I don’t have a printer, a fax machine, nor a scanner. I have farmed out my home office needs to either a shared office space or FedEx. I no longer need any office supplies and don’t have to maintain printing equipment.
I write this post today because it has been a very long time since I even needed a printer but as I am working on my long-term visa for Spain I am taking several trips to FedEx a week to complete all the paperwork.
In this post I’ll talk a little about how I use FedEx for all my office needs and perhaps I’ll convince a few of you to get rid of your own office supplies which will be better for the environment and better for your pockets.
The Modern Home Office
The modern home office will have a landline with a fax machine and usually a dedicated printed with a scanner. Some prefer the combination units but they tend to be unreliable.
The modern home office also has a hefty desk which is commonly too cluttered to be used for actual work. The drawers house glue sticks, staplers, hole punches, an assortment of pens, and markers.
It was convenient having a printer back in the day but it was inconvenient to go and buy the ink whenever it would run out. I remember the cartridges would cost $50 in the store and $10 online but I was often too lazy to order them online when it wasn’t time to replace them yet.
Laser printers seem to be the best option since the inkjet printers devour ink. But these aren’t cheap units and once the rollers break it becomes a giant landfill item.
Color printing can be achieved with inkjet printers but they don’t do as great of a job as dedicated photo printers. Such electronic items get used so rarely that their cost-per-use is astronomical.
And for those times when we need to print something larger – well, only a commercial printer will do.
Copying documents on your inkjet or your laser printer can be painful. Without a scanner it’s of course much tougher to achieve in the first place.
It’s hard to beat the cost of copying documents at FedEx. For few cents I can have multiple copies made and all I needed to do was email them my original.
Some companies still refuse to accept email documents because of their compliance policies and thus need to rely on a fax machine. When I recently requested my transcripts from college the only expedited option I had was to receive them by fax.
My local FedEx office can not only send faxes for $2.00 but can also receive them.
Online fax services and fax apps are a decent option but they have ongoing costs. Meaning, I would pay for the service even when I’m not using it which isn’t a good deal for the frugal doctor.
I have mentioned before that I use Genius Scan which is a fantastic app with which I can scan documents and upload them to a shared drive or email them and even fax them.
I haven’t used the faxing feature but the scanning has been consistent and incredibly helpful. I use it several times a month to keep track of all my documents.
I can scan business cards, larger documents, individual papers, and I can create one big PDF file with various snippets attached which is a brilliant feature of Genius Scan.
I believe this is one of the few apps for which I’ve paid to get the pro-version for $7.99.
I’ve used FedEx in Los Angeles and San Diego before – the customer service always made me feel like the dingleberries of feces hanging from my dog’s butt. But it doesn’t have to be that way – fortunately you can either head over to Portland where the staff is as nice as my grandma or you have the option of self-service stations.
The self-service stations at FedEx can be used in various ways. The one method I use the most is simply email my documents to the unique email address that my local FedEx office has. I email my document to them and they will print it for me when I show up at my local branch.
The second option is to use their ‘Online Print’ feature where you can securely upload documents and even format them before printing.
At the FedEx branch you can walk straight to the printer where there is a self-service station and you can retrieve your documents using the unique code which gets emailed to you and can use your credit card to print your documents and off you go – completely bypassing the lines.
If you have a USB stick you can use that as well to pull up your documents and print them on their self-serve printers.
The self-service outlets also allow you to log onto your Dropbox or Google Drive account directly and print any document you have uploaded there. We’ll talk about the security of such options in the security section.
Staplers, a hole punch, pens, glue, and laminating sheets are all provided for free at FedEx similar to what a traditional home office would have. I see no reason whatsoever to fill my house with all that junk.
If I need to ship anything well obviously that’s what FedEx is great at. Unlike the post office they package and wrap your item for safe shipping and they ship internationally.
They have a vast selection of envelopes and boxes for shipping.
If you’ve ever spilled coffee on your only computer at home then you’ll know how valuable it is to have access to a computer even if it’s just to check your email or complete an online application.
The computer station rental is by the minute and the prices aren’t that bad.
I now keep a very old laptop at home for just this reason but with FedEx being just a few minutes from my house I don’t even have a use for a secondary laptop.
The computer station is great because it’s hooked up to their scanners and printers and it’s a great place to finalize a presentation.
Free Wireless Internet
AT&T offers free WiFi internet at the FedEx locations which allows you to connect and save on data in case you need to print something with only your phone on your person.
This is also helpful if you need to do some work from your laptop and your home internet goes out.
My FedEx office has a couple of chairs and desks which can be used to complete your work using their free internet. At least at my local branch they have been very lax about me coming and going and using the area even if I end up not printing or using any other paid services.
Security is becoming a big problem as companies are desperate to market new technology to the consumer but don’t want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to support the security side of it.
Having good passwords and 2-factor authentication is now the minimum criteria for protecting ourselves. The next level involves having personal VPN’s which I’ve been using for a couple of years now and using emails and phone numbers which you don’t share with too broad of an audience.
Protecting your SSN and DOB is so 1990’s – that info can be had for a few dollars online. The advanced thief will now wait for you to transmit data over the internet and intercept the unencrypted information or send you phishing emails.
When it comes to sending your documents by email to FedEx, it’s not a matter of security on the digital front. Google’s Gmail is encrypted and likely so is the email server which FedEx uses.
The problem lies with the employee who may not use the technology properly or print a document prematurely and not dispose of it properly.
When you fill out a sensitive document just leave a few key information out. If you fill in the social security then just leave a few numbers out. Maybe leave the DL# or DOB sections blank and write those out by hand after the document is printed.
The next issue is the printer hard-drive. Your computer has a hard-drive and so when you throw out or sell off and old computer it’s important to wipe everything from it.
A printer also has a hard-drive. If you buy a used printer you would be able to retrieve the last few documents which were printed off of it.
My concern isn’t with FedEx selling their used printers but with hackers hacking into the printer and stealing my sensitive information. So, if you are going to send any document to a public printer then remember the same points from above, leave a few sensitive details off of your important documents.
When you connect your USB stick to a public computer or to the self-service printer stations at FedEx then it’s possible infect your USB stick.
By now you should know better to sticky your dingy into foreign holes without protection but unlike your soft-drive wee-wee, you won’t know that your stick has the herp’ until you stick it back into your home computer.
Encrypting and password protecting your stick can help but may interfere with your ability to use it at public stations.
The touchscreen self-help stations at FedEx offices allow you to pull up access to your Dropbox or Google Drive shared folder to print documents from there. You enter the username and password for these drives on the touchscreen.
Obviously you would want to create unique accounts if you are going to access a shared drive from a public site. In other words, don’t use your main account for such tasks.
The Big Picture
The point isn’t just to cut an occasional cost such as buying a stack of envelopes or a laser printer – we want to eliminate ongoing costs.
While everyone else around you has a printer and a landline for their fax machine, by downsizing your home office you are able to focus your time and energy on your personal life, on investing, or spend time on furthering your career aspirations.
I’m not sure how much it costs in time and money to maintain a home office but even if it’s as little as $20/month, that’s $20 less than I need to worry about when I budget for my retirement or my household budget.
There are many ways to cut ongoing expenses and each of us has to figure out how far we are willing to go. But saving and investing an extra $100k just to have an extra $300/month coming in seems like a lot of work. I’d personally rather just cut the $300 ongoing expense.