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How Much Does It Cost to Go Paperless?

How much does it cost to go paperless? This post will lay out the costs associated with creating a digital filing cabinet so you can decide if going paperless is right for you!

How much does it cost to go paperless?

More than 10 years ago now, Donnie and I decided to go paperless. This means that we keep all of our important information and any documents we want to reference later in digital form rather than in a traditional filing cabinet.

Going paperless has helped us to completely eliminate paper clutter in our home. AND it gives us secure access to all of our important info anytime, from any location, with just a few clicks on our smartphones.

But when people find out that we maintain our files digitally, they often ask, “Is it expensive? How much does it cost to go paperless?”

The amount it costs to go paperless will vary based on what you already own and the exact tools you choose to purchase, but in general…

Expect an upfront cost between $25-300 to go paperless if you don’t already own some of the essential pieces, plus a monthly recurring cost of $5-20 for digital apps needed to create and maintain your digital filing cabinet.

In the remainder of this post, I’ll break down those costs and lay out all of the items you’ll need to go paperless.

Breakdown of the Cost to Go Paperless

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

1. Monthly Fee for Evernote Personal Account

Evernote is the main app we use to create our digital filing cabinet. We have researched and tested tons and tons of similar apps and programs out there, and none of them are as organized and efficient as Evernote.

Evernote is the leader in its space, has top notch security, and has stood the test of time. We consider it an absolute must-have for going paperless.

A phone showing the Evernote app, which has a white background with a kelly green elephant head

Evernote does offer a free version. In fact, I used the free version for a little while as I was getting to know the app and figuring out my paperless system.

But ultimately, if we’re going to be using Evernote as our digital filing cabinet, we recommend investing in the Personal version of Evernote.

Evernote Personal significantly increases the monthly upload limits as well as the size of the notes we can create. We can sync an unlimited number of devices. And we can search within the text of uploaded documents and even handwritten files using Optical Character Recognition, which is absolutely critical for easily accessing our documents.

As of the date of this writing, the cost of Evernote Personal is $14.99/month if you pay monthly or $10.83/month if you pay yearly. Evernote will also often run deals that reduce this cost even more.

(Wondering what all tools you need to go paperless? Get our tech guide by clicking on the button below!)

2. Fees for Your Scanning App of Choice

When we first went paperless, smartphone technology wasn’t anywhere near what it is today, and we had to invest a few hundred dollars in a standalone scanner. Fortunately, that is no longer the case!

Scanning apps have come incredibly far. And not only are they cheaper than a bigger scanner, they are also more convenient, efficient, and often produce a higher quality scan result!

Woman scanning a document using her smart phone

Scanning apps range in price from completely free to monthly fees of $6-10 or yearly fees of $20-60.

We created a scanning app comparison chart here that compares costs, features, and our overall evaluation of each app.

Personally, our favorite scanning apps are Scannable (free, iOS only), SwiftScan ($7.99/month, iOS and Android), and Genius Scan ($2.99/month, iOS and Android).

3. An Inbox for Incoming Paperwork (One Time Fee)

We recommend scanning paperwork immediately as it comes in and then processing both our physical inbox and Evernote inbox once per week.

The physical inbox is for items that need some sort of action taken on them, like an invitation that needs an RSVP or insurance paperwork that we need to fill out. It is important to have this central location so that all action items end up in one place and aren’t scattered about the house.

In our house, our inbox is a drawer in Donnie’s office. It’s easy and convenient to access during his weekly processing sessions.

Physical Inbox in a Home Office

You can use a drawer, tray, or folder you already own as your inbox. If you don’t already have a spot to use as an inbox, they run anywhere from about $10-40. Here are some inbox options that would work well:

4. A Firebox for Storing Essential Documents (One Time Fee)

No matter how ruthless we are when clearing our paper clutter, there will always be a few original versions of documents we need to keep. These are things like…

  • birth certificates
  • marriage certificates
  • passports
  • social security cards
  • documents with raised seals
  • documents with original signatures

We store these types of vital documents in a small locked firebox so they stay safe and secure no matter what happens.

Fireboxes sitting on a table

A simple firebox usually runs between $35-120. Here are a few we really like:

5. A Thumb Drive or External Hard Drive for Backups (One Time Fee)

Backups are an essential part of the paperless process! We always want to make sure our information stays safe and secure, and creating monthly backups is one of the ways we ensure that happens.

To create our backups, we export our information from Evernote in two different file formats and save them to a thumb drive or external hard drive, which we then store in our locked firebox for safekeeping.

Laptop with a Lock on the Screen, connected to an external hard drive

The price of a thumb drive or external hard drive can be anywhere from $25-200 depending on how much storage space you’d like to purchase.

[Note: We have over 7,000 notes in Evernote, with most of those notes containing scanned PDF files. Our monthly backups are roughly 10GB in size, and each month’s backup can replace the previous month’s backup. This should give you an idea on the hard drive or thumb drive storage requirements you’ll need.]

Here are a few thumb drives and external hard drives we recommend:

6. A Shredder for Getting Rid of Sensitive Documents (One Time Fee)

When going paperless, we end up getting rid of a lot of physical documents. This is great because it helps eliminate clutter and frees up additional space in our home!

But inevitably, some of these documents will include sensitive information that we want to keep away from prying eyes. As such, when discarding sensitive documents, we will either want to burn them (safely and in accordance with local ordinances) or shred them so our personal information won’t be compromised.

Shredders can run anywhere from $35-$170, depending on how heavy duty you want to go. Here are a few shredders we like:

Learn More with Paperless Made Simple

Evernote has been a total game changer for our family because it has allowed us to completely ditch our physical filing cabinet, eliminate paper clutter, and gain easy access to all of our most important documents with just a few clicks on our smart phones.

Our course, Paperless Made Simple, has helped thousands of students ditch their paper clutter and create their digital filing cabinet with Evernote, walking them through the entire process step by step.

We only open up enrollment a few times per year, so if you’d like to be notified the next time Paperless Made Simple becomes available, be sure to join the waitlist by clicking on the button below.

More About Going Paperless

I hope this rundown of how much it costs to go paperless was helpful for you! If you’d like to learn more about going paperless, these posts can help:

Want to save this post to revisit later? Be sure to pin the image below so you can find it easily!

How Much Does It Cost to Go Paperless?

What tools do you use to maintain your digital filing cabinet? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Thanks so much for following along! Have a wonderful day!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.


  1. Just received an email that Evernote Personal is increasing its yearly subscription fee from $69.99 to $129.99. I took your Paperless Made Simple course and found it very helpful as I work toward making my record-keeping more digital. I’m wondering what you and Donnie recommend now that Evernote has announced this price increase. Thanks for any input you have on this!

    1. Donnie Lawson says:

      Great question Karen! Everyone’s finances and priorities are different, but for me this price increase doesn’t bother me at all. It’s the first price increase in 7 years and I pay annually for my personal plan so it’s just over $10/month. Extremely reasonable for the amount of time and money Evernote has saved me by allowing me to go paperless with a really good digital filing cabinet. I’m also super excited about the new features and code updates the new owners are putting into Evernote.

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