Tag Archives: finances

Help your accountant, help yourself: a few tips for home-based entrepreneurs

 

A 2013 article from Small Business Trends stated that 69% of entrepreneurs in the United States start their businesses at home. This makes perfect sense. Many new businesses are in part or entirely operated online. As people buy more and more goods and services online, there’s less need to take the expensive risk of investing in a brick and mortar business. Moreover, if you know what you’re doing, you can help yourself – and your accountant – come tax season.

Although it takes additional time and a few extra steps, you can really help yourself by understanding the upside of claiming a deduction.

First if all, you know need to know what you can and can’t deduct. It’s a good idea to check with the IRS regularly to see if these things change, but here are a few things you can deduct.

The cost of a home office

In order for this deduction to pass any potential audit, you need to make sure the space you call your home office is a separate space or separated and dedicated space in your home. It doesn’t have to be its own room, but it can’t be a multipurpose space, either. For example, many people use an empty additional bedroom as a home office. Others have a separate studio or redesigned barn they use for a home office. If you are using a corner of your basement, that’s fine, too. Your home office doesn’t have to have four walls and a door.

But you can’t set up computer desk in the corner of a guest bedroom or nursery and call it your home office. The key here is that it must be a regular and exclusive space you use to run your business.

You must also be able to show that your office is the principle place of your business. Even if you meet clients other places, you need to be able to show that you do the majority of your work in your home office.

Keep in mind that the IRS only allows up to 300 square feet. But they do allow for $5 for every square foot up to 300.

Technology and technology purposes

It’ll be a hard sell to convince anyone that if you have one computer that you are only using it for business purposes. If you do that, though, you can deduct the cost of depreciation.

If you decide to purchase a dedicated business computer, you can write the cost of it off. After that, you can write off the cost of depreciation. You can even deduct based on the percentage of use. TurboTax is very helpful with this.

You can also write off the cost of a dedicated phone, whether it’s a cell or landline.

It’s worth the hassle

When you’re starting a new business, whether you operate it out of your home or not, every penny counts. Staying on top of and taking advantage of tax laws can help turn a slow first year into a much better second year.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that keeping track of all your expenses, and keeping all of your business receipts will make it easier in your end of year accounting and tax preparation. You will save yourself and your accounant time, money, and headache down the road.

GrinchtoGlee

From Grinch to Glee – Make year end easier with these bookkeeping tips

It’s not that your heart is two-sizes too small like the Grinch, but rather that your head might explode from all the year-end bookkeeping tasks on your list. While these to-dos could certainly put your holiday spirit in short supply, we know how and Who can help.

It’s essential that your data is accurate, complete and organized for tax time and the year ahead. But where do you begin?

Like the Whos in Whoville helped Grinch, we offer tips to keep you and your books on the nice list.

  • Evaluate your financial standing

Review profit and loss, your balance sheet and general ledger. Make sure they aren’t mangled up in tangled up knots by checking that all transactions have been recorded and posted to the proper income, expense, asset or liabiity accounts. Also check the accuracy of your accounts receivable and accounts payable, and write off uncollectible debt so as not to overstate your income (especially if accrual based), and overpay the You-Know-Whos.

  • Complete bank reconciliations

Make sure your checking, savings and credit card accounts have been reconciled. Loan interest should be separated from the principal and accurately logged. And a decidedly, non-grinchy trick: reconciling monthly makes it easier to catch errors.

  • Review Personal Expenses

You shouldn’t, wouldn’t, oughtn’t, mustn’t mix your personal and business expenses (although for the Sole Proprietor it’s often a necessity), so look at your expenses closely and if that’s the case find receipts and/or cancelled checks and log the expenses in your books. Then watch your heart grow because you avoided paying extra taxes.

  • Review Subcontractor Services

If you’ve hired any Whos who are Sole Proprietor’s or LLC’s, for contract services totaling more than $600 during the year, you’ll be required to send them a 1099 Misc form. It’s a best practice to send each new subcontractor or vendor a W9 at the time of hire to ensure you have complete address information and either their Social Security Number or Federal ID Number information on file.

