Tips and Tricks for Going Paperless

The idea of creating a paperless personal finance system has always appealed to me. Try as I might, I’m hopelessly behind on filing our mountains of paperwork, and I’d be hard-pressed to quickly lay my hands on a number of important documents.

While I realize that we won’t be able to go completely paper-free (e.g., what about things like official birth certificates?) I’ve been gradually working to create a (largely) paperless system in our household. We’ve transitioned to e-statements for as many of our accounts as possible, we rely heavily on our bank’s online billpay system, etc.

My efforts have also been helped along by the addition of a Fujitsu ScanSnap document scanner as well as my iPhone. When these tools are combined with services such as Qipit, Evernote, and DropBox, I can rapidly capture, archive, and synchronize all kinds of information.

Given the above, I was thrilled to read Gina Trapani’s “Complete Guide to Going Paperless.” It’s chock full of great tips and links on topics such as:

  • Reducing unnecessary postal mail
  • “Printing” and scanning to pdf
  • Digitizing your signature for e-mailing documents
  • Bypassing paper entirely with electronic information capture
  • Organizing what little paper you have to keep

It’s definitely worth a read if you’re interested in this sort of thing. Beyond that, if you have any tips of your own for implementing a paperless personal finance system, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments.

8 Responses to “Tips and Tricks for Going Paperless”

  1. What do banks do for money orders or cashiers checks which are almost five years old. What might I expect from the bank I’ve been with for 45+ years . The money order is for 50.00. There is nothing on the check which gives a timeline. My mother died and shortly afterwards I was diagnosed with my 2nd on malignant brain tumor. I had sent out thanks yous before my surgery but I completely forgot about the cash and checks which hadn’t been cashed.

    Thank you
    Becky Jo

  2. Blaine: The S300 and S300M do not come with OCR software, but you can get Readiris for free via mail — or at least you could for the Mac when I bought. Still waiting on my software to show up, but I can OCR with Acrobat. You can also get pdf OCR with the premium version of Evernote (they also do OCR/handwriting recognition on jpgs with the basic version).

    The next model up (500 level) does OCR out of the box, but is much more expensive. However, it also includes a full version of Acrobat. Since I already have Acrobat, that was a non-issue for me, but it effectively brings the price down if you want both a scanner and Acrobat.

  3. Blaine: I do use a Mac, and thus I have the S300M. It’s kind of annoying, but they differentiate between platforms with different models (S300 vs. S300M). I believe you can hack the firmware to switch platforms, but they don’t make it easy.

  4. Anonymous

    I saw that Life Hacker article and have been moving towards paperless (slowly) myself for a while…my biggest stumbling block has been my lack of a scanner.

    Is your fujitsu windows only? I thought you used a mac? Any advice there on a specific model? Ideally I’m looking for something that can scan 300 dpi so that I can use it for business purposes.

  5. mbhunter: I do use it, and I think it’s fine. Somewhat limited, but no moreso than you’d expect for a phone app. I mostly use it for capturing information or accessing frequently used info in text notes. It does sync things across when you open it (e.g., if you added stuff on your desktop, it’s presence has to get sync’d to your phone). However, it seems to cache this info so it only has to be done once for any given item. Also, you don’t actually have to wait around for this to happen. If you need quick access to something that’s already on board, you can pull it up right away.

    One thing to note is that for images, etc. it seems to sync the existence of that item to your phone (described above), but you still have to download it when you want to access it. However, when you re-access it, it loads very quickly — seems to cache the item itself locally when accessed, but I’m not sure how much the cache holds or for how long.

  6. Anonymous

    Going paperless has a lot of advantages. We implement as many paperless practices as we can in our personal life and in our business. On-line banking of course, saves us from storing a ton of paper alone and the information is kept secure.

    However, it’s still hard for some of our customers to get away from old habits. We occasionally have customers, especially businesses that want a FAX of their receipt even though they have an email with it sitting in their “in box.” Also, hardly a day goes by without a paper catalog request. We always end up explaining that our products are updated too often for a paper catalog to be feasible. In addition, not having to pay for the expense of printing paper catalogs allows us to offer our products at a lower cost to our customers. Old habits die hard!

  7. Anonymous

    Do you use the EverNote iPhone app? If so, what do you think of it?

    I asked a friend at work about it and he said that it missed a bit, because it tried to load all of the images and was a bit clunky because of that. But that’s one person’s opinion, and he hasn’t used it for a while. Has it gotten more responsive?

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