Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Going Paperless

A few days ago, I posted some of our Green Goals for 2009. In our effort to go paperless, I am working on a new system for dealing with all our digital documentation. Here are a few ideas that have helped me.


~DIGITAL STATEMENTS~

Download bank statements, bills, credit card statements, etc. and keep them on your computer. At the end of the year (or after you finish your taxes), burn the files onto a data CD and store them with your paper files. If you are limited on digital storage space, just keep a few months at time.

Don't be too concerned if you lose something, or didn't save it locally. Most places have access to past files on their web sites. If they don't have what you need, you can always call them requesting a paper copy be sent to you (I had to do this last year for an old cell phone statement). Some places also have year-end statements that can replace all the monthly files.


~ORGANIZATION~
(How long to keep files)


You can burn files onto different CD's based on how long they need to be kept (so eventually you can destroy the old CD's). For example, digital copies of taxes should to be kept forever (I keep these on my computer even after I burn a CD, for easy access). But most bank statements and bills only need to be kept for one to three years.

For more information about how long to keep things, check out the IRS document Record Keeping for the Individual.


~ONLINE CONFIRMATIONS ~
(Making your own digital files)


Whenever you complete financial transactions online, they often have a confirmation page they suggest you print for your records. There are two ways to do this without creating more paper.
  1. Copy and paste the info into an email and send it to yourself.
  2. Create a PDF containing the information.
If it is something that you need short-term (until it shows up on your credit card statement, or until a product arrives, etc) the email method is great - you can delete it when you no longer need it. If it is something you need long-term, create a PDF and file with everything else important.

MAC's create PDF's easily, but on a PC you need specific software. I use PDF995 to create all my PDF's. They have a free version that does a great job. It works like a printer -- you just select PDF995 as your printer and it will pop up a window asking where to save the file (then you have to look at their ad for 30 seconds - the price of "free").


What strategies do you use to organize your digital files? Please share your questions and ideas!

4 comments:

Blue Castle said...

Thanks for sharing this about the PDF software. I'm totally ignorant about this stuff. I need to get rid of more files and save them on the computer. It would make my life easier. :)

Carissa said...

Thank you so much for the Valentine's gifts!! I just blogged about it. I hope you are having a great week and have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Sarah said...

Christy, thanks for taking the time to provide the details on how you do this. I really despise having to file so much paper and then haul it with us on each move. PDF files would be much easier.

Christy said...

I know about hauling paperwork all over the country!

I love being able to make PDF's. Enjoy a little less paper in your life...