  • Take Inventory

Review your inventory during the last month of the tax year and make necessary adjustments to align the inventory account of floofloovers and whowonkas to match the items in stock.  Your inventory value should show the cost price or price paid rather that the selling price for your items.

  • Create a Filing System

It may sound overly simple and antiquated, but we know an organized system for easily accessing the documents you need, when you need them come tax time will make you happy as a Who.

As you celebrate the close of 2016, it’s also time to look to the year ahead. If one of your goals is to have more flexibility and time to achieve your personal and business goals, consider the advantages of having a Bookkeeper. Not only an excellent resource to simplify your financials and ensure accuracy, a Bookkeeper can also be a personal advocate, a partner as loyal as Max, and someone to help you make your Holidays mean a little bit more for years to come.

Budgetary Moves That Will Move You Cross-Country

Planning a cross-country move can become your worst nightmare! For starters, organizing a move like this will feel impossible… I mean, where do you even start? It can also take a toll on your well-being (i.e. your mood and your health) and it can drain your bank account too!

The good news is, there are some simple steps you can take to alleviate the pain and put you back on the road to success… and it’s called having a strategy. Once you sit down to map out your move then it’s almost guaranteed to minimize your stress and maximize your financial savings.

To help you get started, here are a few steps:

  • Start an “Action Plan” – Be sure to write down your plan… better yet, find an app that will enable you to create a checklist of your moving to-dos. By staying organized and “on task” you will save money because you’re not having to buy things at the last minute.
  • Seek Relocation Assistance – Are you relocating due to your job? Many companies offer relocation assistance, to cover some of the costs for the move, so you may want to check with your new supervisor to see if this is available.
  • Collect Packing Materials – Companies like U-Haul charge premium costs like boxes, tape and rope so once you know that a move is going to happen, visit your local grocery or convenience stores and ask for any boxes they still have after restocking their shelves. Ask friends and neighbors to save their newspapers and any other packing materials such as old blankets.
  • Organize your Packing Priorities –
    • Have a “GO TO” Box: Priority 1
      Have one large box to the side where you will keep all of your must-have items such as packing tape, pens, markers, scissors, paper, important documents, medicines, toiletries, and anything you’ll need until you leave home. This will prevent having to buy new stuff every time you pack away or lose things you need. Keep this box with you at all times so you can get access to these important items when you reach your destination.
    • Have an “FIRST THINGS FIRST” Box: Priority 2
      This is like the “GO TO” box, but  will be the box of your priority items you may need when you arrive to the new location. In this box will hold what should be considered your 2nd on the list priority items.  Give some thought to what items you’ll need (or want) to have right when you get to your new home. Maybe you’ll want to include things like the coffee maker, coffee cups, toilet paper, towels, and toys to keep the kids busy.
  • Label Your Boxes – It can be really easy to skip this step or to just do it sloppily. Some people would actually rather go out and buy new items instead of searching through yet another box for something they need. Nip unnecessary spending in the bud by marking each box with a permanent marker noting what room it belongs in with a brief list of what’s inside. Try to avoid my technique that usually comes out at the end of the packing experience where I throw stuff into the boxes and just label them all MISCELLANEOUS…;)
  • Clean as You Go – When you pack up an area, give it a good cleaning immediately after the space has been cleared. This will keep things efficient and prevent you from having to hire cleaners to do your entire residence when you are sick of the moving process. Cleaning will also be beneficial if you rent and are counting on a security deposit refund.
  • Ditch the Junk – Keep a JUNK and GARAGE SALE box close by. While you’re boxing up your keepers, you’ll easily be able to toss your junk and garage sale items into their proper boxes. Moving is a great chance to clear out the stuff that finds a way to accumulate over the years. Plus, you’ll spend more money if you have to move boxes of stuff you don’t even want anymore. Sell anything that is still in good shape by having a moving sale when you near the end of your packing process. When you make your donation to the thrift store be sure to get a donation receipt because that will come in handy when tax time rolls around.
  • Check out Storage Options – For any family heirlooms or pieces you may want back at some point, consider renting a low-cost storage unit to house your items until you can have them set to your new place of residence and cheaper option is to consider asking trusted friends or family to house your treasures in their homes until you can arrange for transportation. If you do decide to go with the storage unit be sure that you don’t forget about it and continue to rack up $50 + a month in fees.
  • Get Moving Company Quotes – If you decide to have a moving company move your stuff be sure you get multiple estimates and quotes before making a decision. You want affordability, of course, but you also want reliability. Some will even store your belongings for FREE, up to 3 months!
  • DIY Packing – You may choose to have a moving company pack you up… but it will cost you! Use a company that will provide you with a truck and a driver. All you have to do is pack up the truck yourself and they’ll drive it across the country.
  • Be Truck Smart – If you plan to rent your own moving truck and haul your stuff across country on your own, make sure to only reserve the truck size you need. It will cost you a lot of extra money (in gas and truck rental fees) if you book a truck that is too large.
  • Overnight Stays – If you have friends and family along the travel route, ask them if you can borrow their couch for a night rather than spending your money on hotel lodging. If that’s not an option, you’ll need to consider where you will be stopping to rest. You can find valuable coupons in the books available for free at state welcome centers. Look for coupons for hotel deals and restaurants along the way and online before you leave. If you have fur kids, there are options that accept your pets… do your homework!
  • Utilize a Cooler – Depending on the room available in your vehicle you can save a good amount of cash if you pack your own snacks and drinks for the morning and afternoon. Then, only stop for dinner.
  • Finally… Don’t Buy until You’re Settled – Don’t rush out to the store to buy what you think you need… Give yourself time to sort through your stuff and get set up, keeping a list of ideas along the way. If you rush off to the store the 1st week you’re in town it will most likely lead to overspending, especially on things that you don’t really need. The only store you need to hit in the first few weeks is the grocery store.

