Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Break the Addiction to Paper

OK, there are a lot of you out there who are addicted to paper.  Come on, admit it.  You know who you are.  I know who you are and you aren't kidding anyone.  I know you're addicted.  You just love to print, print, print.  And if I'm your bookkeeper, you know you can't hide your addiction from me.  I see the piles of paper when they appear on my desk at the end of the quarter or end of the year.

You feel that every time you make a purchase for your business (or even for personal needs) online or pay a bill online, you need to print out the receipt or confirmation as proof of the transaction.  Your motives are correct.  But the execution needs improvement.

Paper sucks up resources, both in the form of money and time.  And if you are trying to be eco-conscious, you're not doing it right.

First let's talk about the money.  Printing to paper costs money in the form of paper, ink/toner and the added electricity to run the printer.  Then you have to buy something to keep all that paper in whether it be a box, file folders or binder(s).  Then you get to pay your bookkeeper (that's me) added time to organize and review all those pieces of paper.

Now, time.  In my world, there are only 24 hours in a day and I'm betting it's the same in your world (if you have found more, we gotta talk!).  Printing to paper costs time.  First, there is the added seconds waiting for the printer to spit out the document.  Those seconds of time over and over add up to a lot of time spent waiting on paper.  And that's if your printer works properly.  If it doesn't respond or worse, jams up, you've lost even more time trying to get a record of that receipt.

Then what do you do with that piece of paper?  First you probably throw it into a pile with all the other pieces of paper that are similar.  You hope that in that giant pile of paper, all the receipts for similar purchases will somehow magically make friends with each other and sort themselves.  Doesn't happen.  Trust me.

So then you have to spend more time sorting and organizing the paper.  More time lost and time is money.  Hint:  your bookkeeper (again, that's me!) charges by the hour. :)

Ok, so if you're still with me and have read this far, what is the solution?  Do you need a 12-step program?  Inpatient or outpatient?  Will your insurance pay?  Is Dunder-Mifflin to blame?  WWMSD?? (What Would Michael Scott Do?)

I've got really good news for you!!

The solution is easy!  And FREE!  Yes, you read that right.  EASY and FREE!  We love those words, don't we.

On every computer that you work on, you need to download a simple and free program that installs a pdf printer to your system.  It is called Cute PDF and it is a completely safe and highly recommended program.  Myself and many of my computer and accountant buddies have used it for years. Once installed, every time you print, you will see it as a choice of printers.  Simply choose the CutePDF printer instead of that nasty ol' money/time-sucking printer you've used in the past.  Then a box will pop up and you can choose where to save the pdf file and what to name it.

In an upcoming post I will discuss the best methods for naming, storing and backing up the plethora of pdf files you will accumulate as you get used to your new stream-lined method for receipt & confirmation notices.

Stay tuned!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Simplify credit card entries for travel

I have a lot of clients. Pretty much all of those clients have a credit card or two (or three, or four...) that they use for business purchases. Clients take business trips. And on such business trips, they use their business credit card(s). A lot.

All these entries to record the purchases made while traveling can take a lot of time to enter, especially if the client patronized a lot of independent business.... "mom & pop" type places.

In the Vendor List in QuickBooks, you cannot delete a vendor once they have been used in a transaction. They can be made inactive and therefore hidden from view, but they cannot be deleted.

Many of the places my clients patronize when they travel, I do not expect them to return to in the future. To save myself entry time (and bookkeeping fees for my clients) as well as keep their Vendor Lists as lean as possible, I enter a lot of their travel expenses to generic vendors that I set up.

I generally set up four generic vendors in my clients' QB files for use when entering their travel expenses:

  • Travel Meals
  • Travel Entertainment
  • Travel Misc
  • Taxi/Shuttle

Let's say I'm working on the bookkeeping for a client who is based in Oregon. I'm entering transactions from their credit card statement and I see some entries from restaurants that are located in Las Vegas. If I see charges to Starbucks, I'll enter that under a vendor called Starbucks and coded to Meals as there are Starbucks located all over and chances are, the client will visit another Starbucks in the future if it's not already in their QB file from previous entries. The same goes for places like Burger King, The Cheesecake Factory, Red Robin, Taco Bell, etc.

But if I see a purchase from "Rosemary's Restaurant" and see from the statement that the restaurant is located in Las Vegas, I will enter it to the vendor Travel Meals, code it to meals, and enter Rosemary's Restaurant - Vegas in the memo area.

If there are purchases on the credit card for entertainment during the trip to Vegas such as a tour of some kind, tickets to a show, etc I will book those to Travel Entertainment, code them to Entertainment Expenses and notate in the memo who the charge was actually to.

Taxi and shuttle fares I will code to a vendor simply called Taxi/Shuttle and entered to the Travel Expense account. Clients who travel for business will use a lot of different cab and shuttle companies and it's not necessary to have all of them entered as separate vendors.

When it comes to the lodging expenses, it depends on what company the clients stayed with as to how I will code it. If they stayed at a major-name hotel such as Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, etc then I will code it to vendors named as such. I will not create separate vendors for the same hotel chain in different cities such as "Marriott - San Francisco" and "Marriott - Seattle." I will just name the vendor "Marriott."

But if they stay at an independent place such as "Little Blue Moon Inn," then I will code to to the Travel Misc vendor and enter it to the Travel expense account, again notating in the memo area the actual name that appears on the CC statement.

Other odd expenses incurred when traveling such as gift stores, souvenirs, etc I will code to the vendor Travel Misc and then to an appropriate expense account depending upon what was purchased. If it was a personal purchase and non-deductible for their business, I will enter it to their Draw or Distribution account, depending upon the individual client.

I hope this helps give you guidance as to how to make credit card entries a bit more simple!