Nothing makes my skin itch more than piles of opened mail and unsorted bank statements.
Before dealing with our mess of paper files and a few, ahem, boxes of loose credit card statements and random things we thought we needed to keep, I made sure to hide all of the paper mess in my husband’s office. I couldn’t handle having it all out in the open, taunting me daily that our filing system was a joke.
Then we did it. We spent a day sorting, scanning and shredding. See photo above for the result.
Since moving overseas our paper clutter has returned. Why?
We can’t get e-statements. Our utility providers and bank over here don’t provide e-statements. Bummer. This leads to a lot of paper that needs to be shredded. And…
We don’t have a shredder. This needs to be rectified. Chris has occasionally taken a stack of bank statements into work and put them into a shred bin (hope no one from his office is reading).
I’m planning on getting a small shredder soon.
While we have some work to do I have learned a few things since going (mostly) paperless over a year ago. Here are a few tips to get started.
Create a place for incoming paper. Mail, bills, receipts you need to keep, GB passport applications half completed (so close!) should all have a home. Right now I’m actually using a slot in our wine rack for these bits and bobs. We don’t have space in our flat for an office so this is what works. We have one other spot on our front hall table for mail that needs to be sent to our landlord.
Deal with it. Maybe it’s a Saturday morning thing or a Monday evening, kids are in bed let’s talk finances and sort mail, thing. But make a date with yourself to file, scan or shred.
E-statements, e-statements, e-statements. If you can limit the flow of paper coming in you’ll have an easier time keeping on top of it. Wherever possible opt for online statements.
Know what you need to keep. Do you know the range of bank statements or credit cards statements that are available to you online? Do you have a small business? Are you self-employed? Do some research into what is available to you electronically and what you legally need to keep for tax purposes.
We were required to provide bank statements with our UK visa applications. Electronic statements printed out were not acceptable. This meant we had to go into a bank branch and get statements and pay a fee for them. Bit of a hassle. On the other hand, I was able to print out a credit card statement from my online statement archive and use it as a receipt for a warranty claim on our old stroller.
You’ll run into different requirements for different life situations. Do what you’re comfortable with. I’d rather not store every single paper statement, and have to have a huge file cabinet, to avoid a $10 statement fee should it be required.
Scan and back-up. I have a small case, as seen above, for paper files, a USB of scanned documents, documents stored on my laptop and documents stored on an external hard drive. I’m mulling paying for online ‘cloud’ storage.
Anyone else have tips for going paperless to share?