Like many people, I make the majority of my financial transactions online: from shopping to paying bills, from retrieving statements to managing bank accounts.
In the past, I used to print off a paper confirmation of each one. For some reason, I thought I needed physical “proof” every time money changed hands—be it a deposit into a savings account, or a receipt for a sweater ordered over the internet. So although I was conducting the majority of my business electronically, my files were still bulging.
Then I discovered the three magic words that eliminated 90% of my paperwork: “print to PDF.”
Oh, how I love this option! It gives me the satisfaction of documentation, without the clutter.
No longer do I have a stack of receipts from online purchases I’ve made or bills I’ve paid. Yet if I ever find the need for a paper copy, I can easily print one off. (Recently, however, I’ve found electronic documents to be more valuable in resolving issues than printed ones!)
Similarly, when I come across an interesting article on the web, I no longer feel compelled to print it out and squirrel it away–just in case the web page or content disappears in the future. Instead, I print it to PDF, and voila!—I have a virtual library of “research” on my laptop.
Once it’s installed, it’s a snap to use. To “print” the current page in your browser window, do the following: select “File,” then “Print,” and choose the PDF program from the dropdown box next to “Printer Name.” Click on the “OK” button, navigate to the folder in which you’d like to store the document, and name your file.
Of course, you don’t want to make your computer a digital dumping ground! Be selective with your “printing,” and set up folders (such as “Receipts” or “Articles,” for example) to organize the documentation you generate. Most importantly, make regular backups of your files in case of data loss.
My goal is to live as paperless a life as possible—and this simple feature has gone a long way towards helping me accomplish that. This year, I have more incentive than ever to avoid accumulating paperwork—I have no idea where I’ll be living this time next year, and don’t relish the thought of dragging a stack of documents around.
Therefore, I’ll be attempting a zero net gain of paperwork in 2010. Would anyone like to join me?