Randy Dean's Timely Tips

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Timely Tips© Volume 2, Issue 10; October 2005 -- A Junk Mail Time (and ID) Saver

I have to give credit for this month’s Timely Tip to my wife, Jana. We had been struggling for some time on how to deal more efficiently with all of the mail – and especially junk mail – that we had been receiving at our home address. I tried using the previously-mentioned Three Minute Rule (November 2004 Timely Tips), but when you are getting about 20-30 pieces of junk mail a day, even the three minute rule gets a bit unwieldy. Most of that stuff doesn’t even deserve three minutes of attention!!

So we decided to take our processing of junk mail one step farther, by creating a “Junk Mail Bin” – an idea conceived by my wife on how to dramatically cut down on how much time we gave to junk mail. Basically, this is a bin – a little larger than a bread box – where we put all of the junk mail that we receive. Every day, when we get our mail, we stand by the junk mail bin, and toss every piece of unwanted and unsolicited junk mail into the bin as we sort through the rest of the mail. After spending 30 seconds sorting out the junk mail, we are left with only the mail that has some real value/importance, including all bills, credit card statements, bank and investment account statements, personal mail from family/friends, etc., which gets put into a separate pile and is processed with the individual attention that it deserves.

Then, once that junk mail bin fills up (it usually takes a couple of weeks to a month to fill it up), I bite the bullet, and take about 5 minutes (and ONLY 5 minutes) to go through that bin and get rid of all of it at one time. (Thus, instead of giving junk mail five or more minutes of my time each day, I’m only dealing with it for five minutes every few weeks!) You might be asking why I even bother to give it 5 minutes and I’m not just throwing it away outright, but I’m a bit concerned about the possibility of identity theft. I have read that ID thieves can take certain types of junk mail – especially pre-approved credit card and mortgage offers, and open accounts in your name that you may end up responsible for. Because of this, I don’t just throw it away - I instead try to quickly go through my junk mail to make sure there isn’t anything in there that could open us up to ID theft risk. Anything that is marked to “Resident” gets trashed or recycled immediately. If it is actually addressed to us by name, I put it into a shred pile. I don’t take the time to open it up and see if it has any information that could be used by an ID thief – instead, I just assume there could be something in there and shred it all.

To enable this, we’ve purchased an office-strength cross-cutting shredder capable of shredding documents up to 15 pages thick. Nearly all pieces of mail that come in to our home can be easily handled by this shredder, including those annoying credit card offers that include a “mock credit card” (they are trying to make it tough on you to get rid of their mail!!) and also those AOL “Free 100 Hours” CDs. And, it is also a good tool for getting rid of sensitive but older bank account statements, credit card slips, etc. This more powerful shredder has definitely been worth the extra $50 when you factor in how much time it has saved us in dealing with our junk mail (not to mention the additional peace of mind regarding ID theft).

So, if you want to handle the junk mail beast, consider a “Junk Mail Bin” and an office strength shredder. This combination makes for a powerful time and ID saving one-two punch.


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