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Streamline U. Paper and Junk Mail Strategies

First, let's talk about junk mail. Then we'll cover paper and what you can chuck and what you should keep.

More than 100 million trees are needed to make the 4.54 million TONS of junk mail that’s mailed annually… almost half of which is never opened.

Why so much junk mail?!?

Because you’re a popular person and everyone wants to tell you something very, very important!

OK, maybe not, but a lot of people want to tell you things, so they figure getting a piece of mail into your house is the best way (and for the most part, it still is).

Marketers call it “direct mail marketing.”* For 95% of it, we call it junk, and we’d rather not have it. And we feel guilty about all those trees!

Some strategies:

1. Tell the Direct Marketing Association that you want to opt out (“activate the mail preference service”).

2. Tell the credit card folks to stop it with all those pre-approved offers: 888-567-8688. You can do two years or forever.

3. Now the tough ones: pull together all the various things you subscribe to: everything from the local paper, to Oprah and Car & Driver, to the holistic doctor newsletter. You’re probably subscribed to more things than you realize or have time to read, that’s OK – but make sure they aren’t out there selling your name to others who want to send you even more stuff to read. In every publication there should be some info (fine print, get out the Shaklee magnifier) about mailing list preference. Unfortunately you still have to make the effort, they don’t have to ask you to “opt in.” Sometimes you have to write, sometimes they have phone numbers or e-mails. It’s worth it though, this is a huge source of junk mail.

4. Catalogs. See #3. You may want some of these. For those folks, flip to the center and find the customer service number. Call them and tell them not to share your name and address. Those you don’t want: you can call them as well, or you can get some postcards from the post office and start cutting out mailing labels so you can send it to them with the request. Some places may be enlightened enough to allow you to do this online, but don’t count on it.

5. Pull together your financial people: banks, mortgage company, credit card companies, brokerage, etc. These places are now required to have privacy policies – and tell you about them! That little slip of paper you get annually is important! It has the info on it so you can opt out at various levels. Remember, lots of these companies own lots of other companies … and they want you to be a customer of all of them. If you don’t have the privacy policy handy, check online or just call customer service #s on each card or statement. As you do this, you may want to make a note of everyone you reached… you may get new cards, etc., and it’s tough to remember who got called and who didn’t. Also, go paperless if you can – most banks and others will send you statements by e-mail or by logging into their site. They keep the records for you. You can print one annual summary for your taxes.

6. Online shopping: same thing, for online anything. Before you hand ANY info over to ANY site (even the big “reputable” ones) READ the privacy policy. I’ve seen privacy policies for online companies that require you to send an opt out request by SNAIL MAIL. These places will do everything they can to discourage you from taking action.

7. Contests and other assorted random things that want your info. Again, check for who’s asking, find out what they’ll do with your info, and then make your preference known. Big black marker request.

8. Memberships – including the Chamber and others… they will share lists with non-profits and others.

9. Non-profits, speaking of, will also share your name unless you tell them not to. It’s one way they are able to find new donors, by trading lists with other non-profits. Once you give somewhere, all the rest will find out. If you want to give to an organization but don’t plan to again, then give anonymously. If it’s too late, then simply contact them (a postcard will do) and ask them not to solicit you anymore. If they don’t heed your request they are being inefficient and wasting donor dollars… so you clearly made the right decision.

10. Product warranties… you don’t actually have to send these in, the warranty still applies. It is the only way they’ll know to notify you if there’s a recall or some safety issue, so you can do it, but again, get out the black marker and check the opt out box… and don’t give them more than your address.

11. Loyalty/reward programs, whether Charlie Brown’s or Staples… again, tell them as soon as you sign up. If you haven’t yet, find the customer service number and call. 

12. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but you get the idea. Be fussy about what you sign up for or give your name to…. or if you love junk mail, sign up for everything and enjoy the paper flood!

What you can’t avoid: the junk mail, flyers etc that marketers hired the USPS to carry to your house or PO Box (Those don’t even have your name on them.) (I personally think USPS could make more money by offering to NOT deliver these things – for a fee of course!)

