August 20, 2011

The 4 R's of Mail Consumption

from unjunkmail
In present day, I'm guessing a lot of us use idea one (below) to some extent, though some younger adults are especially resistant to opening their own checking accounts. I know because my little brother is one of them. Wait. So is one of my closest girl friends and she's, well, in her late-30s. Not having a bank account is akin to asking for a monthly headache. I can't imagine trying to pay bills without one, or how about applying for an apartment? Ironically, it's not a simple way to live in our society. One day I'll convince them of that. I hope.

1. Refuse Paper-Bills; Auto Bill-Pay. 
Yeah, this is the one I'm guessing you already use. Isn't it wonderful? Fluctuating bills still need scrutinized, so some folks may still have such bills on paper, but it's generally easier to view and harder to lose a bill that's online, and recurring same-amount bills, like rent or a mortgage, are a no-brainer as auto-pay candidates.

Sole Proprieters and even non-proprietors are eligible vendors, too---Did you know?
Do you also know it's easy to set up your friend in need or your sole proprietor landscaper as a bill payee? I've done it without a glitch. All my bank required was a name, bank account & routing information, and at least a week; auto-pay transactions to individuals are slower than other tiers of payees that may already do business with the bank. For example, when I pay my Chase card from my Chase checking account, I get the fastest pay option available: same day. But, if I want to pay a Capital One card from my Chase bank account, I may be waiting a couple of days or more, and setting up a new vendor that Chase may never even have heard of also takes a bit longer. So, always make sure you have at least a week to spare before the payment's due, even once they are set up. Oh, and the other good news; you only have to set a new vendor up once. Trust me, this comes in handy when it's been two years since you paid person X (assuming X's account info hasn't changed).
Image from

2. Reduce Junk Mail. 
Saves me time reading or sorting through it; saves me time weekly from running it to the curb. Saves the planet and makes me feel good.

DMA Choice (Eliminate Junk Mail)
This god-send from the Direct Marketing Association can nearly eliminate credit card offers, catalogs and magazine offers. It sends a request out to all major credit entities like Experian and Equifax, and it's free. So that it can be accurate and thorough about getting my name off lists, the https protected site does ask for sensitive information, but most is optional. Still, it's a reputable organization and the more info I'm willing to provide DMA, the better their efforts will be to help me. The entire process, including signing up for a free DMA account and requesting to be removed from all the aforementioned options, took less than five minutes.

The DMA site is so incredible; a person can even reduce her junk e-mail, register as a caretaker, or register that someone is deceased, in order to reduce unnecessary mail!

3. Reuse it. 
Yesterday I used some old newspaper as a tissue paper substitute for stuffing the bottom of a big gift basket (which itself was a new fiber trash bin doubling as the "basket"). Other days, I save paper as the upcoming winter's fire-starter.

The Re-use Trap
Saving paper and cardboard and other materials for future use is great, but don't fall into the trap of collecting much more than you can use in a reasonable amount of time. I've made that mistake repeatedly with boxes. It's an easy trap to fall into, and a hard habit to break. Do a regular sweep of the excess if you want to stay organized and feel on top of things.

4. Recycle. 
And you guessed it; the rest goes into the compost & what doesn't make it into the compost ends up in the recycling bin.

And finally, it may be more than you ever wanted to know or think about mail, but if you're at all curious, look up unjunkmail sometime. It has interesting ideas and information. And if you have some other creative ideas for taming the junk mail beast, please do share.


  1. Nice! Good info.

    I've been financially paperless for years, and use a billpay service so that paying is brainless (as long as we have income!!) since everything is automatically scheduled. I cannot imagine budgeting without the direct downloading of information from my creditors and bank(s). Couldn't keep track if I had to deal with paper.

    I pay individuals, Drs, insurance, utilities, thru the billpay service; DMV, taxes -including property, online. Local businesses, over the phone if possible so don't need to issue paper check. I use an online bank for the majority of payments.
    I'm working on getting local individuals/businesses to either send bills to our billpay service, email us, or go through PayPal, so can stop receiving their paper bills. Mixed success there.
    Almost all income (including reimbursements, individual paybacks) is direct deposit or through PayPal or something similar.

    Recently, I've tried going paperless with health insurance/FSA claims. That's a bit rocky, but seems more a matter of their EOB section and email services not communicating. Growing pains I suspect. Strangely, our health insurance only issues paper checks. We do file claims by fax, instead of mail. If couldn't fax for free, I'd electronically fax from our computer.

    We even scan and email necessary paperwork to our "kid" who lives away from home. My impression is he doesn't even check the mailbox more than once/twice a week!

    I would also recommend contacting, phone/email, any vendor from whom you are receiving a catalog who is not responsive to DMA requests. Most have no problem stopping the mailings, as it ultimately is cheaper for them. A few solicitations I've stopped by stuffing everything in the return envelope with a big NO written across it.

    Magazines, newsletters either Kindle or online. I could even send stuff to said "kid's" Kindle!

    With all our efforts, we've reduced mail to none or one/two pieces a day, with most that's still coming being unsolicited "stuff". Still working on these.

    The envelopes I still am getting: I currently use when shopping at my meat market with my own containers. They still need to generate stickers for each item, so I have them put them on the envelope, then hand that to the cashier. Saves scraping sticky stuff off the jars.
    I agree, banks seem to be a necessary evil unless you have no debt and few expenses, AND no desire to have a steady job, rent or own.

    Regarding "hoarding" boxes: I have been guilty of this, too, as have gone through a phase of buying -even food- online. THAT's stopped, but to not feel guilty about single use boxes, I'm donating the boxes/packing materials to a local "shipping store" [check Stopwaste]

    Sorry for long response, but this is near and dear to my heart. This used to be a huge part of our paper waste as well as an organizational nightmare.

  2. Wow! Great response, Jay. I'm impressed with your mail volume. I'm afraid mine is quite a bit heavier. I have called several companies to request a stop to catalogs, but others seem to take their place almost seamlessly. I guess I'll see how using the DMA works out for us. It sounds like you've put a lot of effort into your mail reduction, and I love that you use your used envelopes to collect stickers at the market. That's classic. I may swipe that one.

  3. I am struggling to imagine how anybody gets by without a checking account. They must have some sort of bank account right?

    I'm going to check out DMA Choice. Years ago I signed up with some service to remove my name from junk mail lists, but I can no longer remember the name, and I think it was different. Anyhow, it can't hurt. I've got one stupid company that keeps sending me their catalog. I call EVERY month asking to be removed from their list, but still it arrives. Sigh.

    I am famous for keeping too much crap that "might be useful". Cardboard boxes and other packing materials are my downfall. But a few months ago I spent a few days cleaning out my basement. I designated one cabinet for packaging stuff, and it's stuffed full. So now I know that I don't need any more! I considered it a great accomplishment when a recent mail order arrived and I actually took the boxes and packing stuff straight to the recycling bin without it sitting in a pile in the basement for many months first. Progress!!!

  4. Yeah, do tend to get long winded.

    Mail reduction has, sillily, taken a long time. For several months every time I got something, I would proactively try to eliminate a repetition of that piece of mail, however it made sense.
    It all started with signing up with Greendimes (which has either morphed or ceased to exist), and though it took months, the process was pretty successful for catalogs;They knew what buttons to push :-)) Other services should be similar. I got inspired after minimizing the junk mail, to attack the rest. Kind of like a garbage can challenge: how low can you go!