small business bookkeeping

How to motivate yourself to do your bookkeeping (secrets from a bookkeeper)

Bookkeeping Adelaide How to motivate yourself

You lean over and turn off your computer after a full day of work. You feel relieved that another day is done. Your mind turns to what you’re going to have for tea and whether you’re going to need anything from the supermarket. Then out of the corner of your eye you spot a couple of receipts partly folded and starting to fade that are placed precariously on top of a pile of other papers. Sigh….you still haven’t done your bookkeeping. Another day has gone and you didn’t get around to it like you promised yourself you would. Again.

If you don’t run your own small business, this scenario might seem a little trivial. It’s just entering a few dates, names and numbers, right?

Well I’ve lost track of the number of small business owners that have confided in me how bad they feel about being behind in their bookkeeping and how much it’s affecting their personal life and business life.

This is what I hear a lot:

“My partner is getting frustrated with me because I don’t know my figures”
“My tax return is overdue and I’m sure I’m going to get a big fine that I can’t afford”
“I’m sure I will need to register for GST soon, but I don’t know what my income is. It’s really worrying me because I know I have to do something about it soon”
“My business coach keeps asking for my figures – but I don’t know them”

Now you would think I’m going to tell you that you should outsource to a bookkeeper or buy this new, beaut software. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is to genuinely share methods that small business owners can use themselves, in order to gain the motivation to get their bookkeeping done. These methods are what I use myself when motivation is low, or overwhelm is high. They are not expensive or difficult and I’m sure that if you use even a couple of these methods, you will get your bookkeeping done or at the very least make great progress.

1. Use a timer

This can be an online timer, your watch, or even try an old-school method. Set the timer for a short period of time – 40 minutes is fine. Commit to 40 minutes of bookkeeping only. Smash it out and feel great about the progress you just made. Maybe that’s enough – you’ve achieved what you set out to do. Turn off your computer and forget about it for today. Now maybe the time went quickly for you and you feel you’ve got another 40 minutes in you. You’re on a roll. Go off and step out into the sunshine for 5 minutes or make a cup of coffee to reward yourself. Go back to your computer, set the timer for another 40 minutes and smash out another 40 minutes of bookkeeping.

2. Work somewhere different

If you’ve got a laptop, move it out of the office to the dining room table. Or move it from the dining room table to the bedroom. Personally I would have difficulty working outside, but if that works for you, then go for it. Go to the library (I get phenominal amounts of work done when I work from the library – however it’s usually business development work and not accounting, as I don’t want to risk others accessing my accounting information because I’m using a public internet connection). Go to your parent’s house. Book a once-off day to work from a co-working space. Just change up where you’re working from, because sometimes just the thought of sitting down at that same spot that you’ve already spent hours at can be depressing.

3. Treat yourself

Buy snacks for yourself that you wouldn’t normally buy – specifically for bookkeeping. Treat yourself with something nice, so that sitting down to do your bookkeeping is a positive experience.

4. Do smaller amounts often

Now you might not realise that this is one of the reasons you put off your bookkeeping. But if you’re only logging into your software or opening up your spreadsheet every few months (or even longer), then you’re probably forgetting how to do a lot of it. Decision fatigue is a thing! If you have to keep stopping and deciding what to do next, or are trying to remember how you did something last time, then you’re wearing yourself out without even realising it. By doing it more regularly, everything will stay fresh in your mind.

5. Eat the ugliest frog first

This has been one of my most helpful business mantras since I discovered it about 5 years ago. If I’ve lost you here, check out Brian Tracy. I’m thinking bookkeeping might be your Ugliest Frog. So eat it first!! Practise a bit of tough love on yourself and do your bookkeeping before you do anything else that day. You can even try getting up 40 minutes earlier, for the sole purpose of getting bookkeeping done. The rest of the day will feel SO good for you that the decision to then get up and do the same thing the next day will be even easier. Your day will flow a lot better and you’ll become much more productive in general. You can use this concept for anything in your personal or business life.

