Affordable Bookkeeping Solutions (Part 1 of 2)

At Thrive Business Group we understand that it’s difficult for small businesses owners to make confident decisions without reliable financial information. The first decision a small business owner faces to that end is “Which accounting program do I use?”

The Criteria

The keys to having reliable information are (i) to keep accurate records of all the business’s transactions, and (ii) to keep this data separate from your personal financial activity. Any good accounting program must allow for these two things.

Further, more than just recording the information, the data must be usable—it must be organized, unambiguous, and relevant. In short, (iii) you need a program that generates reports.

Of course, any program you use must (iv) be affordable.

What NOT to Use

Many small business owners are content simply to rely on their companies’ bank statements to track all of their business activities. Others add a spreadsheet for basic tracking.

Both bank statements and spreadsheets are affordable. You needn’t spend a dime for bank statements, and there are many free alternatives to Microsoft Excel for spreadsheet programs (though the sophisticated spreadsheet user may find her reporting ability hampered). However, both these methods are limited.

Separate bank accounts are an essential part of keeping personal and business finances separate. And while many small business owners think that bank records are sufficient for accurate records, they are mistaken. Banks can make mistakes just as well as you can! Without a distinct accounting method, those mistakes become harder to track, potentially costing you money.

Though certain bank-tracking programs like Mint offer reports, the reports will not be enough to satisfy your needs in leading your business. None of the reports can give you the relevant information you need to make wise business decisions, to wow potential investors, or to convince potential creditors of the soundness of your business.

Further, don’t forget tax time! Tax time becomes much more stressful and more expensive than it needs to be when relying simply on bank statements—the amount of time either you or your accountant need to reverse-engineer your fiscal year escalates drastically without a separate accounting system.

Spreadsheets, when used in conjunction with bank statements and an accounting program, are powerful tools in the business world. They are one of the best ways to manipulate data when coming to business decisions.

However, they lack the integrity necessary for keeping info accurate. Think about it—one careless keystroke can compromise an entire year’s worth of data; and without a way to backtrack, the discrepancy may never be discovered!

And while sophisticated spreadsheet users may be able to create useful reports, few business owners have taken the time to become such sophisticated users.

Be sure to read Part 2—What to Use—for two great solutions to this accounting conundrum!