What if I like paper documents?

What if I like paper documents?

Ok, you’re a Luddite. It’s a life choice.

So how do you handle your financial paperwork when you buck the cool-kid trend of electronic delivery?

Have a good system

If you want to find papers, you need to have a solid system for dealing with the flow of papers into your home or office. Unlike an electronic document that can sit in your email inbox for decades and still have a high likelihood of finding it, papers get ‘lost in the shuffle’ realistically after a week.

It’s organized…just not to someone else

Just because papers are in stacks on your desk, floor, various and sundry baskets, trays, drawers doesn’t mean that they are disorganized to you. You may know exactly where that letter from the bank is. But what if you get hit by a bus? Could someone come in and understand what your stacks mean? What types of papers are this basket versus that drawer? Would they need to sort through all of your papers to find the important stuff?

Make friends with folders, files, paper trays, and labels. Labels tell people what things are. They also remind you how you’ve sorted papers. Action items, pending, reference, items to file, and a cabinet of labeled & archived papers is a good system to start with.


Liking paper is one thing – doable if you have solid systems and diligently maintain them. Being a paper hoarder is another matter. How would you feel if the headline read, “Local man smothered to death by a stack of electricity bills dating back to 1974. Bills donated to local university for inflation study.”

You may like papers, but you don’t need to hang on to everything indefinitely. Don’t worry, you’ll get more. Learn how long you need to keep certain documents. Google “how long should I keep personal financial records.” Be prepared for conflicting answers.

Handle the scorn and ridicule of every utility, bank, and coffee shop point of sale system

Uncheck that box for electronic delivery of bills, statements, receipts. They’ll call you a tree killer. They’ll tack on a fee for the privilege of receiving paper. You’ll need to figure out how to print that text receipt for your $4.00 coffee. Tell them to shove it with a smile on your face.

Have enough space

The average person needs at least one two-drawer filing cabinet. This is assuming you are diligent about an annual purge of unneeded documents. Have a large household? Maybe upgrade to a four-drawer model. If you run a business out of your home, add at least one four-drawer filing cabinet.

Maybe you live in a large suburban home, and a two-drawer filing cabinet is not an issue. Plus, it’s an extra surface for a potted plant. Ferns are nice.

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