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How to Banish Junk Mail

Many major financial companies will let you view your statement online these days, and Charles Schwab (SCHW) lets me view shareholder mailings related to my stocks and mutual funds. This is a particular boon because our recycling bin used to overflow with (mostly unread) prospectuses and annual reports.

American Express (AXP) lets you view your latest bill, past activity and purchases from your current billing cycle online -- versatility you can't get on paper. Even utilities like Verizon (VZ) and energy company National Grid (NGG) will let you see your bills online these days.

The downside of online viewing -- the reason I haven't done it yet for most of my bills -- is that companies typically email you to let you know your statement is available at their Web site rather than delivering the actual bill to your email account. Surfing from one site to the next is much less efficient than just plowing through a paper stack. It would surely eat into the two-and-a-half minutes per bill that PayitGreen estimates a person can save by paying bills electronically (unless you print all your bills out to recreate that convenient stack, which brings you back to killing trees).

That's too bad because I'm a big fan of electronic bill paying. I jumped on it when Citibank (C) began offering it in the early days on the Internet, because it was faster than writing checks and saved me a monthly trip to the post office for stamps. But I now appreciate that it has green advantages, too. Banks are able to pay some of your bills, like utilities and credit cards, and even make payments to your IRA or brokerage account, by electronic transfer instead of sending a physical check.

The Internet was supposed to help us cut down on paper and finally there's a way that it has, by giving us multiple ways to cut down on unwanted and unnecessary paper mail. Give your mailman a break and try one or two of them today.

Eileen P. Gunn writes about the business of life and is the author of "Your Career Is An Extreme Sport." You can learn more about her at her Web site.
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