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Going Paperless

One of the biggest trends in business right now is to go paperless. It is one method to cut costs and boost efficiency. But is this method of file management even possible for you and your business?

It would be nearly impossible to completely eliminate paper from your business. So, what are some of the easiest areas to introduce paperless and automated practices? The first and most obvious area is your accounts receivable. How many invoices and statements are you printing and mailing to your customer?  This can be unnecessary when most, if not all, of your customers have an email account and might be willing to receive online invoices? If you are already running QuickBooks Desktop or Online, the email feature is very user-friendly and doesn’t cost you anything on top of your subscription. With your QuickBooks Online subscription, you can also receive free bank ACH payments directly from their bank to yours. This payment is applied directly to the invoice and entered into QuickBooks as a deposit. Once the invoice is sent, you don’t have to do anything more. Talk about a time saver! I can’t say enough good things about QuickBooks Online. I truly think it’s the best accounting software available right now.

Next, your accounts payable can be looked at. You probably receive most of your vendor invoices in the form of a paper invoice. Some of your vendors probably offer online invoicing. You also have the option, through your bank or even your accounting software, to pay your bills online. This creates a bank ACH, saving you money on checks, envelopes and postage. Not to mention the time it takes to create all of these. If you have monthly recurring payments, you can set the payment as such and not have to worry about it again.

If you are a service-based industry, you probably also keep miscellaneous customer information on hand. This type of information can very easily be scanned into your computer, if you regularly back it up, or to a cloud-based server. I, personally, do both.

Most of your bank, credit card and other loan accounts offer online statements. Take advantage of this! You will be notified by email when a statement is available, and you can save it in the proper location on your computer. You can always print it when necessary.

Any business will have other documents that can be scanned, such as; insurance documents, licenses, banking information, etc.

Let’s talk logistics. For scanning purposes, I use the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500. I find that this model is user-friendly and fast. There are smaller and more affordable scanner options, but this one is by far my favorite that I’ve used. For my cloud storage, I utilize Microsoft OneDrive. I have 1TB of storage through my Microsoft office account. That is A LOT of storage. On my computer, this my OneDrive show up as another folder, just like my regular document folders. Just to be on the safe side, I also back up my computer regularly using an WD Elements 1TB External Hard Drive. This is a manual process, but once it’s set up, all it takes is attaching the hard drive with a USB cord and the process will begin automatically. I keep my hard drive in a fireproof safe, so it anything were to ever happen, my documents would be stored in multiple secure locations. Some business might prefer a cloud-based automatic backup system. This is a great choice for many, but tends to be a little more costly. If you have a service-based business that exchanges a lot of customer documents, you can also subscribe to a cloud-based file sharing program. ShareFile is a good choice, but there are many options to choose from. With ShareFile, you can upload files as you go, or just ones that are request by your customer. It creates a simple customer portal, and they can send you documents as well. This is ideal for working with sensitive documents, so you aren’t having to password protect the documents for security purposes.

The only way for this to really work for your business is if you and your employees are committed to the process and have policies and procedures in place. You might spend a week or even a month, depending on the scale of your business, planning and preparing. You’ll need to decide who will assume the responsibilities; such as online bill pay, online or email invoicing, scanning, etc. Also take the time to ensure that your online file and naming system is simple and easy to use. There is nothing worse than having to search all over for a file. I recommend naming every file by the customer or vendor name, the document description and the date it was received. If you are truly committed to paperless, you might also consider spending some time scanning old documents. This will be a good way to clean up files.

Keep in mind the end goal. Easily accessible documents, employee efficiency and reduced costs. Win-Win-Win. I offer a discount on QuickBooks Online for all of my customers, as well as scanning services! Just contact me through the website or email me to get started.

Be sure to check out my other blog posts, like my Facebook page, Patten Bookkeeping Services and join my Facebook group, Financial Freedom for more information!

Thank you so much for stopping by and I wish you the best!

Michelle

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Budgeting Basics

Welcome to my website! I appreciate you taking the time to check out my website and blog today.

I recently started a Facebook group called Financial Freedom. It’s a group for those of us looking to learn better ways to budget, pay off debt, save for retirement and reach our financial goals. We will be supporting each other, giving advice and keeping each other accountable for our finances. I’m very excited about this new project and I’d love for you to join us!

This new group has me thinking A LOT about budgeting lately. I’ll be completely honest, I was never taught how to budget. I just had to learn the hard way- which, in case you’re wondering, is the slowest way to learn something. So I thought I’d give some basic pointers on budgeting. This can apply to personal finances as well as business finances.

The single most important component to budgeting is setting your goals. Without goals, you’re budgeting for the sake of budgeting. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not going to light your fire. So let’s talk about these goals. Both short-term and long-term goals should be made. Your goals should be SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. A great starting point for a goal is to have $1,000 dollars in savings within three months- that’s a really SMART goal. Here’s Dave Ramsey’s take on how to do it in a month. He’s a pretty smart guy, too. (See what I did there?). These goals are very important and are what will keep you from bored Amazon shopping or throwing random things in the cart at the grocery store because you don’t have a list. There is something so energizing about making the “right” choice with your money and knowing you are doing your future self a favor.

The next step is to figure out your income and expenses. I like to get out a notebook and pencil and just start writing it all down. First, you’ll want to take your best guess at your monthly income. This can be a little more difficult for those of us who work hourly, work as freelancers or have our own business. Just do the best you can! When in doubt, estimate on the lower side. Next, put together your bank and credit card statements for the last two to three months. Track where your money is going by different categories, i.e. car payment, groceries, clothing, etc. From this list, note which expenses are “must haves”. For me, this is savings, tithing, utilities, groceries, car payment, insurance… you get the idea. I like to put my savings and giving amounts first. This helps me to prioritize what’s really important. So instead of spending first and then worrying about savings, I get my savings goal out of the way and go from there. While you’re looking through these expenses, keep in mind ways that you can save on them. Maybe you can manage to downgrade your cell phone plan or start to meal plan and pack lunches in order to save money on groceries. The amount you’ve been spending is not necessarily what you should be spending.

After you’ve indicated your “must haves”, look at the rest of the expenses. What can you live without? What can you simply cut back on? I’m not saying you ever need to feel like you’re doing without. Budgeting is like dieting: all things with moderation. You still deserve to enjoy your money. You earned it after all! If going out to eat once a week is important to you, then do it! If your morning coffee ritual is what keeps you going throughout the day, then get that coffee! If you are on a “crash diet” how long does it take before you crash?? That’s not what we want to happen. You need to be setting yourself up for success, not failure. So keep your lifestyle and your personality in mind. No two budgets will be the same because no two people (or couples) are the same.

At this point, there could be some left money left over. Your entire goal with your budget is to break even. You should allocate every dollar that you anticipate on earning. That doesn’t mean you necessarily need to spend every dollar. Make sure that your bills are up do to date and you have a reasonable emergency fund, about $1000. If you have an emergency fund and one of your goals is to get credit card debt paid off, then I say spend it and get them paid off! There’s nothing wrong with that. If credit card debt reduction- or any type of debt that you have multiple accounts, is your goal, Dave Ramsey offers a great resource with his debt snowball plan. If you have any questions about what is “normal” for expenses, this article has breakdown recommendations.

When you have everything in writing, you can transfer your budget to any medium you prefer. Maybe a plain old piece of paper and your checkbook register will work for you. An Excel spreadsheet works really well for budgeting. In the past I’ve used the Every Dollar App on my phone. Just recently, I started using the QuickBooks Online Plus budget tracking system, and so far it works great. So there really is something for everyone, and believe me, I’ve tried them all!

It might take you a while to get your budget just right. It’s okay to tweak it a little in the first few months. Keep in mind, when you have a windfall it’s very important to resist the temptation to get yourself something nice. If you didn’t need it on a month that you had less, you probably don’t need it now. Take this money and use it to your advantage. Pay down a debt or cushion your savings a little bit. Treat your future self, he or she deserves it!

