What does “going paperless” mean, and more importantly – why should you care?
‘Going paperless’ doesn’t mean: saving the planet, eliminating every piece of paper from your life, the end of snail-mail and junk mail, never needing a filing cabinet, and saying goodbye to books. Going paperless simply means doing your best to digitize and electronically organize as much paperwork as you can.
Being free of the majority of the paper in my life since I went paperless a few years ago has had several big benefits:
• My paper files are slowing emptying and becoming less relevant as time goes on
• All of my files are easily available, either on my laptop and/or on cloud drives
• Any file I need is quickly and easily located
• When in doubt, I can save something without having a space issue
There will always be certain vital information that you will need to keep paper copies of in your files, such as birth certificates, deeds, insurance documents, automobile titles, stuff you carry in your wallet, print photos with no negatives and no copies, and diplomas to prove that your student debt is worth the price of your degree(s).
I started down the road to storing less paper in 1999, when I decided to go photo-print-less. It was clear to me that digital photo files were the new negatives for the 21st century. Many people were worried about losing the feeling of holding a photo. But it’s much better to share your photos through social media and have them available – everywhere and all of the time – instead of having them deteriorate in your attic. I told my children then that, one day, they would be able to put all of the photos and videos I had ever created in their pocket. Well, that day is here.
Digital files stored online are instantly accessible via any smartphone.
At the end of 2006, I was running out of space fast. A few months later, I noticed that my paper files were starting to reach capacity. I had four cabinets, with four long drawers 26 inches long, and they were packed tighter than pickles, as Ellen DeGeneres would say. It didn’t seem to make sense to buy another oversized filing cabinet. That’s when I decided it was time to do my best to get rid of as much paper as possible, starting with billing statements, bank statements, notifications, tax documents, and receipts.
But there’s work involved. It takes time and effort and thinking to start down the path of going paperless.
Scott Bilker is the founder of DebtSmart.com and author of the best-selling books, Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt, Credit Card and Debt Management, and How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart.