Do You Lead a Paper-Free Life? Now It is Time to Consider a Money-Free Lifestyle

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy. If you are looking for genealogy information, I suggest you skip this article.

I have written several times about leading a paperless lifestyle. I have tried to do so and now live about 98% paper free. I love it. I don’t ever want to go back to cluttering my life with paper.

Even at the NGS genealogy conference I am attending this week, when anyone in the exhibits hall hands me a brochure or a business card, I simply take a picture of it with my smartphone’s camera and then hand the paper back to the person who gave it to me. I won’t need to stuff my suitcase full of paper for the trip home. Unlike past conferences, I won’t lose the various pieces of paper. The smartphone pictures automatically get copied to my private space “in the cloud” within seconds after snapping the shutter. They are then easily searchable and retrievable for years to come.

Of course, the conference syllabus is already available in digital format. When the conference organizers handed me the flash drive containing the syllabus, at the first opportunity back in the hotel room, I uploaded the entire thing to my private space in the cloud. I will later recycle the flash drive by reformatting it and using it for something else. Life without clutter is great!

Now Jacob Wade suggests that the next step is to go money-free. However, “going money-free” probably isn’t what you may have thought when you first read the title of this article. It means to live without handling cash or even a checkbook. In other words, plan accordingly and automate your bill payments. Doing so adds structure and planning to your life and reduces the time spent with mundane tasks such as paying bills. It also simplifies the goal of maintaining a budget.

After reading his article, I think I am about 75% of the way to accomplishing that goal. According to the checkbook I keep in a bureau drawer, I wrote exactly three checks in the past twelve months. I generally have very little cash in my wallet and no longer carry pocket change. I also check my financial status daily on Mint.com. I never receive surprises. I hope to become 100% money-free within the next few weeks.

Most bills can be automated, and even if a particular bill doesn’t have an automated system, many banks will send scheduled checks for you.

Wade suggests you:

  1. Automate All Your Bills.
  2. Automate Your Budget For Necessities.
  3. Automate All Your Savings.

For a few expenses, such as grocery shopping, a credit card or debit card will eliminate the need to carry cash. I prefer debit cards because there is no debt involved. A debit card simply transfers existing funds from your bank account to the store’s account. By using a debit card and monitoring my bank account(s) daily with Mint.com, I never receive an unpleasant surprise at the end of the month when a credit card bill arrives.

This won’t work if you are living paycheck to paycheck and have no savings. However, if you have even a modest financial cushion, living money-free will mean you stop worrying about your finances and will instead sit back and MONITOR the process.

Monitoring is the operative word.

Monitoring instead of doing means you will be more in control of your own finances. When you don’t even have to think about the money, there’s no stress. As long as you have set out a plan to minimize wasteful spending, maximize valuable saving, and spend a few seconds every day monitoring the progress, you can enjoy life MUCH more.

You can read Jacob Wade’s article, How To Not Worry About Money Ever Again (And It’s Not What You Think!), at http://www.iheartbudgets.net/2014/05/how-to-not-worry-about-money/.

8 Comments

As far as business cards are concerned, Dick, if you ever come to Japan, do not give one back that you have received. Enormous cultural insult. People here still exchange “business” cards (called “meishi” – name card) and this is the etiquette. In presenting your card,do it with both hands if possible, holding the top corners facing yourself.and making a slight bow. Make sure your name, etc. on the card faces the other person so he/she can read it. When receiving again do it with both hands in the nearest corners, bowing slightly and reading it. Do not stuff it into your pocket. One usually carries both cards in a small carrying case. . If you are sitting at a table, put the card on the table. In a somewhat informal situation, the rules can be stretched a bit but still basic etiquette should be observed. Now isn’t this lesson special?

    Agreed. I have been to Japan several times and have always followed the local etiquette concerning business cards. However, I no longer have any of the cards I received. They have been lost over the years.

    If I ever return to Japan, I will follow the etiquette as you described. However, when I return to my hotel room or some other private place, I will scan or photograph the card(s) received and store them in the cloud for long-term preservation. I find that paper is too easily lost.

I do a lot digitally as well… BUT I don’t trust technology enough to go completely “paperless.” I never take it for granted that digital info will always be accessible… what would happen if we didn’t have it anymore, for whatever reason? I prefer to have hardcopies of important records– including genealogy. I’ve printed out and put records for ancestors into binders with sleeves.