Keep in mind, I offer a customized monthly personal and business bookkeeping package along with a FREE consultation! Just contact me through the website or email me to get started.

Be sure to check out my other blog posts, like my Facebook page, Patten Bookkeeping Services and join my Facebook group, Financial Freedom for more information!

Thanks again for stopping by and best of luck!

Michelle

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Time Management

Hey everyone! So glad you could join me again this week for my blog post. This week I thought I would discuss something that has made a tremendous impact on my life, and not always for the better: time management. With all of the opportunities and obligations you have in your life, it is impossible to make time for all of them. I repeat. Impossible. So I wanted to walk you through some steps that will make your life easier, will make you more efficient and will help you to know what is too much!

I start with a simple list. What needs to be done? What would you like to be done? This really should include everything. Work, play, volunteer, date nights, housekeeping, kid time, ME time, whatever you think needs to be accomplished. What are you doing now that sucks your life but you do anyway? Okay, feel free to add all of those last ones to a different list called “Not doing”. Get the idea? Next to all of your time wants and needs, put how much time you think you should be spending on them each week.

Now I add them to my agenda. Using a weekly agenda with daily hourly blocks, I add in each that needs to be done. Then I with what time I have left, I add in what I would like to be done. If it needs to be done, make sure its blocked in somewhere. Your hour of housework needs an hour in the day blocked off. This will encourage you to do the housework when it needs to be done! I also like to add a wake up time and a bedtime. I’m  an early riser (as I sit here before 6 to write a blog post) and therefore need an early bedtime. I cannot and will not function on too little sleep.

At this point, I like to look everything over. Is anything missing? Does your schedule looked so jam packed that it makes your head dizzy? Remember, you deserve some down time as well. If you want to watch an hour of TV on a Wednesday afternoon that’s not Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, then you get your hour of TV on that agenda. As a mom of a almost 2-year old and another on the way, I understand that not everything that’s on the agenda will always get done every day. But it definitely won’t get done if I forget about it because I never wrote it down. I’m a very visual person, so this method works for me.

Over time, you will figure out which obligations need more time, which need less time and which ones need to be dropped. Make changes as you go and grow. I find it best to look over last week’s schedule on Sunday evening and implement changes then.

We’ve talked a little bit about stress management, but the best stress management you can have is time management. Know where your time goes and know if you have the time to contribute. It’s okay to say no when you are too busy. Trying to do everything doesn’t make you a superhero, it causes you a stress and stops you from being the best you can be.

Best wishes and good luck!!

 

IRS Issues 2018 Withholding Tables

On January 11th, the Internal Revenue Service released Notice 1036, which includes the updated 2018 tax withholding tables. You can see the full notice here.

The IRS recommends that employers and payroll service providers begin implementing the tables as soon as possible. However, the official deadline for the implementation is February 15th- one month from today.

At this time an updated form W-4 has not been provided. The 2017 W-4 should be used until a new one is issued, which is expected shortly.

The following are the updated tax tables which were released in December.

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Tax Plan Effects on Payroll

Tax Forms

Today is the 1st day of 2018. As most of you know, a brand new tax plan was just passed in December. Regardless of the late passing of this bill, many provisions will go into effect today.

You might be wondering how the tax plan will effect payroll. The IRS has yet to release the 2018 tax tables for calculating withholding. This means that your paychecks for at least January will be based off of last year’s tax tables.

When the new tax tables are released, an updated W-4 worksheet will be released as well. Your employer should provide you with this new W-4 to calculate your marriage status and dependents for 2018, your “withholding”. Some of us like to underestimate our dependents, as to overestimate withholding. This gives us a bigger tax refund at the end of the year.

Whatever your withholding method is, most individuals will see a lower tax rate and lower taxable income in 2018. This relates to a bigger paycheck and more money in your pocket.

So keep an eye out for that new W-4 and look forward to the “raise” you’re about to receive!