If you spend much time online, you’ve probably noticed that you need to have an email address for just about every website you visit. Heck, if you want to leave a message on this blog entry, you’ll need to have an email address; that’s just how the WordPress comment system works. That’s not even getting into actually emailing people…
With all this need for email accounts, the question obviously arises: how many email accounts should you have? In theory, you could use a single email address for everything, but that could leave you with thousands upon thousands of emails from hundreds of sources in a single account; even with an account that allows you to easily sort everything, you’ll quickly be overwhelmed. It’s all but required that you have multiple email addresses nowadays.
This article should provide the minimum number of email addresses you need to have. You can have more than one email account to use for each of the listed purposes, but for those of us who have enough trouble managing a few email addresses, let alone a hundred, it’s good look at the minimum number of separate accounts to have, and that number is: four.
You Need At Least 4 Different Email Accounts
1. Personal: This is pretty obvious; you should have a personal account that you use to talk with family and friends. If you want to keep it personal, it’s good to limit the number of people to whom you give your address; in short, don’t give this out to people you don’t know and trust. (Don’t worry, in the modern world, you can easily get dozens more email addresses, if needed.)
2. Work: Another pretty obvious email address to have; if you get an email from work, you should obviously use that in the course of doing your job, and only for doing your job. Here’s the email that you can put on your business cards, give out at corporate meetings, and use during business trips, and depending on your employer, allow your IT department to scan freely.
3. Financial: I highly, highly recommend that you conduct your business on a unique email account. The best way to limit the chance that your financial email address ends up in the wrong hands is to only use it for financial sites. For extra caution, try using a separate web browser, or even a separate computer, if possible, to access your financial accounts, to minimize the chances that your financial information will end up in the wrong hands.
4. Miscellaneous: There are many times you’ll need to give out an email address, and if you do so with your personal address, you can find yourself inundated with email, mostly spam. A good way to sequester such email is to have an ‘everything else’ account, one you can give out to anyone who isn’t a personal acquaintance, work contact, or financial website. (To cut down on how much spam you end up getting, you’d likely be best off using a service like SpamGourmet to limit how many emails get through from any given site.)
I’m not the only one who suggests four accounts, by the way; Apartment Therapy recommends four (although replacing the financial email address with a password management address and flat out calling the miscellaneous account a ‘spam’ account). As a bare minimum to separate all your email needs into distinct slots, four accounts should do the job. Of course, you might want to further segregate your email, which is a good reason to consider these.
6 More Situations Calling For Separate Email Accounts
With so many sites out there, you can find your accounts (particularly that ‘Miscellaneous’ account) completely filled, with the useful messages overtaken by junk and spam. To avoid losing such useful emails, here are six examples of times when you want to have a separate email address that you can use for one specific purpose (and strictly for that purpose).
5. Looking for Work: I noted IT departments scanning emails before, so here’s a reminder: DON’T use an email address from your current job to hunt for a new one. If you do so, you will find yourself out of your current job faster than you can complete an application. It’s also not a good idea to job hunt with a personal email, particularly one like ‘RockyHorrorFan75 [at] email.com’, as that tends not to go over well with would-be employers (with the rare exception of other Rocky Horror fans). Get a separate, professional-sounding email just to job-hunt; you’ll end up much better off if you do.
6. Home Business: Similarly, if you start a side business, like blogging, creating a sales website, or simply selling things via Amazon or Etsy, you’d best get a separate email. You can avoid oversight from your current job (at least, until your side business becomes successful enough for you to quit) and have a professional looking way for people to get in touch with you. (Side note: If you are a webmaster, you can create email addresses as needed; not only can you look more professional in this case, but you could create unique email addresses for all these other purposes.)
7. Looking for Love: I’m not going to knock online dating sites; such a site was how I met my wife, after all. But between unscrupulous dating websites, scammers posing as clients, and first dates gone horribly wrong, there’s plenty of reasons that you should make sure would-be romantic partners don’t have your main email address. (Also keep your financial info to yourself; a possible date doesn’t need your credit number, I promise.)
8. Subscriptions: I understand, there are a lot of sites out there providing useful information in the form of daily or weekly emails. (Mine, for example.) But signing up to a few dozen of them is a sure way to be flooded with messages, and that’s before we get into sites that sell your address and/or hit you with multiple ‘great offer’ emails every day (spammers, basically). You’ll be better off using a separate email address, so you can browse your subscriptions at your leisure without missing any important info elsewhere.
9. Store Memberships: Increasingly, stores offer bonuses or discounts to people with a membership card in exchange for an email address and an agreement to receive regular emails with advertisements and possibly coupons. Using a separate email allows you to not only keep this pseudo-spam out of your regular inbox, but also gives you one place to look for coupons when you go out shopping and DO want to read what you’ve been sent.
10. Shady and/or Naughty Sites: Look, I’m not trying to judge; I’d do pretty well in a ‘questionable websites joined in the past’ contest myself. But having a separate address to use when signing up for sites that are, shall we say, less than reputable is a good idea, both to prevent questionable email from showing up in your normal inbox and to keep your email address from ending up on a porn spam list.
You don’t have to stop here; you could use a separate email address for every site that requires a subscription (as ‘Dividebyzero’ says he does over on Techspot), but that gets pretty tricky. (Although, there are methods to manage it, particularly if you are a webmaster; but that’s for another article.) By using different email addresses for each of these purposes, you can keep each type of email in a specific place, allowing you to access what you want when you want.