Goodbye Paper Files

Perhaps the most obvious downside of taking an active interest in your finances is the fact you tend to have to read a fair bit of paperwork and then figure out what do with that paperwork.  While my file system is fairly good at the moment I rather dislike the amount of paper files I have in the house.  So I decided to move to more digital files where possible.

To do this with all seven years of previous history is a bit of a pain.  So we decided to invest in a new all in one laser printer that also had a document feeder attached to the scanner.  The ability to load in 26 pages at once and then scan them all at once was worth every nickel I paid for the new printer.

So while I expected this project to take a long time I am already about 80% complete and I only started working on this last Thursday.  So all in I figure I have put in about 10 hours of my time loading documents into the scanner and then shredding them after the fact.  And I also immediately backup the files after I finish scanning for the day to an external hard drive.

Some key points to keep in mind if you were interested in doing this yourself:

  • Decide on your digital file structure in advance.  This makes finding things easier if you need to retrieve a document.
  • Keep in mind not everything can be digital.  Your paper T4’s from your employer and your T3’s from your bank may still need a copy in the event the CRA decides you would look good in an audit.
  • You need to embrace the limits of your technology.  For example, while my printer can print in duplex (both sides of the paper), the scanner can not.  So rather than try to keep the digital file in the exact same order I just split them into two files: front and back.  Yes this means more work if you need a particular document in some cases, but given I rarely look at these documents that is fine.
  • Don’t scan in something you really don’t even need to keep.  In my case I realized we had a few years of documents that were past the seven year cut off from CRA so we skipped scanning those and went straight to shred.
  • Work on stemming the inflow of paper where possible.  Sign up for digital statements where you feel comfortable and skip the paper copy entirely.

While I’m still working out a few issues with this process I find that I will likely keep about 80% less paper going forward.  Also the fact my digital files are much better organized and searchable by title means I can actual find a file much quicker than before.

Are you going more digital as times goes on?  Any advice from you pros out there with very little paperwork on how to handle the paper hoard?

3 thoughts on “Goodbye Paper Files”

  1. I still have paper copies for our tax papers and my old business papers. But it would be nice if we had a secure system in place to store everything digitally instead. It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while, but haven’t actually got around to doing. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. That’s a great idea! I should probably digitize some of our paper files.

    How are you keeping your files? I assume you have multiple backups in case things go wrong?

  3. Tawcan – I keep an external hard drive that I back up all our key files to every few months. Then I keep that hard drive in a fireproof safe at that house. I’m debating about getting a USB stick and uploading another copy of the files to keep them offsite as well.

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