More and more companies are offering statements and bills to be delivered to you via email or electronically. On the surface, this sounds like a great idea, but you need to think about yourself and your habits in order to determine whether or not going paperless makes sense for you.
Why The Push To Go Paperless
Some companies might try to claim that going paperless saves the environment by having to cut down fewer trees. I am not here to argue this, as I agree it is true. But the real motivation for companies is not saving the environment, it’s a lower cost of business.
By pushing you to go paperless, the company saves money on paper, copying and printing costs as well as postage. All of this doesn’t sound like very much money, but it actually is. I worked for a firm that was pushing clients to paperless statements. Getting just a handful of clients to go paperless saved us thousands of dollars – and we only sent out statements quarterly. Imagine if we sent them out monthly and to millions of people. That is a serious cost savings.
When To Go Paperless
So when should you go paperless? The answer lies within. No one can tell you what documents you should receive electronically and which ones you shouldn’t. I will give my opinion, but in the end, you have to decide what makes the most sense for you.
Personally, scanning and saving receipts is not worth my time. But if you are business traveler that expenses a lot of items, scanning receipts may save you a lot of time and money. Likewise, maybe you dislike clutter. Since paper copies of everything create a lot of clutter, you may choose to go 100% paperless for the simple reason of not wanting clutter.
When Not To Go Paperless
With all of the great benefits of going paperless, there are still some things that you should receive by mail, in paper format. The most notable of this is with bills. The reason I say this because when most people sign up for paperless delivery, they don’t take the time to review the item in detail. This can easily lead to you not noticing an erroneous charge here and there.
For example, we have Comcast as our cable and internet provider and we receive a paper bill in the mail that we review. Every few months or so, they will add on a modem rental charge to the bill even though we own our modem. I would like to think that even if we received an email telling us “your bill is ready to be viewed” we would still look at it, but chances are we wouldn’t. I’d rather catch the error when it shows up than a few months later when the charges and credits get really messy.
Have A Backup Plan
Of course when you do go paperless, you need to have a backup plan. In most cases, companies that send you statements or bills will keep the documents on their server, so you really don’t have to worry about losing information.
But what you do have to worry about are fees. Most banks currently charge a fee for research and it wouldn’t surprise me if other companies already are charging this fee as well or will be begin to shortly. In a nut shell, a research fee comes into play when you request a statement for a period that is longer than two years ago. In other words, you have free access to all of your monthly statements for the previous two years. Anything greater than two years and you will have to pay a fee. This fee is usually charged on an hourly basis and I have seen it as high as $25 per hour.
For all of the documents that you personally keep, be sure to save them in various locations. If you only have them saved on your hard drive of your PC and it fails, you are most likely out of luck. Backup the documents with a flash drive or a cloud storage option. Many offer a decent amount of storage for free. I personally use Dropbox.
Overall, there are advantages and disadvantages with going paperless. In the end, it is a personal decision to determine how much, if any, of your documents you want paperless. For me personally, I still get most of my bills as paper through the mail. My bank and investing statements are paperless.
Right now, this works for me. You may find you like paperless for everything, which is great. Just make sure you have a backup plan just in case anything happens.
Readers, have you gone paperless? Why or why not?
Image via flickr by Visual Maintenance