Prior to leaving for our travels, I figured dealing with mail would be easy – I’d just change all our mail over to e-statements and never need to get another piece of “snail mail” again. But it wasn’t that simple.
Some things, like mortgage statements, apparently HAVE to be sent via old-fashioned regular mail. Our life insurance company had no system in place to send our yearly bill via e-mail. And there were also a few others.
And so began my search for alternatives. You are now the benefactor of the research that came out of it! 🙂
Here are some options for dealing with mail when you run off to be a nomad (whether for a few months, or indefinitely).
Have a Trusted Friend or Family Member Collect Your Mail for You
The easiest, most simple way is to just change your mailing address to that of a trusted friend or family member, who will then forward it on to you, wherever you are in the world.
But don’t get them to forward your mail to you the old fashioned way. That is so 1980’s. Instead, make it easier for them, and yourself, by having them scan your mail and send it to you digitally. (And if they don’t have a scanner, you can buy them one with all the money you’re saving by not having to pay a monthly fee for a professional mail-forwarding service.)
E-mail isn’t the best way for them to send you a scanned copy of your mail if said mail contains any sensitive data that you don’t want falling into the wrong hands and putting you at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. When you send something via e-mail, you have no control over the security of the server it ends up on, and if you’re unlucky, the person sending you your mail might make the mistake of sending it over an unsecured public WiFi network, which makes things even riskier.
To get around it those security issues, I recommend you ask your trusted friend or family member to use Dropbox to get the scans of your mail to you. Your data will be encrypted when it’s being uploaded to their secure servers. It’s also encrypted when it travels from their servers to the Dropbox file you’ll be creating on your laptop. And using this system won’t break your budget either since the free version of Dropbox will work for this purpose.
If you want to make it ridiculously easy for your trusted friend or family member to send you your mail, then get them to scan your mail with their smartphone, and upload it directly to Dropbox from there.
For IOS, we use the Scanner Pro app (we bought it for the person who our mail is sent to… the current price is only $3.49). The person who receives our mail scans it with their phone, and uploads it directly to Dropbox with one tap. The next time we fire up our laptops, we get a notification that files have been added to our Dropbox folder on our hard drive. Easy peasy.
There are also several apps for Android phones that will do the same thing – Handy Scanner is one option, it’s free, and they have good reviews too.
What to Do If You Don’t Have a Friend or Family Member Available to Collect Your Mail
If you don’t have someone around who can collect your physical mail for you, don’t worry. There are tons of mail forwarding services out there which can provide you with a virtual mailing address to receive your physical mail. After that, the service will usually offer options such as:
- opening your mail, scanning it, and allowing you to access it digitally
- forwarding it to you via snail mail
Prices vary, so it pays to shop around.
Canada Mail Forwarding/Virtual Mail Services:
UPS Stores – I found the price varied a lot from store to store (yes, even in the same city!) – many offered promotions if you’d sign up for a long-term contract – there were also variations in the degree of service offered (ex. mail forwarding only vs. willing to scan and e-mail your mail to you) – to save time, I’d just send a bcc e-mail to every single UPS store in the city you’re interested in, and go from there.
Canadapost ePost service – for certain types of mail, you can arrange to get an e-version of it via CanadaPost, and it’s completely free to sign up!
Here are a few more options for you:
United States Mail Forwarding/Virtual Mail Services:
Australia Mail Forwarding/Virtual Mail Services
UK Mail Forwarding/Virtual Mail Services:
You Don’t Live in One of the Above Regions?
If you don’t live in one of the above regions, no worries! Just do a quick Google search for terms like “Mail-forwarding service” or “Virtual Mailbox Service” and you’ll quickly find whatever is available for your area!
Anyone using a service like this? Am I missing any good ones that belong on this list?