When we celebrated Earth Day last week, it was my annual reminder to keep working on ways to cut down the paper clutter surrounding our finances.
It sounds great, but I’m a paper hoarder, and I struggle when it comes to organization. Especially, when it comes to personal finances, since financial documents are notoriously heavy on monthly documentation.
Cut Down the Financial Paper Clutter
Here’s how I’m working on cutting down the paper clutter this year:
Scanning in documents. I’ve started trying to scan in as many documents as possible to convert to a paperless office. I’m not there yet, but I’m making progress!
Organizing online filing. After I stated scanning documents, I realized I needed to make a system of folders and labels to find things easier. Specifically, I found that using descriptive naming conventions is very helpful when using the search function on the computer.
Web statements. I’m not comfortable getting my bills via email, since I get so much email I’m worried they’ll get buried, but I have started opting for web statements for bank accounts that don’t have much activity each month.
Automatic credit card charges. I’ve set up many of our bills to automatically get paid via our credit cards. It’s an easy way to keep track of multiple bills and making sure they all get paid.
Automatic ACH withdrawals. For the companies who don’t accept credit card payments, I’ve enrolled in automatic ACH withdrawals. This eliminates the need for excess paper for both the biller and for me.
Insurance discounts for electronic bills. Even with my reluctance to get bills via email, there is one that I enrolled in, for our insurance. Our insurance carrier offers a hefty discount to get bills via email, so I opted in since it’s also an automatic payment bill.
Purge old documents. Each year I review the list of how long you need to keep papers and purge the outdated checks, statements, and documents that only need to be kept for seven years.
Backing it all up. For all the documents I’ve stored on my computer, I’m backing them up with JungleDisk. This ensures that I can retrieve them if my hard drive ever fails. There are lots of options for online data storage to help you make sure you protect all of your important data.
Shred the rest. After all the documents are purged and scanned, go straight to the shredder! It’s very gratifying at the end of an organizing session to shred all the paper that I’ve gotten rid of!
Automation. In addition, each year I attempt to improve and find ways to make the tasks more automated so I don’t have to keep up with them each day. Set it and forget it is a good way to end a bad habit!
What ways have you found to cut down on the paper clutter from your finances?
|Madison DuPaix is a mom to three young children with a background in finance and insurance. She loves retirement planning and taxes, and recently started her own tax business. Madison is the author of My Dollar Plan and is the guide to Kids and Money at about.com.|