The Freedom of Paperless

Having just sorted through a few years of various till receipts and several old financial statements, I’m especially thankful to have embraced paperless some years ago. If you haven’t already done so, below you’ll find some objective reasons why you should consider it.

I still remember when first offered the option, I was dubious. Fair enough to have the opportunity to receive a monthly bank statement over email instead of an envelope with 5-6 pages, many of which were basically blank or just held the mailing address, so of no use to me. But how was I to be able to quickly scan through older months when I needed to confirm exactly when I had purchased the blender that just broke down? Or calculate how much I’d paid for energy over the course of a year, in order to find a better value provider for example?

It turns out that it would be easier to do these calculations when the statements are online! That’s right, I learned I could search my statements by choosing a relevant period of time (say last 12 months) and instruct the program to search for NPower, Bob’s Blenders or whichever provider I wanted. What used to take me realistically 10 minutes scanning through 12 paper statements now took less than a minute. And because the machine was searching (not my fallible human eyes), I felt confident nothing was missed.

An obvious advantage is freeing up space in your home or office. Keeping paper copies tends to mount up. And sure if you’re diligent, you can maintain a system of one statement in, one (old) statement out. But then you’ve got to be diligent about shredding the old paper statement. For me, that means crawling under a desk to access and plug in a small shredder. Too much trouble vs the alternative. You’ll feel mentally lighter, too, being able to clear out the space you used to need for all those files. Why not print some cherished photos instead and use the space for those?

And have you ever had accidental damage to your paper records? I have. Flooding after unusually heavy rains led to water damage, and the paperwork was illegible and many stuck together like glue. Of course, you can always request replacement copies from the financial institution, but I can assure you from firsthand experience, it’s not easy! Better to skip the problem.

And perhaps most importantly, don’t forget the impact on the environment of using paper statements. According to environmental organization The World Counts, paper makes up 26% of total waste at landfills. In addition, its production uses enormous amounts of water and energy and contributes directly to air pollution. To put it in perspective 42% of all global wood harvest is used to make paper, and producing paper takes twice the energy used to produce a plastic bag.

If that isn’t enough incentive, consider the cost savings. Going paperless saves your provider money in paper and postage. Often they offer to pass (some of) the savings onto you, their customer in the form of a fee reduction. Even if they don’t the more they need to spend to provide the product, the more you’ll pay to buy it. So either way you’ll save in the long run by going paperless.

If you feel uncomfortable making a huge leap, then feel free to try it out. Most banks will allow you to return to paper statements if you choose. And in some circumstances you may want to opt for a paper till receipt as proof of purchase (for ease of return of faulty goods, for example). But I’m sure like me, you’ll find going largely paperless to be satisfying and beneficial.

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