What does it actually mean to say you’re going digital? We live in the digital age and so many actions we take involve a computer of some type. There are laptops, electronic readers, smart phones, iPads, electronic devices for healthcare, voice recognition devices, etc. The internet sends data through the ether to its intended destination as a form of communication.
Companies of all shapes and sizes are going digital. When you make an online purchase, you enter credit card information. When you make in-person purchases you have the option to swipe or insert a credit card or put your phone up to a device to read your credit card information. In many scenarios at the end of the transaction, you are asked if you want a printed or email receipt.
Almost all service providers these days have online bill pay options. You can also communicate online with these same service providers. If you can pay your bills online, you can also sign up for paperless billing. Financial institutions have this option for other paperless communications as well.
Going digital means less paper to manage. Before the digital age, we had so much paper coming at us all the time. Every transaction involved paper in some way. We used to write out checks to pay for purchases, and some still do, but not many. The cancelled checks were included in the monthly bank statement that was mailed to our homes.
There are so many other ways we ended up with so much paper. Children would bring home copious amounts of paper such as, homework, artwork, permission slips, report cards, etc. The US Postal Service delivers a lot of papers as well as other delivery services. We would get newspapers, catalogs, church bulletins, newsletters, income tax receipts & returns, estate planning documents, etc.
We were taught to keep much of this paper in case we needed to refer back to it for some reason. Going digital eliminates the need to physically store all this paper in our homes. Newer generations do not have the issue with large amounts of paper that older generations do. Paper seems to be the biggest issue with clutter in our homes, especially with the older generation.
The strategies below provide the means to help those that are going digital to reduce the amount of paper in our homes today.
Going Digital Strategies
- Stop as much incoming paper as possible:
- Sign up for paperless billing with all service providers that offer this option & pay bills online. You have the option to print any bills and statements that can be viewed online if you have a need for the paper version.
- Opt out of all catalogs sent to your home – you can find & purchase pretty much anything online.
- Cancel all newspapers and magazines sent to your home – subscribe online to those same newspapers and magazines.
- Choose the email receipt option when you make in-person purchases with a credit card or other electronic pay mechanism.
- Use your phone to take pictures of anything with info on it that you want to refer to later such as, items you’re thinking about purchasing, signs or pamphlets, etc., instead of bringing home any form of paper information.
- Create a process to deal with incoming paper to store digitally:
- Determine how you will digitally store paper documents with info you need to keep; see digital storage options below.
- Use a file folder or inbox to store incoming paper documents to be scanned.
- Determine a schedule to scan & store incoming paper documents.
- Digital storage options:
- Scanning documents to your computer – Pretty much any type of paper document can be scanned to your computer with a scanning device. Most printers have scanning capabilities. After you scan and save the paper document, you can shred the original document.
- Documents with personal information – This option pertains to saving documents with personal information on your computer. This is not a good idea. Identity theft runs rampant these days and these thieves can find a way to get into your computer. A safer option is to save these documents to a flash drive or external hard drive. Store these external devices in a file proof safe in your home for easy access to you, not so much for identity thieves.
- Cloud storage – this is probably the most common option for digital storage. You can store anything digitally in the cloud, which is actually the internet. You can also share information in the cloud. There are many document sharing companies, such as Dropbox, ShareFile & Google Drive to name a few.
- Deal with the backlog:
- You will probably have a backlog of documents that you need to do something with after you set up your process; see bullet point 2 above.
- DIY – the best way to deal with the backlog yourself, is a little at a time. It can be overwhelming depending on how much you have due to your age, so work on it in bite sized chunks.
- Another option is a document scanning service. You take it to them and they do all the work for you. Search the internet to find companies near you.
What steps have you taken for going digital?