6. Listen to music

Motivate yourself to do your bookkeeping with music


This seems a bit obvious, but how often do you actually make the effort to put on music while you work at your computer? Or if you are doing your bookkeeping first thing in the morning, have music on while you’re in the shower before you start. Similar to the special snacks you treat yourself with, you will start to look forward to doing your bookkeeping because you’ve made a fun ritual for yourself.

7. Start tracking your monthly income

This doesn’t need to be fancy. Start writing down your total sales each month. Each time you get another month’s bookkeeping done, record somewhere separately what that monthly sales were. Some months it may be less than the month before – that’s okay. You just motivated yourself to kick butt that bit more in the next 4 weeks. Some months it will be more than the month before – congratulations! Something you’re doing is working – the proof is in the numbers. It’s quite addictive once you start tracking your numbers – you will find yourself automatically motivated to get your bookkeeping done.

8. Just turn on the computer


In my early 30’s I used to run a lot. There’s a trick with runners to keep motivation up – they say just to “put on your sneakers”. It really works. Once those runners are on, it’s that much more easier to just step out the door and do your run. Do this trick with your computer. Get up and turn it on! Before you get dressed. Before you make your coffee. Before you check your phone. When I have a particularly overwhelming and large client job to do, this (oh so easy) tip works every time.

9. Positive mindset


I know it’s easy to get into the mindset that bookkeeping is boring. Bookkeeping is pointless. Bookkeeping is hard. Or thinking “numbers aren’t my thing”. Well I challenge that mindset. You’re not going to love everything in business – if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it and doing it successfully, right? Having a positive mindset helps in all areas of your business and personal life. You can choose to keep thinking bookkeeping is horrible – and continue to avoid doing it – and continue to beat yourself up over not doing it. Or you can choose to re-frame your thinking around it.

For example:


I can’t wait to get that 40 minutes of bookkeeping done, because then I’ll be on track to get my tax return done early this year. Gee that’s going to feel good.

I feel like my sales are up this month – I can’t wait to check my income spreadsheet to see if I hit $5,000 in sales finally.

Woo hoo – another month’s bookkeeping done. Time to hit the pub.

Okay – so these might seem a bit corny, but you see what I mean. Your bookkeeping is what you tell yourself it is. You get to choose your attitude.

Why would a bookkeeper share these tips?

I don’t mind sharing these tips with small business owners. There will always be business owners that don’t want to outsource their bookkeeping. There will always a point in time when it makes sense for a small business owner to do their own bookkeeping. When it’s time to outsource – it’s time to outsource. The cons of doing it yourself will outweigh the pros and you will (probably with relief I’m thinking) hand it over to a professional bookkeeper.

In the meantime, I just know there’s a tip or 2 above that you can implement straight away. My wish for you is that you no longer feel bad about being behind in your bookkeeping and get to experience that feeling of relief that comes with being up to date very soon!

Happy bookkeeping….

Sarina

About the author.

Sarina Abbott is the owner of Festival Bookkeeping. She’s a registered BAS Agent and Xero adviser who has previously worked in the legal and conveyancing industry, as well as for registered training organisations. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia with her husband, 2 sons, a dog and a rabbit.

You can find out more about Festival Bookkeeping here.

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Is it time to Marie Kondo your accounting software?

Marie Kondo

Does doing your bookkeeping spark joy?

If it doesn’t (and you’re only human) I’m not suggesting you get rid of it from your life completely. It might be a good time to tidy it up though.

