Stay informed! Visit the SA Department of Health's website for COVID-19 updates:

Photo by Alesia-Kazantceva / Usplash

Feeling buried under paper piles, constantly having to hunt for documents at the end of the tax year?

After assisting many clients sorting and purging through piles of paper, I decided that now is the time to look at what we can do to go paperless. It has been years since the phrase of a “paperless office” was coined. Imagining a future where paper documents would be a thing of the past and every document would be stored and shared digitally, yet more and more paper documents are being created.

Stop for a moment and consider the time and cost saving you would have, if you went paperless. How much time do you spend filing and searching paper? Consider the cost of printing. Consider the impact on the environment. What else could you or your staff be doing in that time if you had the option to have the information at the tip of your finger with the click of a button?

Now is the ideal time to go paperless, at the end of the tax year. Archive the last papers and start afresh in the new tax year by going paperless.  This will reduce unsightly paper clutter in the home, less paper in the office and also make a big impact on your carbon footprint, saving you time and money.

Tips to go paperless

Going paperless depends wholly on what you feel comfortable with and needs to suit your lifestyle and your needs. The transition is not going to be easy and will require a lot of patience and commitment as there will be new systems and routines to be put into place. The time you spend initially to make the changes will result in savings in future.

1. Reduce the paper coming into your home

Reduce printed items entering your workplace which seldom or never gets read.  Unsubscribe from mailing lists and subscriptions to magazines and newspapers that are available online.

I love home décor and organising magazines. If I have time to look at one, I use my tablet choose the category I would like to read and then literally page through magazines online, without paying a cent or having them lying around the house thereby reducing paper clutter and helping the environment.

Recycle Junk mail as it enters your home. If there is any service that you want to use in the future, capture it with your mobile and file it in your notes, under a suitable label.

2. Sign up to receive electronic bills and statements.

These take time to set up as you need to register on the websites of your providers. You’ll need the account details and other personal details that they require. This will ensure that you receive your bill immediately it is issued giving you enough time to pay, preventing late payment interest.

3. Set up online payments

With the on-line banking facility it makes life so much easier. Once you received the bill or statement make the payment through your online banking. Many of us are worried about using this option because of security. This option is much more secure than having your bills delivered to a mail box by snail mail risking identity theft.

Make your life easier by setting up automatic payments for your monthly recurring bills for utility, entertainment, household, and other bills if the amount stays the same. These will get paid automatically on a pre-set date every month without you having to do anything. This will give you peace of mind knowing that your bills are being paid in full and in time every month.

Changing the amounts of an automatic payment when there are increases are quite easy as you can do so online a month in advance.

Stopping automatic payments can be more difficult. Most of the time you need to notify the bank or the supplier in writing.  It might take a month to take effect so monitor your payments carefully.

To prevent you forgetting what needs to be paid and when, enter the different payments due dates to your calendar and check that they are indeed paid. You don’t want to be held liable for mistakes made by the bank or you not picking up that things have not been paid.

I prefer paying my bills directly after receiving the e-bill, by online banking. I then save the e-bill as PDF under the current tax year in the folder for that specific supplier, i.e. Banking, Utilities, Medical, Tax, Investments etc.

4. Digitalise your documents

Scan documents that you need to keep and store them electronically onto your computer hard drive. When receiving or downloading files you need to be consistent and always file them where they belong.

5. Naming your files

With wanting an effortless filing system it is essential that you create a good system to name your files. It is a matter of personal preference and there is no right or wrong way.  Be consistent in labeling your digital files. You can for example, when it comes to documents for the current year tax, file everything under the 2018 Tax year. Open a sub-folder for each supplier and the different bank accounts or cards. When your monthly bills or statements arrive, save them. Start with the date in YYYY-MM-DD format (20170612) and file it under the supplier as PDF or for a faster process use the date and an extension of the first three letters of your supplier directly under the tax year. Your files are then chronologically organised automatically. Keep file names simple so that you do not forget under which name you stored your document and if you are afraid that you’ll forget, make a list in your notes.

6. Storing your files

Invest in an External Hard Drive to back up your files frequently, at least monthly from your computer. Consider offsite storage, like any of the online options i.e. Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, etc. in the event of a disaster.

I saw an excellent idea to store photos and documents on flash drives, labelled accordingly, which can be stored off site or in a fireproof safe in case of a fire, theft or natural disasters. Remember to back up these regularly too.

7. Use your electronic devices for Notes

There are many apps out there to make your life easier and saving notes laying around and getting lost.

I used to hate getting to the supermarket only to find that I had forgotten my shopping list at home. I started using the my shopi app and never looked back as I always have my mobile phone on me, also look at Out of milk and shopping list.

To keep you on track with all your to-do’s, get rid of all the scraps of paper and reduce mind clutter, have them all in one place with an app that will work for you, i.e. Todoist , Evernote, Wunderlist

Spread your wings and use your tablet or mobile phone to search for online recipes. No more oil splattered pages and tattered recipe books.  When subscribing to some sites you can save the recipes you love to your favourites under different menu options.

Safely share files and folders with anyone, without an e-mail attachment and collaborate with your team or family on most of these apps.

8. Reduce the use of paper in your home

There is unfortunately still some paper that we still like to use like toilet paper, kitchen towels, paper plates and cups for parties and tissues. Consider using fabric kitchen towels and ordinary plates and glasses which are kinder to the environment and in so doing, save some trees.

9. Digital Signature

How often have you printed out a document just because you have to add a signature? You have to print, sign and scan it before you can email it. A lot of wasted time and paper. Sign a blank piece of paper with a thick pen. Scan your signature, and save it for future use. If you need to sign a document again just insert the scanned signature, saving time and paper.

Try to go paperless, you will not only reduce the paper clutter in your home but even a little effort will make a significant difference on our carbon footprint and save forests of trees!