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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.

Convenience
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}