Tips for Operating a Small Business – Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tips #16-20

20 Tips for a Well-Run Small Business – This Week, Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tips 16-20

Thank you for taking this journey with me – a journey of 20 tips for a well-run small business.  If you’re just finding us, go back and look at the first 15 for some helpful things to keep in mind when you’re setting up and running your business.  Those of you who have been with me since Tip #1, I hope you found this information helpful, even if it was just a quick checklist of everything you’re already doing so you’ve got your bases covered.  Have any tips of your own? Send them my way and I’ll include them next time.  Happy bookkeeping!

   Michelle Carley, Owner, Big E-Z Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping  Tip #16: The Do’s and Don’ts of Bank Statements

When opening a business checking account, you should request a statement with a month-end cut-off date. This will save you time when reconciling your checkbook. The closer the cut-off date to the month end, the fewer checks you will need to record as outstanding. And don’t toss those bank statements and canceled checks into a filing cabinet without reviewing them. Resist the urge to do this! As soon as your statement arrives, review it before anyone else sees it, including your bookkeeper or employees. That way you can catch unauthorized checks.

Bookkeeping Tip #17: Deposit Ticket Books

How do you handle your bank deposits? One easy way is to record your daily deposit in a deposit ticket book. Generally, these books come with a white (original) copy and yellow (duplicate) copy in books of 50. For a small business, an order of 200 duplicate deposit tickets could last 2 years unless you make deposits everyday. As you write each deposit ticket, give the white copy to give to the bank and leave the duplicate (yellow) in the book. That way nothing gets lost.

Bookkeeping Tip #18: Keep Good Records

Many business owners don’t keep good records. Some don’t understand bookkeeping; others understand it, but may be afraid of what the numbers might tell them. Think of it this way–bookkeeping is the glue that keeps your business together. If your records aren’t in good shape, the business could fall apart. A healthy business is monitored through its records on a regular basis so you can find problems and correct them before it’s too late.

Bookkeeping Tip #19: Be Consistent

Consistency is essential to successful business bookkeeping. For example, always be sure to head your columns the same way each month throughout the year. This small matter of consistency will save you and your accountant time and prevent aggravation.

Bookkeeping Tip #20: Last But Not Least—Keep An Audit Trail

An audit trail is nothing more than a record of all your invoices and checks in numerical order. The thing to remember is to never skip numbers. Record even voided check and invoices and you should be fine when audited.

BigE-Z Bookkeeping is a desktop or tablet based bookkeeping software program.  The program is updated annually and subscription based.  It consists of twelve pre-programed Excel worksheets, monthly and year-end reports and support. To get a more detailed description of the software and its features, please visit my website, www.bigez.com, which includes instructional videos and an on-line demo.

My customers are small businesses, non-profits, clubs and the self-employed.  They love their BigE-Z software and have been using it for many consecutive years because it is so easy to set up and very straight-forward to use.  The existing on-line programs in the market are slow and cumbersome and way too complicated for the needs of many small businesses out there.  I have lots of former Quick-Books users! Michelle Carley

 

Tips for Operating Your Small Business – This Week, Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tips 11-15

20 Tips for Operating Your Small Business – This Week, Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tips 11-15

Bookkeeping Tip #11: Printed Invoices

If your business uses a large number of invoices each month, you may want to have invoices preprinted. It will look more professional and you will probably get paid more quickly. If you decide to print invoices with a perforated edge so customers can tear off one portion and return it with their payment, be sure to print your name and “remit to” with your address on both sides of the perforation.

Bookkeeping Tip #12: Don’t be too “Paperless”

Even though everyone wants to believe going paperless is the best in all circumstances, that’s not necessarily true for your small business. Print and file all your invoices and keep copies of your paid bills. Print your Big E-Z monthly reports and financial statements and your tax return from your accountant. You’ll want hard-copies of these documents for backup and easy reference.

Bookkeeping Tip #13: Keep Up with Your Filing

Start new file folders at the beginning of each year for your paid invoices and paid bills. It’s not necessary to have a folder for each customer or vendor unless you do a large volume of business with that business. You could get by with a folder for all customers from A – C, D – F, and so on. When you need that one key piece of paper, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and headache if you’ve kept up with your filing – as my mother used to say, “A place for everything, everything in its place.”

Bookkeeping Tip #14:  Make Storage Boxes for Each Year

Keep all your records for one year in one box.  In that one box, you can put a copy of your tax return, bank account statements with cancelled checks, monthly reports from your Big E-Z Books software and your Big E-Z Receipt Storage Book, financial statements from your accountant, your paid bills and all other backup for that year. Label it with the year and contents on the outside of the box and store it somewhere accessible.

Bookkeeping Tip #15: Set Up a Petty Cash Box

Almost all small businesses make small cash purchases. You may want to set up a Petty Cash Box to keep control of those purchases. Get yourself a metal cash box and put in currency and coin that total $100.00, for example. This will be your starting point. The value of this box should remain at $100.00 at all times. Perhaps you or your employee purchases a notebook at the local office supply store for $5.00, using money from the Petty Cash Box. When returning to the office, put the receipt in the box. Now you should have $95.00 in currency and one receipt for $5.00. The value of your box is still $100.00.

BigE-Z Bookkeeping is a desktop or tablet based bookkeeping software program.  The program is updated annually and subscription based.  It consists of twelve pre-programed Excel worksheets, monthly and year-end reports and support. To get a more detailed description of the software and its features, please visit my website, www.bigez.com, which includes instructional videos and an on-line demo. Also, available on Amazon.com.

My customers are small businesses, non-profits, clubs and the self-employed.  They love their BigE-Z software and have been using it for many consecutive years because it is so easy to set up and very straight-forward to use.  The existing on-line programs in the market are slow and cumbersome and way too complicated for the needs of many small businesses out there.  I have lots of former Quick-Books users! Michelle Carley

20 Tips for Operating Your Small Business – This Week, Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tips 6-10

20 Tips for Operating Your Small Business – This Week, Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tips 6-10

After more than 25 years helping small business start and run their bookkeeping, I’ve learned there are some common errors people do over and over when operating their businesses.  I’m sending out 20 tips I’ve collected through the years to address the most common problems I run into with my clients.  A few weeks ago, I gave you the first five, I hope you find these next five helpful as well – I’d love your feedback!

          Michelle Carley, Owner, Big E-Z Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping Tip #6: Choose the Right Accounting Method – Cash or Accrual

Many small businesses opt for the cash system because it is much simpler. In fact, the IRS requires that you use the accrual method only if you have $5 million in sales or carry a large inventory. However, before setting up your system, make sure you understand the difference between the two.

Bookkeeping Tip #7: Maintain Daily Records

Think about it, if you don’t have time to do a little bookkeeping each day, when will you find time to record a month’s or a year’s worth of records? Different people use different record-keeping systems; what matters most is that you have a system and use it daily. Ten minutes a day can save you hours down the road.

Bookkeeping Tip #8: Make Immediate Deposits

DEPOSIT THAT CASH RIGHT AWAY–Get into the habit of depositing all cash immediately at the bank or credit union once it is received. This ensures that all income will be properly recorded.

Bookkeeping Tip #9: You Are Taxed on Profits Not Revenue

Many business owners think they are taxed on all the money they take out of their business. In fact, if you are a sole proprietor (rather than a corporation) you are taxed on the profits (income-expenses) of the business—not the revenue. Your quarterly estimated income tax payments should be based on the profits of the business.

Bookkeeping Tip #10: Set Aside Money for Tax Payments

Every time you’re paid, set aside in a separate bank account, 25 percent of that payment. When it comes time to pay the IRS every quarter, you’ll have that money ready to use. Treating that money like you never have it in the first place will give you a more realistic cash flow and help you sleep at night.

Next week… 5 more tips for operating your small business.

BigE-Z Bookkeeping is a desktop or tabet based bookkeeping software program.  The program is updated annually and subscription based.  It consists of twelve pre-programed Excel worksheets, monthly and year-end reports and support. To get a more detailed description of the software and its features, please visit my website, www.bigez.com, which includes instructional videos and an on-line demo.

My customers are small businesses, non-profits, clubs and the self-employed.  They love their BigE-Z software and have been using it for many consecutive years because it is so easy to set up and very straight-forward to use.  The existing on-line programs in the market are slow and cumbersome and way too complicated for the needs of many small businesses out there.  I have lots of former Quick-Books users! Michelle Carley

20 Tips for Operating Your Small Business – This Week, Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tips 1-5

20 Tips for a Operating Your Small Business – This Week, Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tips 1-5

After more than 25 years helping small business start and run their bookkeeping, I’ve learned there are some common errors people do over and over when operating their businesses.  Left uncorrected, these errors end up costing that small business owner a lot of time, pain and money.  Let’s face it, for most of us, bookkeeping isn’t the most exciting part of our business but like it or not, it is the backbone that holds it all together.  This month, I’m sending out 20 tips I’ve collected through the years to address the most common problems I run in to – they may seem like plain old common sense but I hope you find them helpful.

          Michelle Carley, Owner, Big E-Z Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping Tip #1: Start at the End to Determine Your Expense Categories

When starting a new business, determine what expense categories to track by taking a look at the tax return you or your accountant will need to file. If you are required to file a Schedule C, get a copy of a blank Schedule C and write down all the categories that apply to your business. Then include those categories when you set up your bookkeeping system.

 

Bookkeeping Tip #2: Don’t Over-Categorize

Most of us tend to make things harder than they need to be. For instance, when categorizing office supply expenses, we don’t need separate categories for fax paper, letterhead and printer cartridges, and so on. All these items can simply be listed under Office Supplies.

 

Bookkeeping Tip #3: Set Up Your Accounting Software Correctly

The biggest mistake people make is not taking the time to set up the software correctly when they install it on their computers. The old saying “Garbage in- garbage out” applies here. If you want a financial report you can trust, you will need to be sure it is set up correctly from the start. This is partially what sets Big E-Z Bookkeeping apart from other bookkeeping and accounting software packages: it’s easy to set up and easy to use.

 

Bookkeeping Tip #4: Know the State Law on Voided Payroll Checks

Before voiding a payroll check, call your state or consult your attorney to see if this is legal in your state.

 

Bookkeeping Tip #5: Check Out Credit Unions for Lower Rates

Some credit unions offer business checking accounts at lower rates than most banks. Check them out the next time you need to reprint checks. And if you’ve been turned down for a loan by a bank, you might find a credit union happy to extend financing—even at a lower interest.

Next week… five more tips for running your business right.

BigE-Z Bookkeeping is a desktop or tablet based bookkeeping software program.  The program is updated annually and subscription based.  It consists of twelve pre-programed Excel worksheets, monthly and year-end reports and support. To get a more detailed description of the software and its features, please visit my website, www.bigez.com, which includes instructional videos and an on-line demo.

My customers are small businesses, non-profits, clubs and the self-employed.  They love their BigE-Z software and have been using it for many consecutive years because it is so easy to set up and very straight-forward to use.  The existing on-line programs in the market are slow and cumbersome and way too complicated for the needs of many small businesses out there.  I have lots of former Quick-Books users! 

Top 10 On-Line Security Tips for Small Business – Part 2

This is the second part of a 2 part series of our top 10 on-line security tips for small business. On-line security continues to be a problem for business, whether you’re big or small. Whether we do our bookkeeping on-line or not we all need to access on-line sites to gather information and  could use to tighten security wherever we can.  I hope these security tips for small business will help protect your business in the New Year.

wpid-2015-01-19-11.20.30.png.png

Bookkeeping Tip #6: USE A DEDICATED COMPUTER FOR ONLINE BANKING

This can be an older computer without the bells and whistles.   This seems like you’re going to great lengths, but it could make a big difference in your online banking security.  If you can, also set up a separate email for anything financially-related, and use only your dedicated computer to access your financial email.

Bookkeeping Tip #7:  MONITOR DAILY ALL ONLINE BANKING TRANSACTIONS

Monitor daily so you can catch any fraud quickly.  This is basically a quick scan to make sure no unauthorized transactions have taken place.

Bookkeeping Tip #8: DON’T USE A PUBLIC WI-FI SPOT

Wait until you get to your private location to check online bank balances, make online purchases, or to do any other activity that requires that you enter sensitive information you want to keep safe.  Cyber thieves can steal not only your password but your account number very easily.

Bookkeeping Tip #9: SPLIT YOUR EMAILS

Rather than linking Facebook, Twitter, newsgroups, forums, shopping and banking sites to one email address, use multiple addresses. As a minimum, use one for social activities and one for financial business. Your social address will rightly draw more attention than your business one – that’s the way you want it to be. If the former is hacked, it won’t be as nightmarish as losing control of your financial address.

Bookkeeping Tip #10: DITCH IE6

If you’re still using Internet Explorer 6, shame on you. Not only are you likely to be getting less from the internet – Google and YouTube have now stopped supporting the ageing browser – but it’s also riddled with security flaws. Do yourself a favor and download a newer version of your browser.

 

About Big E-Z Bookkeeping:

Big E-Z Bookkeeping is a desk top-based bookkeeping software program.  The program is updated annually and subscription based.  Currently, users pay $59.95 a year for twelve pre-programed Excel worksheets and a year-end summary. The program also generates a variety of monthly and year-end reports.  To get a more detailed description of the software and its features, please visit my website, www.bigez.com, which includes instructional videos and a 7-day free trial demo.

Our customers are small businesses, non-profits, clubs and the self-employed who need an easy bookkeeping system to stay organized.  They love their BigE-Z software and have been using it for many consecutive years because it is so easy to get up and running and very straight-forward to use.  I have many former Quick Books users!

Top 10 On-Line Security Tips for Small Business – Part 1

Whether it’s the recent Sony hack or a major retailer like Target getting hacked, on-line security continues to be a problem for business, whether you’re big or small. We all need to be more careful with our online data and tighten security wherever we can.  I hope these security tips for small business will help protect your business in the New Year.

Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tip #1: A STRONG PASSWORD

Make sure all of your passwords are as strong as possible. Here’s one way to set up a strong password which I like: pick a phrase you can remember—maybe a song you like. Use the first letter of each syllable; add some letters to identify your account; and maybe put in the year you set up the account. Here’s how it would look. Let’s say we are setting up a Facebook account and you picked the song “All My E-xes Live In Te-xas”. I know it’s not the most virtuous song, but it’s the first memorable one that came to mind! So your password would look like this: FB15amexlitx.

Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tip #2:  SAFEGUARD YOUR BANK TRANSFERS

Safeguard your bank transfers by requiring a second authorization for all wires or bank transfers.  Each wire transfer should require both an originator who requests it and then a separate transfer authorizer (a two-party approval system).

Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tip #3: LOOK OUT FOR FRAUDULENT BANKING WEBSITES

Don’t trust what looks like an authentic banking website if it asks you for additional information or gives you a new email address for the bank.  It may be an example of phishing (baiting you for your email, passwords, Social Security Number, bank account, and other relevant personal information).

Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tip #4: MANDATORY VERIFICATION DEVICES

And until your bank enforces a mandatory verification device that is separate from its browser, do your banking the old-fashioned way.  These handheld optical readers, are available from Gemalto and Cronto and are used to take a picture of a visual cryptogram — a secure image produced by the bank — as part of authorizing any cash transfers.

Big E-Z Bookkeeping Tip #5: DO YOUR BOOKKEEPING OFFLINE WITH BIG E-Z

Do your bookkeeping offline with a software like Big E-Z Bookkeeping.  This will save you from the dangers of losing data,  having your payroll delayed, or sales thwarted, such as happened to thousands of frustrated Quick Books Online users.

Coming next week… 5 more tips for being more secure in the new year.

About Big E-Z Bookkeeping:

Big E-Z Bookkeeping is a desk top-based bookkeeping software program.  The program is updated annually and subscription based.  Currently, users pay $59.95 a year for twelve pre-programed Excel worksheets and a year-end summary. The program also generates a variety of monthly and year-end reports.  To get a more detailed description of the software and its features, please visit my website, www.bigez.com, which includes instructional videos and a 7-day free trial demo.

Our customers are small businesses, non-profits, clubs and the self-employed who need an easy bookkeeping system to stay organized.  They love their BigE-Z software and have been using it for many consecutive years because it is so easy to get up and running and very straight-forward to use.  I have many former Quick Books users!

Bookkeeping Software for Contractors

Big E-Z ® Bookkeeping contacted a long-term customer to get feedback as to why he likes using our pre-programed Excel-based bookkeeping software. I thought his story would be of interest to you…

Jody, the owner of Premier Drywall Services , needed a bookkeeping software program for his contractor business. He uses an online service (see below) to help him estimate jobs, bill customers and keep track of who still hasn’t paid him, but it does not handle the backend of his business—the bookkeeping.  He wanted a system that would start where his online service ended.

