The Check isn't in the Mail

I’m a packrat by nature. Hesitant to throw things away because I think one day I might need them. Especially when it comes to paystubs, bills, statements, etc. And I know I’m not alone.

Unlike the urge to cling to your acid wash jeans until they make a comeback, there’s no need to stockpile every shred of your financial paperwork and continue sending and receiving paper payments and statements.

The notion of going paperless makes some people uneasy and leaves them questioning safety and data accessibility. The reality is that a large portion of the kinds of security breaches that we worry about stem from offline incidents like the theft or loss of a check or checkbook. And come tax time, you don’t have sift through piles of financial paperwork. Since electronic records carry the same legal standing as paper records, you don’t need to keep a paper trail; your account statement is considered proof of payment.

Ultimately, paperless banking and payments can save you time, effort and money in addition to being an efficient and secure way to track your finances electronically.

Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag announces Uncle Sam's newest green initiative on Monday. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg NewsOne of the most recent paper abdicators is none other than Uncle Sam. Government payments like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and U.S. government benefits, among others, will soon be paperless. This week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that all government payments to consumers (excluding those made by the IRS) will made electronically – either through direct deposit into a bank account or via Treasury’s Direct Express debit card.

The switch will take place over the next three years and is estimated to save more than $300 million in the first five years and over $120 million per year subsequently. Additionally, the new payment approach will cut about $48 million in government postage costs.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the federal government’s move will convince consumers to kick the paper habit once and for all. And finally, was the government just late to the game or could this switch ripple through the business community, prompted even more paperless preaching? We'll wait for the buzz.

To gauge the impact of your personal finance paper trail, visit PayItGreen’s Paper Financial Footprint Calculator: http://payitgreen.org/consumer/calculator.aspx

-Contributed by Anne Norris. Follow her @anne_norris