Whether you're looking to organize your new small business, or are just in need of some personal financial organization, an accountant seems like a great idea. They're like the fairy godmothers and fathers of tax season. And they'll come in especially handy when you're flipping through a pile of uncategorized receipts trying to do your taxes. Accountants are cool, but a lot of what they do we can do ourselves. It helps to get an understanding of the best financial practices in order to make accounting a lot more than just a "dismal science."
1. Keep impeccable records.
A wise accountant once said, "You're only as good as the records you keep." Memorize this mantra and write it on a note above your door. Laziness is the enemy of accounting. The best way to keep records is to have both a physical and digital file. Go out to your nearest office supply store and pick up a nice, sturdy file cabinet, hanging folders, manilla envelopes, and some labels while you're at it. Keep it simple. Alphabetical order works best.
2. Develop a bookkeeping system and stick to it.
Expanding on point one, you'll need to employ a process for bookkeeping. As soon as a check comes in, for example, make a copy of it to store in your physical file and digital file, then make sure it is logged out and a receipt is stapled to the invoice. Then deposit it and label the payment appropriately in your bank account, so that it doesn't just say "Deposit." Down the line, you'll likely forget what that random deposit was for.
3. Don't throw out your receipts, file them.
Today, receipts are both printed and digital, so to keep track of them, you should scan all of your physical receipts into a digital file with your emailed receipts. Categorize them. Here is a sample of small business categories that can be customized to fit your business.
4. Use the right software.
While Excel spreadsheets are a great way to stay organized, you may want to invest in an accounting software. Quickbooks is one of the most widely used, and has a convenient online version. With it, you can generate valuable reports, track invoices and payments, and reconcile your accounts. It gives you an organized overview of your revenue, and is a great resource for the small business.
5. Mark on your calendar when payments are due.
Trust your calendar to tell you when you need to get paid, and make sure that you keep a record of "aged" receivables that are overdue. Log follow up emails and phone calls in writing so you can provide evidence of a follow-up when your vendor acts confused about a payment. Written documents will always be on your side.
6. Reconcile your accounts every month.
Account reconciliation is super important. It's a way to make sure what is in your bank account actually matches what is in your records. Quickbooks has an easy account reconciliation step-by-step process. Making sure you do this every month will make keeping your accounts less overwhelming than waiting until the end of the year to do everything.
7. Enroll in a payroll service that automatically withdraws tax and deductions.
If you have employees, a good payroll service will take care of all the tax deductions for you when you set up a W-2. ADP is one of the top companies that handles all of that. For more on them, check out their website.
8. Become best friends with your P&Ls.
As a business owner, it's vital to be able to see the big picture of your company. A profit and loss report will show you all of your expenses categorized as well as your net income. You can compare these P&Ls year over year, or even month over month, to see if certain expenses are staying constant, rising, or falling seasonally. Here's more on how to understand your P&L.
9. Keep up with your taxes.
You'll likely need to make a quarterly tax payment if your company operates in a state with sales tax. For more, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will help you figure out what you need to pay, and when. You can also use your year-to-date P&L to determine if you owe any estimated taxes for the quarter.
That wasn't so bad, was it? We're not out to put accountants out of business, but by understanding a bit of what they do, you can take control of how you run things. And hey, if you like it, you might want to become a CPA.
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Between buying a new home and transporting yourself and your belongings to it, moving can be an expensive process. One often underrecognized cost of moving occurs before one's original house has even been sold, and that's staging the house. Homeowners often spend hundreds of dollars making a home appealing to potential buyers. To ease the financial burden of moving, here are several tips for staging your home on a budget.
Downsize Instead of Storing
The goal of staging a home is to create a blank canvas that potential buyers can imagine their own lives painted upon. To accomplish this, homeowners should depersonalize the home as much as possible, removing items that are specific to their family and eliminating clutter. This is where homeowners often incur their first costs as they rush to put as many older things in storage as possible.
To cut costs, focus on downsizing rather than storing items. Look for items that you can sell, donate, or give away. For remaining items, look for alternative places to store them, such as a friend or relative's house. This will also reduce the cost of moving your belongings when it is time to go to the new house.
DIY What You Can
There are times when homeowners should bring in a professional to manage home renovations and decorating, such as when a task requires specialized skills. These types of jobs, when done incorrectly, will incur even greater costs if attempted on your own. However, many of the home improvement tasks that go into staging a home are simple enough that the homeowner can DIY them, such as painting, installing a backsplash, or refinishing the deck. Doing these tasks yourself will save you a significant amount of money.
