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How I Started My Paperless New Year

How I Started My Paperless New Year

    The terms “paperless” and “paperless office” have been floating around for many years; many, as in since the 70’s and 80’s. Everyone thought that the new, shiny computers that were making their way into our lives would solve all problems, including curbing the use of the paper medium. Sitting in the year 2012 we can clearly see that isn’t the case at all.

    I remember in a college economics class, about 3 months before the “Great Recession” in the United States that my professor asked the students which business they’d rather be in; a paper company or an automobile company. Most students chose the car company with their logic being that we are going paperless within the next few years. Once again, we still haven’t seen this “paperless” lifestyle.

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    Here’s the thing. Businesses use paper. Individuals use paper. A lot of it. Even with systems being put into place to reduce paper consumption (like paperless billing, e-signatures, digital document storage, etc.) consumers and workers are still going to use paper for the foreseeable future.

    Why haven’t we reached paperless?

    I think the answer is simple, especially if you look at your own usages. Paper is flexible, portable, malleable. It has an almost limitless resolution (unlike screens and software without zooming in) and can be passed around and used by anyone with ease. It may be the fastest way to write down an idea or pass information to someone in person. Paper is finite.

    Also, there is something about a trusty notebook by your side when going to meetings or classroom. Using paper to write helps you retain knowledge and helps you to more easily be in an conversation in a meeting or with a group, unlike tapping away on your fancy iPad or laptop.

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    It’s a start

    One of the things that I have resolved to do this year (since I resolve in January, not February) is get closer to paperless. There is no way that I can get to 100% paperless as I love taking notes with my Livescribe pen, love the look and feel of Moleskine Cahier, and think that making paper ninja stars is needed. But, I can do some things to get started:

    1. Switch all billing to paperless billing and/or automatic billing. I haven’t completed this step yet but I am in the process. Basically, see if the company that you are billed by has paperless billing (or e-billing). This way you don’t get anything in the mail hence saving the paper that would be used to produce your bill and also the paper that is used for the envelope.

    Some companies will even offer you a slight discount in your bill by going paperless because in the long run you are directly saving them money.

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    2. Stop printing, signing, and faxing/mailing things. That is, if you are receiving these forms digitally. If you are receiving PDFs, then use a tool like PDFpenPro for the Mac or even try the new Adobe EchoSign with the free account for one individual and up to 5 transaction per month. There are of course other options for digital signing like Adobe Acrobat Pro, but the above two tools will work out for most needs.

    After you have signed something electronically you can then send it back via email or electronic fax. I have used eFax’s free service in the past, but I have found that having to send in documents by fax, especially for personal things, is not that normal; emailing an attachement of the PDF seems to be more and more accepted. Signing electronically won’t get rid of a lot of paper, but it is part of the bigger picture.

    3. Get a good scanner, shredder, and digital tool for filing. I chose the Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300, the AmazonBasics shredder, and a subscription to Evernote Premium. If you have to scan a ton of stuff and saving money isn’t important, then I recommend going with the grand-daddy of personal, duplex scanners; the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500. Everyone is using them; you should too.

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    Evernote Premium is great for storing your personal documents because of its excellent OCR service, tagging, and separate notebook creation. You can organize your documents in different ways and being able to use Evernote’s search capabilities, you don’t even need to know exactly where you put them.

    4. Digital notetaking tools. We have written about some of the best digital notetaking tools in the past as well as the most effective ways to use them and our opinions haven’t strayed too much. One thing to add is that if you followed step 3 above and got yourself an Evernote Premium subscription, then you can take most of your digital notes there with your iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac, or PC.

    One way that I have “cheated” is by using my Livescribe pen. I still have to buy the paper to take notes with, but I get the added bonus of storing the audio and PDF copy of the notes on my Mac and PC. After importing the notes, I can shred the paper if I so choose to.

    Conclusion

    As you can see the paperless lifestyle is getting closer and closer to reality, but there are still uses for paper that trump any digital implementation. Regardless, you can start with your paperless journey this year and get a little closer to that utopian view of a world without paper that we have been trying to reach for decades.

    (Photo credit: Stress by bureaucracy and paper filing via Shutterstock)

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on August 13, 2020

    Best 9 Money Management Apps for Easy Financial Planning

    Best 9 Money Management Apps for Easy Financial Planning

    Do you want to keep a budget, but aren’t sure where to start? Or maybe you have your money in a few different places and want an easy way to keep an eye on it all? We scoured the web and app stores to find the best money management apps so you can dive in, start saving money, and live more financially secure!

    1. Mint

      Mint is a great app for seeing where all of your money is on all of your devices. It can track your bank accounts, credit cards, and even investments. You can also use it to plan budgets and future expenses, but its main focus is on giving you a financial overview.

      Download Mint here.

      2. You Need a Budget

        You Need a Budget (YNAB) is a great tool for setting a budget and sticking to it. YNAB is nicely designed and gives you a clear report of where your money is going, as well as tools and “four rules” for budgeting to help you save.

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        Download You Need a Budget here

        3. Spendee

          Spendee is a budget and expense tracker with a heavy focus on design. Spendee is truly beautiful and does a good job of showing you where all of your money is going and how you can adjust course. The only down side is that you’ll need to manually enter your transactions.

          Download Spendee here.

          4. Expensify

            Expensify is perfect for the business traveler who wants to easily create expense reports of where he or she is spending money. You can do things such as take pictures of receipts, track your time, log any distances traveled, and print it out whenever you want to for expense reporting.

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            Download Expensify here.

            5. Budgt: Daily Finance

              Budgt is another good app for helping you watch your budget, and it’s geared towards college students and other people on more strict monthly incomes. If you’re a student trying to make sure you stick within a certain allowance, this is a great app for you.

              Download Budgt here.

              6. Dollarbird

                Dollarbird is a personal finance app that focuses around creating a calendar of your expenses to give you a high-level view of your expenditures, as well as predict big expenses that will come up in the future. It’s great for making sure you have a macro-level view of your financial situation.

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                Download Dollarbird here.

                7. Pocket Expense

                  The Pocket Expense App is an alternative to Mint. It gives you an overview of all of your accounts and expenses, and helps you keep everything in check without too many bells and whistles.

                  Download Pocket Expense here.

                  8. Toshl Finance

                    Toshl is a fun, personal financial management app that has many of the features of the other apps on this list, and adds in fun animated characters to make it more interesting. It’s also one of the few to also have an app for windows phones!

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                    Download Toshl Finance here.

                    9. Budget Boss

                      Budget boss is interesting because it learns your spending habits, and in addition to helping you make a budget, it can predict your spending over time in order to let you know where you’ll likely be at financially in the future. It’s great for helping you adjust course from spending too much of your money.

                      Download Budget Boss here.

                      Bottom Line

                      Those are our top 9 picks for great budgeting tools, but ultimately the most important thing is that you have some sort of money-management system. Keeping track of our money is important for ensuring that we’re on track for all of our financial goals.

                      Featured photo credit: rupixen.com via unsplash.com

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