Does the thought of organizing and paying your bills make you cringe. You might have receipts everywhere, in the car, crumbled in your purse or wallet, and the invoices that need paying are probably buried in the papers on your desk or email box. Does this sound like you? Here are some suggestions in how to organize all that paperwork and handle the accounts payable side of your bookkeeping.
1. When you receive invoices that need to be paid, immediately place them in a folder, either in a file drawer or the in-box on top of your desk, labeled invoices or bills to be entered . Set aside some time at least once a week to enter them into your bookkeeping software. After you’ve entered the invoices, file them in a to-be paid folder. Depending on how many invoices you have, you can file them all in one folder or alphabetically by vendor. If you are going paperless, scan the invoices into your computer and file them the same way, in a file folder for Vendor invoices to be paid on your desktop.
2. Before you can enter any of these invoices and bills you’ll need to create a chart of accounts. Keep your chart of accounts simple. The chart of accounts is a listing of all your balance sheet accounts(assets and liabilites) and your income statement accounts(income and expenses). You’ll use these accounts when entering your transactions. Most accounting software packages will suggest a basic chart of accounts for you to start with. You can then add or delete accounts as you see fit.
3. At the same time your entering invoices to be paid, briefly look at any unpaid invoices you’ve already entered to make sure they aren’t due to be paid this week. Instead of looking at the invoices manually, run a quick unpaid bills report. You can then either print any checks needed using your software or pay them using on-line banking. On-line banking is a free service with most major banks, and you can enter the amount of the invoice and schedule it for payment before the due date. And with many accounting software packages you can accomplish this right within the software itself. The benefits of online bill pay is that it saves on postage and also by scheduling before the due dates you’ll avoid any late fees. Just remember if you pay the bills directly from your bank website, you will also need to enter those payments in your accounting software.
4. Reconcile your bank statements monthly. Try setting up time on your calendar the week the statement is received. You don’t want to put this task off because the longer your accounts stay unreconciled the harder it will be to find errors. If you have been disciplined in entering your transactions each week, it shouldn’t be a time consuming process and can easily be accomplished using your software’s reconciliation function.
5. Don’t forget your credit card purchases. If you’ve set up your credit cards as accounts they will need to be reconciled on a monthly basis the same way you reconcile your checking account. So be sure that you’ve been entering the charges daily or weekly. Credit cards statements can also be treated as regular bills, where you enter the bill for payment just like the rest of your monthly bills. If done this way you obviously won’t have an account to be reconciled every month.
6. If you use PayPal, you also need to set up this account similar to how your checking account is setup. And it will also need to be reconciled each month. With PayPal you can download the monthly reports for reconciling. To keep yourself current though I would also recommend doing this on a weekly basis to record any deposits and payments, and then reconcile on a monthly basis.
We’ll talk about handling your accounts receivable another time. We don’t want to forget that. You have to be invoicing customers and making deposits to pay all those bills we just talked about. Are you feeling frustrated and flustered with the thought of bookkeeping? Don’t worry, your not the only one. I think most business owners consider bookkeeping a dreaded task and put it off as long as possible. Unfortunately it’s not something that can be put off altogether unless you decide to outsource to someone that actually enjoys bookkeeping. Even then you shouldn’t ignore it completely, to effectively run a business you need to know what’s going on in every corner of it.
How do you stay organized? I’d love to hear your suggestions.