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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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.