Don't Redo, Update
Homeowners are often eager to make their houses look as appealing to buyers as possible. However, recall that the point of staging is depersonalization, making a home presentable so buyers can mentally impose their own style onto it. When staging a home on a budget, focus less on completely transforming the space and more on making what is there look presentable. For instance, if you wanted to give your bedroom a facelift, trying to replace the furniture and flooring would be pointless unless it was damaged or unkempt. Simply organizing the space and replacing the bed's comforter would be sufficient.
Another way to update the space without entirely redoing it is to rearrange it to maximize the space that is already there. For instance, pulling the furniture away from the walls will make a room appear bigger and allows more space for those touring the house. Using window trimmings that maximize natural light and incorporating wall mirrors can also make a room seem more spacious.
Raising a larger family than most means that your lifestyle is going to change. Costs will continue to multiply as your family grows larger. However, just because your family is large doesn't mean your quality of life needs to suffer. It just means you need to make a few adjustments to help things work smoother and more efficiently. We've compiled a couple of money-saving tips for larger families to help you get the most out of your dollars.
Always Buy in Bulk
The benefit of having a larger family is that things you buy in bulk rarely ever go to waste. Smaller families can benefit from buying in bulk, of course, but your large family will see the most use out of shopping in large quantities. You'll want to avoid going to smaller stores for necessities such as groceries and clothes, as these places generally have higher markups on their items.
Buy Wholesale Items Online
If you want to take buying in bulk to the next level, one of the best money-saving tips for large families is to buy online from wholesalers. Buying online comes with a number of benefits that you won't get when you go to a physical store:
- You don't have to drag your kids to the store with you
- You have a lower probability of making impulse purchases
- You can search for exactly what you need
- Wholesalers sell in very large quantities for a lower price per item
Never Throw Away Something Useful
When you have to buy things for multiple children, your costs to replace items will be much higher. That's why it's so important to keep everything you can. Clothing is a big part of this. Hand-me-downs can prevent you from needing to replace entire closets every year. Try to repair or upcycle any clothes that may have damage, as this is usually much cheaper than buying brand-new items.
Stick to a Budget
When you support a large family, expenses can sometimes get away from you. Proper budgeting helps to keep the extra purchases that add up to a minimum. Budgeting correctly can save you a lot of heartache in the long run. It's up to you how much control you want to take; you can make your budget weekly or monthly, depending on how tight a ship you need to run. What's important to remember is that making the budget is only the first step—sticking to it is where you'll really need to enact some willpower.
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Sometimes there is no choice—a home needs to be sold in the winter.
Spring may be the most popular time to put your house on the market, but homes do sell in the colder months. With fewer houses available, your home may be someone's only choice when house hunting in your neighborhood. As your neighbors hold out until spring, you'll already be done and ready to shop for your next house!
Here are a few tips for selling a home in the winter to get you on the right track.
Keep Paths Safe and Landscaping Fresh
Landscaping is the last thing on a homeowner's mind in the winter. Everything was cut back in the fall and may now be covered in snow. Still, take a walk around the house and yard to check everything out. Branches may have fallen from heavy snow, leaving a mess in the yard. Keep everything neat and tidy.
The last thing you need is a potential buyer slipping on the ice-covered walk in front of your house. Buyers often consider those moments bad omens, and this can affect their decisions. Shovel, snow blow, spread salt—do whatever you have to do to keep the driveway and walking paths clear, and don't forget the porch and deck.
Make the Inside Warm and Cozy
In cold weather, buyers won't spend a lot of time examining a home's exterior. Instead, impress them with the inside by creating an atmosphere which causes them to want to move in.
When there's time, leave wintery types of snacks and drinks, such as hot cocoa and cookies, available on a table during showings. This gives your home a welcoming feel to buyers.
Light the fireplace (if you have one) for a lovely ambience and set your thermostat to a comfortable setting. A warm home in the winter is much more appealing than a chilly one.
Make Your Home Less Personal
Understandably, this can be a tough thought for homeowners. After all, you've spent years creating memories in your home. To buyers, though, they need to picture it as their own. Too much personality makes that difficult.
It's always important to stage your home in a way that makes it look clean, comfortable, and move-in ready. Don't feel offended by the idea of taking family pictures down and replacing them with generic décor. This will help your home sell faster by helping buyers envision their own things there.
Cleanliness and Maintenance
Clean, clean, and clean some more. Make appliances, counters, and floors shine. No matter how old your home is, it needs to feel like new to potential buyers. If you aren't into dusting, now is the time to try. Don't forget window coverings that might need washing.
Be prepared ahead of time for home inspections by taking care of maintenance now. HVAC systems, plumbing, and electrical should all be up to code and running smoothly.
Use these tips for selling a home in the winter, exercise patience during the slower months, and your home will sell before you know it.