New Year's Resolutions often feel like empty promises that I make to myself. So when January rolls around, I take stock of my long list and ask, "What is actually achievable?" This year, the choice was pretty obvious: I need to go paperless. The ever-creeping piles of paper too easily start to remind me of the show, "Hoarders," and I am tiring of spending the week between Christmas and New Year digging myself out, shredding, and lugging out trash bags to the curb.
So it was with great curiosity (and amusement at the timing) that last week I saw in my inbox an email about Manilla, a new service that aims to help people manage their accounts -- and they use this term rather broadly. You can track the obvious household utility bills as well as financial accounts such as credit cards and bank statements. They also help you keep track of other types of accounts that can fall through the cracks, like subscriptions to magazines or travel and rewards programs.
It only took me about a half hour to get started. On Manilla.com is a list of more than 1,200 companies, ranging from AT&T and Verizon to Capital One, Citibank and Bank of America. Groupon, Netflix and hotel, rental car and airline rewards programs are also available. After choosing the provider, you "link" your accounts together through your online registrations. Manilla then downloads all of the account statements, providing you with the option to either view a summary list of all your accounts in one place, or click into each individual one to see statements or pay bills online.
Like its organizational namesake, the Manila folder, www.Manilla.com also has mail and reminder tabs that automatically show you the most recent statements, and when each upcoming bill is due. If you want to print a copy or send one to your accountant, they can be sorted by name/type, in chronological order, and downloaded. There are no storage limits, and the service is free to consumers, paid for by the participating companies.
"The companies would like you to have an online relationship with them that's complete," said Jessica Insalaco, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Manilla. "Large companies like AT&T, Comcast and Citibank are trying to convert people over to this online lifestyle. It saves them from having to do the paperwork."
While the large companies save on paper and postage, users have the additional opportunity to save on late fees and other penalties. "Americans spent more than $22 billion in late and penalty fees on credit cards alone in 2010," Insalaco said.
Manilla is backed by Hearst Corp., one of the world's largest publishing companies, whose portfolio of monthly magazines includes Elle, The Oprah Magazine and House Beautiful. Hearst is all too familiar with the challenge of getting people to stay current with their accounts. The company also owns CDS Global, which manages marketing and subscription processing for 60 percent of all U.S. magazines. This service makes it easier for them, and you, to track when it's time to renew.
Manilla can also be used through a smart phone app or on a tablet's browser. The company today launched a microsite called ThePaperDiet.com as part of its campaign to encourage more people to go paperless. Participants in the Paper Diet can post a digital badge on Facebook and track how much "paper weight" they lose this year by opting out of getting physical catalogs and other mail. The dieter who loses the most paper weight will receive a Paperless Toolbox, which includes an iPad, iPad pen, a Kindle, Paperless Post stamps and a shredder.
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