You’ve probably noticed that the world around us is using less paper. There are digital coupons and digital magazines, and the post office is going to stop delivering letters on Saturdays because the volume they deliver has decreased so much.
I’ve been hemming and hawing about going paperless for years. I’m a lawyer by training so I tend to be cautious and conservative when it comes to preserving anything I might need in the future. I felt like bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage statements and almost any other form of paper might be needed to prove something down the line.
But I’ve gradually been converting to digital, and here’s why I’m now comfortable switching every account I can to paperless:
1. Better digital tools – There are all kinds of programs now that let you save digital versions of documents to your hard drive. These programs make it super easy to keep documents on your computer. That means I still have copies of all of my documents, which has always been my biggest concern.
2. Less clutter – Over the last few years, I’ve slowly been minimizing my possessions and trying to take up less physical space. It turns out that I own a lot of papers (see: tendency toward caution, above). I’m now going through those papers and discovering that I don’t need them the way I feared I might, and I certainly don’t want to bring in more paper that I’m going to want to toss in the future. Plus, if I do need them, I’ll have a digital copy.
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3. Better organization – Digital folders make it easy to organize digital documents, in much the same way that manila folders can be used to organize paper. But digital folders take up less space. And, they come with a search function. One suggestion here is to give your documents fairly detailed titles so that they’re easier to find.
4. Better security – Although hackers abound, internet security in general has improved greatly to the point where experts suggest that online account management is more secure that the traditional snail mail way. Just take common sense measures when it comes to protecting your personal information, like not accessing your account info using a public wifi network. And, be sure to back up your hard drive on a regular basis and keep your firewall updated.
5. Easier emergency preparation – I live in Southern California, where we’re waiting for “The Big One,” i.e., the next major earthquake. Emergency preparation is a must here, and having important documents on a laptop computer and/or external hard drive makes taking them with us easy. Although originals of certain documents like birth certificates are necessary, copies of statements can be sufficient if all you need are account numbers. Plus, your computer or hard drive can hold irreplaceable items like digital versions of photos and your kids’ artwork.
If you’ve been hesitating about going paperless, now is a good time to consider diving in!