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How to Go Paperless to Save Money, Time and the Planet

Updated on December 28, 2014
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.

Reduce the time and wasted paper spent shredding old documents when you learn to go paperless.
Reduce the time and wasted paper spent shredding old documents when you learn to go paperless. | Source

At the beginning of each year, I take some old documents out of storage that can now be discarded. This year I grabbed a box from 2001. Not a long time ago in a geological sense, but a lifetime ago in terms of how we handle business today. Learning how to go paperless has had such an enormous impact on my business, helping me save a bunch of money, scads of paper and the planet, too.

A CPA Led the Way

Some years back, I helped a CPA friend prepare a promotional mailer that was a records management guide. Of course, I appreciated the revenue from the project. But what I really gained from the project was the wisdom she was sharing on the mailer... and a whole lot more.

One of the biggest suggestions was to apply all your business expenses to a credit card. At that time, I thought that was nuts. I was primarily paying bills by check because I wanted to pay "cash" for everything so that I didn't get into debt.

What I didn't realize is that by doing so, it was actually costing me more. Not only did I have to pay for the check forms (which were getting more expensive all the time), I had to pay for postage, too. Plus, I had to "pay" myself for the time it took me to write and send the checks. And then there was all the paper that I had to organize, physically file away, store and eventually shred when it was no longer needed.

Save, Save, Save

So I started to put every possible expense on my business credit card and write one check a month. What a timesaver!

But I don't use just any credit card, I use a card that offers me cash back. Every year I save hundreds of dollars on my expenses. What a budget saver!

Even better is that I pay that credit card bill online and save the paper that would have been used to pay by check. My statements are also paperless. So now I don't have to handle and file those paper statements either. Less paper, less trees used. What a planet saver!

That's savings times three.


Into the Cloud

On top of all that, there's one more suggestion I got from the CPA that added another huge savings dimension. That suggestion was to go paperless when retaining documents. Take all those savings previously mentioned and multiply it a few times more.

For the first years, I used external hard drives and CDs stored offsite. It was better than all that paper. But it was always such a pain to get the drives and discs to the offsite location. Then when I'd arrive, I'd have to wait for a customer representative to check me in. I dreaded those days! It would often take me 30 to 45 minutes every month, not to mention gas to drive there.

Eventually I signed up with an online file storage service. So now I'm retaining as many documents as possible in the "cloud." Result?

  • Less storage space required.
  • Easier to retrieve documents right from your computer's desktop.
  • Reduces or even eliminates shredding time and electricity used when documents are no longer needed.
  • Less paper and more trees spared.
  • Most importantly, more time for me to do the things that really matter in my small business.

But it gets even better. The service I use automatically dumps new documents into my cloud as I finish them. I don't have to schedule or launch backups. It's running constantly in the background every time I turn on my computer and have it connected to the Internet. Accessing documents in the cloud is almost identical to how you would access them on your normal desktop or laptop. And unless you have to retrieve a lost document, you almost never have to go directly to the cloud with an automatically updating service like this. You just go about your business with the confidence that the service is taking care of your documents. Check with your online file storage provider for availability and details of this automatic backup service.

The service I use also updates document files as you change them, keeping previous versions of them in case the unthinkable happens. I can tell you that this has saved me more than once when I accidentally deleted or changed a file. Just another way that going paperless saves. Again, check with your online file storage provider for availability of this additional backup service.

Is this the year you put your business into the cloud and into the paperless productivity and profitability zone?

Why I Don't Use Catalogs and Encourage Businesses to Do the Same

Disclaimer: The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne


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    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Just added a video which discusses one of my green pet peeves. Enjoy!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hello fivesenses! Thanks for reading and glad you found it useful. Agreed, we'll all save money by going green if not right away, down the road. One day we'll all wonder how it handled all that paper! :)

    • fivesenses profile image

      Leena 4 years ago from new delhi

      Very useful and true..saves you time and money eventually.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      You know, FlourishAnyway, once I started going paperless both for business and home, I can't imagine doing it any other way than electronic. So easy access when you need to pull up receipts and (bleck!) insurance stuff. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Seems like this would be very useful for home/personal use as well (e.g., tracking medical receipts/EOBs, charitable contributions, etc.).

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Thanks Dwachira for the kind comments and support! So true. I've been able to see actual gains in my business from doing so. Cheers!

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi heidithorne,

      It will do us good if we choose to go paperless, we'll save a lot in terms of side costs and our world will be a better place. Thanks for putting this along. Voted up and useful.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Thanks, chefmancave, for commenting! Though I don't have the employee problem, I do have a TON of vendors and clients who are definitely not going paperless anytime soon. I even have one vendor who mails, USPS mail, order acknowledgments. Snail mail for time sensitive order information? Wow! I think these folks are just here to help us learn patience. :)

    • chefmancave profile image

      Robert Loescher 4 years ago from Michigan

      Very good suggestions for a home office environment. I deal with a lot of smaller offices and they follow many of your suggestions but one of the big hurdles these offices encounter are the "hold-outs". The employees who just refuse to use the paperless system.

      For home though, paperless is the way to go. I think I actually wrote a grand total of 4 checks last year.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      It is ironic! But I'm learning to rely more on my mobile and digital "robots" to take good care of my documents. Thanks for chiming in!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the good suggestions for how to go paperless. It does seem strange that we still use lots of paper documents when we have so many digital devices!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Bill, I think the reason going paperless takes time initially is because we're afraid we'll accidentally throw out something we'll need or won't be able to find an e-document. Once I got procedures established and the fear factor went away, I can't believe I didn't do this sooner! :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great suggestions and really very responsible. We did this about three years ago. It takes some time initially but it is oh so worth it in the end.