Guest Post: Reducing your Junk Mail

Today, I welcome Jim Wang of Bargaineering.com as he shares how we can reduce the amount of junk mail coming to our mailboxes. Less stuff coming into our homes equals using time wisely doing necessary tasks apart from sorting unsolicited mail. Enjoy!

There’s one thing that most families will do each day, besides eat and sleep, and that’s check their mail. There’s something fun about opening up the mail box and seeing what has arrived, unless it’s a fistful of bills or unsolicited mailings. If you want to save yourself some time, I can share some strategies to cut down on the junk mail you get (the bills are up to you!).

The easiest way to reduce the amount of mail you get, and thus have to open or shred, is to cut down on the junk mail you receive. OptOutPrescreen.com is a site set up as a result of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and it keeps a registry of names that creditors and insurers cannot contact with offers of credit or insurance, unless you initiate it. By signing up, you can opt out permanently or for five years, after which you’ll need to renew again. Signing up for this site has cut down my junk mail significantly because this effectively stops almost all of the unsolicited mailings I would receive.

What OptOutPrescreen.com does not do is prevent mailings from companies with which you have an existing relationship. If you have a Citi credit card, Citibank can still send you offers because that’s an existing relationship. In order to opt out of those mailings, you have to contact the marketing department of each company and ask to be removed from the marketing lists. This will take some time because you will need to call each company individually but it is well worth it.

You can also use a free service like Catalog Choice to opt out of catalogs, coupon mailers, and other large volume mailers. The service will help you find the proper forms to fill out to stop getting useless mailings like your local phone book (who uses these anymore?) and ValuPaks (if you never use those coupon books). In some cases, you can opt out of a service from within Catalog Choice and in other cases you’ll be redirected to the services’ website. I’ve used Catalog Choice to opt out of at least half a dozen mailings.

Finally, if you are still getting a lot of junk mail despite these efforts, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has a fantastic fact sheet on junk mail that walks you through specific steps you can take to cut down on your junk mail. They discuss everything from the Direct Marketer’s Association Preference Service to opting out of mailings from your supermarket loyalty card. It’s a fantastic resource.

There’s an extra side benefit of reducing the amount of junk mail you get – you reduce the opportunity for identity theft. Your credit and your identity are two of your most valuable assets in the modern world and keeping both in sterling condition is important, especially if you want to get a loan with a reasonable rate. Maintaining a good credit score and preventing identity theft is much easier when someone can’t just open your mailbox and steal a credit card application you never asked for.

For more financial tips, visit Jim on his personal finance blog, Bargaineering.com.

Question: How bothersome is your junk mail?

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