By using some or all of these steps, your worst nightmare can be transformed into some wonderful memories that will allow you to embrace the next chapter in your life with some extra cash to boot.  See you on the road!

 

Spring Cleaning For Your Finances

OK, now breathe! That’s it, take a deep breath in and slowly release it… tax day is over, spring is in the air and summer is just around the corner. LIFE IS GOOD!

That is until you take a good look at the mess around your computer… the strewn trash piles along with the old financial records and leftover coffee cups and who knows how long that box of chow mein noodles has been siting there… right?!

But remember, it’s SPRING and what better time than to get started on a bit of spring cleaning? I’m not just talking about cleaning up from your deadline with the IRS or cleaning out the closets and under your bed, I’m talking about your financial spring cleaning.

Now, don’t get me wrong, spring cleaning your house goes a long way in helping you spring clean your finances too. By organizing your home, you are much more likely to know what you need to buy and may prevent you from purchasing something that you don’t need, simply because you misplaced it. Listed below are a few other ways that you can spring clean your finances:

  • Check Your Credit Score – Is there any incorrect or misleading information about you that could hurt your score? What can you do to improve your score?
  • Organize and/or Shred Old Financial Documents – Clean up your files and shred any old or no longer needed information.
  • Re-balance and Diversify Your Investment and Retirement Accounts – How are your investments doing? Are you on tract with your retirement goals?
  • Review Your Insurance Coverage – has there been any life event changes? Do you need any additional coverage or is any coverage obsolete?
  • Review Your Expenses and shop for better rates – Can you pay less if you switching to a different company? Are you using what you paid for like that gym membership?
  • Set up Automatic Bill Pay – Late fees undermine your financial goals, therefore put regular payments on automatic bill pay so this doesn’t happen.
  • Save without Thinking – How is your emergency fund? Are you saving enough each month?
  • Revisit Your Budget – Once you have reviewed your finances ensure that the new numbers are worked into your budget.
  • Record Your Financial Passwords and Store Records in a Safe Place – Or better yet, use a trusted online password storage system and be sure to use a different password for each of your financial sites changing the password on a quarterly bases.

Knowing where you stand with your finances will better enable you to make wise and prudent money choices and as a result, you will be better prepared for your next tax deadline in 2017.

