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It’s probably not why you got into business, but learning accounting basics is essential to running your company. From avoiding unnecessary spending to triple-checking receipts, these tips will help you manage your financial workflow and make the most of tax deductions.
If these tips don’t cut it, consider enlisting the help of an accountant or using accounting software.
1. Set Up a Budget
As a small business owner, you need to be able to predict your cash flow and control expenditures. Setting up a budget is the first step in this process, and it can give you confidence as you seek financing from banks or investors. A solid budget will also allow you to track your progress toward financial goals, such as reducing debt or increasing savings.
The budgeting process requires a bit of planning and forethought, but it can help you set goals that are truly achievable. Whether you are using an online budgeting program or simply creating your own spreadsheet, you should start by identifying your income and expenses. The easiest way to do this is to use your credit card or bank statements to itemize and categorize your monthly spending. It’s important to be as accurate as possible, but you should also allow for some wiggle room. For instance, a new seasonal expense may pop up that you weren’t anticipating. It’s a good idea to have a miscellaneous line in your budget for those types of expenses so they don’t take away from funds you’ve allocated elsewhere in the plan.
Your goal should be to spend less than you earn each month, while also putting some money aside for savings and other needs. It can be helpful to reevaluate your priorities and values to see what you really want from life so you don’t feel like you are depriving yourself. Unnecessary spending can sneak up on you, such as subscription services that you don’t use regularly or monthly product shipments that you’ve forgotten about. An inventory can reveal where you can cut back so you can free up more of your earnings to reach your savings goals.
2. Set Up Automatic Bill Pay
Automatic bill payments save time because you don’t have to create and send invoices for each client per month or process payment from them. You also won’t need to keep track of when a payment is due and pay late fees or interest. Instead, you can simply set up a recurring payment that will take place each month from a specific account and credit card.
This can be helpful for anyone who is worried about forgetting a payment or procrastinating paying a bill. It’s also good for people who have to pay fixed expenses, like a mortgage, insurance or utilities. It can be a great way to simplify money management and keep your bills on track, especially if you’re prone to overspend and are concerned about a high debt-to-income ratio.
To set up auto payments, log in to your bank’s website or mobile app and navigate to the Bill Payment page of your account. Then, select a company and enter the amount you’d like to automatically withdraw each month. You may be asked to provide your billing information, but you usually don’t have to give out your banking account number or debit or credit card details to the company. This makes it less likely that someone will steal your financial information or be able to take advantage of you.
However, you should only use automatic payments if you’re sure you’ll have enough money in your account to cover the deductions every month. If not, you could incur bounced check fees or credit card charges and hurt your credit score. In addition, you should always keep a cushion in your account and review your statements each month for erroneous or fraudulent charges.
4. Invest in Accounting Software
Using accounting software helps to streamline the major money-in and money-out functions of your business. It makes the most of your business’s transactions, reveals historical trends and gives you the granular insight that you need to make smart financial decisions.
A quality accounting program can also automate some of the tedious tasks associated with keeping track of inventory, processing payments and invoicing. This can help reduce the risk of error and save you time, especially if these tasks are part of your job description.
Look for an accounting software product with the features that you need, such as an online bank connection, a general ledger function and checkbook reconciliation tools. You can even find programs that can manage multiple bank accounts, prepare electronic deposits and handle the issuance of recurring invoices.
Another key feature is a profit and loss statement that will display all your business’s revenue and expenses over a given period of time. These statements are essential for determining whether you’re making a profit or incurring a loss and can help you pinpoint areas where your business needs improvement.
Lastly, be sure the software you choose is easy to learn and use. Investing in a software system that’s difficult to navigate will make it harder for you and your team to keep up with your bookkeeping. You may also want to consider adding other software components, such as a point of sale (POS) system, payroll or an integrated financial statement generator, to your accounting solution.
Some of these products may require an additional monthly fee, while others are available for free with limited functionality. NerdWallet recommends that you factor in how many users you’ll need to access the program and whether you’ll need integrations with other business apps as well when making your decision.
5. Hire an Accountant
Using DIY best accounting practices can save money and help monitor costs, but hiring an accountant is the ultimate step to ensure you’re managing your finances effectively. Look for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who works in your industry and has experience with small businesses. They can take care of your day-to-day bookkeeping, taxes and reporting. Plus, they can help you avoid mistakes and learn about new accounting procedures that may reduce your expenses.
When interviewing candidates, ask about their past work, education and qualifications. Also, find out if they use cloud-based accounting software and how it can benefit your business. This will give you detailed access to your financial statements and make it easier for you to communicate with your accountant. It’s important to hire someone with the right personality and communication skills, as well as the expertise you need.
Your accountant will be able to provide you with valuable insight into your current financial state and the future direction of your company. They will help you understand your financial statements, including your profit and loss statement and balance sheet, which show how much your company has earned, the amount of debt you have and what assets you own. They can also help you determine your tax status and plan for the future by recommending deductions, setting goals and helping you prepare for any upcoming changes to laws.
Meet with your accountant on a monthly basis and discuss the numbers so you’re always aware of where your money is going. This helps you spot problems, uncover missed details and devise effective strategies that can be put into place before tax season arrives. With the help of your accountant, you can improve your financial health and become more confident in making decisions about your business.
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