Messy data means inaccurate records. Does this really matter? Well yes, because inaccurate records can mean:

  • Paying too much income tax
  • Paying too much GST
  • Underpaying super for your employees
  • Missing out on a bank loan
  • Making bad business decisions because you’re looking at incorrect figures

 

4 common issues that I come across when working with client’s accounting software are:

1.  Doubling-up of expenses

2.  Not reconciling bank accounts correctly

3.  Old unpaid Bills and Invoices

4.  Recording superannuation, GST, PAYG withholding and income tax payments

     using the wrong Account code

 

Here are some examples, using Xero accounting software:

1.  Doubling-up of expenses

You receive a bill from a supplier and enter the Bill into your accounting software. You pay the bill at a later date and when it comes through your automatic bank feed you enter it directly from the Bank Feed screen as a Spend Money transaction instead of closing off the Bill. The bill sits there as unpaid in your system with the expense now being recorded twice.

2.  Not reconciling bank accounts correctly

You merrily work your way through your Bank Feed – hitting the Green “OK” button and watching those transactions disappear from sight. You get the message “Congratulations. You Reconcile!” But wait – your bank had a glitch a couple of months back and several transactions didn’t feed through. You also deleted some bank statement lines because they were for personal purchases. And you had closed off a couple of bills that you never ended up actually paying. The result is missed income and expenses, doubled-up expenses and incorrect Asset and Liability figures in your Balance Sheet.

3.  Not checking for old unpaid Bills and Invoices

Old unpaid bills still sitting in your software can be the result of doubling-up (refer no 1), paying bills from personal funds but forgetting to record them and bills that need to be closed off due to credit notes being issued or contra agreements being made.

Old unpaid Invoices still sitting there might need to be followed up with your customers, or could be mistakes that need to be dealt with, or written off due to non-payment.

4.  Recording superannuation, GST, PAYG withholding and income tax using the wrong Account code

These errors are made really easily, especially if you aren’t familiar with double-entry bookkeeping. Knowing when to use Expense type accounts and Liability type accounts in your software can get confusing. There are also special rules regarding how Income Tax payments get recorded in your software.

For me, the 4 abovementioned issues are the ones that crop up the most. They need to be fixed correctly so that financials are accurate.

And who doesn’t love a good de-cluttering?

 

Happy bookkeeping…

Sarina

 

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Working with trust accounts

Book glasses plant bookkeeping

Those working in the legal or real estate industry would be familiar with trust accounts.

I started working with trust accounts in my teens when I was employed by law firms.  Now as the owner of Festival Bookkeeping I’m once again working with trust accounts on behalf of clients.

It’s important that the money held on behalf of clients can be fully accounted for every step of the way.  In fact in many circumstances firms must have their trust accounts professionally audited once a year to ensure trust account legislation is being complied with.  So by working with trust accounts you are taking on another level of responsibility, in addition to the usual tax responsibilities that come with small business bookkeeping.

With that in mind, here are some of my top tips for working with trust accounts:

  • Do not overdraw (cause a deficiency of) a client’s trust ledger
  • Perform regular backups of trust accounting software & store a copy off-site as well
  • Ensure you have the details of every client whose money you hold
  • Avoid single trust transfers between unrelated parties if possible (eg vendor to purchaser)
  • Keep all cheque butts and ensure all cheque numbers are accounted for in sequential order
  • Do not pay general office expenses, debts or bank fees from trust monies
  • Check with the governing body of your industry as to what accounting software is suitable for your trust accounting. In some circumstances the software you use to track your business income and expenses is not suitable to use for your trust accounting.
  • Keep the details of any errors or discrepancies that have occurred and/or been fixed
  • Don’t draw “cash” cheques
  • Finally – reconcile regularly

Be sure to do your research and check which legislation applies to your industry and state.

As with any small business bookkeeping, errors can occur but if they do make sure you have a “paper trail” or explanation of what occurred and how it was fixed. Fix mistakes promptly and don’t hang onto client’s money any longer than necessary.  Regular reconciling will help pick up any differences between your bank account activity and your accounting records.  A good bookkeeper can help you with this task.

