Go the store and buy a shredder, right? Well, yes, but you might be surprised at the number of choices. Some are cross cut versus strip cut, some are low quality plastic, and some are so small they fit on top of your desk while others require a substantial amount of space. And don’t forget the shredding services. To get started, decide which is more cost-effective: owning a machine or hiring a service.
Shredders cost as little as $30 for light-volume versions, and go up to $500 or more for heavy-duty versions. It only takes a few minutes to decide which one is right for you:
First: Do you need a shredder? If you receive mail or personal information in a printed format, then yes, you need a shredder. Shredding your information is important to guard against someone obtaining information about you that you don’t want them to have. Garbage is public information (more info) and though shredding alone will not stop identity theft, at least it makes it more difficult for the thieves.
Second: What are you going to shred? Shred items with personal information such as a bank statements, pay stubs, documents with your Social Security number, and basically anything with a number or signature on it, including credit cards and disks. Keep in mind, your name and address are public information and easily found over the Internet. In fact, a lot of information is available about you over the Internet (March 21, 2011 TIME article: Data Mining) but by shredding your papers, you are deterring the thieves. They may get frustrated and move on. Here are several resources: Consumer Action, New York Times, Privacy Rights.
Third: How much are you going to shred? What size shredder do you need? Most households can buy a garbage can size shredder available at office supply stores. Fellowes is a popular brand for home and office. They offer good quality at a reasonable price. I bought my home office Fellowes DM12C at CostCo for about $100 several years ago. Be advised that, with shredders, price = quality. The more you spend the better the quality. If you don’t shred much, you can get away with a small, inexpensive model; however, that’s not a good solution for most households. A household with two or more people should expect to spend at a minimum $50 but preferably close to $100 on their shredder. Higher volumes of shredding require fast, stronger, better machines.
Fourth: What type of shredding do you need? Cross cut, strip cut, micro cut, or rip it by hand. It boils down to how fine you want the paper to be cut. Cross cut and strip are okay for most households. Also, consider how many sheets you want to shred at once. Stuffing 12 sheets of paper into a shredder at once will eventually ruin it if it’s only meant to handle five sheets at a time.
Fifth: How much space do you need? You need an area for the machine itself, as well as for a stack of paper waiting to be shredded. Typically, you need a space the size of a medium garbage can. A tip: stack items waiting to be shredded on top of the shredder, then, when you have time, do it all at once. Even better, ask your school-aged kids to do it. It’s safe as long as they don’t try to inspect the blades. Place it in a convenient spot.
Sixth: How will you dispose of the shredded documents? Place an appropriate size garbage bag in the area of the shredder that catches the paper (the bottom part). When it is full, put the bag and its contents in your shredding bin. If you don’t recycle, throw the bag away.
Seventh: What about shredding services? If you have large volumes of paper on a routine basis, consider using a shredding service. The company will place a container in your home or office where you deposit your unshredded paperwork. Then, routinely, they will pick up the unshredded documents and shred them in their truck or back at their office. This will save you a significant amount of time. On the other hand, you can take it to Office Depot/Office Max and they will shred in the store. The cost is based on weight. In the Louisville, KY, area, A+ Paper Shredding will come to your home for a fee. Also, search your communities offer free shredding events.
Shredding might seem like a hassle but it is a small price to pay for what could happen if your identity/money is stolen.