1. He chose the Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software . . .

He wanted a bookkeeping system that is separate from his invoicing and estimates–one that was much simpler to use than QuickBooks. This particular customer has been using Big E-Z since 2007. “Big E-Z was so easy it allowed me to train one of my partners to do all the company bookkeeping, even though my partner had very little computer experience.”

2. He entered his data . . .

CHECKS . . . He entered the beginning bank balance and set up his expense categories in the blank columns in the Checks worksheet. He entered data for his checks, debits and bank transfers.

“I like the many different columns for business expenses,” says Jody.  The Big E-Z system has room for 25 main expense categories. There are also 100 columns for subcategorizing.  Tip: Choose expense categories from the Category Corner.

DEPOSITS . . . Jody then set up his income categories in the Deposits worksheet. There are 11 columns to use for tracking your main income categories and 100 columns for subcategorizing income. What’s really cool is the Big E-Z System has the ability to track income and expenses for each job individually by using the purple subcategory sections.

Jody went on to enter the payments he received.

CASH & CHARGES . . . Cash expenditures, credit card purchases and items like mileage are recorded in the Cash & Charges worksheet. It carries over the  same categories that you used to set up the Checks worksheet.

Jody ensures he has accounted for everything.  To do the same enter your data into Big E-Z, then match your totals up with balances from your financial institutions like your bank, credit card companies and PayPal, etc. It’s called reconciling—this is where Big E-Z shines. Big E-Z has a simple way to Reconcile the Checkbook  (video, 2 min.)—but takes it a step further than most accounting programs. We have the exclusive Account Balance Tracker (video, 2 min.) to easily reconcile all your other accounts like your savings, cash and loan accounts.

Jody reviews reports like the Income & Expenses Report to better understand where his money is coming and going.  Jody finds the available reports very helpful in managing his business, “On a monthly basis, I can see exactly where the money is being spent. Which in turn helps me make better business decisions with my employees, vendors & clients.”

Advice to other contractors . . .

“My advice to other contractors who are frustrated with QuickBooks, or are still doing accounting on paper, is to give Big E-Z a try. They will not regret it. I started on paper in 2003. Switched to Quickbooks in 2005. Then, finally in 2007, I decided to give Big E-Z Bookkeeping a try and have been using the system ever since.”

The online service Jody uses is called MyOnlineToolbox.  Learn more about Contractor Software and Contractor Websites.

About Big E-Z Bookkeeping:

Big E-Z Bookkeeping is a desk top-based bookkeeping software program.  The program is updated annually and subscription based.  Currently, users pay $59.95 a year for twelve pre-programed Excel worksheets and a year-end summary. The program also generates a variety of monthly and year-end reports.  To get a more detailed description of the software and its features, please visit my website, www.bigez.com, which includes instructional videos and a 7-day free trial demo.

Our customers are small businesses, non-profits, clubs and the self-employed who need an easy bookkeeping system to stay organized.  They love their BigE-Z software and have been using it for many consecutive years because it is so easy to get up and running and very straight-forward to use.  The existing on-line programs in the market are slow and cumbersome and way too complicated for the needs of many small businesses out there.  We have lots of former Quick-Books users!

 

The Right Bookkeeping Software Can Lighten Your Load

Are you using the wrong bookkeeping software?  Have you avoided this question all together by not getting any bookkeeping software?  How do you even know what software is wrong or right for your business or your non-profit?

After over twenty years of experience with all types of bookkeeping software, I’ve learned a few things:  You’ll know by how long it takes you to enter data, how hard it is to get a report out of your system, how hard it is to correct an entry error after you discover one and how hard it is to trust the reports you generate. These are all red flags! Run from these as fast as you can! Here’s the key: The only way around this it to use something light on its feet. Something truly intuitive. Something that streamlines and short cuts the process as much as possible. Here’s where Big E-Z® Bookkeeping shines.  But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself with our new 7-day trial.  See how easy it is to start the year on the right foot with your bookkeeping.

Big E-Z Bookkeeping is not a new product  – our clients have been using Big E-Z for many, many years.  But each year we add a few new time-saving features.  The 2015 version of Big E-Z has just been launched and I’m so excited about this year’s features!

For 2015, we are offering different year-end versions.  While most businesses follow the calendar year, some non-profits need to follow the traditional school year and some businesses are more seasonal.  If one of these latter two situations fit you, take a look at our  year-end June 30, 2015 or September 30, 2015 options.  The year-end December 31, 2015 is available, of course, and if you need to catch up, we offer year-end December 31, 2014.

This year, I am thrilled to present the CSV Data Importer. Don’t let the name scare you. It’s just a data file that communicates well with Excel. Since Big E-Z relies on Excel to do all the number crunching, it’s a perfect match.  With this new tool in Big E-Z , simply import your bank or credit card data directly into your bookkeeping software rather than manually keying them in.  It will open each month’s Big E-Z file based on the transaction or posting date and record everything for you. It’s pretty slick!

Data in, data out… With our new Exporter Feature, we’ve added an easy way to share your reports with anyone necessary (your accountant, in particular, will love this new option).  No matter which workbook or report you need to send, you will be able to click the Export button and it goes.

Are you ready for the new year with your bookkeeping? With January around the corner, now is the time to get organized. There are a lot of options out there and you don’t have time to waste learning a cumbersome system filled with bells and whistles you don’t need. With Big E-Z, your purchase includes 30-minute live remote installation and set-up help to get you through the most daunting part of the whole process. Give our 7-day trial a go and start the new year right!

About Big E-Z Bookkeeping:

Big E-Z Bookkeeping is a desk top-based bookkeeping software program.  The program is updated annually and subscription based.  Currently, users pay $59.95 a year for twelve pre-programed Excel worksheets and a year-end summary. The program also generates a variety of monthly and year-end reports.  To get a more detailed description of the software and its features, please visit my website, www.bigez.com.

Our customers are small businesses, non-profits, clubs and the self-employed who need an easy bookkeeping system to stay organized.  They love their BigE-Z software and have been using it for many consecutive years because it is so easy to get up and running and very straight-forward to use.  We have lots of former Quick-Books users!

 

Bookkeeping on Tablets

In a recent Big E-Z Bookkeeping Hints and Tips newsletter my good friend, Patricia Na, from Ann Arbor, MI  wrote about how you can now do bookkeeping on tablets.
Tablet computers like Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy are wildly popular and for good reason.  They can do most of the tasks that you do on a regular computer, including email, going online, editing photos and watching videos, but they are far smaller and lighter to carry around.
For work, however, many of us rely on Microsoft Office, the package that includes Word and Excel, and the full MS Office is not available for most tablets.  Alternative word processors and spreadsheet programs are available, but if you use an application such as the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System (How Big E-Z works) that is based on Microsoft Excel, a substitute program will not work.
Is there a solution to this?  Yes!  Windows 8-based tablets (not Windows RT), such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro, can run the full version of MS Office.  In fact, they work just like a Windows 8 PC, including organizing files in the same way and running Excel macros, both of which are important for Big E-Z.  This means that you can now take your Big E-Z accounting with you everywhere you go.
In addition, if you use a cloud-based service, such as SkyDrive or DropBox, to sync files between your PC and your Windows 8 tablet, you will be able to update your accounting from either device and never worry about which copy is the most recent.
Patricia Na is the owner of Helping Hand Computer Solutions.  She provides onsite, customized computer training, troubleshooting and support to small businesses and individuals.

How to Keep Organized Accounting Records for Your Pet Grooming Business

I’m going to show you how easy it is to keep organized accounting records for your pet grooming business. Unless you are one of the mega-stores in the mall with lots of inventory, your pet grooming business falls into what I call “businesses with very simple bookkeeping needs”.  That’s right, I said simple!  It might not seem that way to you, but trust me, it is.

Sure, there are data base programs on the market that can do the job, but they can be too cumbersome to use and way too difficult to correct. And you know we all make mistakes from time to time!  Trust me on this one. I know. I run a bookkeeping service!peanut
(This is my pet, Peanut. Isn’t he cute?)

You May Already Have Part I of the Solution   There are two parts to the  solution and two parts to the set-up and then you are ready to start using  the system. Chances are you have part of the solution already sitting on your  computer right now and don’t know it. A copy of Microsoft Excel!

Your Excel program is extremely powerful and can crunch the numbers for you, but unless you want to design your own bookkeeping spreadsheets AND program it to double-check your work, you may want to pass that burden on to us.  We have an add-on program called Big E-Z Bookkeeping. (I’ll explain how you can get a free trial in just a minute.)

Bookkeeping Spreadsheets are Easy to Use and Easy to Correct! How much easier does accounting get than to enter some amounts under a few expense categories and then print reports?

Part II of the Solution . . .  Is the Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software  Big E-Z Bookkeeping has gone through all the trouble of programming these spreadsheets with all the formulas and short-cuts for you.

Now the beauty of this easy bookkeeping spreadsheet software is that everything gets totaled for you each month automatically and the monthly totals transfer to a summary. So, as long as you keep up with it throughout the year, you will have the summary totals needed for your tax return. There is power in that! It is a great feeling to know you are in control and everything is running smoothly.

Daily Benefits

● Stay on top of your true bank balance so you don’t overdraw your account
● Track deposits, checks, charges, merchant account balances & even your cash, right down to the penny!

Big Picture Benefits

● Get professional looking reports
● Keep your financial records organized for tax time
● Prove the value of your business if and when you decide to sell

Part I of the Set-Up:  This is so easy.  Just download a Free 7-day Trial Subscription of the Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software.  We offer you help with set-up and it’s free. So please don’t get discouraged by Part II below. Remember, we are here to help you with this!

The Most Difficult – Part II of the Set-Up  Determine which categories you need to track. These are common categories most everyone needs to track like phone, taxes and utilities (go to our Category Corner page to pick the best group of expenses for your business).  Plan to take some time to tweak the list of categories we provide you. The point is to get meaningful reports out of the system you are using, and to do this in the easiest way, right?  Simple bookkeeping doesn’t happen automatically.  It requires devotion to the task and if you don’t put the time into it it will never happen. It means thinking it through to determine what summary totals are required for your business and setting up your system accordingly, so you won’t dread pulling it all together at the last minute.

Now Get Started Separate your receipts between checks (withdrawals and debit purchases) and items purchased using cash or credit card. Our system allows you to reconcile each of these to the penny. That is how accurate it is and how believable the numbers will be for you.  You may even want to download your banking data in a CSV file, and then import it to the Big E-Z System. But truthfully, it takes about the same amount of time as just inputting the data by hand. That’s how quick this is. :)

Note About Receipt Scanners Some of you may be thinking why not use a receipt scanner so as not to have to enter the data by hand. Well, that sounds great, but in reality you still need to say what the receipt is for. And there are problems inherent with using scanners. It still takes considerable time, some of the software is not backwards compatible, and you may end up entering some of the data into another system so you can have complete records. Might as well take a few additional minutes and do it right the first time.  Oops, I mentioned that dreaded word “time” again.

I hope I have given you some motivation to help you get started keeping your business records organized. Here’s a link to our website so you can try the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System Free for 7 days or buy a license to use the 2014 version for less than $5 per month. (Requires Microsoft Excel 2003 or newer on a Windows PC.)

 

Looking for Easy Receipt Software to Keep You Organized?

Looking for receipt software to compile your receipts the easiest way possible? Look no further. Chances are you have part of the solution already sitting on your computer. A copy of Microsoft Excel. Your Excel program is extremely powerful and can do the job for you, with the help of an add-on program called Big E-Z Bookkeeping System. (I’ll explain how you can get a free trial in just a minute.)

What Does Receipt Software Do?

It allows you prove your records are accurate by reconciling your accounts. This means if the bank makes a $89.32 error you will see it plain and clear. You can get it corrected with the bank right away before you bounce a check and it costs you more money and it wasn’t even your fault!

Using Big E-Z Receipt Software

Big E-Z receipt software

Big E-Z Bookkeeping has gone through all the trouble of setting up all the formulas and short-cuts for you. You set up the categories you want to track like auto, mileage,  and supplies. Or you can use the pre-set group of categories and tweak it or customize  it specific to your needs.

Plan to take some time to tweak it, specially if you are new to tracking expenses. The point is to get meaningful reports out of the system you are using, and do this the easiest way,  right?  Simple bookkeeping doesn’t happen automatically.  It requires devotion to the task and if you don’t put the hours in it will never happen. It means thinking it through to determine what summary totals are required and setting up your system accordingly. So you won’t dread pulling it all together at the last minute.

Here’s what you do next:

Separate your receipts between checks (and debit purchases) and items purchased using cash and credit card. Our system allows you to reconcile each of these to the penny. That is how accurate  it is and how believable the numbers will be for you.

Some  of you may be thinking why not use a receipt scanner so as not to have to enter the data by hand. Well that sounds great but in reality you still need to say what the receipt is for. And there are problems inherit with using scanners. It still takes considerable time, some of the software is not backwards compatible and you may end up entering some of the data into another system so you can have complete records. Might as well take a few additional minutes and do it right the first time.  Ooops, I mentioned that dreaded word “time” again. I know you are probably thinking you don’t have the extra time to this.

Now the beauty of this receipt software is everything gets totaled for you each month automatically and the monthly totals transfer to the summary. So as long as you keep up with it throughout the year you will have the summary totals needed for your tax return. There is power in that. It is a great feeling to know you are in control and everything is running smoothly.

Why Track Receipts with Receipt Software?

  • Banks make mistakes!
  • Stay on top of your true bank balance so you don’t overdraw your account.
  • Keep your financial records organized for tax time.

Now is your chance to try it. Free 7-day Trial of Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software.

Happy Small Business Week and Size Does Matter.

“Happy National Small Business Week Y’all!” Enjoy the celebrations but think about it: size really does matter.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is celebrating its 50th National Small Business Week  by taking the talks on the road to different cities and live streaming some of the events. But hands down the most interesting page of the NSBW website from my point of view is the list of small businesses who are being honored today in Washington D.C. Click here  and read about these Americans who are making a very significant difference in their communities. Some of the ways they have overcome adversity might just inspire you and some of the resources that have helped them might help you too.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED SMALL?
These events got me thinking: how small is small business? I looked up the SBA’s definition and I have to say I was quite surprised :

  • Manufacturing (Max # of employees may range from 500 to 1500;
  • Wholesaling (Max # of employees may range from 100 to 500);
  • Services (Annual receipts may range from $2.5 to $21.5 million depending on the service being provided;
  • Retailing (Annual receipts may range from $5.0 to $21.0 million, depending on the product being provided;
  • General and Heavy Construction (Annual receipts may range from $13.5 to $17 million depending on the type of construction);
  • Special Trade Construction (Annual receipts may not exceed $7 million);
  • and Agriculture (Annual receipts may range from $.5 to $9.0 million, depending on the agricultural product.

One of the blogs this week at Forbes is about this Size question and the author concludes that most Main Street businesses that are local to your town should not be classified “small” at all but rather “micro“.  The reasoning is that 79% of American businesses have no payroll (representing the self-employed) and another 17% employ fewer than 10 people (considered micro businesses). That means 96% of American businesses employ less than 10 people or no one at all.

ARE YOU USING A CUMBERSOME BOOKKEEPING SYSTEM DESIGNED FOR A “SMALL”  BUSINESS?

Why does this matter? Because many of the resources supposedly available for small businesses really don’t match your company’s size (nor mine)—not in terms of loans, advice, marketing strategies, and especially not in terms of bookkeeping tools. That is why I came up with Big E-Z Bookkeeping in the first place. There wasn’t anything truly easy for the really small or micro business owners who had just a couple of employees, or who were self employed or who just had simple record keeping requirements like most service businesses need.

SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE AND USE A SYSTEM DESIGNED FOR YOUR MICRO BUSINESS

I have heard from more people who are so happy to finally stumble upon Big E-Z Bookkeeping because it’s designed for micro-businesses just like theirs. Watch this 6 minute video. And that includes all of you small or micro non-profits. Some of you have a fiscal year ending June 30th, but last year you really struggled to gather the right financial information and stay compliant with the law. And some of you have a bookkeeping system that is just too cumbersome for your small non-profit.

TRY IT FREE FOR 7 DAYS

I am offering for the first time this year a 7-day free trial subscription . It is full featured so you will be able to set up your categories, and enter all your income and expenses and determine your profits. You will be able to see how well this fits your small or even “micro” business.

Now is the time to try out a new bookkeeping system, designed with the Micro Business in mind, before the start of your new fiscal year. Check it out here.

 

Why You Need Checks and Balances for Excel Spreadsheets

Bookkeeping with spreadsheets is only as good as the controls set up within them. To have accurate Excel spreadsheets you must build checks and balances into them (or you can call it a system of double checks).

I have come across many people looking for help in online forums. They are programming their own spreadsheets for a number of reasons—mostly to keep their books or to do budgeting or cash flow forecasting. Like any good system, these spreadsheets should include checks and balances. “Why?” you may ask.  So you won’t get duped out of money. Read about this new scam involving stolen credit card information used to purchase gift cards that were immediately turned into debit cards for quick cash. The victims involved had no idea they were duped,  because they didn’t have a system of checks and balances in place.

The Big E-Z Bookkeeping System has a way to reconcile your checkbook, of course.   This is a given. But how do you reconcile all of your other accounts such as your credit card accounts? (This is what those victims of this scam should have done.)  We also have a way to check and see if everything entered into one of the three main spreadsheets (Deposits, Checks and Cash&Charges) will balance on the monthly Income Statement and Balance Sheet. Just like you would find in a double-entry accounting system, but simpler.

What’s really unique about our system is the exclusive Account Balance Tracker. Here is where you can reconcile all of your accounts–even your non-bank accounts–on a monthly basis. This is where you can find out if you are missing something. It is where you can pull everything together. For example, you can get all your credit card statements together and enter the data into the Big E-Z System and you can see at a glance if you missed any items.  Or more importantly, you’ll see instantly if someone is scamming you, just by reconciling your credit card numbers with your credit card statement balances.   And another tip: the Account Balance Tracker  is really great for comparing the balances of all your online shopping accounts.  It really is the place where everything comes together.

So, be sure to set up checks and balances in your next accounting spreadsheet or use one that already has them.

 

Plans in Action to Tax Online Sales

Yes, you heard correctly — there are plans to tax online sales. The Senate is very close to passing the Marketplace Fairness Act. I heard about this bill in an email I received from eBay CEO John Donahoe,  Over the weekend, he sent this email  out to tens of  millions of eBay merchants.  It’s a bill requiring online businesses to collect sales taxes in every state.  And not only to collect them, but to forward them on to more than 9,600 tax jurisdictions across the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal in an editorial three days ago pointed out that this bill is like a Sales Tax Gold Rush.  Introduced a week ago, the text first became public on the Library of Congress site over the weekend.  With just six days of consideration,  committee hearings were nevertheless waived by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Debate over this bill has become a mad scramble as cash-strapped states and brick-and-mortar retailers collude to squeeze more money out of consumers still in the midst of a free-fall recession.  Estimates range from $12 to $23 billion dollars in sales taxes for online purchases.  You can imagine the number of state legislatures that are desperate for an increase of revenue.  But can you equally imagine this? Who will be paying these additional billions of dollars in taxes?  You and I, the consumers.  Let’s face it: despite all the rhetoric, this really amounts to a new tax—and it comes at a very bad time.

So who are the biggest proponents of this bill’s passage?   Walmart, many state legislatures, and…Amazon.  For ten years Amazon fiercely opposed taxing internet sales (tax-free internet sales were actually called the “Amazon Loophole”).  But now they have grown so big, they have warehouses in many states which constitutes a physical presence or “nexus”—the constitutional basis for requiring a retailer to pay sales tax.  Already collecting and remitting sales tax in eight states, with eight more likely to follow in the coming year, some people think Amazon is choosing this moment to try to defeat its smaller competitors.

Advocates of this Marketplace Fairness Act claim that online stores currently have an “unfair advantage”.   For example,  all across America, we now face a new phenomenon:  a consumer will browse the aisles of a brick-and-mortar store, pick up an object, examine it, even talk to a sales clerk, and then purchase it on his i-phone, thus avoiding the sales tax.   But savvy retailers could undercut this tendency by pricing their wares sufficiently lower to be competitive.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Henry Percy at The American Thinker wonder what will happen to our internet sales if this tax bill is passed.  Will overseas internet companies step into the gap selling tax-free, lower-priced merchandise to Americans?  As Percy comments, “Anyone who’s been on eBay since the late 90s as I have cannot help but notice the phenomenal growth of mainland Chinese vendors from zero just a few years ago to dominance in some fields. They’re all going to collect sales taxes and remit them to the 9,600 US tax jurisdictions?”

In an editorial this week, The National Review quotes Democratic Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon as saying that this bill is  “a targeted strike against the digital economy.”  In a scathing critique of Republican senators, the editorial goes on to say: If the Republican party cannot be counted on to be on the side of economic innovation and entrepreneurship, then what does it have to recommend itself?…It is unfortunate that so many Senate Republicans helped the grievously misnamed Marketplace Fairness Act get this far. The bill deserves to be publicly strangled by House conservatives.

As a small business owner myself,  I feel compelled to stay updated on legislative and tax policies which could directly affect me.  Last summer I wrote about some worrisome tax changes for small businesses as a result of the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act.  I still feel very strongly that in a recession especially, taxes should be cut to stimulate growth.

Join me and write or call your congressman and senators to voice your opposition.

 

 

How to Get Caught Up Quickly for Tax Time 2013

Do you own a small business?  Are you ready for tax time 2014?

The National Federation of Independent Businesses estimates that “75 percent of small businesses are structured as pass-through entities (S corporations, limited liability companies, sole proprietorships or partnerships) that must pay tax on their business income at the individual rate.”   S corporations and LLCs had to turn their taxes in by March 15th, (unless they filed an extension) but their information must flow onto the individual tax returns due April 15th.    Sole proprietorships and partnerships must file by April 15th like all other individuals.

If you’re like me, and you own a small business, you perhaps haven’t filed your taxes yet.  (I just did). Worst case scenario: maybe you have an entire year of financial entries you haven’t made.  You’re looking for a way to get caught up quickly.

Here is how Big E-Z Bookkeeping  can help take away your headache.

If You Already Own Big E-Z:

1. Enter your data in the simplest way possible by importing csv files directly into Big E-Z.  (See the Instructions tab on Period 1, January)

2. For every month of data, reconcile it with your bank statements.  Here is a short video that demonstrates how easy this is to do with Big E-Z. (For simplicity, ask your bank for a cut-off date for the last day of the month. If you’re using online banking, simply put in the dates to match your Big E-Z records.)

3.  If you’re doing your own taxes with something like Turbo Tax, click on the very useful Big E-Z Income Statement and Account Balance Tracker Year-to-Date Reports at the end of the 2013 calendar year for the numbers you need.

1. If you want to see how our software can help you with taxes, especially tracking sales taxes you’ve collected, watch our 2-minute video on  Get Ready for Tax Time.

2. If you want to see how the Account Balance Tracker works, here is a four-minute video, with a very understandable demonstration that explains how to track cash purchases and cash expenditures automatically.

3. If you want to see what’s new with Big E-Z for tax time 2013, here is a list of our new features.  We have a new seven-day trial you can download. We have a new free,  live 30-minute remote desktop demonstration you sign up for.

Come visit us at www.bigez.com and let us help you get caught up for tax time.

Are You Behind? Need to file an extension this year?

Life Comes At Us Hard Sometimes

It happens to the best of us. Life comes at us too hard sometimes and before you know it we have to file an extension for our tax return or we face filing a late tax return and paying stiff penalties and interest—all this due to our financial records  not being up-to-date.

Years ago I worked for an advertising specialty company. We hired an outside accountant (CPA actually) to prepare our year-end financial statements and related tax returns. This man was very bright and really knew his stuff. He had a partner, equally bright. He came  into our office one day looking a little stunned. I asked him what was wrong. He confided in me that the IRS had started sending him penalty notices for not paying the last two years of taxes. I wondered how that could have happened. He is a CPA; he should be on top of that kind of stuff. He told me he had just spoken to his partner whom he had assumed was filing the tax returns and it turned out each one of them thought the other had filed the returns.  His partner had not.  Obviously, there was a costly communication break down happening in that partnership.

An Easy Way to Get Caught Up

Well, the time is drawing near and we have two ways to help you get up-to-date quickly. One great way is with Big E-Z Bookkeeping Spreadsheet Software.  Spreadsheets are just the easiest, most streamlined way to enter data into a bookkeeping system especially if it has been pre-formatted so all you have to do is set up your categories and start entering data. Another great way is to use our We-Do-It-For-You Bookkeeping Service.

Need to File an Extension?

Click this link to help you determine whether or not to file an extension for your business.  If you file an extension for your business you will have until September 15, 2013 to get caught up.  (If you file an extension for your personal return, you have until October 15, 2013.)

How to Customize Your Bookkeeping Software. . .

Bookkeeping Software

Have you ever thought, “If only I could change this or that feature, life would be so much easier for me?” You probably have. You probably also have already tried some of the popular bookkeeping software programs out there. You know, the ones that were designed by people who never planned to use them for themselves. That’s right, they wanted their software to appeal to the masses! It only makes sense for a business person to think this way. They are trying to make money, right? If you have ever used a program that did not make sense, it’s most likely because it was engineered by someone who is out of touch with the needs of the people who will be using it. I know this to be true because I was one of those designers.

I used to design the Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software to appeal to the masses. Many years ago, I used to set up bookkeeping systems for clients through local small-business development centers.  Through this, I came across many different business types and tried to incorporate their needs into what was then a paper bookkeeping system (which is still sold today) and then on to develop the  bookkeeping software that we sell today. I wanted every small business owner, every non-profit organization and even individuals to be able to use the Big E-Z program.

Lessons Learned

Through the years I added this and that feature thinking the masses would want this and that. I added columns to track eBay purchases and online merchant sales. Then I realized that notYTD Income Statements everyone has online sales to track! I even went as far as to add a section of 100 subcategory columns, in case users wanted to break main categories down or if they needed to track and accumulate up to one hundred Year-End amounts to put on their 1099s.  I designed it and then locked it down so users could not change anything (or more importantly, so people would not delete any of the formulas and render the software useless!).

Now You Can Customize

But fear not!  All that is different in the new 2013 version of the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System, now that I’ve spent the last couple of years using the program for my own business. Now with the help of some formatting, you can hide any of the columns you don’t want to see. In just a few seconds time you can drag and hide as many of the 100 subcategory columns you don’t need, without messing up the rest of the system. How cool is that? None of the previous versions like Big E-Z Monthly Bookkeeping or Big E-Z Books has this feature. See Step 5 on the Instructions Tab for instructions on how to do this, and have fun customizing your bookkeeping software!

 

 

Do You Have A Receipt Organizer?

Shoe box full of receipts

Do your receipts look like this?

You don’t have a receipt organizer, you say? You never knew one existed. Well it does!

You’ve probably heard people say you need to “Tame the Paper Tiger.”  (There is a book written by Barbara Hemphill by the same title and she also writes a blog.)  Well, it is true. We must keep papers that come into our offices or homes under control. If you want to be organized, everything must have a place and be put in its place. The same is true for paper too. If you don’t have a place for each piece of paper, then you get what I call the “washing machine effect.” I think you know what that means!

Now one major part of any paper mess is the receipts. All those tiny, little receipts that you can’t find just when you need them the most, like when you want to return an item to the store, or when your flexible spending account asks for substantiation to an expense you claimed. In this day and age, you need to be able to find things on the spot. Who has time to look around for a receipt? I know I don’t! I have better things to do with my time. So here are a few tips to help you: if you have an inbox that needs to be organized, watch this 5 minute video I came across on how to do just that. And consider using this inexpensive binder with envelopes called the Big E-Z Receipt Storage Book for all those tiny receipts. One comes free each year with the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System too.  Already using a receipt organizer? Please leave your comments on how you use your receipt organizer. Do you file receipts by month? By category? We would love to know!

iTunes, Budgets, Spreadsheets…and New Year’s Resolutions

“My college-age daughter really needs help budgeting,” a friend of mine said with a smile and a grimace, as he recounted the disturbing discovery that his daughter had “accidentally” spent $1000 of her tuition money on iTunes.

College and grad students really need to create a budget and stick to it.  This very simple Event Budget Spreadsheet works with Microsoft Excel and can help students track expenses all semester long. Enter your budget and the bookkeeping system automatically contrasts  budgeted amounts with actual expenditures. Students can use this budgeting spreadsheet to record their initial inflow of money, put together a simple budget starting with their absolute necessities, and then, voila!  They will see at a glance what they have left over for entertainment, eating out, or iTunes.

For students who already have multiple credit cards, or accounts, our  complete budgeting spreadsheet system, 2013 Big E-Z Bookkeeping System is a wise investment. The Big E-Z Bookkeeping system is an easy, detailed, electronic checkbook with customizable expense categories, automatic checking and other account reconciliation, fully-programmed Excel spreadsheets, and comprehensive reports that make tax time a breeze!  The Budget Calculator that comes with the 2013 Big E-Z Bookkeeping System is worth the price of admission alone.

This new year of 2013, resolve to sit down with your college student and help him come up with a simple budget.  Buy your student a 2013 Big E-Z system, or download the Big E-Z Event Budget Spreadsheet and help him get off on the right foot!

Wishing you a Happy New Year and Margin

“Margin? What is margin?” you say.  In a thoughtful essay, Lou Whitworth reviews the important book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by medical doctor Richard Swenson.

When I think of margin, I like to think of it as the  room left over during a day to just sit and read. Or playing a game or two with the kids after dinner.  Or it’s the money left in your checking account after you’ve paid your church, your bills, and yourself.

It’s about being able to get to places on time. It’s all about not crossing over your boundaries. Not going beyond your limits. Not volunteering beyond your capabilities. Margin in your small business is the money left over after you’ve paid yourself, all your employees, all your taxes and you still have money to put into a savings account for the next big improvement.  For a nice visual, think of the pages of a book. Without the margin that goes around the outside of the printed words of each page,  the book would be bound but unreadable.

It’s breathing room.  The space we need to think clearly.  The Sabbath rest God established when he created the world (work six days and rest on the seventh).

We all need it but this world is progressing so quickly few of us can achieve it.

So my wish for you this New Year is for a lot of margin in your life.

 

 

The New 2013 Version of Big E-Z Bookkeeping is Here!

The New 2013 Big E-Z Bookkeeping System is now for sale.  And we’re finally back from our break. Our break from blogging, so we could spend 14 hour-days  from November through December to bring you the very best bookkeeping spreadsheet software for you to use next year.  And we have some great things to tell you about. First of all, it is now available for Mac users with Microsoft Excel 2011.  It works like a dream.  So let your Mac-using friends know.

Everything is still pretty much in the same place as before but it is linked up better  with At-A-Glance sections and helpful instructions to explain how to use the following new or improved features:   Importing CSV Data, Merchant Accounts/ Online Sales & A/R, Credit Cards, Subcategories and Cost Centers,  Sales Tax Collected/SalesTax Paid, Expected Reimbursements/Reimbursements Received and Net Sales.

The very best new feature is the ability to import online banking data.  If you are like me and don’t have time to enter data each day you can do all the entering at the end of the month with just a few clicks. I will go into detail in our next newsletter but believe me it will save you lots of data input time.

From an accounting standpoint the very best new feature is the Balance Sheet. You can see at a glance that you are in balance and watch your net worth grow with every new sale.

Also new are our $10 Template Tools so you can track things like Payroll, Inventory, Receivables and Event Budgeting. You can get one free when you purchase the 2013 Big E-Z System and also choose to sign up for our automatic annual renewal service.

Now is also a great time to sign up for our free monthly Bookkeeping Hints and Tips Newsletter (scroll down to the link at the bottom of the landing page) if you are not already receiving it.

Search for the Truth and Go Vote.

I just saw the YouTube of little Abigail crying because she was so tired of “Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney” and the election http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjrthOPLAKM .  Aren’t we all?   We’ve all seen the political ads from both sides,  listened to them and wondered what the truth is.  If you are like me,  you don’t want to go out and vote unless you have done your homework and have uncovered the facts (or what you believe to be the facts).    It’s hard enough to get to the polls to vote. But without the facts we’re shooting in the dark.  Yet we live in a great country and it is our God-given right to vote.  That’s certainly what our forefathers believed.

I titled this blog “Search for the Truth and Go Vote”  because it is precisely the truth that needs to shine forth. We should not vote based on our perceptions nor our subjective feelings. They might be wrong. We should take the time to dig deep into every sound bite we hear that strikes us as propaganda.  I’ve included a list of the best fact-checking websites I could find, (send me other ones you’ve found that are even better) and you can also check facts on the well-known Snopes  or TruthorFiction.   Furthermore, one good website which has historically posted articles from a variety of positions is RealClearPolitics.com

The same “Search for the Truth” applies to your finances.  Don’t shoot in the dark.  Let the truth shine forth.  And in case you need help finding the facts for your own financial position (or catching up on your 2012 records), check out the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System. It is a set of mistake-proof, ready-to-fill-in Excel spreadsheets anyone can use to get at the truth.

10 Tips to Protect Your Email Accounts from Hackers

Just this week, a client of mine posted on her Facebook page the text of an email that was a scam:

“I am writing this with tears in my eyes.  I came down to London but unfortunately I was mugged in a park and all my cash and credit cards were taken. I have a flight which leaves in less than three hours but am having a problem settling the hotel bill…”  

My client immediately went to her (Yahoo) email server to change her password, and discovered that all of her saved emails were gone and her Contacts Address Book had been emptied.   (If this has happened to you, call Yahoo Support and you should be able to get your stolen information back within 24 hours.)

