●Often requires signing into a website to view.
Robert Berger, deputy editor of Forbes Money Advisor and author of “Retire Before Mom and Dad,” figured converting from paper to digital was as simple as buying a scanner to digitize his receipts and bills, giving each a unique name, then putting them all into an online folder. “Because I was selling my house and moving into a new one, I became super-focused on decluttering and finding an organizational method that worked,” he says. What sounded good in theory didn’t pan out. “My paper mess became a digital mess,” he says.
His solution: Create an online filing system involving Dropbox for storage and several Google docs organized by topic, such as “house” or “medical.” Invoices, receipts for large purchases and bills that come as attachments instead of embedded within an email get scanned and converted to a PDF, as do any important paper receipts such as his home inspection and deed. Either the email or PDF is saved to Dropbox. A link for each is copied and pasted into the appropriate Google doc.
“I can see every service call for home repairs by looking at one master document. If I need the receipt, it’s one click away,” says Berger, who adds that you can even give your master document with embedded links to receipts and statements to your accountant come tax season. There’s no need to send credit card statements or similar documentation unless your tax preparer asks for it.
For those who prefer what Frazier calls “a virtual file cabinet,” consider downloading statements and/or investment reports to your online storage. Categorize them into labeled folders such as “retirement” or “Visa card.” Another option is to use a free online financial management tool — for example, Mint, which can automatically connect to and import your financial data, including credit cards, bank and retirement accounts, into one easily accessible place.
DeLeeuw’s two-month shredding slog was worth it. Now she stores all her bills and receipts on an external hard drive in folders sorted by topic and year. “It was amazingly scary to shred all that paper,” she says, “but once I got started I realized, ‘Who needs a 20-year-old utility bill?’ ”