Festival Bookkeeping specialise in helping Australian conveyancing firms with their bookkeeping needs – including trust account reconciling using software such as Smokeball and CATS. You can find out more about us on our website: http://www.festivalbookkeeping.com.au/

Happy bookkeeping…

Sarina


Bookkeeping tips for tradies

Tradies tools drill spanner

Receipts

Keeping receipts can be annoying and it’s easy for them to get damaged or lost, but when you think about each one as another tax deduction they take on a whole new meaning.  My top tip is to take a photo of each one so you can save it electronically.  The Australian Taxation Office accepts digitally saved copies of receipts that can be clearly read. Keep a plastic or material folder in your ute or van, write “Receipts” on it and put each receipt in here for safekeeping until the end of the week or month when you have a chance to enter it in your books. Once recorded, file it away in a labelled folder in date order. I keep electronic copies of all receipts, save a copy within my Xero accounting software and also have back-up copies on my laptop and a USB.

Don’t mix personal with business

One of the first things you should do is to open a separate bank account, solely for business purposes.  Use this account for business spending only and ensure all customer payments go into this account. Mixing business and personal spending can turn into a headache very quickly and can be easily avoided.

Vehicle expenses

As a tradie your business vehicle is probably your daily transport, storeroom, office, lunch room etc etc. You are going to cover a lot of kilometres in a year and so it’s important to get the right amount of tax deductions.  There are a few different methods of claiming your vehicle expenses – the ATO website explains them pretty clearly.

Equipment

You will no doubt have invested in good tools and safety equipment that are used in the running of your business.  Keep the details of all this equipment.  This can be done in a basic spreadsheet or Word document.  Include price, brand, serial numbers and where you bought them.  This will help with end of year depreciation (something your accountant can do for you) and is also helpful for insurance purposes.

Get a record-keeping system in place ASAP

This can be an Excel spreadsheet or accounting software – the important thing is to get a system early on.  Your priority in the beginning may be knowing you have consistent work and enough cash in the bank to cover your immediate expenses, but down the track being able to get easy access to your financial information (most profitable services, which clients are slow payers etc) can be the difference between having a struggling business and a growing, successful one. If you have the funds I would recommend using accounting software from the beginning. A good bookkeeper or accountant can help you choose.  My tip is to get a free trial, make sure it does everything you need it to and that your bookkeeper/accountant can work with it. I previously made a short video called 3 Simple Steps to Getting Your Bookkeeping Sorted.  You might also like Do I Need to Use Accounting Software?

Keep an eye on your bank account

If you get into the habit of checking your bank account regularly you will get a feel for what time of the month loan payments come out, when funds are running low, if there is any suspicious activity etc.  My software is linked to my bank account and every day I can see any bank activity from the day before.

Get customer contact details

Preferably more than 1 type in case you need to follow up unpaid invoices. If you are extending credit to some customers by allowing them to pay at a later date, it’s only a matter of time before you find some customers that won’t pay you on time or will try to avoid paying altogether.  By having several ways to contact them (email, phone, letter) you can follow up unpaid invoices easily. My top tip – keep a written record every time you contact a late paying customer and include dates, what was agreed and who you spoke to. For more help on this topic read Top 6 Tips – Keeping on Top of Customer Payments.

Plan for tax

Open a separate bank account and transfer a percentage of your income aside each month or quarter. Tax time can be stressful when you are running a business so avoid having that extra worry of trying to come up with a large amount of money for tax in one hit.

GST registration

At the time of writing this post the GST threshold is $75,000.  Keep your eye on your GST turnover throughout the year to see if it’s edging towards the threshold – at which point you’ll need to register.  For more of my tips on GST read Common GST Mistakes and BAS Tips for Aussie Small Business Owners.

Insurance

Make sure you have the right insurances.  As a Registered BAS Agent I have to have certain insurances in place in order to keep my licence and this is also the case with many other professional bodies.

Thank you to all my readers of the Savvy Bookkeeping Blog.  You may have noticed I love writing about small business and not-for-profit bookkeeping. I share more useful and fun bookkeeping information and videos over on my business Facebook page – Festival Bookkeeping.  Why not come over and follow me there? Love to hear from you.