Do you know how to protect your email accounts  from hackers? This is very important because most people use the same exact password for their email as they do for their online accounts— and hackers know this.  So small business online security starts with email security.

Since so many people and even small businesses make the mistake of using the same password for multiple online accounts, including financial online accounts, I would like to recommend:

10 Tips to Protect Your Email Accounts from Hackers—Even While Traveling

1.  Activate the two-step verification system for your email.  This will automatically help protect your gmail from being hacked.This verification system will send you a different automatic code—by text—to your cell phone every time you try to access your gmail from a different device. Once a device is trusted, it only sends you the code every 30 days. Hotmail and other email services now offer this as well as Gmail.  And if your email service doesn’t offer it,  I am tempted to recommend that you switch services.

2.  Don’t use public wi-fi hotspots or internet cafes or public computers to check your email. This is one of the most common ways your email accounts get hacked.

3.  If you are traveling and are forced to depend upon public internet cafes, set up a separate email accountbefore you go, using a different password.

4.  Remember to log out each time you finish using your email; this provides additional protection.   Journalists in China several years ago discovered all of their email accounts had been hacked; some even found their email had been silently diverted to other email addresses, totally disrupting  their communication.  Many of these journalists at that time were using Yahoo, one of the historically least-secure email services.  And they were in Beijing to uncover human rights violations, something the Chinese government was very defensive about.

5.  Don’t talk over Skype about business matters that are sensitive. More recently, small business CEOs have begun to use Microsoft-owned Skype and other VoIPs (Voice-over-Internet Providers) to cut costs, especially for their business travels.  Last year 37% of Skype usage was business-related,  but Skype in particular seems to have some vulnerabilities to hacking.  In May of this year, the Wall Street Journal posted a blog that noted this vulnerability had still not been fixed, despite notification a year and a half earlier. This Skype security flaw allows cyber thieves to secretly track IPs (individual computer I.D.s) and their Skype users to within 700 yards,  even though the skype messages themselves are encrypted.

6. Never use Skype from a public wi-fi spot or internet cafe where your ID and password can be easily compromised.

7.  Set up a different email address for Facebook and other social media other than the one you primarily use for most of your communication. Here are some tips to make your Facebook account way more secure.

8.  Do not use instant messaging—especially on Facebook—to transmit sensitive information.  It’s way less secure.  Search for hosted or secure instant messaging.

9.  Make sure your email service  uses https not http for security purposes.  (Gmail is automatically set to https). Hotmail has come up in the ranks and is now competitive with Gmail in terms of security.   But at the very least, go to the security site of your email service and follow their advice.

10.  Last, but most important, do you know how to pick a strong password and remember it?  I tell you how to do just that in my 9 Tips for How to Keep your Financial Data Secure Online  in one of my June blogs,  Online Banking and  Accounting .   And here’s a website where you can go to check the strength of all of your passwords: howsecureismypassword.net.

Does Your Small Business Need a Reality Check?

Perception may be reality when it comes to feelings. Especially for women. But even small business owners can fall into this trap.  Do you know how well your business is really doing?  Do you have an actual working budget that you use to compare with your real expenditures?

Talk about appearances being deceiving: the other day I was driving to the store and noticed a man holding what appeared to be an empty gas can. He was very close to the entrance ramp of the freeway, trying to flag someone down to give him a lift. Who knows where this man was going or what he was trying to do? I thought this was odd— for who hitchhikes nowadays? Nobody I know. Then I glanced down the street a half block away and realized this man was a phony. There was a gas station right there within a two-minute walking distance. Only God knows what he was really up to.

And later on in the same day, as I was going home from a meeting, I noticed a young man running along a street in Ann Arbor. At first glance, I thought nothing of it. I see young men running all the time for exercise.  Then I looked a little closer and realized this man had no shoes on– only socks. I noticed it because the bottom of his feet were bright white—not grey or black—but white.  That’s weird, I thought. Then I watched as his bright white socks turned from white to green (from running on the grass) to brown (as he ran through some mud).  What was his true reality? Did someone threaten him at knife point and steal his shoes? Who really knows?

How about your business?  Are you running in your socks?   Do you perceive it to be okay but in reality you’re losing your shirt? It just may be time for a reality check. The best way to do this is to stop relying on your perceptions and instead, rely on the facts.  I’ve made a two-minute YouTube video about how to set up a working budget, which I hope will be helpful to you.   And remember,  Big E-Z Bookkeeping is a simpler way to stay on top of your reality.

The cold, hard truth is sobering, but it’s the first step in the right direction.

Are people stealing cash from you?

It happens all the time. Where there’s cash, there’s an opportunity to steal it. One of my customers told me she had a feeling that someone was stealing from her beauty salon. This was going on for years but she could not figure how it was being done. It was a gradual thing with her. She knew there was a problem because she was finding it harder and harder to make payroll. It was finally confirmed when she installed an electronic cash register system that could show her exactly how it was happening. This system cost her $5000 but she is so grateful because she finally g0t to the bottom of this problem. She fired the culprit and things are better now.

If you are dealing with cash income and cash expenditures you really need a system that will tell you exactly how much cash you should have on hand at any given moment. The Big E-Z Bookkeeping System has spreadsheets that allow you to identify and track all cash income whether it gets deposited into the checking account or not and all cash expenditures whether they come out of the checkbook or not. Not many bookkeeping systems can do this. It takes special programming by a person who understands exactly how cash is handled on a daily basis.

In the Big E-Z System, the income and expenditures funnel down into the Income Statement—and the Cash on Hand at any given time shows up on the Account Balance Tracker. I use this feature for the Homeschool Co-op that I’m the volunteer treasurer of and it works like a charm. After entering all the cash-related transactions, I take one additional step: I physically count the coin and currency and check to see if it matches up to the amount on the Account Balance Tracker. Maybe you don’t need to spend $5000 on an electronic cash register when the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System is the control you are missing.

I Hate Bookkeeping: A Family Confession, Part II

I Hate Bookkeeping

Last week I told you about my sister’s astonishing confession that she hates bookkeeping.  Despite being the owner of a successful computer repair business, she has a profound reluctance to establish (what I think is) the fundamental habit of recording one’s income and expenses in an orderly way.  And she’s not alone.  There are a lot of people who hate bookkeeping and dread having to put numbers onto paper and wonder even if they do, if the numbers will ever add up right.  This got me to thinking about the importance of systems in all kinds of areas.

My Parents Taught Me About Systems

Both my parents knew a great deal about systems.  My father came from the little island of Malta and worked for the British special forces diffusing bombs as a very young teenager in World War II. He had very little schooling growing up,  but after the war, he emigrated to the Detroit area and became a millwright with Chrysler. Ninety percent of his time there he simply played checkers,  until a machine would break down, and then he was on the job 24/7.  He knew a great deal about how the systems of machinery worked. He could figure out how to fix any machine that broke down, and would repair it quickly and efficiently.  Meanwhile, my stay-at-home mom raised all seven of us kids and she knew a thing or two about systems herself, including  human power. To get the canned goods and staples down into the basement pantry, she had all of us kids positioned from the side door, down along the stairs and into the pantry. She would hand an item to the first child, that child would pass it to the next and so on, until all the items were put away in the pantry.

Get a System and Get a Life

This is the same challenge I put to my sister:  get a system and you’ll get a life.  Give my Big E-Z Bookkeeping a try.   It’s simple, it’s straightforward with no bells and whistles, and it produces clear and concise reports.  So stay tuned for Part III.  This is where I sit down with my sister and we go through some simple steps to organize her financial records.

Systems are crucial

And ultimately it boils down to one single question:  is this a system you feel comfortable with, that you can work with? Because if it is, you’ll use it.  And any system that gets used, is far better than a more complicated one that doesn’t.

I Hate Bookkeeping: A Family Confession, Part 1

One of my six sisters is a small business owner like me, but in her case she owns a computer-repair business—and she’s very good at it.  Last Friday I had a conversation with her about how she needs to get serious about her business  bookkeeping. I told her she needs to establish a business checking account and stop running everything through her personal account.  This will actually help protect her personal accounts from any liabilities that might be incurred by her business.  Next, I pointed out that she needs to use a bookkeeping system to track her profits so, for one thing,  she can tell how much money she must set aside for tax time.  And I mentioned that now that she’s beginning to make a profit, she really should start paying quarterly estimated taxes like all the rest of us who are self-employed.

That’s when she really flabbergasted me. She said she would rather sit in front of her computer monitor with pliers in her hand and pull out each tooth from her mouth, than enter numbers into a bookkeeping system! How can this be? My own sister! I’ve been developing  bookkeeping systems—both paper and software— for the past 20 years, so I know a thing or two about bookkeeping systems.

So tomorrow I am going over to her house with my Big E-Z Bookkeeping software and we’re going to install it and get her set up.    I am going to customize my software to her business, and help her get her receipts categorized.  Then we’re going to enter all of those numbers for 2012 so far.  (I will keep you posted about how many teeth she pulls out with her pliers!)

Olympics and Bookkeeping: Doing Our Personal Best and Keeping Things in Balance

Watching the Olympics and the fine athletes on the balance beam the other day inspired me to write this blog. They are all doing their personal best and they must remain in balance to accomplish their goal–a Gold Medal score. That is precisely how we business owners must think of ourselves– doing our personal best and keeping things in balance to accomplish our goal–a profit. Here’s how I relate the two.

Do you remember when you were young and wanted to learn how to ride a bike? Maybe you had an older brother or sister or friend who could zip around your neighborhood on a bike and you wished you knew how to do the same. Your parents tried to teach you how to do it by saying things like  “Get on the bike!  Pedal fast! Balance and steer and oh,  by the way, here are the brakes that will stop you.”

Well, all the instructions in the world could not teach you how to ride that bike. You needed to experience it for yourself. You needed to get on the bike and try to put in place all the things you were told, to try to move the bike forward. In order to do that you needed to be in balance. You had to figure out what balancing was all about. It’s a feeling you get when everything is working right. And it is a great feeling you can achieve—that balancing feeling.

Your business and bookkeeping is like that too …you need to experience  for yourself how to keep things in balance  in order to move your business forward. You need to understand first hand how to do it. After you catch on, you can hand it over to someone else to do it (the bookkeeping) but until then YOU need to do it. You need to gather or record all pertinent numerical information pertaining to your business, balance it (to know you are doing it right) and move forward. There is no easier way to do this than to use the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System.

Bookkeeping Tip #30: A Strong Password

30. Make sure all of your passwords are as strong as possible. Here’s one way to set up a strong password which I like: pick a phrase you can remember—maybe a song you like. Use the first letter of each syllable; add some letters to identify your account; and maybe put in the year you set up the account. Here’s how it would look. Let’s say we are setting up a Facebook account and you picked the song “All My E-xes Live In Te-xas”. I know it’s not the most virtuous song, but it’s the first memorable one that came to mind! So your password would look like this: FB12amexlitx.

Bookkeeping Tip #29: Safeguard Your Bank Transfers

29. SAFEGUARD YOUR BANK TRANSFERS by requiring a second authorization for all wires or bank transfers.  Each wire transfer would require both an originator who requests it, and then a separate transfer authorizer (a two-party approval system).

 

 

Bookkeeping Tip #28: Look Out for Fraudulent Banking Websites

28. Don’t trust what looks like an authentic banking website if it asks you for additional information or gives you a new email address for the bank.  It may be an example of phishing (baiting you for your email, passwords, Social Security Number, Bank Account, and other relevant personal information).

Bookkeeping Tip #27: Mandatory Verification Devices

27. And until your bank enforces a mandatory verification device that is separate from its browser, do your banking the old-fashioned way.  These handheld optical readers, are available from Gemalto and Cronto and are used to take a picture of a visual cryptogram — a secure image produced by the bank — as part of authorizing any cash transfers.

Bookkeeping Tip #26: Do Your Bookkeeping Offline with Big E-Z

26. Do your bookkeeping offline with a software like Big E-Z Bookkeeping.  This will save you from the dangers of losing data,  having your payroll delayed, or sales thwarted, such as happened to thousands of frustrated Quick Books Online users last month.

Bookkeeping Tip #25: Use a Dedicated Computer for Online Banking

25. Use a dedicated computer for your online banking.  This can be an older computer without the bells and whistles.   This seems like you’re going to great lengths, but it could make a big difference in your online banking security.  If you can, also set up a separate email for anything financially-related, and use only your dedicated computer to access your financial email.

Bookkeeping Tip #24: Monitor Daily All Online Banking Transactions

24. Monitor daily all online banking transactions to catch any fraud quickly.  This is basically a quick scan to make sure no unauthorized transactions have taken place.

Bookkeeping Tip #23: Don’t Use A Public Wi-Fi Spot to Check Online Bank Balances

23. DON’T USE A PUBLIC WI-FI SPOT to check your online bank account balance, make online purchases, or to do any other activity that requires that you enter sensitive information you want to keep safe.  Cyber thieves can steal not only your password but your account number very easily.

Bookkeeping Tip #22: Check Out Credit Unions for Lower Rates

22. CREDIT UNIONS…Some credit unions offer business checking accounts at lower rates than most banks. Check them out the next time you need to reprint checks. And if you’ve been turned down for a loan by a bank, you might find a credit union happy to extend financing—even at a lower interest.

Bookkeeping Tip #21: Choose the Best Expense Categories for Your Small Business

21. To determine the best expense categories to track for your business you may want to START AT THE END. When starting a new business, determine which expense categories to track by taking a look at the tax return you or your accountant will need to file. For example, if you are required to file a Schedule C, get a copy of a blank Schedule C off the internet and write down all the categories that apply to your business. Then, add to the list categories you know are specific to your business type and include those when you set-up your bookkeeping system.

You may find this to be even easier, just go to our Category Corner and find a group of categories that fits your needs. We have many groups to choose from and they are free for you to copy and paste into your system. If you need even more help, we now offer a complete Big E-Z Bookkeeping System set-up service which includes determining the best categories for your business type.

Bookkeeping Tip #20: Set Up Your Accounting Software Correctly

20. COMPUTER SOFTWARE…The biggest mistake people make is not taking the time to set up the software correctly when they install it on their computers. The old saying “Garbage in- garbage out” applies here. If you want a financial report you can trust, you will need to be sure it is set up correctly from the start. This is partially what sets Big E-Z Bookkeeping apart from other bookkeeping and accounting software packages: it’s easy to set up and easy to use.

Bookkeeping Tip #19: Voided Payroll Checks

19. VOIDED PAYROLL CHECKS …Before voiding a payroll check, call your state or consult your attorney to see if this is legal in your state.

Bookkeeping Tip #18: Don’t Over-Categorize

18. DON’T OVER-CATEGORIZE…Most of us tend to make things harder than they need to be. For instance, when categorizing office supply expenses, we don’t need separate categories for fax paper, letterhead and printer cartridges, and so on. All these items can simply be listed under Office Supplies.

Bookkeeping Tip #17: Maintain Daily Records

17. MAINTAIN DAILY RECORDS… Think about it. If you don’t have time to do a little bookkeeping each day, when will you find time to record a month’s or a year’s worth of records? Different people use different record-keeping systems; what matters most is that you have a system and use it daily.

Bookkeeping Tip #16: You Are Taxed on Profits Not Revenue

16.YOU ARE TAXED ON PROFITS…Many business owners think they are taxed on all the money they take out of their business. In fact, if you are a sole proprietor (rather than a corporation) you are taxed on the profits of the business—not the revenue. Your estimated income tax payments should be based on the profits of the business.

Bookkeeping Tip #15: Cash or Accrual Accounting Methods

15.CHOOSE THE RIGHT ACCOUNTING METHOD…CASH OR ACCRUAL…Many small businesses opt for the cash system because it is much simpler. In fact, the IRS requires that you use the accrual method only if you have $5 million in sales or carry a large inventory.

Bookkeeping Tip #14: Make Immediate Deposits

14. DEPOSIT THAT CASH RIGHT AWAY–Get into the habit of depositing all cash immediately at the bank or credit union once it is received. This ensures that all income will be properly recorded.

Bookkeeping Tip #13: Converting from Paper to Software Bookkeeping Systems

13.FROM PAPER SYSTEMS TO COMPUTER–When going from a paper bookkeeping system to a computer system, you will want to run dual systems for a few months. You want to be sure both systems come up with the same totals before dropping the paper system.

Bookkeeping Tip #12: Personalized Note Pads

12.NOTE PADS WITH YOUR NAME–For a very professional look, print note pads or sticky note pads with your company name,  phone number, and your slogan at the bottom. This can be a real time-saver. If you also print the pad with “From the desk of . . .”, plus your name, you’ll never need to sign your name.

Bookkeeping Tip #11: Printed Invoices

11.PRINTING INVOICES–If your business uses a large number of invoices each month, you may want to have invoices preprinted. It will look more professional and you will probably get paid quicker. If you decide to print invoices with a perforated edge so customers can tear off one portion and return it with their payment, be sure to print your name and “remit to” with your address on both sides of the perforation.

Bookkeeping Tip #10: Filing Paid Invoices

10.FILING PAID INVOICES–Start new file folders at the beginning of each year for all your paid invoices and paid bills. It’s not necessary to start a folder for each customer or vendor unless you do a large volume of business with that customer. You could get by with a folder for all customers from A – C, D – F, and so on.

Bookkeeping Tip #9: Storage Boxes for Each Year

9.STORAGE BOXES FOR EACH NEW YEAR–Keep all your records for one year in one box.  In that one box, you can put a copy of your tax return, bank account statements with cancelled checks, your monthly report from your Big E-Z Books software or Paper System and BIG E-Z Receipt Storage Book, financial statements from your accountant, your paid bills and all other backup for that year. Label it with the year and contents on the outside of the box. Then store it somewhere accessible.

Bookkeeping #8: Use Mechanical Pencils

8.MECHANICAL PENCILS…Take a tip from accountants: save time with mechanical pencils, since you never have to sharpen them. When you need more lead, you just click a button and the lead drops down. Buy one the next time you’re at the office supply store.

Root Canals, Bookkeeping, and Fun

“What does fun have to do with bookkeeping?” you might ask.   Not much, unless your bookkeeping system is so streamlined that it takes very little effort. I can’t tell you how many people I have met throughout the years at business meetings, schools, and special events who, when I mention that I design bookkeeping software,  their eyes just glass over and they walk away. Most people I meet would rather have a root canal than work on their bookkeeping!

What causes this? I think most people have no confidence in their accounting abilities. They think it’s too complicated. They weren’t good at math to start with,  so they figure they wouldn’t be good at bookkeeping now.  They are so wrong. All they need is a system that does all the thinking for them. It takes their numbers and places them where they need to be and spits out a report they can understand. But most of all, it has to be so easy that it is fun or they won’t do it.

I’ve had many customers tell me my software is a lot easier to use than Quicken and a lot less cumbersome than QuickBooks.

Take a look at Big E-Z Bookkeeping:  write me and tell me what your candid appraisal is.  Is it more streamlined and easy-to-use than you expected?  Or is it just another bookkeeping root canal?

Bookkeeping Tip #7: Set Up a Petty Cash Box

7.PETTY CASH BOX–Almost all small businesses make small cash purchases. You may want to set up a Petty Cash Box to keep control of those purchases. Get yourself a metal cash box and put in currency and coin that total $100.00, for example. This will be your starting point. The value of this box should remain at $100.00 at all times. Perhaps you or your employee  purchases a notebook at the local office supply store for $5.00, using money from the Petty Cash Box. When you get back to the office you will put your receipt in the box. Now you should have $95.00 in currency and one receipt for $5.00. The value of your box is still $100.00.

Bookkeeping #6: The Do’s and Don’ts of Bank Statements

6.BANK ACCOUNT STATEMENTS–When opening a business checking account, you should request a statement with a month-end cut-off date. This will save you time when reconciling your checkbook. The closer the cut-off date to the month end, the fewer checks you will need to record as outstanding. And don’t toss those bank statements and canceled checks into a filing cabinet without reviewing them. Resist the urge to do this! As soon as your statement arrives, review it before anyone else sees it, including your bookkeeper or employees. That way you can catch unauthorized checks.

Bookkeeping Tip #5: Deposit Ticket Books

5.DEPOSIT TICKET BOOKS–How do you handle your bank deposits? One easy way is to record your daily deposit in a deposit ticket book. Generally, these books come with a white (original) copy and yellow (duplicate) copy in books of 50. For a small business, an order of 200 duplicate deposit tickets could last 2 years unless you make deposits everyday. As you write each deposit ticket, give the white copy to give to the bank and leave the duplicate (yellow) in the book. That way nothing gets lost.

Bookkeeping Tip #4: Keep Good Records

4.KEEP GOOD RECORDS–Many business owners don’t keep good records. Some don’t understand bookkeeping; others understand it, but may be afraid of what the numbers might tell them. Think of it this way–bookkeeping is the glue that keeps your business together. If your records aren’t in good shape, the business could fall apart. A healthy business is monitored through its records on a regular basis so you can find problems and correct them before it’s too late.

Bookkeeping Tip #3: Be Consistent

3.BE CONSISTANT–Consistency is essential to successful business bookkeeping. Whether you use software or a paper bookkeeping system, always be sure to head your columns the same way each month throughout the year. This small matter of consistency will save you and your accountant time and prevent aggravation.

Bookkeeping Tip #2: Business ATM Cards and Smart Phone Bank Deposits

2.ATM CARDS FOR YOUR BUSINESS–Save time by using preprinted duplicate deposit tickets and an ATM card to make your business deposits. OR make your deposits with your smart phone (but not from a public wi-fi spot!)

Bookkeeping Tip #1: Keep An Audit Trail

1.KEEP AN AUDIT TRIAL…An audit trail is nothing more than a record of all your invoices and checks in numerical order. The thing to remember is to never skip numbers. Record voided check and invoice numbers in numerical order with all other checks and invoices, and don’t forget to note each one that is “voided.”  This ensures there will be no gaps in your numerical sequence, and leaves a proper audit trail.

IT Tech Support Isn’t “Full” Any Longer

Do the words “full  support” matter to you?  Have you noticed that computer manufacturing companies are increasing the cost of hardware warranties?  And at the same time,  software companies are shortening the length of the IT tech support they are offering? Customers are losing out at both ends:  the meaning of  “full support” has changed drastically.

I met a man at a small business conference about twenty years ago.  I have forgotten his name now, but what he told me was memorable.  We were discussing computers  and I told him I used to work on an old main-frame before the desktop computer was invented. In the course of the conversation, he casually mentioned that support was going to be the next  big thing. At the time, I did not understand what he meant by that.

But he was so right.  For years now, support has been a big thing.  All computer software programs come with some type of phone IT tech support, but as companies scramble to cut costs, this is one of the first things that gets cut. When I purchased Microsoft Office 2010, it came with only 90 days of free phone support.  You can almost tell which businesses are top notch by the types of support they offer (live phone support, email support, FAQs, short video tutorials,  and even webinars) and by how fast they provide it. In January, a friend’s brand new Kindle screen suddenly went dead. Within five minutes of requesting customer support from Amazon by email, she received a telephone call from a live human being who promptly offered to send her a  brand new Kindle the next day. Amazon really scored in her opinion.

At Big E-Z Bookkeeping, we have received emails from grateful customers for years who have loved our helpful and personal telephone and email support.  Here is what one customer had to say just in the past two weeks:

You’re the best!! Thank you so much. I’ve marked the license on the master CD, so I should be good (unless I loose the CD).
So far the the Mac and the Windows both read from Dropbox and none of the information has ever been lost….Again, thank you for your personal attention in this and any problem I encounter. It’s so hard to find that in the business world anymore. I truly hope that you have a long, prosperous and enjoyable business. Best Regards, Terry

Write me and let me know what your experience has been with full support from other bookkeeping or accounting software programs.

Online Banking and Accounting: Nine Tips to Keep Your Financial Data Secure

Last week in this blog,  I discussed the increase in cybercrime especially as it pertains to online banking and accounting. As you may already know,  business accounts are not protected by the same federal regulations as are individuals’. To make matters worse,  in the past 12 months, a full 56% of business bank accounts suffered (cyber) fraud.     Most of the time, this resulted in the small business owner holding the bag. Banks figured it was not their  liability,  since it was the small businesses’ emails or passwords which had been hacked.

As a small business CEO myself, I had to ask: what can we as owners do to minimize our online risks?  Here are 9 tips I recommend to keep your (online) financial data more secure:

1.  Don’t use a public wi-fi spot to check your bank balance. This makes identity theft all too easy.

2.  Monitor daily all online banking transactions to catch any fraud quickly.

3.  Use a dedicated computer for your online banking.

4.  Don’t trust what looks like an authentic banking website, if it asks you for additional information.  It may be an example of phishing (baiting you for your email, passwords, Social Security Number, Bank Account, and other relevant personal information).

5.  Ask your bank to require a second authorization for all wires or bank transfers.  This is critical since many of the cybercrimes committed against small businesses involve wire transfers and can empty accounts in minutes.

6.  Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts or sites you log in to.  This is also very important since 73% of Americans make this fatal mistake—and hackers know it. If you’re afraid you will forget multiple passwords, use one password only to access the others.  Check out www.lastpass.com which will help manage and remember all of your passwords.  It’s free for your browser but there’s a fee for mobile devices.  This way you can have a totally different password for each account.

7.  Make sure all of your passwords are as strong as possible. Here’s one way I’ve learned to set up a fairly strong password which is still easy to remember:

  • Pick a phrase you can remember—maybe a song you like
  • Use the first letter of each syllable
  • Add some letters to identify your account and maybe put in the year you set up the account
  • Here’s how it would look:  let’s say we are setting up a Facebook account and you picked the song “All My E-xes Live In Te-xas”. (I know it’s not the most virtuous song,  but it’s the first memorable one that came to mind!)  So your password would look like this: FB12amexlitx.

8.  If you want to be really careful, do your bookkeeping offline with a software like Big E-Z Bookkeeping.

9.  And until your bank enforces a mandatory verification device that is separate from its browser, do your banking the old-fashioned way.

Online Banking and Accounting: Convenience Comes With a Price

I remember the day when we didn’t need passwords: when bookkeeping was done on a paper spreadsheet with categories listed in columns; when I actually used a calculator to add up the columns; and when I posted to a manual general ledger as thick as a dictionary. Each year, we hired a CPA to come out and audit the books. Everything was accounted for and in its place—a few re-allocations of expenses and we got a clean bill of health.

Not anymore. We are so time-strapped we need to have our bookkeeping online so we can go anywhere and sync anything at any time. But this convenience comes with a price.

Just ask the very frustrated QBO (QuickBooksOnline) users last month who—due to a mid-week maintenance scheduling glitch—were faced with not being able to access their data with disastrous results for close to 48 hours.  Employees could not get paid; invoices could not be printed; contracts could not be signed; files and records went missing. And thousands of financial entries that had been made simply disapppeared!  Countless others lost thousands of dollars in sales they couldn’t make.

In addition to the extreme frustration and hassle of losing online data, we are now facing ever more magnified dangers of identity theft.  This is made so much easier by the hacking of very large digital online files. Three quick examples come to mind:the 150 million LinkedIn customers who just this past week had their passwords stolen; the 100 million Sony customerswho last year discovered their credit card numbers, names, emails, logins,and passwords had all been hacked into on Playstation 3 and Online Entertainment digital files; and the 200,000 banking customers of Citigroup who were informed in May 2012 that hackers had infiltrated the bank’s financial records and their account numbers, names, and emails were all compromised.

Online banking and accounting is not going away anytime soon. But until banks begin mandating verification devices that are separate from their browsers, consumers and small businesses would do well to take precautions. Read next week’s blog for nine tips to increase the security of your online financial data, including how to strengthen and make your password easier to remember.

And if you still don’t  feel comfortable keeping your financial records in the cloud, then keep your books offline like I do, with Big E-Z Bookkeeping, and you’ll sleep better at night.

Missing socks, missing expenditures, and invisible numbers

Have you ever forgotten to record a check you wrote?  Or worse yet, you didn’t keep track of the receipts for your cash expenditures?  When you came to the end of the month, were your check register totals completely different from your bank statement?  This is sloppy bookkeeping for an individual, but for a fledgling small business, it can be a disaster.

I was getting ready to do my laundry today before work and I came across a lone sock—one of the sports ones that you wear with tennis shoes. I started thinking about how I have heard for years that when you do laundry, a sock always comes up missing when you try to match them from the dryer. Well, I figured it out. The missing sock never got to the washer in the first place—and never made it into the dryer at all.

Hey folks, the same thing goes for your financial records. For you to have accurate records, you need a system that gathers all those missing socks (transactions), puts them in the washer, (Big E-Z Bookkeeping’s pre-programmed spreadsheets) and makes sure they show up automatically in the dryer (crisp, clear, and accurate monthly financial reports you can print). The difference between the socks and your numbers is that numbers have a way of being invisible. So you have to bring the numbers to the system for everything to come out in the wash.

Online Banking, i-phone Bank Deposits and Identity Theft

Just last month I discovered how to make an i-phone  bank deposit.  It’s easy: you take a picture of your endorsed check (both sides) with your i-phone.   There are at least nine major banks that support remote deposits, and probably others coming on board as we speak. For those of you whose banks don’t offer this convenience, you can do a remote deposit instead into your PayPal account.  Like I have, you’ve probably already been checking your balance (and your kids’ bank account balances) and making transfers between accounts via your laptop and i-phone for a while now.  It’s been very convenient.

But all of this online banking has me a bit concerned.  I’ve begun to wonder about the implications of common mistakes that used  to be simple to rectify. Banks make mistakes, too.  (I wrote about a billion dollar banking mistake in an earlier blog).  Identity theft takes on a whole new scope when someone’s accessed your online bank account. It can happen easily especially if you use a public wi-fi spot to check your bank balance. This makesa daily reconciliation of all online banking transactions absolutely imperative. Checks won’t be forgotten or charges overlooked if you make it a habit to regularly enter them into your Big E-Z Excel spreadsheets. There’s even a place for entering your cash expenditures.  A systematic use of Big E-Z and the regular reconciliation of your bank account is the absolute minimum protection you should have against online financial and identity theft.

Bank of America Mortgage Reductions: Are You One of 200,000 Who Qualify?

A new firestorm has erupted across the country as people scramble to find out who is eligible for a billion dollar mortgage bailout.  Five days ago, Bank of America announcedthey will be forgiving up to $150,000 in mortgage principal for over 200,000 individuals.  This eleven-billion-dollar deal is the direct result of the February “Robo-signing” settlement between five of the nation’s largest banks, 49 state Attorney Generals, and the U.S. Justice Department.

Many people are already up in arms because this sweeping and unprecedented mortgage principal reduction seems to apply only to people who appear to have been less than fiscally responsible. (You must have been delinquent on your mortgage by 60 days before January 31, 2012.) However, this might not have been caused by negligence; it could have been a medical emergency, a job loss or sudden layoff.  Nevertheless, it will be very good news for 200,000 people who will have their monthly mortgage payments reduced to 25% of their gross (monthly) income.

Five thousand letters have already been sent and 6,500 more will be issued this week with the rest of the 200,000 being staggered over the summer until they have all gone.  A Warning, however:  if you simply toss the letter, you will forfeit your right to apply for this relief.

So the burning question is:  who are the individuals who qualify?

  • those who were more than 60 days behind on their mortgages as of January 31, 2012;
  • those whose houses are “underwater” or are worth less than their mortgages;
  • those whose monthly mortgage payments are more than 25% of their (monthly) gross income;
  • those who have the documentation to prove that they can’t make their current payments
  • those who have the documentation to prove that when their mortages are modified and reduced in this manner, they will have the ability to make the payments;
  • and those whose loans are owned by Bank of America or serviced by Bank of America (for an investor who is allowing the modifications.)

So where does Big E-Z Bookkeeping come into play?  You guessed it!  Documentation.  How else are you going to prove that you can’t afford your monthly mortgage payments?  And how are you going to prove that if your mortgage is reduced, you will be able to pay it every month?  Even though you’ve already done your taxes for 2011,  you may not have recorded your transactions month-by-month.  But you can still download last year’s 2011 Big E-Z Bookkeeping System.   The reports it prints out will help you apply for this mortgage principal reduction.   And remember Big E-Z comes with support for an entire year.

Small is Beautiful: Accounting Software and Gardening

Small is Beautiful started out years ago as a book by E.F.Schumacher about economics, scale,  and sustainability.   Nowadays it’s helped spawn a movement to buy local, to eat local, to support small farmers and to promote local, small businesses. I’ve been thinking that small is beautiful when it comes to accounting software, too.    Last week something simple happened that opened my eyes again to the truth of this concept.

If you are like me,  you love to spend  time in the garden. While my flowers are pretty,  my lawn is another story. In my quest to improve my lawn,  I asked a few people what I should do. Everyone of them told me to buy fertilizer at a place like Home Depot and use a spreader following the instructions on the bag for its setting. When I heard the same thing from three or more people,  it finally sank in that they must be right.

So I bought the spreader and an organic  fertilizer and tried to use it,  but it always left stripes in the grass. I have to confess,  I didn’t even notice the stripes on my lawn until a week later. Pretty embarrassing , wouldn’t you say? Anyway, one day I had the idea to use one of those small, handheld spreaders for my fertilizer—the ones that people use to spread grass seed around? It’s red and lightweight and has settings on it. Well,  needless to say, this worked like a charm. No more stripes!

That made me think:  how often do we go with what people tell us? Surely they mean no harm. How many times have people recommended the leading accounting software programs like Quicken or QuickBooks for people who could have easily purchased a smaller, leaner program that fits their needs better? The Big E-Z Bookkeeping System is that small, handheld spreader for those of us who don’t need, or don’t know how,  to use the big one. Try Big E-Z and let me know if it handles your biggest bookkeeping challenge.

Are You Wasting Time on a Complicated Bookkeeping System?

Have you ever invested hours doing something only to find out it was absolutely unnecessary?  And have you ever done this with your financial records—spent hours putting in data, getting the right forms filled out, only to find out you neglected an obvious shortcut?  Or to make matters worse, you discover—late in the game—that you have inadvertently overlooked a very streamlined and much easier entire financial system!

Last week I saw Murphy’s Law unfold before my very eyes.  I had lost my driver’s license, so yesterday I went to the Secretary of State office to apply for a duplicate.  As I pulled into the parking lot,  I noticed a strange thing:  two very irate people  fighting over the same prime parking spot. They both had their cars in a corner of the same parking spot facing each other. This face-to-face confrontation wouldn’t have been so very weird—I mean people get upset about things like parking spots all the time—EXCEPT that I easily found a spot about 25 feet away.  And there were plenty of other spots close by, too.  I walked into the Secretary of State office wondering how this would end. An hour later, I came out and noticed the spot was empty again. I shook my head and laughed, “That was a total waste of time for those folks.”

Don’t make that mistake with your financial records.   Check out the easiest bookkeeping solution I know of,  Big E-Z Bookkeeping, BEFORE you invest hours in a more complicated one.

Microsoft discontinues support for Windows XP and Vista.

It’s official.  As of April 10, 2012,  Microsoft is ending mainstream support for Vista.  No one really loved Vista, so no one’s really complaining. Customers will still have the ability to access security updates, but they will no longer get free bug fixes or patches without a commercial support contract.  Technically, this is called “extended support”.   And this is the only kind of support still available to XP users.  Mainstream support ended three years ago for both XP and Microsoft Office 2003 and this limited  extended support will officially end for XP in 2014,  (Vista in 2017).   Support is ending despite the fact that more than 60% of all operating systems worldwide are still XPs.

So, what does this mean for Big E-Z Bookkeeping customers?  It means your XP computers and laptops which have Office 2003 will be a lot more vulnerable to hacking in just a year and a half when Microsoft  finally pulls the plug on even the minimal “extended support”.  Many of you are even now using our newest 2012 software on XP computers.  That’s why we have continued to offer our software on both platforms.  But you might want to rethink this.

For those of you who purchased your Big E-Z software quite a while ago, and don’t have a back-up CD or a license code, you will need to purchase the newest Big E-Z version (2012) which always comes now with a backup CD.  Take a minute to check out the big improvements over your old version by clicking on our great new features. You will be delighted, I promise you!

However, for all of you who purchased your Big E-Z software more recently—in 2011 or 2012—and have decided to change your computer, re-installing your Big E-Z software will be easy.  The CD which you received in the post when you first purchased your software has a choice on it:   MS Office ’03 or MS Office ’07/’10.    All you need is your CD, your license key (from your order email which you should have typed in on your Settings Page of your software) and your data files.  And you’re ready to re-install.  Let us know if you have lost your license key or if we can help in any way.

Relax: No More Scrambling at Tax Time.

How many of you just finished your taxes and found yourselves scrambling to get all of your 2011 financial records in order in time? (For those of you who haven’t finished, the filing deadline has been extended until Tuesday April 17th). I am here to tell you that keeping your financial records up-to-date is so much better than always being behind the 8 ball. The benefits can be wonderful—like knowing how much money you have in the checking account at any given moment. Yes, you can go online and check your balances on a daily basis but knowing where you spent the money so far this month and knowing your records are accurate is a great feeling. It also makes effective budgeting a real possibility. And reconciling your checkbook is much easier when your books are up-to-date. When you only have a few checks a day it is easy to postpone updating the account, but I recommend weekly forays into the jungle of “the accounts” or at the minimum, once-a-month—each time you get your bank statement.

Here’s how I do it. Let’s say I haven’t entered anything for a month. I pull out my bank statement and enter all my deposits first on my Big E-Z Deposit spreadsheet and then distribute them across the Main Income Categories; then I enter all my checks (and debit card entries) on the Checks spreadsheet. I also distribute them across the Main Expense Categories and Subcategories. Then I enter all my charge or credit card expenditures that haven’t been paid for with real money yet. Once they get paid, they get moved over to the Checks spreadsheet.  In the meantime, I realize I forgot to make my budget for the year, so I go back to Period One (January), click on the Summary, then the Budget Calculator, and put in a monthly estimate for each category.   But I relax,  knowing I can change this as I go through the year if my estimates were way too idealistic to start with.

Relax: that’s the key.  If I keep my financial records up-to-date, with Big E-Z Bookkeeping, I can relax when it comes to Tax Time.

eBay Sales: How to Record eBay and PayPal Fees as Business Deductions

Just last week I discovered that one of my friends (who is a top-rated eBay seller) hasn’t really found a software program which can track her eBay and PayPal fees.  And her fees are numerous.  They include listing fees (insertion fees), final value fees (when an item sells) and listing upgrade fees (when you add a picture or a new description), not to mention the PayPal payment and shipping fees.

Are you having trouble recording the many eBay and PayPal fees on your bookkeeping software program?

People used to dismiss eBay and Craig’s List sales as simply online garage sales.   Some people even used to claim that whatever you sold used on eBay, for less than the original retail price, was not subject to income tax. Almost everyone, even eBay, agrees this is just an urban legend—it is simply not true.  Two years ago,  Adriana Fabiana Orellana, herself an employee of the IRS, was taken to court by the IRS for not having reported over $40,000 of eBay income. She had actually made over 7,000 eBay transactions over the course of two years.  The judge ruled that her activities were more than just a hobby, and she really did owe more than $15,000 in back taxes.  Here is a clear explanation of what constitutes a hobby versus a business.

The good news is if you file a Schedule C for your eBay business, and report your income, you can also deduct all those fees as business expenses.  But to do that, you have to keep track of them.  Anyone who has ever tried to enter even PayPal transactions in some of the popular accounting software programs, like Quick Books,  knows it is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It’s cumbersome at best.

In the new 2012 Big E-Z Bookkeeping System,  we have made it easy for you. You can record the (gross) sale amount under a (main) income category, then place a “P” for PayPal or a “G” if you use the Google shopping cart under column AF and the total fees they  deducted under column AI. (If you want to see each fee broken down,  then you can use the subcategory section to do this;  see the next paragraph). This makes for a nice neat set of books.  The remainder is left in the account until you transfer it out. I’ve even made a video tutorial just to tell you how to handle your PayPal transactions and fees.

What is nice about doing it this way is the Account Balance Tracker will tally up all your shopping cart fees so you will see at a glance what it is costing you to use these shopping carts. You’ll also see how much money is available to you from shopping cart sales.

I’d like to know if you have found an easier way to track these types of sales and fees.  I would love to hear your response.  And by the way, Big E-Z is now for sale on eBay!

Robo-signing? Now I’ve heard everything!

Robo-signing?  Now I’ve heard everything!   I have been signing documents for decades. As the controller, office manager and bookkeeper for various companies, I have been asked to sign all kinds of forms, letters and checks. I used to sign so many checks that I purposely shortened my signature to save time. (I love finding short cuts in everyday mundane tasks).  I guess I come from a time and place where your signature actually means something like “You can trust what I’m saying because I signed it” or “Yes, I agree to pay my mortgage because my signature is on it” or “I signed it; now you’ve got my word.”

Now fast forward to March 13, 2012 and a reporter from the New York Times writes that there is now convincing evidence that the foreclosure process was “deeply tainted by sloppy recordkeeping, cut corners and possible fraud, epitomized by high-profile cases of “robo-signing’’ — cases in which foreclosures took place based on forged or unreviewed documents.”   And because of this, five of the nation’s biggest banks including Wells Fargo and Bank of America, have just agreed to a $26 billion settlement to provide relief to families facing foreclosure.  This is tantamount to their admitting that they knowingly participated in this type of fraud.  These are bank employees and notaries public knowingly putting their signatures on improper papers to say “Yes. This is correct and you have my word on it!”

How does that happen in the business world today?  Where are their scruples? Who is teaching people right from wrong? In this day and age of widespread fraud and corruption, business leaders and investors are looking for accounting integrity, record keeping transparency, and tight auditing trails.

By the way, the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System has audit trails and built-in controls all the way through.  You have my signature on it!

When Should A Small Business Issue a Press Release?

Have any of you ever toyed with the idea of putting out a press release?  They’re not hard to do.  There are standard formats to follow and there is even a company that will send them out for you for free (PRLog).   A Press Release is useful if you have something you want to announce, like a new product, or an event coming up, or something that has happened with your company which you want people to know about.  But it’s important that your topic is newsworthy, or busy editors and reporters will simply delete it.

In my case, I wanted people to know that I am offering a free budgeting tool called the Big E-Z Cash&Charges Expense Tracker.  So last week I put out a Press Release.   I thought I would post it on my blog so my customers and visitors to my website can also see it.

For immediate release

Michigan Bookkeeper Wants to Help People Get Control of their Finances with Free Budgeting Software

Get free budgeting software for a limited time from Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software. This pre-formatted Excel Spreadsheet helps individuals and small business track spending and easily balance their budgets.

PRLog (Press Release) – Mar 07, 2012 -
Livonia, Michigan — Michelle Carley, owner of Big E-Z Bookkeeping Company,  for a limited time is offering a free budgeting tool designed to help young families, students, and small businesses track expenses. This pre-formatted, ready-to-use Excel spreadsheet, called the Cash&Charges Expense Tracker, is adapted from the more comprehensive Big E-Z Bookkeeping System. This Excel-based spreadsheet automatically calculates expenses to help users track spending.

Simply enter the amount of money which you have allocated for a single event or a semester’s expenses, enter your budgeted amounts, then enter in your actual expenses.  As each week goes by, watch the spreadsheet automatically tally the difference between what you have budgeted and what you are actually spending.

“Due to the current economic climate, most Americans are trying to be more careful how they spend their money, but they don’t know how to do it,” says Michelle Carley, owner of the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System and an experienced bookkeeper with 25 years working in the field.  A few years after she first launched her own small business, her Big E-Z Bookkeeping won The Most Needed Product of the Year award from the National Association of Women Business Owners.

“I can’t tell you how many times I hear of young people today who have nothing to show for all their hard-earned money.  Money flows through their hands like water. Obviously they are not learning to track their spending.”  She illustrated this by mentioning that a friend’s daughter, a college freshman, had accidentally spent $1000 on i-Tunes her first semester in college. She added, “This free spreadsheet is very useful for helping college students or young families learn how to manage their money.”

“Big E-Z’s free expense-tracking spreadsheet is ideal for reining in out-of-control spending in your personal life or in your small business”,  Carley remarked, “a habit that reflects the out-of-control spending on the national level as well. The only way I know to get control of a problem like this is to shine a light on it. This is true for any problem not just a financial one.”

“Do you know what a ‘creeper” is?’ she asked.  “It’s a term medical doctors use for someone who unknowingly gains one or two pounds a year.   Some families I know have fallen into debt the same way. They just haven’t tracked their expenses enough to see the patterns. This free software is designed to do just that: help people see exactly where their money goes. It will shine a light on their expenses and their spending will be like a deer caught in headlights.”

This easy-to-use, pre-formatted Excel-based spreadsheet is ideal for small businesses or individuals needing to budget and track the expenses of a single event, such as a wedding, family reunion, or an annual trip. It’s also great for college or grad students on tight budgets or families trying to figure out where they can cut unnecessary spending.  “Staying on top of spending will save a lot of grief down the road,” says Carley.  To access this free spreadsheet and expense tracking tool, go to the Big E-Z Bookkeeping website at www.bigez.com to download this budgeting tool and the accompanying How to Use the Cash&Charges Expense Tracker YouTube video.”

###

Six Easy Tips to Get Organized for Tax Time Especially For Brand New Small Business Owners

I have noticed that some brand new small business owners are really lost when it comes to organizing their finances: setting up their books, tracking their expenses, or even setting up a checking account.  So here are six easy and practical steps to set up your Income and Expense Categories so they will match your Tax Categories.

First, get out a piece of lined paper. Allow about 25-30 rows for your MAIN income and expense categories and another 50-100 SUBCATEGORIES specific to your type of business. Place these categories into two columns, one for Income and one for Expenses.  You will want to keep this list for years to come, in case you need to tweak it,  so place it in a clear plastic sleeve and write SAVE over it so it doesn’t get tossed.

Now,  follow these tips to help you get organized for next year’s tax time, because it’s too late for this one! Always start at the end.Determine what expenses and sources of income you need to track.  Specifically, what categories will you need year-end amounts for?

1.Set up your MAIN income and expense categories. Small business expense categories can be found on Schedule “C”.  A quick glance at “Schedule C” will give you a startup list of Expense categories, some of which you may choose to use when you set up yours.  These include categories such as Advertising, Contract Labor,   Legal and Professional Services,  Repairs & Maintenance, Travel, Meals, & Entertainment.  Go over them to see those which you will use and those which you won’t.  Think over your business to make sure and jot them down.   (If you already own my bookkeeping software, Big E-Z Bookkeeping, I have included a suggested list of categories for Businesses, Non-Profits, and Personal on the Settings Tab.)

2.Set up your Sales tax and related subcategories. (If not applicable, skip to the next step). If you are like most businesses, you will need to track sales tax.  (If you aren’t sure, determine if you need to track sales tax by contacting the office in your state which regulates Sales and Use Tax. Break up your income into taxable and non-taxable categories like resale, interstate commerce, and exempt services, to name a few, and jot them down.

3.Break down your Income from donors.  (If not applicable, skip to the next step). If donors to your non-profit need a receipt of their tax-deductible donations, now is the time to start tracking this data, so that by January 31you can give them  a yearly statement of monies received for their tax returns.  Figure out what data you will need and jot it down.

4.  Track your payments to Independent contractors (W-2s and 1099 MISC). (If not applicable, skip to the next step). If you have independent contractors—or even household help—and you pay them more than $600 each during the year,  you will need to issue a 1099-MISC for them.  Now is the time to set up columns (subcategories on our Big E-Z system) with their names, addresses, and social security numbers so you can start tracking all your 1099 payments throughout the year.

5. If you need to track both income and expenses for any given subcategory, now is also the time to set up Cost Centers.  (If not applicable, skip to the next step).  Let’s say you have Rental Properties. Rental Income could be the MAIN category and Property A and Property B would be the SUBCATEGORIES.   Expenses associated with your Rental Properties could have several Main Categories such as Gas, Electric, Water, Repairs, Improvements,  Property Tax, Lawn Care, and so forth. Each Main Expense Category could then have the same Subcategories labeled Property A or B.    This way you could see the net profit for each individual property by tracking both income and expenses on a monthly basis.  Another example but for a personal use of the Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software would be:  SSI for a disabled individual still living at home. You could handle the monthly SSI income as well as the different subcategories of SSI expenses and you could see a net balance month-by-month.

6.Make sure you have a paper backup.  Think about which MAIN categories you will have paper receipts for and track them with envelopes with the same category names. For example,  you can use an envelope for Utilities and place all of your paid receipts for the year into it. These envelopes should be bound in a spiral binder so everything for one year is together. This will serve as a paper trail in the case of an audit.  Now let whichever well-structured system you have chosen accumulate the specific category totals you will need for tax time.  Keep in mind the system you use should have checks and balances in place to catch errors.  And it is a must that you reconcile all your accounts to prove their accuracy. The Big E-Z Bookkeeping System is one of those accounts.  Contact us at www.bigez.com to read our blogs or to download a free Cash&Charges Expense Tracker which will also function as a free trial of the way our system operates.  We also have free YouTube video tutorials such as “How to Set Up a Cost Center” or “How to Record Sales Tax”.

Checks and Balances in the Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software

I would only use an Excel spreadsheet for my bookkeeping IF I knew that controls were in place to be sure my recordkeeping was accurate. What do I mean? I’ll explain.

People in the bookkeeping and accounting field understand this concept. A system of checks and balances must be in place for it to function accurately. Double-checks must be there. There are three double-checks in the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System and I’ll show you what they are.

First of all the Big E-Z System has always had a bank reconciliation area. This is to prove the checkbook matches what the bank says.Why should anyone reconcile?  Because banks make mistakes too. We’ve made this process as simple and as streamlined as possible. I actually find this the fun part of bookkeeping unless I don’t reconcile the first time around. But then I always reconcile when I go back through all the items again.

Next, many people don’t know this, but in the monthly Income & Expenses area of Big E-Z,  if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you will see our exclusive Balancing Items Area (highlighted in the 3-minute How to Track Sales Tax YouTube Video). Here’s where you can see that all of the income and expenses you entered into the system are in balance between the checkbook and non checkbook items.  How we do it is a trade secret!

Finally, we have another exclusive feature, our Account Balance Tracker. This is where you can reconcile all of your other accounts like savings, investments, credit cards, and so forth.  Why?  So you don’t miss anything—especially expenses—on your tax return.

I would not trust just any spreadsheet to do my bookkeeping, without checks and balances,  but I do trust the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System—and you can too!

Catch data entry errors in bookkeeping spreadsheets

No small business owner has time to waste, so when entering data into spreadsheets we must be as careful as possible. But we are all human and we make mistakes no matter how careful we are. This is why your easy bookkeeping system needs to be light and airy when it comes to correcting errors.  It should not take any longer to fix the spreadsheet error than it did to enter the wrong number,  if you ask me. In the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System,  it is super simple to correct errors. You open the file that contains the error, remove the wrong number, enter the correct number, and you are done.

But how do you know you made a bookkeeping error in the first place?  By reconciling your bookkeeping records, of course.  When you reconcile your bookkeeping records against the bank statement and your numbers don’t match, you may have incorrectly entered an amount in the bookkeeping spreadsheet. Here is a link to my newest video tutorial for how to reconcile your checkbook using Big E-Z Bookkeeping.

Here is a simple bookkeeping trick to find transposition errors. Divide the number you are off by 9. If it’s divisible by 9, then you know it’s a transposition error.  For example, let’s say you are off by $27:  this means you may have entered $803 instead of $830.

If your error was not transposed,  then youentered in the wrong amount.  Let’s say you entered the amount as $13.05 and it should have been $13.06.  It happens. Tell me about it.  I spent 25 years working as a bookkeeper.  I know! The only way to find  this type of error is by doing a double-check. This is time-consuming,  but I always find my error the second time around. So let’s say you checked off all your deposits against the deposits which the bank shows you made;  and you checked off all the checks, debits and transfers against the ones the bank shows and you are still out of balance. The next step is to double-check everything one more time.

If it is late in the evening and I’m tired, I usually wait until the morning to do my double check my bank account records. But I always find my bookkeeping error the second time around.

Lastly, you might have a rounding error. This is a problem whenever you deal with percentages. As long as your system has a quick and easy way to correct rounding errors,  it should take only a minute to fix. In the Big E-Z System,  there is a special place to account for the amount of pennies you are off.

Big E-Z bookkeeping software is a set of easy-to-use spreadsheets perfect to help individuals, non-profits and small businesses manage their finances and easily prepare for tax season.

Have you come across another type of error I’m not aware of? Or do you have a tip to help catch bookkeeping errors. Write me and tell me about it.

Do Big E-Z Bookkeeping Excel Files Work on the Mac?

I know many of you have been asking whether our easy-to-use Big E-Z Bookkeeping Excel spreadsheet system will work on the Mac and the iPad2.

The great news is that it now works beautifully with the Mac.  Just last week, a customer who had purchased the new 2012 Big E-Z Bookkeeping System, wrote and said “I’ve been using the 2012 Big E-Z for a short while now, but I have used the single version [beginning] a few years ago. I have found that by copying the working folder to Drop Box (an internet storage site) I can access the files with my Excel for Mac, and it works great. Just thought you may want to know.” – Terry S.

I called her back and asked her which version of Excel she was using for the Mac and which Mac computer as well. This is what she replied:

I’m using Office 2011 for Mac. When I run the Excel file, I’m asked to enable the macros and update the links. I do both. After that I get an error message (I’m not sure what it says off the top of my head), but when I close the message, everything works fine. I’ve been doing this since I purchased the new Big EZ program a week or so ago, and when I open the files from my PC – all is fine.[Then I] go back to the Mac – all is fine. No glitches or hiccups. But you do have to store the files on an on-line site. I have not yet been able to access them through my home network. Jobs and Gates are still bumping heads on that one.. Hope this helps.

Yes, Terry! This really does help.  Thanks so much!

With respect  to Excel spreadsheets in the ipad2: you can view them with no problem.  Some more simple spreadsheets can be edited using DropBox and Numbers or Documents to Go, but for Big E-Z files, we’re still waiting for the ipad2 version of Microsoft Excel, so that files can be seamlessly imported, edited, saved, and shared.

Any feedback from the rest of you?  Have you found a way to access  Big E-Z files on your iPhone or iPad2?  Write and let me know.

How Do You Keep Your Small Business Books?

Accounting software is a critical investment for small business bookkeeping.  To become successful at managing your finances, you need a bookkeeping system that fits the needs of your  small business, fits the time constraints of your operation, and fits your budget. Most people don’t have a natural instinct for organization, especially when it comes to their finances. How do you keep the books for your small business?

I’ve encountered customers who continue to use the paper bookkeeping system we introduced many, many years ago. These folks still write on columnar pads to keep track of their expenses, check listings, deposit listings, receivable listings, profit & loss, bank reconciliation, etc. It has little match-up boxes that tell the user where to put the total on the next form to reconcile and so forth.  It’s a bit  like a paint-by-numbers set from the sixties.  Very retro.

I know some folks who have invested in complicated accounting software, like QuickBooks, which usually has a large learning curve and can be  frustrating to use if you are not computer savvy.

Some small business owners do their small business bookkeeping in the cloud. But I wonder: Is the cloud secure?  Can you trust your records to be there when you need them? How do you know nobody is snooping around and looking at your numbers?  What do you think?

Through trial and error,  some people have come to the conclusion that you can do more with less, that small is beautiful.  I can’t even count how many folks have written me to say how much they prefer to keep their bookkeeping records on our ready-to-use, pre-programmed Excel spreadsheets.  My Big E-Z bookkeeping system is easy to use, with a practically-zero learning curve.  You can  see everything at a glance all on one page, and if there is an error made when entering your data, it is so easy to correct.

Ultimately,  it doesn’t matter how you keep your books,  you just need to keep them. It’s like brushing your teeth: the longer you put it off,  the worst it gets.

So write me and let me know:  What kind of a business do you own?  Have you found a bookkeeping system you just love?

Michelle Carley

Big E-Z Bookkeeping Systems

www.bigez.com

How to Set Up Your Bookkeeping System

Here are a few tips to help you set up your bookkeeping files with the right tax categories to track so you’ll be prepared for next year’s tax time.  Always start at the end…determine what expenses and sources of income you need to track:  specifically,  what categories will you need year-end amounts for?
Start by pulling out the tax form Schedule “C” from last year if you have one. Go over the categories to see those which you use and those which you don’t. (By the way, the list of Business Expense Categories on our Category Corner page already reflects Schedule C categories).  Make sure you account for each of those categories on the Big E-Z Bookkeeping System when you set it up in January or Period 1.
Now,  think about which of those categories you will have receipts for and track your receipts with envelopes with the same category names. You may want to use our receipt storage book. You may need to change the tax rate on the Deposits worksheet. Now is also the time to set up Cost Centers if you need to track both income and expenses for any given category. Check out our short instructional videos. We have a video that tells you how to do this using rental properties as an example.
If you have independent contractors or household help,  and will need to issue a 1099-MISC for them,  now is the time to set-up columns with their names and addresses in the Subcategory section of the Checks worksheet. And if you follow a fiscal year instead of a calendar year,  now is the time to re-name your periods. Lastly, enter in your beginning checkbook balance on the Checks worksheet and that is it!   If you need help with this we now offer a complete bookkeeping system set-up service

 

Tips for Preparing 1099s for Your Contracted Labor

Another year is over!  Now if you are like me,  you will need to get your 1099s out to your contracted labor. Here are some tips for preparing your 1099s. If you have had contracted labor in the year, or if you have paid out royalties, or paid fees to an attorney etc., you will need to submit 1099s for each person to whom you paid more than $600 .  You will need to send one copy to each person by January 31 and one copy to the government by the end of February.
As a professional bookkeeper, I’ve done this for many years,  so I have a handle on it (not to brag of course!).   But if you are new to the process, here are a few tips. Have you entered data throughout the year?   Are your records up-to-date? Mine are (I guess I am bragging, sorry), so for me  now,  it is a matter of just four simple steps:
  • reconcile my December bank account statement with my Big E-Z Bookkeeping System (go to our website to see how it works and to get a 7-day free trial).
  • print my Year-To-Date Income and Expenses report from the Big E-Z Summary file (one of many reports (video)),
  • gather my data to prepare my 1099s from the Subcategories&1099s section (video).   I usually enter Contract Labor as a Main Expense Category and then I break it down into the individual 1099s on the Subcategory level.  I enter each person’s name, address, and even Tax I.D. number if necessary.  There are enough lines on the Checks worksheet to do that and enough columns for 100 subcategories.
  • determine my taxable and non taxable sales (video) to prepare my sales tax return.  I keep track of this on my Deposits worksheet where there is a column for sales tax to be recorded.
And that is pretty much it!

How to Make Your Accountant Happy

So, my New Year’s Resolution is to systematically record my financial expenditures…….daily!  That’s the best way I know to achieve a balanced budget.

Yeah, I know.  You’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt!

But, hey!  The good news is it will only take five minutes a day to track my finances with my  new 2012 Big EZ Bookkeeping System! How many of you want to join me in this Resolution?

That means today I will be coming up with my expense categories, setting my budget for this new year and inputting my numbers on the pre-formatted budgeting spreadsheet along with my beginning bank balance (on the Period One Checks worksheet).

What else will I be inputting today?  My beginning balances on the Account Balance Tracker for all other accounts.  In my case, I am going to enter the beginning balance of my savings account, my investment account, and my high school son’s checking account (since he doesn’t have enough activity to warrant his own Big E-Z system!).

Hmm…..I also want to track my credit card balances,  so that data gets entered too.  And any expenditures I may have spent today, January 1, 2012, go on the Checks worksheet (for checks or debit card expenditures), or on the Cash&Charges worksheet (for cash or credit card expenditures).  (Luckily the Kindle books I got were all free!)

And I’m done!

Done with my longest entering-of-data for the entire new year!  From now on, it’s all down hill simply entering my transactions on a daily or weekly basis.

Everything else in Big E-Z Bookkeeping is an automatic cumulative report, the kind that makes accountants happy because tax forms are so much easier to fill out. Read my January newsletter with a Customer Spotlight highlighting one just such happy accountant.

Budgeting for Birthdays and Christmas

Have you ever wished you had a way to set up and automatically track a budget for one event? Like a birthday party or a family reunion or an office Christmas party? Or how about just your Christmas budget for the year?

I stumbled upon this need for a single-event budget and calculating spreadsheet two weeks ago as I planned my son’s 15th birthday celebration. After checking online, I found that many of the free single-event online budgeting tools, such as Christmas budget worksheets, are simply fill-in-the-blank-by-hand spreadsheets which you have to print in order to use.

Did I say my son turned fifteen?  Yes, I know!  That’s a big deal!

He wanted to invite over some of his friends and their moms to eat homemade flammkuchen (a German pizza we had tried and loved last summer in Germany).   My son loves foreign languages and travel.  And this year in school,  partially because of that two-week visit to some close family friends in Germany, he’s studying not only French but German!

Anyway, he  also wanted a ten-mile bike ride for his birthday.  At night no less: on Hines’ Parkway, cycling through the spectacular Christmas lights that have just been put up here in Metro-Detroit.

So there we were one night last week:  My son, and four of his Boy Scout friends,  whipping down the parkway at top speed,  and three of us moms barely hanging on,  huffing and puffing,  bringing up the rear!  A lot of thoughts cascaded through my mind:  the need for a systematic exercise regimen for me; how grateful I was for our Scout troop and home school community; and how glad I was that it wasn’t pouring rain!

But the last thought that occurred to me was like a light bulb going off in my head:  people need a way to budget and track single events!  This is one reason I decided to offer , the Big E-Z Event Budget Spreadsheet.

This was perfect for a single event like his birthday party. I had a budget and I had the real costs: the groceries, the entrance fees, the party favors, the decorations,  the soft drinks, and the presents. After taking five minutes to enter the budgeted items, and the actual amounts from my receipts, I was able to come up, at the flick of a wrist, with the totals and the differences.

How cool is that?

For an even larger event, like an anniversary or a wedding, the Big E-Z Event Budget Spreadsheet (screen) is even better.   I can put in the budgeted amounts to start with and my bank balance; I then add in all the expenses as they accrue, break them down over 25 main categories or even 100 subcategories; and lastly,  I can keep track of the difference between what I’ve budgeted for each category and subcategory!  Perfect!

So, enjoy this Big E-Z Christmas gift to you! And let me know of any budgeting problems you’ve run into.  Maybe I can help.

Free Big E-Z Cash&Charge Expense Tracker

Last week, on one of the many bookkeeping and accounting forums I follow,  I was struck by the plight of folks who were trying to combine an Excel spreadsheet for tracking expenses with another software that could help them budget. I shut my laptop and began to think: as the founder and owner of Big E-Z Bookkeeping, I could do something about that. Why not just take one of my automated worksheets from my Big E-Z Bookkeeping software package which uses Excel, and adapt it for people who need a simple way to track expenses and compare them with a budget?

So new for 2012,  Big E-Z Bookkeeping is offering the Big E-Z Cash&Charge Expense Tracker, a new, simple budgeting and expense spreadsheet–with categories you can customize! Although it requires MS Excelto function,  now you can solve both of these problems in one spreadsheet!Enter a budget for a variety of categories, enter a beginning balance,  enter several types of income, keep a running tally on over 25 different main expense categories,  AND keep track of the difference between what you’re actually spending and what you originally budgeted.  You can also break each Main Income and Expense category down into one hundred subcategories.  Each main category and subcategory is fully customizable by you!

Unlike my complete Big E-Z Bookkeeping package, which is designed for monthly use, bank reconciliations, and systematic reports,  the Big E-Z Cash&Charge Expense Tracker is ideal for tracking funds (budget, income and outlay) for specific events over several months — like a semester of income and expenses for a college or grad student or surrounding a single event like a business trip, a wedding, an anniversary or reunion celebration, a school field trip, a fund-raising effort to support a friend with cancer, a garage sale, a Boy Scout fundraiser, or a special ebay or Paypal sales event you are sponsoring.

This product is a free budgeting tool.  Download it here.

I hope this will come as a welcome gift—something that will make your financial tracking and budgeting so much easier! And I hope it will also introduce you to the ease and simplicity of my full-service Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software which many people have come to love.

BIG E-Z BOOKKEEPING:  inexpensive and E-Z to use!

Special Price on Big E-Z Bookkeeping Software

Big E-Z is offering a limited-time special price on our easy-to-use bookkeeping and budgeting spreadsheet software.

Big E-Z bookkeeping software is perfect for small businesses, personal budgeting and non-profits like churches and volunteer organizations. This simple accounting software tracks income and expenses and works seamlessly with Microsoft Excel. No math involved—all calculations are built in!

If you are an individual or small business who needs accounting software for keeping track of your budget, there is no longer a need to invest in an expensive accounting program. Big E-Z does what Quickbooks does-for half the price, and is easier to use. This simple pre-formatted spreadsheet is ready to go, all you have to do is enter the numbers.

Order your Big E-Z spreadsheet software before September 30, 2011 and get 50% off the listed price. This applies to the 2011 Single or Multiple Account software. Use this discount code when ordering — halfoff092011 — and get the accounting software for half price.

Our bookkeeping and accounting software comes with free support from a Michigan-based support team. Big E-Z accounting software also comes with a handy receipt storage book so when tax time comes, you’ll be ready.

Contact us with questions or order now at http://www.bigez.com/ordering.html.

Learn more

Non Profit Accounting Software: No Experience Needed

Nonprofit organizations are feeling the budget crunch as much as anyone else. With nonprofit donations and income down, it is more important than ever that not for profits keep their finances in order and manage their budgets carefully.

The problem is, most nonprofit organizations don’t have an accounting expert in their organization and volunteers have enough trouble managing their personal budgets, let alone stepping up to take charge of nonprofit accounting.

The solution is to keep it simple. Using simple accounting software will mean less headaches for your organization’s treasurer who is charged with nonprofit bookkeeping. If your organization writes less than 150 checks per month, then there is no need to use complicated accounting software. A pre-programed Excel spreadsheet template will do the trick.

Big E-Z offers affordable, easy-to-use, pre-programmed Excel spreadsheet templates and accounting software that lets nonprofit organizations track their deposits, donations, checks, income and expenses. All the treasurer has to do is enter the numbers in the Microsoft Excel accounting spreadsheet and the pre-programmed Big E-Z spreadsheet template does the rest. No excel experience needed.

Big E-Z Bookkeeping’s clear, concise, and complete summaries are automatic. You can print them whenever you want, knowing that they are complete and up-to-date. Then, pass the summaries out at your next board meeting and everyone will have a clear picture of exactly where your nonprofit financials stand. When tax time comes, just hand the spreadsheets over to your tax accountant and you are good to go.

