Dear Fusion Money,
My health insurance, car insurance, credit card, and loan companies all send me tons of crap in the mail. What paperwork do I actually need to keep and what can I throw away?
— Tree Lover in Cleveland
Dear Tree Lover,
The short answer is: you can toss almost everything, but you should screen it first.
You can pay your credit card, medical and car insurance bills online, maintain your bank accounts online, order prescriptions online, pretty much do anything online. If you’re good about signing up for digital alerts and staying on top of your bills, then about 99% of the physical mail you receive that isn’t a birthday card from your grandma will be useless crap.
But it’s worth cracking open the mail anyway to look at what’s in there before tossing it. Companies mask the important physical mail they send you—rate changes, notifications of security breaches, insurance cards, new credit or debit cards, etc.—in nondescript envelopes or packaging that’s very similar to junk mail. For that reason, it’s important to open everything you receive and give it at least a quick glance. If there’s no unexpected bill or plastic card in there, then you don’t have to worry about it.
The best way to reduce all your unnecessary mailbox clutter is to opt-out of marketing mailers by filling out this form. You can also call the general 1-800 or 1-866 number of every company that sends you junk mail and ask them to patch you through to the line that handles opting customers out of marketing mailers. This is undeniably a time-consuming pain-in-the-butt, but it will save lots of trees.
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I oversee Fusion's money section and have spent most of my time as a journalist writing about banks and finance. I live in Brooklyn with my partner Geoffrey & our two dogs, Captain & Tallulah. Favs: leopard print, Diet Coke, gummy candy, Ireland.