 

Happy bookkeeping…

 

 

 

Small business owners – Wages or Drawings?

working-at-table-with-laptop

The issue of paying yourself money from your business can be confusing.

Technically, a Sole Trader cannot employ themselves. Money a sole trader takes out of the business for personal use is classified as “drawings” and is not considered wages for tax purposes. Drawings are not allowable deductions for the business.

Transactions that you record using the account Drawings are not reported in Activity Statements that are lodged with the Australian Taxation Office.

This is also the case for someone who has their business set up as a Partnership. At law, you cannot be an employee.

If your business is set up as a Company, you can be an employee of the company.  You can pay yourself wages and would therefore withhold PAYG withholding tax if your wages are above the tax free threshold.  Unlike drawings, wages are allowable deductions for the business.

Transactions that you record using your “Wages” accounts are also not reported in the “Goods & Services Tax” section of your Activity Statements – only the “PAYG tax withheld” section.

Because Drawings and Wages are both outside of the GST system the tax codes to use in your accounting software are as follows:

Xero = BAS Excluded

MYOB = N-T

Reckon Accounts = leave the tax code blank

 

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Happy bookkeeping…

 

3 simple steps to getting your bookkeeping sorted

3-simple-steps-to-getting-your-bookkeeping-sorted-wordpress

If you have just started a business you may be stressing about whether you are on the right track with your accounts.  If you have been in business a little while you may be wondering if there is an easier way to keep on top of your accounts.

Once you start looking into the various accounting software options out there, unless you are in the business of bookkeeping or accounting, it’s not uncommon to become overwhelmed or confused.

I like to keep things simple, so I’ve come up with 3 simple steps to help you out and get you started.  These are 3 steps I’ve used to get clients up and running with accounting software.

3 simple steps to getting your bookkeeping sorted (Video)

Importantly, don’t forget to try your software out for free first.  Get a feel for it and make sure you can easily get answers to any questions you may have via their help centres, forums, videos, email support etc.

Happy bookkeeping…

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5 reasons using Excel may be holding your business back

Laptop Xero

Excel is a great tool for business.  I like to use it to manually check payroll calculations, particularly when setting up new accounting software for a client.  However, it’s not always the best choice for business bookkeeping.

Here are 5 reasons that it might be time to move on from Excel:

1.  Doubling-up of transactions

In Excel you don’t get a warning if you try to enter the same bill number or invoice number twice, whereas you would if you used accounting software. Doubling up on accounting transactions can get you into a real mess.

2.  Time consuming

It is time consuming to set up a detailed, useful spreadsheet.  You need to have the end result in mind before you even start and then work out a design that will get you that end result.  A lot of time is wasted if you are part way through setting up a spreadsheet only to realise that it can only do half the job you need it to do.  For example, you might be able to set up a spreadsheet that tracks all of your income and expenses, but it is tricky and time consuming to set it up to track tax codes for your Business Activity Statement as well.

3.  No audit trail

If more than one person is entering information into a spreadsheet it is difficult to tell who has entered or changed information.  This leaves the door wide open for fraud to occur.

4.  Costly errors

Excel spreadsheets can be linked to other Excel spreadsheets, which can save you time.  However it is easy to link a cell incorrectly which results in errors that can be hard to detect.  You could be using the same spreadsheet for months without realising it is picking up incorrect figures from another spreadsheet.  Just like in Reason # 1, Excel doesn’t warn you of potential errors.  A quick internet search for “spreadsheet mistakes” shows just how costly some of these errors can be.

5.  You still need to invest time into learning how to use Excel properly

You can teach yourself how to use Excel and set up spreadsheets, however with such easy to use accounting software on the market now, isn’t your time better spent learning software that will do most of the hard work for you?  For example, using software with automatic bank feeds, such as Xero, can reduce time spent on manual data entry once set up correctly.

3 Simple Tips to Improve Cashflow

3 tips for improving cashflow

I think I’ve read almost every small business finance book in the Tea Tree Gully library here in Adelaide – some of them twice.

I’ve found 3 great tips that I’ll be incorporating into my business.  They are not only an easy way to help increase cashflow but will also help tweak your mindset if you find your confidence flagging.

This is from Accounting for the Numberphobic by Dawn Fotopulos.

Dawn writes:

“Invoices become a running record of the value the business delivered for every client – a testimony of what’s been accomplished.  Listing the benefits the client received is the key to differentiating your product or service from others.  It will remind the client of what makes the business you manage different and more professional than that of your peers”.

She goes on to write “Invoices help to build the reputation of the business”.

Have you ever considered the effect your invoice has on your client when they receive it? Is it possible they look at your invoice and think “How did he get to that price? What exactly did they do in that 8 hours they have charged me for?”

If you’ve poured your heart and soul into providing a great product or service for a client – don’t risk your invoice getting put on the backburner whilst your client pays everyone else before you.  Remind your client of the value you have provided so that paying you is that much easier and they have a great reason to use your business again in the future.

So these are my 3 tips for improving cashflow & boosting business confidence:

  1. Include a detailed description on your Invoice of the service or product you’ve provided and remind them of the value you’ve added for them. Be confident in your invoicing!
  2. If some of the work was complimentary and isn’t being on-charged to the client – include that on the invoice so the client is aware.
  3. If 2 or 3 people have performed the work for the client – include their names to give more meaning to the work.

I’ll definitely be incorporating this into my own Xero invoicing for Festival Bookkeeping – it will only take an extra 5 minutes.  Such simple concepts and easily implemented. Love it.

 Looking for more small business tips? Here are some others that readers have liked:

 

Happy bookkeeping…

New Employee Checklist

Secretary black and white
A good checklist from the ATO website if you are small business owner thinking of hiring a new worker.

Takes you through all the things you need to establish upfront, for example “Is your new worker an employee or a contractor” (a hot topic with the ATO at the moment) and “What are your record-keeping requirements”.

 

Link to ATO website:  Hiring new staff

 

Other suggested blog posts:
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Find me on Facebook: Festival Bookkeeping

 

Happy bookkeeping…

 

Why I prefer to go paperless #1

trees

You don’t have to be a tree-hugger to be interested in going paperless – it will also save you in the hip pocket. So it’s really a win-win situation. A win for you and a win for the environment (which of course benefits you too!)

I previously shared some tips on 4 Easy Ways to Go Paperless. The 4 tips are some really simple ways to make that step towards going paperless without having to spend lots of money or make huge changes to the way you work or run your business.  Readers shared some of their tips on going paperless too, which you might want to check out in the Comments section at the bottom of the post.

I wanted to write a couple of posts about how exactly you can benefit from moving towards a paperless office, particularly from a bookkeeping point of view. So instead of the “how” I wanted to explore the “why” of going paperless.

So read on for the first of many great reasons that I prefer to go paperless and how you, too, can benefit.

# 1   Online banking is better than writing out cheques.

  • Banks often charge a fee to send out cheque books
  • Banks sometimes charge a fee for each cheque presented
    I discovered this the hard way – being charged .95c every time one of my cheques gets deposited!
  • Mailing cheques is time consuming and you have to pay for stamps.
  • People can lose cheques, resulting in double the amount of work.
  • Cheques for small amounts are often not banked, and sit there in your accounting records as being unpresented month after month until you finally get hold of the person and sort it out, or it goes stale.

Just like having 2 cheque signatories, you can set up your online banking so that 2 people have to authorise each payment – resulting in better security of your money.  And whilst on the subject of online banking, bank statements can be downloaded from your bank’s website and saved in a suitably named folder which can be backed-up, reducing the need to have paper copies sent out to you.

Happy bookkeeping…