Have you ever thought about how many trees must die so that we can get those monthly bills in the mail on time and enjoy all the amenities of modern living? The phone bill, the cable bill, the power bill…the list goes on and on. Also, how about those checks you get printed out occasionally–especially if you move before you run through all of them and have to order even more? That’s all before even considering junk mail. It’s all a tremendous waste of paper.
For me, a big part of going green is moving to as paperless a life as possible. I have managed to totally eliminate the need for ordering checks, and I get almost no bills in the mail. Here’s how you can do it too:
1) Get a checking account through a major bank like Wachovia. A bank’s well-designed web site will allow you to pay your bills online by paying bills directly and electronically, and by being able to draw up and mail out a check on the spot when needed! Why print out hundreds of checks you may never use, when you can just type in a bit of information and have a check sent right away?
2) For utility payments (phone, water, electricity, cable): If you use any of the major companies, they will allow you to register on their web site and view your bill there. Most of them will also allow you to opt out of getting paper bills (the “paperless option”) and instead sign up for an automated charge to a credit or debit card every month. You can review your bills online anytime to make sure you’re being charged properly. Just doing this alone saves an enormous amount of paper.
3) For other recurring bills: If your other bills are the same amount each month, then set up recurring payments through your checking account and forget about them. New checks will get sent every month! Make sure you add your bill’s account number–my bank allows me to add that as a “note” that appears on a generated check’s lower left hand corner. If they recur but vary in amount each month, then you can save your first online check transaction and then just enter a new amount each subsequent month. It’s a bit more tedious because you have to log in, but you just put in the numbers and hit enter–the check gets sent out.
4) For one time bills: For single bills such as medical bills, I just send them an online check even if they demand a remittance stub. I’m just sure to enter my account number on it. I’ve yet to have a payment rejected.
5) For rent and mortgage payments: Many mortgage companies will deduct the payment directly from your account each month. Call them and ask. They may even prefer you to pay them that way. For rent, you should simply be able to generate a repeat transaction with your online bank account that sends a check for the same amount each month.
6) For 401(k) and other investment statements: Most investment companies will allow you to go paperless. Want to know how badly your stocks are doing in this economy? Just log into their website, pull up your portfolio that is updated daily or by the minute, and get your info there.
7) Junk mail: This is by far the hardest category to reduce. For a very in-depth article about each type of junk mail and how to stop it, click here. As a general rule, you can lower the quantity of junk mail by filling out this form and mailing it to the listed address with $1; that will put you on a “do not mail” list through the Direct Marketing Association.
You’ll never completely eliminate paper, but you can come very close by adopting some or all of these steps. I’ve been able to get the number of recurring paper bills sent to me down to zero.
What are your strategies for living a paperless life?