Need A Raise? Then Read This…

What would you do with an extra $500 – $1500 of free money each year? Take a family vacation, put it in savings, add it to your college/retirement fund, pay down debt etc… In other words, there would be many uses for that money, right? OK, so now you are probably wondering, where do I go to find this “free” money?
Well let me start by telling you a story that I’m sure we can all relate too. Last January, my friend received a flyer in the mail from her cable company stating that because she was such a “loyal” customer, she was going to get 3 months of HBO for free! Well she thought, “How cool is that? I’m definitely going to take advantage of this and then I will call back and cancel it before my “free service” is up”. So for the next 3 months, she totally enjoyed “free HBO” and by the time came to cancel, she kept saying, “I’ll do it tomorrow”… even after she was sitting there watching the 110th viewing of “Grease” with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John! Then, life stayed busy and she just never got around to canceling, so over the last eight months she ended up adding $80 to her account… and they said it was free HBO!?
Almost every company that we have an account with, entices us with these low cost items throughout the year and we honestly think that we will try it “only once” and then we ultimately forget about cancelling, so much so that by the end of the year we are spending hundreds of dollars that we had no intention of spending in the first place! Plus, trying to remember everything that we signed up for gets so complicated that we just throw our hands up in the air and go on paying and paying…
Instead of giving up, there are two things you can do right now to stop putting money into their pockets and start putting it back into your own pocket:

  • Call your service providers and simply ask them to review your account to determine if there is any way you can reduce your bill. Most representatives tend to be very helpful with finding ways to reduce the money that you are spending because they want to keep your business.
  • Do a little research on how much you may be able to save by switching to another company. By knowing the competition’s rates you can either switch and save or you can let your company know that you want to stay with them but you may have to switch if they cannot offer you the same rates or find some incentive (less money) to keep your business.

By doing these two simple things with all of your accounts (phone, internet, auto insurance… etc.) you will be able to save some money. It took my friend about an hour to call both her cable and cellular company and when finished, she was able to get her bills reduced and will now be able to save a total of $250 over the next 12 months! By tightening up your budget, you will be able to put that extra money to better use… maybe even get out of debt that much quicker.

Make it a great day!
Marla J. Blanchard
MJB’s Bookkeeping Solutions

Don’t keep me a secret, if you know someone who could use a bit of Bookkeeping TLC let them know that they are not alone and have them call me 805-764-1MJB (1652).

Healthy Finances = Living Debt Free

A few months ago, we discussed how maintaining a “healthy budget” can keep everyone on course in reaching the lifestyle dreams of their future. It is also a great tool to help you get out of debt too, since debt is the primary reason that prevents most people from reaching their financial goals. So today we are going to discuss 2 types of debt and then go over 3 strategies that will help you stay on track towards eliminating that debt for good.

All debt is not the same and understanding the difference between secured and unsecured debt will help you prioritize your payoff strategy.

  • Secured Debt: Any money that is borrowed is attached to an asset that is considered collateral, meaning that if you don’t pay back the loan – the asset/collateral will be taken away and sold off to pay your debt. In addition, if the asset/collateral is sold for less than what you originally borrowed, then you may still owe the difference. Your home and car are examples of secured debt.
  • Unsecured Debt: Any money that is borrowed is not attached to an asset therefore you will not lose any tangible items – However, you are still held accountable for what you owe and creditors have a number of tools at their disposal to get their money paid back such as, reporting to the credit agencies which will lower your credit rating, garnishing your wages or by hiring a debt collector. Credit cards and medical bills are examples of unsecured debt.

Now that you understand the difference in each type of debt let’s look at a few strategies for paying down your debt.  But first, a must do before you add any new strategy…

            PAY YOUR MINIMUM BALANCE ON EACH OF YOUR BILLS EVERY MONTH!                                        

By paying your creditors the minimum balance each month, let’s them know that you are staying on track and it keeps your accounts from receiving any negative feedback with the credit bureaus. Once you have paid your minimums you can then take the extra cash to pay down your debt in one of the following ways.

