One of the simplest things you can do to improve your sustainably is to go paperless with your personal finances. Today’s technology makes it possible to almost completely avoid using paper. This can be good for the environment, since it saves trees and reduces waste. Going paperless isn’t something that you can just do, though. Plan ahead so that your switch to paperless personal finances is as smooth as possible.
Keeping Records When You Go Paperless
Obviously, one of the first steps you need to undertake when you go paperless is signing up for electronic statements. Banks and other financial service providers email these statements right to you. Insurance premium information, investment statements, bank statements and other documents can easily be delivered to your inbox. An increasing number of stores will email your receipts to you, if you are signed up with a loyalty program. But once the documents arrive, you still need to keep them organized.
Instead of printing them out (which defeats the purpose of paperless finances), save them in a special file on your computer. You can set up a folder on your computer, and set up sub folders to further organize your financial information. Tax deductible items can go in one sub-folder, while you can keep your investment statements and transaction records in another sub-folder. Add a layer of protection by requiring a password to access your main financial folder, and by naming it something inconspicuous. My financial folder certainly isn’t labeled “finances.” I also us a cheap data backup for my information so that it isn’t lost in a crash. We have an external hard drive for this purpose, and the most important items (digital copies of insurance policies, etc.) are on a flash drive in a fire safe.
With a go paperless records system in place, you can stay organized with your finances without paper — and you save room in your home since there’s no need for a bulky file cabinet.
Go Paperless: Get Rid of Checks
Paper checks are slowly being phased out of our society in the effort to go paperless. I still have a couple of clients that send checks through the mail, but almost everyone I work with either deposits the money directly into an account set up for that purpose, or sends me the money via PayPal. Then, of course, all my banking is done electronically, so transfers into various accounts are easy to manage without paper. Most traditional workplaces offer direct deposit options, so you never have to receive a check. On top of that, a growing number of banks are adding the ability for remote deposit. Just take a picture of your check, and send it in (although this just saves you a trip to the bank, rather than reducing the need for paper).
Automatic withdrawal can be set up for mortgages, auto loans, university student loans and other expenses. Online bill pay is available as well. You can pay your utilities, credit card statements and other expenses online, without the need to write checks, use envelopes and pay for stamps. Honestly, my life is much simpler without the need for checks: Payment goes faster at the store (and online), and I don’t have to spend as much time filling out the checks.
Protecting Your Digital Financial Data When You Go Paperless
With all those ones and zeroes flying around, you need to make sure that your financial data is safe. In addition to protecting your computer files, you need to make sure your anti-virus/malware software is sufficient. Also, don’t access your bank accounts and other financial accounts when you are public networks. Make sure your connection is private and encrypted before managing your finances electronically.
What are your tips for going paperless?