Receipt for Success


Yes, I do mean “receipt.” My spellchecker is working. My Quicken personal finance program is working. I’m working. I hope you’re working!

I also hope you followed my advice rather than my example about keeping current with your financial record keeping. Because if you, like me, let things slide the last couple months of last year, you’re no doubt sharing my joy of looking at a pile of receipts and filing the size of Montana. Whether your business files quarterly or annually, the traditional post-holiday credit card sticker shock has nothing on post-holiday desk mess when, not unsurprisingly, the office cleaning elves have once again passed us by and tax deadlines are staring us in the face.

Every year, as part of my New Year’s plan, I tell myself that This Year, I’m going to update my financial records at least monthly. This year, I’m going to sort through and categorize my receipts, enter the data into Quicken, and compile interim reports in a timely fashion. No more boxes or plastic bags of receipts. No more check registers left to be reconciled “later” because I know there’s at least a positive balance now. No more frantic, last minute rushing as tax dates draw near. No more! I’m even going to stay current on my filing!

The year always starts out that way. I usually make it pretty well through the calendar. I remind myself of those positive steps through all the months of knowing that so long as I completely keep up with my record-keeping, getting information from specific or cumulative summaries is simply a matter of pressing a few buttons and waiting for the printer to spit out a report. Voila! A properly categorized, sorted, and summarized financial report, with backup, that I could hand at any point to my accountant along with a soothing glass of herbal tea.

Hah! In the absence of a personal assistant and/or a winning lottery ticket, I am, once again, mainlining caffeine and playing catch-up. Too much time writing, not enough time tracking. In the business of writing, the two have to stay balanced. Regardless of which financial programs you use, for those of us coming up on paying the tax piper, this is the time to make sure all receipts and records are in order. Not always an easy task, but one that must be done.

This year is looking to be exceptionally fun. Sometime after Halloween — not surprisingly, right around the time the holiday schedules started getting hectic — my neat and tidy record envelopes did a shockingly fast segue into chaos (or at least see-through plastic bags) that ran neck in neck with the ever-growing stacks of filing. By the end of the year, both piles were amazingly high’so much so that it was easier to just quietly let the stacks landslide to the side and start over fresh for the new year. After all, I knew I’d be able to slip in a couple hours here and there before tax day to get those last few batches of paperwork in order. No problem!

Yes, problem!

Granted, I could just shove everything in a box and take it to my accountant. However, that would pretty much guarantee waving goodbye to my “good guys” discount this year — the discount where he takes a chunk off his fees because my information is turned over in a format he can use without resorting to backhoes and industrial strength migraine meds. This time, I’d likely get a pain in the posterior surcharge!

Fortunately, I take lots of notes. My records are actually pretty detailed. For example, when there was a business lunch, I can track it a calendar that confirms the notes on the receipt about who was there and what we discussed. The receipt bags are labeled by date. The story filing and related financial data like canceled checks are sorted and ready to be stuffed into drawers. It’s just getting that last bit of year’s end into the system that’s knocking me sideways.

So, I’m catching up. Not getting as much sleep as I’d like (not that that’s particularly unusual for a freelance writer). Indulging in way more Mountain Dew and coffee than I should. And with every muttered click of my trackball, I tell myself that this year, for 2006, I’ll make my goal and keep up for the whole year!

So far, so good. In the meanwhile, I’m dealing with the backlog by bribing myself with chocolate, the DVD of Troy, and the new Luscious anthology edited by Allison Taylor. When the filing is done, I get to blow an evening with movies. For each bag of receipts entered into Quicken, I get to read another story in the anthology. And every day I’ve kept up with this year’s records, I get chocolate. With that kind of incentive, I think I’ll make this year’s goal!

I’m hoping that with your records last year, you did what I suggested rather than what I did. This kind of catching up in no fun. It’s definitely better to take the chocolate, movie, and book bribes and do things right the first time!

Wishing you lots of black ink on your financial summary reports. See you next month for a discussion of networking.

March 2006

“The Business End” © 2006 Kate Dominic. All rights reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest