If you’re a small business owner, chances are you didn’t start your company out of a passion for bookkeeping. But as you grow, financial management becomes an increasingly important responsibility.
For many, it’s an unfortunate truth. We all know that running a small business takes long hours and a lot of hard work. And this often means tasks like tracking expenses can easily fall by the wayside. But this important job plays a critical role in successfully managing your cash flow.
If you don’t keep tabs on how much money is going out, you can quickly find yourself in a difficult situation. Keeping an eye on your expenses will not only help you reach financial goals, it can also provide some extra deductions come tax time. (For specific advice about your individual tax situation, remember to always consult a tax professional.)
So how can you make sure you’re tracking your costs wisely? Use these six tips as a guide:
- Keep business and personal expenses separate. One of the biggest mistakes many small business owners make is mixing their personal and company expenses. Not only is this difficult to track, it can also be problematic in the event of a tax audit. Always use separate bank accounts to pay your bills and carry two separate credit cards – one you use for personal purchases and one that’s just for business expenses.
- Know what qualifies as a business expense. According to the IRS, a business expense is one that’s both ordinary and necessary. Taking a client out for lunch? That will likely qualify as a business expense. Taking your client out to a baseball game afterwards? New changes in the tax law have made most entertainment expenses no longer deductible. Consult your tax adviser for further clarification.
- Log expenses immediately. We’ve all gone through a credit card statement and found purchases we didn’t remember making. For this reason, it’s important to record your purchases as soon as they’re made. Taking this diligent approach will help reduce the risk of an accounting error. And there are plenty of technologies that make it quick and easy (see No. 6).
- Organize your records. It’s time to ditch that shoebox full of crumpled receipts. Instead, keep all your receipts in a folder according to their month. Or better yet, scan them or snap a picture on your phone to store the images digitally. For recurring payments like utilities, create a notification on your calendar so you can remember to print and save your bill.
- Review your expenses regularly. Now that you’re tracking expenses, be sure to take a routine look at where your money’s going. Check your books every week to ensure expenses appear in good standing. This will help reduce the risk of bounced checks or unpaid invoices. Then, at the end of each quarter, look at your expense trends. This can help you identify areas where cuts can be made.
- Use technology to your advantage. Keeping a written ledger or updating an endless spreadsheet can be exhausting. Luckily, there are plenty of mobile apps and online tools that can do the job for you. If you’re already tied to an accounting software, major players like Concur and QuickBooks may be a good solution. But there are plenty of other great (and often low-cost) options available. Some other popular options include Zoho Expense, Expensify, Rydoo and Shoeboxed.
As a small business owner, you’ve got a lot on your plate. So when it comes to protecting everything you’ve built, you need someone you can count on.
At Joseph W. McCartin Insurance, Inc., our agents know what it takes to keep a small business running – and the business insurance you need to protect it. Get in touch with your agent for a coverage checkup today.
by Justin Metz