  • Snowball System: In this plan, you will organize your debt from smallest to largest then pay any extra money toward the smallest debt each month. Then once you have paid of that bill then start paying down the next largest and so on. The benefits here are that you will see one of your debts being paid of sooner which is a great boost to your financial goal.
  • Avalanche System: This plan is much like the ‘Snowball” method instead you arrange your debts according to the interest rates from highest to lowest then pay the highest rate bill first until it has been paid off then move on to the next highest, and so on. By taking the interest rates into account, you are putting more money toward your higher interest rate debt first. Not only does this approach save you money, “it gets you completely debt-free faster.
  • Financial Fast/Debt Detox: Since we have been discussing how to get financially fit, why not take it a step further by doing an actual spending fast? With this method you will be required to honestly ask yourself, “What do I really need?” – vs – “What do I really want?” Then make a list for each question. Once you have your two lists… then for the life of your fast (1 yr.?, 18 mos.?, you decide), spend your money on only what you really need each month and then use the rest of the money to pay down your debt until it has all been paid off. Once you have accomplished paying off your debt, but your spending fast isn’t over yet, then start putting the monthly income into a savings account and continue this habit until your fast has been completed. At the end of your financial fast, I am sure that you will be super impressed on what you have accomplished!

As with any goal that you are trying to achieve, be it financial goals or health and fitness goals, you’re more likely to succeed if you have a good plan in place, a fair amount of willpower and a desire to change your habits.

Make it a great day!
Marla J. Blanchard
MJB’s Bookkeeping Solutions

Don’t keep me a secret, if you know someone who could use a bit of Bookkeeping TLC let them know that they are not alone and have them call me 805-764-1MJB (1652).

Forewarned Is Forearmed

One of the best ways to measure your overall fiscal fitness is to run an actual credit check on yourself, by requesting a copy of your credit report from the three main credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  Maintaining your finances takes a lot of time and energy and even more… the quality of your life depends on understanding what is being said about your spending habits. So here are three reasons that you need to think about in order to care for the health of your money.

Checking For Inaccurate Information: Our lives are always in a state of movement, new home, new job, new car, new banks, new schools and new stores. With each new purchase, we confidently give out more and more of our personal information to store merchants, who then track our credit habits and even how quickly we make our payments. All of this information gets reported to the credit bureaus and then these agencies decide how credit worthy we are. But what happens if some of this information is mistakenly written down wrong or Jane Doe’s information is mixed up with Jean Doe’s?  Inaccurate information can prevent us from getting the best interest rates on new purchases, costing a lot of money in high interest payments or even preventing us from getting that brand new SUV that we’ve had our eye on.

First indicator in Identity Theft: CNN Money reported that identity fraud hits a new victim every 2 seconds which is understandable especially with all of our information being handled by so many different people as we illustrated in the section on ‘Inaccurate Information’. The sad part is, many people don’t even realize they have become a victim until it’s too late or “Uncle Sam” informs them that they filed 2 tax returns last year. Once this happens, it takes months, even years to unfreeze bank accounts and countless amount of time getting lawyers to untangle the messy trap of scrupulous financial deals. By getting an annual credit report, we may be able to stop fraudulent accounts from doing major damage to our financial reputations.

Maintaining and Rebuilding Good Credit: By knowing what information is in our credit report, we can set up a strategy to improve our status with creditors. First, we can educate ourselves in knowing the factors that can hurt or improve our credit score. Then by taking deliberate actions, we can measure our improvements and actually see how our actions affect our score. Finally, wouldn’t it be great, going to the car dealership knowing what our credit score is and actually negotiating the best deal rather than simply hoping you can get a decent deal on that new car?

Now that you have a better understanding of why it’s so important to get your annual credit report I have some good news for you… it’s FREE!! So do it today by using the information below from usgov.com

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Free Credit Reports

You are entitled to a FREE credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months. You can request all three reports at once, or space them out throughout the year. Learn about other situations in which you can request a free credit report.

Request your free credit report: 

Online: Visit AnnualCreditReport.com

By Phone: Call 1-877-322-8228. Deaf and hard of hearing consumers can access the TTY service by calling 711 and referring the Relay Operator to 1-800-821-7232.

By Mail: Complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) and mail it to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Make it a great day!
Marla J. Blanchard
MJB’s Bookkeeping Solutions

Don’t keep me a secret, if you know someone who could use a bit of Bookkeeping TLC let them know that they are not alone and have them call me 805-764-1MJB (1652).