We could never go paperless where we live, which is a small rural town, near a large Amish settlement. We interact in many ways with the Amish, as they run several stores, and they only take cash or check. Also, many of the local businesses operate the same way, cash or check only. When we travel outside the area to other small towns, it’s often cash or local checks only. We occasionally buy things from Craigslist and that is cash only. Farmers market vendors often only take cash or check. Several interactions in the last couple months, one a check to a genealogy club for research and another, a check to a vital records office in IL, only took cash or check. There are still so many places that only take cash or check and will probably not change in the near future. I really don’t see going completely paperless a real option anytime soon, at least for us. Larger cities are different, but much or rural America is still cash or check…….

    I do pay a number of bills by check, especially the repetitive bills such as electric bill and any other utilities. I do so by using my bank’s “pay bills online” service. The bank sends the checks, not me. That is a part of the “Automate All Your Bills” idea. It saves time and helps me to MONITOR the my finances proactively instead of reactively.

Dick,
We use online bill pay and credit cards whenever possible. However, if you “wrote exactly three checks in the past twelve months,” your lifestyle must be very different than ours. We have written 7-8 checks in the last couple months to contractors that do not take credit cards. We have written at least as many others to businesses that do take credit cards, but give a discount (of more than the percentage our credit cards return) for cash or check. We also write checks as presents on occasions for which we will not be present. [We will NOT send cash through the mail.]

As I said, we use online banking, but I don’t trust the providers enough to automate that. It takes a little bit more effort to check the statements and initiate the online check, but I catch the errors – and for example unannounced rate increases – before the fact. The only things we have ‘automated’ are items that are fixed amounts – e.g., mortgage.

Another (semi-related) point in using credit cards is that many give cash back on purchases in certain categories. So (for example) we use one card for groceries, a different one for restaurants, and a third for miscellaneous purchases.

    I have had contractors in the house three times in the past year. One was paid by debit card, the other two received checks from my bank when I used the bank’s “pay bills online” service.

    I don’t have many monthly bills but the few I have are paid by my bank’s “pay bills online” service. A good example is the cell phone I cancelled a few weeks ago. The exact price varied a bit from month to month, typically running $60 to $70 per month. The bill was sent electronically to the bank. When I set up the payment, I specified the bank could pay up to $75 without my authorization. If any one month’s bill was for more than $75, the bank would not pay it until I authorized it. Whenever a new bill is received, the bank sends me an email telling me the payee, the amount, and the status.

    I can click on a link in the email message and then view the bill a second or two later. If the bill was for more money than I have authorized, I can look at the bill, decide if it is valid or not and then pay the entire bill with one more mouseclick. Of course, if I question any of the bills, it is up to me to contact the vendor to question the charges. That’s true on any bill no matter if it is paid by online banking or not.

    My new cell phone is a fixed amount every month, $25, and is paid by automatic debit to a debit card.

    The amounts have always been correct, so far, and are paid automatically. For the occasions where I might question the bill, I remain in control of my own finances. I will always know about any problem within 24 hours.

    The process is simple and has always been very effective.

    The bank does send monthly statements (online) but I usually ignore them. Because I am verifying my finances every day with Mint.com, I already know what is in every monthly statement well in advance of the date it is sent. If there is any irregularity, I have already resolved the problem before the monthly statement is prepared. Using Mint.com or one of the several competitors to Mint.com, a daily check of all bills and other finances requires only a few seconds. I feel I have more control over my finances than I ever had before.

    —> Another (semi-related) point in using credit cards is that many give cash back on purchases in certain categories. So (for example) we use one card for groceries, a different one for restaurants, and a third for miscellaneous purchases.

    I do the same. That is easy to do whether you automate your finances or not. I have two bank accounts, one for business and another for personal use. I use different debit cards depending upon the reason for the charge. Both offer cashback.

    —> We will NOT send cash through the mail.

    Nor do I. However, I don’t remember the last time I gave money as a gift.

    —> we use online banking, but I don’t trust the providers enough to automate that.

    I don’t trust anyone but spending a few seconds every day checking my finances removes my concerns. If something happens improperly, I will know about it within 24 hours when it is still easy to take action. After several years of online banking and more than a year of automated bill payments, I have not yet had any problems. If I ever do have a problem, I suspect I can rectify it quickly because I am monitoring finances daily, even when overseas. With the old-fashioned banking, an erroneous charge would not be seen by me until the bank sends the monthly statement and if I happen to be overseas at that time, I might not see that statement for another week or two or three. In my case, using online banking and automated payments and daily monitoring online REDUCES the risk of erroneous charges when compared to what I used to do.

What you are referring to is not money but “legal tender” or “currency”. Money, as defined in the Constitution, is Gold and Silver coins only. Only gold and silver have the lasting qualities of money. Legal tender/currency (and bank accounts, 401k’s, IRAs, etc.) can be seized at the stroke of a politician’s pen, without warning, and have been in other countries recently. Anyone putting their faith in legal tender in this country will be very sorry, and soon.

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