I think of all the trees that have been sacrificed. With the technology that will be available when she goes out on her own, I don’t picture her ever having to deal with boxes of paperwork like I do, fortunately.
  3. Save time. As a working mom, time is just as important to me as money. By reducing piles of paperwork that need to be filed and sorted, I expect to save some seriously valuable time.
  4. Save space. My closet in my home office is full, and on top of it I have three full file cabinets. There are also several boxes of stuff sitting in my office that I need to find room for. If I don’t so something now, I can see where this is headed — and it’s not pretty.
  5. Safety. As long as I keep my virus protection up to date (which I do, thanks to learning the hard way), keeping my personal information on my computer is likely safer than receiving statements and sending payments by snail mail. Plus I am not leaving my personal information in file folders where anyone who came into the house could take them.
  6. Feel better. Clutter is exhausting. Every time papers pile up on my desk I start feeling overwhelmed and crabby. Clearing it out just feels good.

How to Go Paperless

I’ve wanted to go paperless since reading Mark Frauenfelder’s stories on the Credit.com blog two years ago. He shared how a leak in his garage forced him to find a better way to store important information. I also recently interviewed Scott Bilker from DebtSmart.com on my radio show about going paperless, and he convinced me this is something I need to do. But my half-heartened attempts in the past didn’t work. And part of that was due to the fact that I didn’t have the right tools. So step #1 for me (and likely for you, too), is simple:

Get a good scanner. My printer has a built-in scanner, but it is slow and clunky. Recently, the folks at Doxie heard my radio interview with Scott Bilker where he shared how he went paperless, and sent me one of their scanners to try. It’s tiny and much faster. I had it set up and was scanning within 20 minutes of opening it.

I feed the document though the scanner and the image is saved on an SD memory card. (That means it doesn’t have to be hooked up to your computer while you are scanning.) Once I’ve scanned all the paperwork for that session, I pop the SD card out of the Doxie, put it in my computer and open the Doxie program. From there I can “staple” items to together if I want to keep them grouped together, then save them to my hard drive as virtually any type of file, or upload them to Google Docs, Evernote, Dropbox or other cloud services. So far I have tried uploading them to both Google Docs and Evernote, and both were very easy to use.

I used my Doxie to scan both full-page documents as well as an assortment of small receipts from a recent business trip. It could not have been easier. And it’s inexpensive: $149 or $229, depending on which features you want. I have the less expensive model and am perfectly happy with it. (A student and teacher discount brings the price down to $119.)

If you need a scanner that will allow you to feed multiple pages at once, you may want to check out reviews of other scanners, like the Fujitsu ScanSnap.

Get a good shredder. Once you have scanned your documents, you’ll want to put them straight into the shredder. Pick a cross-cut shredder for maximum safety and security.

Sign up for e-statements. Get your bills or statements online. That way you won’t have to scan them; you can just download the ones you want to save to your computer. A warning: Do not use this as an excuse not to read your statements. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just paying the amount due, but it’s also important to review your accounts for any unauthorized charges or changes in terms. And don’t forget to opt out of unsolicited credit card offers and direct mail if you don’t want to receive them.

Back up. If you are using your computer to save your documents, it’s essential that you have a back-up system in place. I used to use an external hard drive but I wouldn’t always run back-ups like I was supposed to, and I worried that if my office was robbed or destroyed, my external hard drive would likely be gone as well. So now I just use Carbonite, which automatically backs up my files to their cloud-based service daily. When my computer died last year, my Carbonite files saved me from losing a ton of important work.

Have you gone paperless? I’d love to hear how it worked for you! Feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

[Credit Cards: Research and compare credit cards at Credit.com.]

Image: Lawrence Murray, via Flickr

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team