Tips for handling paperwork while full-timing
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
One of the things we often get asked as RV full-timers is how we handle paperwork and bills. Luckily, most billing is done online today, but there are still some tricks to know before you start full-timing to make paperwork easier.
In some of the items below, I discuss computer files. While smartphones can do many things, having a computer or tablet is preferred to easily view and utilize these files.
You must have a permanent address for many things like your driver's license, insurance and taxes. Some people use a relative's address if they are really nice and dependable.
We use one of the big RV mail-forwarding services (MyRVmail, Good Sam, Escapees). This also allows us to have an address in one of the tax-free states. Most of the services will show online what pieces of mail they received with details like the return address.
You can decide if you want them to throw it away, mail it, scan it for online viewing, or hold onto it until you have a larger amount of mail. We only ship our mail roughly once a month to an RV park or general delivery to a post office. Rarely is there something critical in the mail.
We don't have many medical issues, but we wanted our medical history handy if we needed medical help while traveling. After looking through my stack of paperwork from previous doctors' visits, I came up with a solution.
- I went through my files of doctor visits and made an Excel spreadsheet with only the critical data of a doctor's visit (date of visit, doctor and description or results of the visit).
- On a separate sheet, I listed the name, address and phone number of important doctors.
- In another file (Word), I listed general medical history. You can find many examples of this form online. My history lists insurance company, allergies, medications, hospitalizations, conditions, immunizations, blood type, test results (cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure) and family history.
- Anything that didn't fit into these files, I scanned. This included things like eye prescriptions.
Then, all my paper files could be thrown away since I had the critical information. It is a lot of work, but I found the process interesting, and this history is important whether I traveled or not. I made PDF files from these files and put them on my Kindle. Even before we left, these were useful during a doctor's exam to fill out the initial paperwork. I've had nurses copy my info by placing the Kindle on a copier.
Bills, files and paperwork
Of course, we try to have most bills online. I keep an expandable folder in the RV to store important paper like insurance or credit card information. When I had a house, I had several drawers' worth of paperwork. I've found I really only need much less.
If you have access to a scanner, you can reduce your paperwork even more. I scanned quite a few papers before we left. I have to admit I haven't needed to look at most of those computer files.
As we travel, we take lots of pictures. You can use the cloud to store pictures, but sometimes you can't access the internet. And I guess I'm a bit old-fashioned. I have copies of all our pictures on our computer. I also back up all my computer files to a storage hard drive every month.
I still work part-time, and I can submit pictures of receipts for expenses and then keep those files on my computer for tax purposes. I haven't needed a scanner since pictures work just as well.
Most paperwork can be done by signing using online systems or by signing using Adobe Acrobat with PDF files. I don't own a printer in my RV. Occasionally, I have needed one so I've asked RV parks to print a file or used a printer at the local library for a minimal fee.
I have a folder on my computer where I collect files with tax information for the year. I have an envelope I fill with any papers I collect. In my case, I use TurboTax, but there are other services or software that can help. Most of our taxes are submitted online, so there are few real differences between taxes at home or taxes while RVing.
The paperless society is close, but it's not quite here. Living in an RV makes things a bit more challenging, but an effective system for paperwork is easily achievable.
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