How would you feel if keeping records would become an enjoyable task rather than a dreaded one?
How would this change your day to day life as an entrepreneur if you would get inspired and excited every time you organize and file your receipts, bills, and statements?
Unfortunately, for most entrepreneur this is not the reality. Most people I talk to feel overwhelmed and stressed out by their files and papers, especially their financial files and papers, and they don’t have a system to keeping records.
Maybe you are one of them?
Maybe one of your New Year’s Resolutions or a goal for 2016 is to finally overcome the paper clutter and keep better records of your business finances? Maybe you just haven’t found a system for keeping records that resonate with you?
If so, you are in the right place.
Although we are well into the new year and are heading with big steps into February, it is still early enough to finally getting organized and starting that record keeping system for your 2016 files.
It does not matter where you come from or where you are now, maybe
- you have no system in place and your records are a complete mess
- maybe you don’t like the system you are using
- or maybe you just want to improve and fine tune your existing system
Now is the time to change that.
There are many ways under the sun on how to keep records and if you are determined to get out of overwhelm and chaos and get organized with your records then your first step is to find a system that fits your way of thinking and working.
And by the way: Don’t worry about your bookkeeper or accountant and how they prefer the records to be organized. I have been an Bookkeeper and Accountant for over 25 years, I happily adapt to whatever record keeping system my client chose. It doesn’t matter to me how the files are organized, the main thing is that they actually ARE organized and complete.
Here are two (actually six) quick and simple examples of how to keep your records:
Keeping Records with the Envelope/Box System
You will need to buy a package of envelopes, the size is really up to you, but I find envelopes that are 5-3/4″ x 8-3/4″ (14.6cm x 22.2cm) or bigger work best. You will also need some kind of a box that you can store these envelopes and keep them together. You can divide the box, for example, keep the envelopes you are still filling up to the front and envelopes that have the statement in it already to the back.
Here is how you organize your receipts into the envelopes, you can choose between 3 ways:
a) by month
Toss all the receipts and bills of each month in its own envelope. Write the month on the envelope and start a new envelope every new month.
b) by category
define categories and allocate an envelope for each of these categories. When you get a receipt or bill to file you will have to determine what category it belongs to and file it into that envelope. Here you keep the same envelope for the whole year or until it’s full and you need to start a second one for that category. Examples of categories are: Sales Revenue, Costs of Good Sold, Rent, Utilities, Telephone, Marketing, Travel, Entertainment and so forth.
c) by bank account and/or credit card
Create an envelope for each bank account and credit card and start filling them with the receipts and bills. Did you go for a Network Coffee event and paid with your credit card? The receipt goes into the envelope for that credit card. Did you pay with your debit card then the receipt would go into the envelope of that bank that issued you the debit card. When you get the bank statement you go through the envelope and make sure you have all the receipts, if yes put the statement into the envelope, put a check mark on the envelope, and start a new envelope for this particular bank account or credit card account.
Keeping Records with the Binder System
You will need to buy a good quality binder (or two or three, depending on how many documents you have). I prefer the Avery Heavy-duty one touch D-ring binder. One touch means it opens with ease, you can open the rings with one finger by pushing on the tab. You also want to use some dividers to organize your documents
Just like with the envelopes you can choose one of the following 3 ways to label the dividers:
a) by month
buy a set of 12-tab dividers, each tab represents a month January to December, now file your papers according to the month they occurred behind the corresponding tab.
b) by category
define some common categories, depending on how many categories you identified buy a set of 5-tab, 8-tab, 10-tab or 12-tab dividers. Examples of categories are: Sales Revenue, Costs of Good Sold, Rent, Utilities, Telephone, Marketing, Travel, Entertainment and so forth.
c) by bank account & credit card
get yourself a set of 5-tab dividers (or an 8-, 10- or 12-tab divider if you have that many different accounts) and now you file the receipts and documents according to what bank statement or credit card statement they will appear. Once you get the statement in the mail you check each transaction and make sure you have a record (receipt, bill, invoice) for it. Then you put the statement and it’s corresponding records together in the binder under the tab for that bank account or credit card account
A little trick that we used in the corporate world is, to always fill up your binder by having the latest, newest documents on the top (sorted bottom up not top down so to speak). This means you can just file your newest document on the top and don’t have to lift and turn all the documents that are in the binder already.
And now comes the secret sauce
No matter which system (envelope or binder) you chose, this still did not sound very inspiring or exciting right? Well….
In order to make this dreaded task a more pleasurable one, even an inspirational one, is to actually combine it with a Vision Board. If you haven’t heard of a Vision Board before, check out this wikiHow Tutorial.
Create a Vision Board for your (financial) goals and use the box or binder as the canvas for it. If you keep your records in envelopes in a box, decorate the box with your Vision Board, if you use a binder, you glue your vision board on the cover of your binder.
The point is that you see it every time you file your papers away, you see your vision, where you want to end up at and you get inspired by it.
In a future post I show you how I organize my digital files. I still have not managed to have a paperless office but more and more I get invoices and statements via email instead of snail mail. The challenge is now to save these important files in a way that makes sense and correlates with your physical record keeping. More about that another time.
Let me know in the comments below what you think of my idea to combine the dreaded task of keeping records with the inspirational creation of a Vision Board.