Contact Big E-Z Bookkeeping today to learn about our affordable nonprofit accounting software.

Get your Finances Under Control: Help Me Budget!

Do you ever wonder where all your money went? While congress struggles to balance the budget, current economic conditions have all of us paying closer attention to our household budgets and bookkeeping. We jot notes in our check registers, balance our checkbooks on sticky notes, and study our bank statements trying to assess our financial condition.

The key to maintaining control over your family budget is using a consistent accounting system. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a budget worksheet or Excel spreadsheet template will do the trick. Don’t get too complicated with your spreadsheet, you will just get overwhelmed. Keep it simple.

When you use a template with formulas already included in the budget spreadsheet, personal bookkeeping can be as easy as entering numbers, no Microsoft Excel experience is needed. The easier it is, the more likely you will be to actually use the budgeting system.

Big EZ Bookkeeping is a personal accounting software system that consists of monthly, pre-programmed Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Each spreadsheet contains every financial detail you need to track. You just enter the numbers and the spreadsheet keeps running totals and summarizes your quarterly and yearly information. Then, you’ll know exactly where your money went; and when tax time comes, just hand the spreadsheet over to your accountant.

Within minutes of entering data you will clearly see your financial condition. The system makes intuitive sense, and gives you confidence in your records. You may or may not like the picture it paints, but it is an accurate and reliable snapshot.

For more tips on how to budget, visit the Big EZ Bookkeeping website.

Fill Out this Survey to Win a Free Copy of Big E-Z Books 2012

Take this quick survey — only 10 days left!

Enter Our Contest to Win the 2012 Big E-Z System!

We are always looking to improve the software. We value your opinion.

June 30th is the last day to give us your feedback to be automatically entered into a contest to WIN the 2012 Big E-Z System – free of charge. Three lucking winners will be notified by July 31, 2011.

Enter the Contest!

Password Protection

Some customers have asked if there is a password to unprotect the cells. Big E-Z Software has hundreds, if not thousands, of formulas and links intertwined within the program.

We have intentionally locked down the program to prevent changes to the formulas, which could potentially render the software useless.  Every year, just like Turbo Tax, we improve our software based on customer suggestions and to adhere to new tax rules.

Every year you get an upgraded program with the latest time-saving features.  If you would like to see specific changes made to the software, to make your life easier, please submit those suggestions and enter our contest to win a 2012 Big E-Z System.

The contest ends June 30th–don’t delay!

Using Previous Versions of Big E-Z Software Is Costing You Money!

Are you still using the old templates from 2007 and older? Then you are aware of the time you spend opening the template, renaming, saving, and linking the monthly files to a summary!  Still more time is needed If you are not able to link the files and you are adding the months together by hand with a calculator.  While it does get the job done; you are having to input some of the same data over and over again. We all know, ‘Time is money!’

Good news!  The software has been upgraded to provide you with the most time saving features, which also follows current tax laws.

The 2011 version links to each month and the Summary reports. It makes navigation so much quicker.  The new Repeating Transactions feature eliminates repetitive data entry and is worth the price of the new version alone.

We estimate we save our users between 4 and 12 hours of input time with each new version we create. So if you are still using the old templates, the 2011 version will save you valuable time. Order the 2011 version and receive the “previous customer” discount of $20.

What is your time worth?

New Write Up Software–Big E-Z Bookkeeper 20

SAVE MANPOWER HOURS AND PAYROLL DOLLARS!

Doesn’t require an accounting professional, can be handled by a clerk in your office. It’s Excel based software and keep financial details of up to 20 accounts. Knowledge of double entry accounting is not required. Each account has 12 monthly files with pre-titled, customizable column headings for income and expenses. Each page has running totals, and all are linked to the summary page. All you do is enter the income or expenditure amount in the appropriate column. Bookkeeper 20 does the rest. It’s that E-Z!

Contact Us to be placed on a waiting list to received 2013 Bookkeeper 20.

New write up about Big E-Z Software

Here’s an article written about Big E-Z Software. It tells accountants to act as technology consultants when they discover a program that might help their clients to be more productive in their day-to-day business; that accountants should share the information with the clients. It’s a win-win situation for both accountants and their clients!  http://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/article/10259296/how-helping-your-clients-can-help-your-firm

How to Set a Print Area in Excel

At some point you may want to print only a small portion of a page in the Big E-Z System. In this case you will want to Set the Print Area. Here’s what you do…click into the first cell you want to print, hold down the shift button and click on the last cell you want to print.

In Excel 2010-2007, click on Page Layout, Print Area, and Set Print Area. Click on the Office Button on the top left of your screen, click on Print, the Print Preview – if you like what you see – click Print again.

In Excel 2003, click on File, Print Area, Set Print Area. Click on File, Print, Preview – if you like what you see – click Print again.  www.bigez.com

Beaches and Bookkeeping

What’s the connection? There isn’t one! I took a week off and spent some quality time with my family and some wonderful friends on Hilton Head Island, SC. It was my first time there and I really enjoyed it. We saw some dolphins out on the Atlantic in Calibogue Sound, got a little too much sun on the beach, explored Harbour Town and Savannah, GA. Our first day was cool and windy. I have never seen sand blowing sideways on a beach before. That was interesting. Reminded me of snow blowing over ice in Michigan.  Then it warmed up and was just beautiful with 80 degrees and sunny each day.

This blog should have been titled “Beaches and Budgeting” because there is a connection between them. I can honestly say this is the first time we went on vacation with a budget to follow. I took out some cash for the vacation and let each family member know how much money they could use. In the beginning I gave updated reports on how much each person had left to spend after each purchase and it worked like a charm. I only had to remind them a couple of times and then they started to police themselves.

I discovered that budgeting is not that difficult. One just needs to tell ones self to use a budget and to choose an amount that sounds reasonable. Then just deduct the absolute neccessities like gas and lodging and distribute the balance among the family members. Let the family members police themselves. Oh what a great feeling to know we successfully followed a budget and won’t have extra charged items to pay off later.

Everything is a work in progress.

Every year, things improve or if they don’t–they ought to.  The same goes for our software. Each year we make improvements so that customers are able to track their data in more efficient ways. Would you buy a 2005 version of TurboTax to do your 2010 tax return? Of course not–but I hear from customers all the time that purchased our Big E-Z Monthly Bookkeeping five years ago and are still using it today. Yes, it was a good program and it is still useful to a limited extent but the time wasted trying to link the months together or manually adding up the monthly totals to come up with summary totals for each expense is costing customers a lot time and money.

Things change. Record keeping requirements change from year-to-year. If you spend an extra 10 hours a year using an old program, just think of what it is costing you. New features like our repeating transactions have to save customers at least 5 hours a year in data entry time. The subcategory feature that allows customers to track payments to specific companies and/or employees and view monthly, quarterly and yearly totals is priceless. What is your time worth?

The Time is Right (to set up your 2011 Big E-Z Bookkeeping system)

I just completed my tax return. I spent a day gathering all of my information to do the taxes, so everything is still fresh on my mind. It’s a perfect time to set up this year’s Big E-Z Books, with more of the details that I need for peace of mind throughout the year. Yes, I’ve already started entering data into the system, but now that last year is finished and filed away, I need to tweak the categories and establish subcategories to gain more meaningful reports. Now it’s the time to do that. Of course, I need “Period 1″ open to make these changes.
Since I’ve already entered checks for January, I need to move around a few things. I noticed my auto expense category was extremely high last year. I know gas prices have gone up but my total auto expense was out of sight! I looked back and noticed I was including car repairs and license plate tabs in the Auto Expense category. So, I decided to break out repairs by setting up two categories: “Auto-Gas” and “Auto-Repairs”, Etc.
As for using the new Subcategories feature, I determined that I need a subcategory for my son’s French tutor so I can track my payments to her each month and make sure that I have not missed one. I also want to know how much in total she receives from me each year. So, now I record the check to the French tutor under the “Education category” and I record the amount under the tutor’s name in the subcategories. Now, when I go to the Summary and click on “Subcategories”, I can see monthly amounts paid to her. There is a lot of power in that! I feel in control of my spending more than ever before.  The time is right to set up your books and gain more control over your money.

Rainy Days and Taxes

It’s a perfect day in Michigan to do taxes. I’ve got my cup of English Breakfast tea and I’m ready to tackle my taxes. There is a light rain outside this morning. I’m not really doing the taxes, I’m just getting all the information ready to give to my CPA. Since I was a bookkeeper many years ago, I know how to bring my records to a trial balance. I start with last year’s spreadsheet, since I’m using Big E-Z Books this year to track all my finances, I print out the Summary of  Income and Expenses. I took my bank and credit card statements from the file and started putting them in order by month with the most recent on top. I’m missing a couple statements, so I go to the bank’s website and print the missing ones.

It’s early afternoon and the rain is coming down a little harder now.  I like to reconcile each and every account like checking, savings, credit cards etc. I then: take the ending balances from last year’s spreadsheet that I designed; add and subtract the year’s totals from the Big E-Z Books spreadsheets; and come up with new balances for this year. Now, the balances are off on a few accounts, so, I need to dig a little deeper to discover my errors.  Okay, so I’ve placed a few amounts in the wrong columns. It takes some time, but I have my accounts in good shape.

It’s late afternoon and now it’s snowing outside. There are just a few more things left to do: I make a few adjustments to record utilities and mileage; I reprint my reports; I finish my trial balance; I print it as a PDF; and finally I send it off to my CPA.  I take out a rubber band and gather about two inches of reports, bank statements and credit card statements and file it away for the year. Coincidentally, there are two inches of snow outside; it’s a perfect day in Michigan.

New Bookkeeper 20-Almost Ready to Launch.

This new product is designed to be used by accountants, CPAs, bookkeepers, tax preparers and other professionals. You can track up to 20 separate accounts. For less than $20 an account per year you can easily track your clients checkbook balances, profits and much more.  You can give your clients clear, concise reports. I wish I had this product available to me many years ago when I operated a bookkeeping service.

Providing set up help for customers

Making a transition to another accounting program can be difficult. I’ve been there and done that. I’ve helped many businesses go from a manual system to a computer system throughout the years. Now I would like to help my current customers determine the correct categories to track and the best repeating transactions to use in the system to save time. If you are new to the Big E-Z System and would like help please sign up here for a free 1/2 hour consultation. This is for new customers only and for a limited time.

The 2011 Big E-Z Bookkeeping System is out!

The 2011 Big E-Z System is now available for purchase. It  includes the software download, a receipt storage book, a CD Rom to keep for backup purposes and a year of support. There are many new time saving features built into the software. My favorite is an optional area to track subcategories and 1099s. Up to 65 of them! This feature alone is worth the price of the software.   See what’s new in the 2011 version.

Glitch causes delay

Glitch found in testing causes delay of up to 2 weeks. These Excel files must be perfect when completed. We don’t issue updates to the program. Thanks for your patience.

2011 Big E-Z System

We are currently in the testing phase. The new 2011 Big E-Z System will consist of both the Big E-Z Software and a Big E-Z Receipt Storage Book. It’s due out in about one week. Stay tuned….

How I handle bank deposit details

I personally keep the records for the local Boy Scout troop. When I make deposits I use a duplicate deposit ticket book because I like the fact that all the pages are bound together; I will surely lose things if they are not bound! I list the payments received from each scout along with the purpose, let’s say we are collecting $25 from each scout that is camping this weekend. I then take the original deposit slip, I tear out the original out of the deposit book and bring it to the bank with the checks and cash for deposit. When I’m ready to update the scout checking account I will get out my duplicate deposit book and enter the total in to my Big E-Z Books for that day. I am a firm believer in doing the very least that is necessary so I will only enter the deposit total since all the detail is in the book if I need to go back.  Now I have all the records while only doing half the work!

One size does not fit all

Even though your business dream is big, the reality is if you are a small business you need a small bookkeeping system; you want something that fits your size. You want something doable, not overwhelming; something to track the basics.
My dog, Peanut, is a small minature dauschound. He weighs about 12 lbs soaking wet. Even though he is small he has a big attitude. He has a big bark. He thinks nothing of picking fights with dogs ten times his size. When he needs to go outside to do his business, I open the door for his size and he just stands there and waits. I then open the door much wider so he and his ego can fit though.

You may want to run a big business one day, but in reality if you have a small business you need a program to fit your size. Using a system that is too large means you need to learn a lot more than necessary at a crucial time in your business, the start up phase.

Organizing and storing last year’s papers

You probably already know that it’s best to store records from the previous year in one place. This could be a folder, a box, or an entire file cabinet, it depends on how many papers you want to keep. Or, you can streamline things a bit and store only what you need. This requires a lot of thought and research on your part.  If we are talking about your personal records you can put a copy of your tax return, bank account and property tax statements, your monthly income and expense reports from your Big E-Z Books — Personal Software.

For determining what business records to keep you may want to follow a retention schedule.  A retention schedule will tell you how long to keep copies of invoices, bank statements, tax returns, etc. You can print and store your monthly income and expense reports from your Big E-Z Books — Business Edition, along with any special financial statements from your accountant, your paid bills and all other backups for that year that are stored in your Big E-Z Receipt Storage Book, in a single box. Label it with the year and contents on the outside of the box. Then store it somewhere accessible.

Your records will now be at your fingertips whenever you need to access them.

New Bookkeeping Software: “I’m Finished!”

I finished the 2010 Big E-Z Books just a few days ago and it’s going to save users a lot of time by eliminating all the repeating transactions that they have to enter. One new feature of 2010 Big E-Z Books is the Account Balance Tracker area. This is where users can record month end balances for savings, investments, inventory, flex plan, or anything they need to keep track of.  In the next month or so, these trackers will be available so customers can enter data and sort it in a meaningful way.  Big E-Z Books is available for purchase at www.bigez.com.

New Bookkeeping Spreadsheet Software for 2010 — Coming Soon

I’m nearly finished with the 2010 version of Big E-Z Books by adding some finishing touches on the software. Several customers have been inquiring so I thought I would post a quick update.  If you thought the 2009 version was a time saver, just wait until you see the 2010 version. It’s what I call Hi-Speed Bookkeeping. On the latest version, the first ten rows allow you to enter the name of a person, or company, you pay each month and it will populate throughout all the month’s. Just think of the time you will save!  Another new feature that many customers requested is the ability of the software to automatically enter the previous months bank balance. Many of the non-profit users requested a better way to reflect a fiscal year ending other than the calendar year end of December 31st.

This is just a few of the new features to hopefully make your Hi-Speed Life a little easier. It should be available for sale this weekend. So please come back soon.

Organizing the In-Box

I have an in-box that is overloaded and overlooked.   I’m a bit of a procrastinator, ya’ see. I let things pile up until my in-box looks like Niagara Falls. Like most of you I have in-coming mail like bills, circulars, bank statements and cards, and drop things in the box as I go on throughout my day. Since I do a lot of my own work on my software, and on my own website, I also have lots of notes written on 8 1/2 by 11 paper. I even have some new recipes I download and print off the internet; and it’s all sitting in my in-box.

One day last week my in-box was extremely full so I thought I’d try to reorganize it and gain some control over this monster. I went to the office supply and purchased ten plastic folders with pockets, in many different colors. Plastic because I just know that one day I will set one of those paper folders down in some water on the counter and ruin it.

I proceeded to put blank labels on the front of each folder, then sat there thinking about how to organize these papers and what to write on the labels. This part took a long time. I thought about the colors and how best to use them. Okay, brown. I could use that one to hold the bills I need to pay; brown because paying the bills is a crappy job. Honestly — that is what I thought. Now I had the green folder and thought about the bank statements that need to be reconciled. Yes, green…like money…that works.  I used the orange folder to hold all my website notes because my website has a lot of orange on the home page. Those little receipts from restaurants and gas stations I categorized and filed into the Big E-Z Receipt Storage Book. I put the cards in a keepsake box and the recipes in a 3-ring binder and tossed out or recycled the fliers and junk mail.  There!

I now keep some folders in the In-box until I’m ready to use them and I can honestly say my In-box looks much better; I feel more in control!  What I learned here is that to really make a long lasting change you need to put some real thought into it.

Michelle Carley is the owner and operator of Big E-Z Bookkeeping software.

www.bigez.com

Using What I Design

I’ll be very honest . . . It took me a long time to start using the bookkeeping software I designed. I don’t know what took me so long (maybe it was the years of infertility or time spent caring for sick parents before they passed or the time it takes to learn how to run a profitable business) but I’m here now. For the last few years I have used Big E-Z Books software for my business, home and to keep the books of a few of small, non-profit groups. It has helped me hone in on what currently needs to be tracked for small groups like our Boy Scout Troop, the food co-op and a local homeschool co-op. I will discuss how I needed to organize myself before I could help organize others.  I will offer tips on how I got things to work or if parts are still not working and why.  Stay tuned as I embark on this blog journey. . .