Going Paperless with your Financial Documents

I’ve noticed more company are offering incentives for customers to go paperless – receiving statements, notices, and other paperwork electronically, as well as making payments over the internet. In addition to saving trees, going paperless can also save you money. Consider these reasons for trading the snail mail documents for electronic ones.

Going paperless with your financial documents offers several advantages for customers.

Cost Savings
Paying bills online eliminates the cost of postage. You can utilize your bank’s bill pay feature to send payment via electronically. Many companies are set receive a direct payment from your bank within two days, maximizing the time your money is earning interest. Also some banks are offering incentives for you to go paperless. Wells Fargo is holding an Online Statements Sweepstakes where you could win $25,000 or one of ten $2,500 prizes for switching to online statements.

Reduce clutter
All those paper bills, notices, and statements tend to pile up, and they need to be stored somewhere. When you finally sort thru those documents, they will needed to be shredded before discarding them. Electronic version don’t take up any space – except on your computer hard drive.

You might be able to search and sort electronic bills and statements or import the data info financial programs, such as Quicken®, for analysis. Bank statements often contain interactive features that let you find out more about a charge and reconcile your checkbook or spreadsheet records. And electronic documents are portable (it is very convenient for me to keep my records on a flash drive). Having your documents categorized and sorted makes things easier come tax time. And filing your tax return electronically can speed up your refund.

Environmental benefits
PayItGreen, a coalition led by an electronic-payment industry group estimates that by eliminating paper statements, bills, and payments alone, the average household would save 6.6 pounds of paper each year, avoid the release of 171 pounds of green house gasses and 63 gallons of wastewater, and cut gas consumption by 4.5 gallons. Who knew?! The estimates take into account paper, transportation, and disposal.

Still not sure if you want to take the paperless route with your financial documents? Consider these tips for giving up paper.

Secure your computer
Back up your hard drive and keep a copy of your data in a different location from your computer in case of a fire or other calamity. Consider an online storage service like Wells Fargo’s vSafe. Make sure you have updated antivirus and antispyware programs (I highly recommend PCTools).

Download copies
Consider downloading copies onto your computer for safekeeping and future reference.

Record scheduled payments
If you set up online bill pay, especially if its automatic, be sure to record the payment in calendar, financial software or checkbook well in advance so you don’t risk overdrawing your account.

Retain confirmations
Whether you are paying a bill, making a deposit, transferring cash or anything else, save a copy of all confirmations. On your computer’s hard drive, consider setting up a folder called “Bill Confirmations”. Extract attached documents from your e-mail and save them in the appropriate folder.

Keep information current
Notify businesses if your change your email address. Otherwise you might miss bills or other important documents, exposing yourself to late charges and other problems.

I am 98% paperless with a few straggling prospectus coming via snail mail. Where as my husband is still pro paper. Vies that having a hard copy in hand lends for making sure bills are paid on time. Have you gone paperless with your financial documents? Why or why not?

Further Reading: Automating your Finances by Ramit Sethi

{photo credit: midcontinent}

13 thoughts on “Going Paperless with your Financial Documents

  1. Jenna

    I’m in the process of going paperless. As smaller bills that sneak by get through I have to spend a couple of minutes going online and setting up payments.

    1. Money Funk Post author

      I LOVE my bill pay featured offered through the bank. I take about 5 minutes every two weeks to set up the bills and Wha-la! Done. Stress free. I rather enjoy being 90% paperless. I know eventually every company will go this way. So getting used to it now is probably a good thing.

      1. Jenna

        @Money Funk / Yeah, I’m trying to get all my bills paid on the same day first then slowly working on getting all my bills paperless. Slow process.

  2. GBR Briana

    I’ve recently gone paperless on just about all my financial documents. Most of them I was already enrolled, but last night I took the time to check paperless. I check my e-mail inbox much more often than I check my mail box, and to me it’s so much more convenient than having to deal with a bunch of papers flying around all the time. Programs like Mint also help you keep everything in perspective, and online banking makes it easy to automate your bill payment and account management.

    1. Money Funk Post author

      I like Mint. Unfortunately, a couple of my banks block the updates. So it just became too much of an inconvenience for me. I wish it didn’t because I really like Mint features. I check my inboxes much more than the mail box, too. Postal company is suffering for this, I know. But hopefully they will jump on the e-way and prosper.

    1. Money Funk Post author

      *psst* I am bad at that, too. Okay, used to be. Only because I lost a bunch of photos that were dear to me. Now when I get photos, I upload them to Kodak Gallery as a back up. As for copies of financial documents… if I lose them, I pretty much know I can obtain copies via the financial institution. My tax returns are about the only ones I print & file as a back up to my online version.

  3. Forest

    I am all for paperless but it’s amazing that the companies rarely talk about how much hard cash it saves them! Surely they can lower our bills just a tad for going paperless :).

    1. Money Funk Post author

      I agree a ton of money can be saved for the companies going paperless. I think that is why a company like Wells Fargo is pushing for it. As I believe… it will be all paperless within a couple of years. I am thankful for less of the paper clutter adorning my kitchen counter. 🙂

  4. Charlie Robinson

    I have been trying to be paperless, but most sites make it so difficult. i.e. Paypal’s websites forces you to use Adobe Reader, a program I loathe and since I’m on a mac I have pdf viewing already built in. Most financial websites are so poorly designed that it takes twice as long for me to find the current statments and save them. Dell Financial services always says they are having technical difficulties when trying to get a statement or that I have an incompatible browser. The fact that most bill collectors have no idea how to produce a decent website or offer electronic documents in standard fashion has made me basically give going paperless.

    1. Money Funk Post author

      Well its nice to see a counter against going paperless. And you’re right…Adobe is the main player for pdf readers available. I do familiarize myself with the financial websites I do business with in being able to locate statements. Its very much a convenience to me. Perhaps calling a customer service tech to help you locate their online statements might be worthy.

      Now, you mention bill collectors. You’re right about lacking a good website. But I’ve had success with them emailing confirmations/receipts to me. Then I save them in a labeled folder for filing. Might be something to consider.

  5. Money Reasons

    I still get paper financial statements (the most being my brokerage accounts, I have 5 accounts).

    Hmm, I’m going to have to reevaluate my stock brokerage account statments. I get 5 envelopes a month (Augh). I think I’ll go paperless, then store the emailed statements in a folder within my email account. or some other online site like you mention!

    Thanks, your article might have been the small push I needed to get over that hurdle… That plus the fact that my kids are getting to be the age where they are kind of nosey…

  6. Andrew

    While the cost savings are pretty awesome, the most attractive thing to me about going paperless (which I am still working on this transition) is your other point: the lack of clutter. I hate tearing through envelopes only to throw out 90% of what I get and having all this junk pile up. There is no reason NOT to go paperless these days! Great for the environment as well.

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