You probably thought you were done with paper. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that some paper dependency has been reduced thanks to technology. But it is not enough to even begin speculating about a paperless society. There is a good chance you are not purchasing as many newspapers and magazines as you used to. That’s a good thing since there aren’t nearly as many from which to choose. Professional typesetters are no longer in demand. Even common utility bills are going paperless.
Still, this progress is muted by the fact that dead-tree junk mailers are still filling our boxes with paper garbage. Junk email hasn’t slowed down the amount of paper junk mail. Job applications are going online. But that hasn’t stopped those same employers from demanding that you fill out a paper application and produce a paper resumé. Grocery stores are still printing out receipts loaded with ads. If anything, they are using more paper. We are receiving mixed messages about whether to eliminate paper for the sake of the environment, or whether we should print everything? What items should we print and keep in a file cabinet and which should we scan for our digital records? Here is some guidance that can help you decide:
Event and Travel Tickets
If you ever get a chance to go to the Olympics as a spectator, be sure to scan your tickets. That wasn’t an issue this year because of the lack of spectators at the Olympics. This is true for other sporting events, concerts, and all travel tickets. The good news is that many tickets now have a digital component so you can keep them neatly in a digital wallet. But that is not true for all of them. With a good scan, some venues will accept it as a proof of purchase. They should be able to scan the QR code to give them the necessary information.
Some event tickets cost more than a house payment. And overseas airfare can run several thousands of dollars. It won’t exactly be fun for the whole family if something were to happen to the physical tickets. Don’t just count on your scans. To be on the safe side, get travel insurance to cover mishaps involving expensive tickets. The scan is just a backup that you never want to actually need.
Even the IRS knows that keeping your tax records in a shoebox is a bad idea. That said, keeping them in a shoebox is fine as long as it is locked in a fireproof safe. If you don’t have a fireproof safe, you should definitely scan all your tax records from as far back as you can get. It is the kind of thing you never want to need. But if you are audited for any reason, those records are going to be very important. If it is your word against the IRS, you are going to lose.
Many apartments will also ask to see your most recent tax records. If you are self-employed, it is the only proof of income you have that they will accept. You might not have to produce a hard copy if you have a clear scan you can include as a digital attachment.
If you are lucky enough to work for a company that keeps a record of your paystubs online, you are ahead of the game. But you will only have access to those stubs as long as you work for the company. If you move on to your next opportunity, you are going to need scans of your physical pay stubs for your records. Often, the online stubs can be saved as PDFs. Be sure to do that every pay period so that you always have a copy. If you only get them in print, be sure to scan them and treat them like tax records.
You can find a document scanner that is software only and can be used with smartphones and tablets. Those work just as well. You will need them as long as there are vaccination cards, tax records, and pay stubs to be scanned.