If you are a writer or creative type like me, you can use all the financial tips and friendly motivation you can get your hands on. Finances, numbers, and organizing taxes, truth be told, fills me with dread and so I tend to avoid it.
I believe, though, that getting a grip on your finances is a great idea for women, people who don’t like math, and small business owners. Understanding your money makes you feel strong and independent and positions you for success. That’s why, although I know not thing one about accounting, I took it upon myself mid 2014 to start using Quickbooksonline.
I have to admit, results were mixed. On the one hand, I picked up automating my invoices, which was great. On the other hand, I sort of flubbed integrating my bank accounts with Quickbooksonline. Which is why I had to turn to Ellis Hsu-Mastromonaco, CPA, to bail me out and help me fix all the strange mistakes I made last year, complete my 2014 taxes, and get a fresh start this year.
After five hours with Ellis and her wonderful Enrollment Agent (not totally sure what that is. Probably an accounting term) and Quickbooksonline expert, George Meirelles, I know a lot more about accounting. Together, they turned something that could have been a nightmare into something that was, while not exactly stress free, definitely useful, educational, and at times entertaining as well.
Plus, Ellis gave me trail mix to guide my way when the going got rough (pun intended — har, har, har!).
The going didn’t get too rough because George, who hails from — of all interesting places — Angola, and got his MBA in accounting (who would do such a thing, I ask?) from University of Santa Clara, is a former accounting and finance instructor who taught for many years at San Jose State, UCSC Extension, and the University of Phoenix. I was in good hands.
I asked George what he loves besides accounting and he actually said, “tax preparation.” Wow. Digging a little deeper, he revealed that he is a sports fanatic who loves “RVing, traveling, Netflix movies, lazy days, soccer, and American football.” Not to mention water skiing and bicycling.
Ellis was quick to add, “George is a Renaissance man.” If “Renaissance man” means friendly, knowledgeable, and encouraging (not to mention patient) — that’s George.
Here are some financial tips George and Ellis shared with me:
- Separate your business accounts from your personal accounts. This will save lots of time by allowing you to pay for deductible items from your business account and personal items from your personal account. Ellis emphasized that this is one of the most important things small business owners forget to do.
- Keep your receipts. That one you may have heard but, because small business owners often fail to do it, I’m repeating Ellis’ sage advice here.
- This financial tip won’t make sense unless you’ve actually tried the backend of Quickbooksonline, but here goes: While you’re working, keep multiple browsers open so you can “chase” (that’s what George calls it) reconciliation errors and efficiently compare your online bank statements with Quickbooksonline. If this is confusing, reach out to me and I will explain it.
- So. Since I had to do a lot of chasing, and you might have to as well, here’s something to consider: To keep track of and differentiate similar and/or recurring payments, have clients pay you in slightly irregular amounts. For example, if you regularly charge $500 for a service, make it a distinctive number like $499.01 the first time, $499.02 the second time, and so on, so you can find it more easily later if you are having problems reconciling your accounts. This financial tip may sound strange now, but it could save you a bunch of time later. Again, if it doesn’t quite make sense, give me a shout.
- To save time preparing for taxes, download all of your transactions for, say, your business Visa, into an Excel spreadsheet and send the whole spreadsheet to your accountant. What could be easier (Ellis and George love spreadsheets!)?
George flattered me by saying accounting and Quickbooksonline are easier if the client is smart (he meant me!). After five hours of financial schooling, I didn’t really feel smart. But I did feel accomplished!
Thank you, George and Ellis, for all your wonderful help!
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