Maintenance/Prevention: anytime you hand over your name and address make your request loud and clear (thick black marker is good) not to share/sell/rent your name. If you don’t trust somewhere, go ahead and alter your name slightly so you’ll know instantly if they “sold you.”

Keep a supply of postcards handy – when something comes in you don’t want, send them a nice postcard request to ‘take me off your list.’ You can use those pre-printed address labels that some nice group sent you. Or collect a pile of unwanteds and sit down to make phone calls for 15 minutes once a week or month.

Control: Big garbage/recycling cans in the place where you go through mail (at the door, in the office, in the kitchen, etc). Shredder for those credit card things. If you see something that looks cool that you might want, create a file or a bulletin board place for your wish list purchases, or the good idea you saw for the kitchen makeover – then pull out the specific page or info and file/post it. For those seeking money, non-profits or otherwise, put them in with your bills-to-pay and assign a due date. Make a decision by the due date to buy/not buy, give/not give. Rest assured, if you absolutely can’t make up your mind, they will be bugging you again soon (unless you tell them not to!)

(*To avoid being classified as junk, make sure your company’s direct mail is wanted, and make it something worth getting! And don’t share names unless you get the OK from your customers!)

Documents Documents Documents

Most of us are keeping way too many pieces of paper…as death and taxes are only certain, what do you really need to keep?

The IRS says you must keep records as long as needed to support an item reported as  income or a deduction, for as long as the “period of limitations” runs for that tax return. The period of limitations is the period of time in which you can amend your return to claim a credit or refund, or the IRS can assess additional tax.

If you....

1. Owe additional tax (and situations (2), (3), and (4), below, do not apply to you,) THEN 3 years

2. Under-report your income by 25% or more, THEN 6 years

3. File a fraudulent return, THEN there is no limit

4. Do not file a return, THEN there is no limit

5. File a claim for credit or refund after you filed your return; THEN maximum 3 years

6. File a claim for a loss from worthless securities or a bad debt deduction, THEN 7 years

Employees. If you have employees, you must keep all employment tax records for at least 4 years after the date the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later.

Assets.    Keep records relating to property until the period of limitation expires for the year in which you dispose of the property in a taxable disposition (e.g. selling it). You’ll need those records to figure depreciation, amortization, or depletion deduction, and to figure your basis for figuring your gain (or loss).

For complete, current IRS guidelines for recordkeeping, see IRS publications 552 [] or 583 [].

Stuff you really don’t need to keep: paycheck stubs, ATM receipts, deposit slips, non-tax-deductible credit card receipts, except those to keep for a warranty (staple it to the product manual) or big-tickets items (in order to establish value in case of loss), credit card statements for personal use cards, utility bills, or investment prospectuses.

Ever-Safe Documents

Keep the following in a fire-proof safe or a safe deposit box at your bank (but remember to keep the signature card up to date, and to let someone else know about it, just in case)

  • Marriage, birth and death certificates
  • Settlement and divorce papers
  • Adoption, custody and citizenship papers
  • Trust papers, living will, and powers of attorney
  • Property deeds
  • Motor vehicle titles
  • Stock and bond certificates
  • U.S. savings bonds
  • Contracts, including mortgage and land contracts, promissory notes and other legally binding agreements
  • Military papers
  • Patents / copyrights
  • Backups of important computer files/hard drives
  • Home inventory list, photos and receipts

And… At Your Desk

The standard placement for a desktop or keyboard is 30 inches from the floor. You can adjust this figure to suit your needs; the keyboard should rest at or just below elbow level when you’re sitting. Your monitor should sit so that the top of the screen is just below eye level. Make sure you leave the proper amount of clearance/air flow area around electronics/equipment. Feng shui placement says you should not have your back to the door while at your desk; ideally, you should be able to see the door from your desk chair, but not be in a direct line with the door.

Contact Streamline U. today – personal training for you and your stuff is just a call or e-mail away.