Am interested in what folks are doing to tame their paper monster. I've been obsessing over eliminating every piece of paper possible. I've tried to stop as much as possible at the source, but there's still stuff that seems to be a part of life today.
Record keeping has been a bugaboo for us.
Billing: I use a billpay service, and they keep the archived electronic records so I don't; Also use Banking software on my computer.
Taxes (BLEH): We itemize and you're supposed to keep everything for seven years, so lots of stuff. Apparently IRS is okay with PDFs (don't take my word for it, though), so I've started scanning everything. I still have random receipts, but we've cut back a lot. Being paranoid, I'm also keeping the skeletal parts of the returns older than 7 years as PDFs. I use flash drives for backup copies.
Wills, Titles, etc.: still in paper form, as I don't know the rules about legality of electronic forms.
Diplomas, Kids' Old School Work: Not mine to get rid of, am simply acting as custodian.
Service (auto, house) Records: Scanning those, "when I have time"
Medical: same as service records (want to put on thumb drive so can carry with us, since some family members have "issues")
Old Photos: same as above :-))
I found a software program which helps me sort and keep track of receipts and records, but not necessary.
BTW, tricky ones for us were "Paid in Full" notices. What I learned: depending on your state there are statutes of limitation for bill collection and you are best off keeping payoff records until then (usu. somewhere between 4 and 7 years). Now, if I don't get a final statement with a zero balance, I request a letter saying we're PIF.
This is definitely an area where I have yet to make as much progress on taming. Thanks for this info. Can you tell us the software you use to keep track of things? I'm not as computer savvy as I'd like to be, so any information would help greatly. Thanks!
I use Paperless from Mariner (only for Mac I think: http://www.marinersoftware.com/products/paperless/). It's not ideal, I wish it had more options for organizing, searching, something like how Quicken functions. It's just not that detailed. I stopped looking after trying it out, though, its good enough.
Paperless can handle manuals, Insurance Policies, etc., any kind of document that can be scanned or obtained as a PDF; as well as day to day sales receipts.
I suspect there's something equivalent for PCs,
**Just today occurred to me [duh] that I could go paperless with health insurance and FSA EOBs! Our FSA has been doing direct deposit since we started using it, but health insurance said "nope" today. Phooey.
Would love to hear from others about software/whatever system works for them!
I use my regular email program (Entourage for Mac; similar to Outlook) and have a folder (Information, for example) with subfolders (Finances, for example) and such. All emailed receipts get stored there in the appropriate subfolder. DH will email me any receipts he receives for my system.
I backup my laptop to an external hard drive weekly.
We're not paper-free, but this sure has cut down on us generating a paper trail. I work on the source as much as possible, so this covers a lot of our self-generated paper.
Well, slowly the world is catching up with us! Apparently e-receipts are gaining some momentum, at least for those who have smart phones *sigh*.
I still can't get local folks, like dentist & doc, to email receipts. Anyone having better luck?
I recently found an online "vault" kind of storage program, mostly designed for medical records, but possible to upload any documents (e.g., wills, driver's licenses, etc.) you've scanned. One attractive feature is having your own fax number, so -in theory- you could have the Dr's office fax records, and maybe get businesses to fax stuff like PIF letters, directly into your account. Since it's internet based, you can access them from any [secure] net connection. There are some other features, too, but anyway, am going to discuss with our Doc to see if they would participate. Another issue is an annual fee. Also, I would still keep paper copies of will, trust, etc. but could get away with only the ones in our safe deposit box.
I *think* internet based storage would be useful as we live in earthquake land, and I have seen the chaos & destruction that follows a "big one".
Well, finished with taxes, so revisited the paper issue. May be old news to some but...
Actual tax forms and any supporting documents can be kept electronically. Yay!
Quicken creates reports which are acceptable to the IRS. We also send/receive tax $ directly from/into our bank account. FWIW, ItsDeductible has a reasonable format for tracking the itemized value of charitable donations (goods, etc.). I'm sure there's plenty of other record keeping formats out there, just for convenience make sure reports, etc. acceptable to the IRS.
**Downside to scanning and/or keeping really old records: just purged a 3+ inch file of receipts for house fix-ups and auto maintenance. Older carbons are really hard to get a good quality scan, since anything that was a carbon copy may hopelessly fade after five or so years, same story with store receipts. So, warning to all -if you are keeping receipts, somehow preserve/scan right away!
Thanks for this info, Jay. I, too, am happy that the forms are now done electronically. You're right. I sifted through a pile of old receipts, and many of them have already faded beyond legibility. It's the added incentive I needed to start scanning things NOW instead letting them sit in a pile on my desk;)
OK, another update:
Found, on the internet, at least one option for viewing/receiving legal documents, IF your law firm participates. We've been dealing with probate issues for 8 months and the paperwork generated is ridiculous.
Also, my "kid", 2000 miles away, needed some sensitive, personal paperwork ASAP. First thought was mail, but time precluded that. Next thought, email a PDF. Then I realized could give him direct access to my cloud storage service (Dropbox). Secure, instant and easy!