Hello! Part of what we hope to establish on this blog is a place for small business owners (with a bit of lean towards Etsy shop owners) to learn how to run a business. If you are used to a normal 9-5 job and sell on Etsy part-time or if you are a creative who sells full-time, you have to start somewhere.

One of the most crucial things that you have to deal with when running a business of any size (even during the days when you aren’t selling anything at all!) is to figure out your finances. If you want to offset some of your expenses by claiming them on your taxes, then you don’t want to be running around on April 14th at 11pm looking for receipts. Let’s just say I’ve learned this one the hard way! It’s just a good thing to know where you are with your spending and income.

Obviously, if your main job is as an accountant or bookkeeper, this post is largely useless for you. This is really aimed at the new business owner or someone who has been through the tax cycle once or twice already and wants to make a change. I’m posting this now because this is the perfect time to get your 2015 records together before they got too overwhelming (there’s also some time to get 2014 records together…).

My goal is to make this as painless and fun as possible. I got new supplies because I had run out of a lot of stuff, but you can use what you have around the house. I like to use a lot of color, but you can make it as colorful/pretty/glittered/plain as you like. You’re the only one who has to look at it!

 

Let’s get started!

What you will need:

1) A messy desk or table and a bunch of receipts from the last 1-12 months. (Sticking receipts in a cute container means I’ve dealt with them, right?)

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2) Some place to put all of the stuff that was just on your desk or table. I recommend a corner somewhere.

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3) A magically clean desk or table with a bunch of supplies that magically appeared on it.

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I used a 1.5″ binder, a pocket folder, 24 page protectors (you may only want 12), a 2015 printed monthly calendar, some masking tape (washi tape works well too), flags (being used as my divider tabs), a pen, and a marker or two. Feel free to use what you have around the house already – don’t add an extra expense unless you don’t have something to hold everything together. It’s really tempting to go out and spend a lot of money on something that you’ll only spend about 15-30 minutes a month looking at. If you have the money or supplies to make it fancy, go ahead! Again, this is meant to be a simple afternoon thing, not a grand adventure. It’s going to spend most of it’s life sitting somewhere collecting dust.

4) A smidge of patience. You don’t need a ton. It also helps if you can lock yourself away from distractions for a little while (like 30 minutes). I like to put on some fun music or a podcast in the background. Light a candle if it helps you relax.

 

Instructions:

1) Find all of your supplies. Get any supplies you don’t have and can’t find an alternative for.

2)  Open your binder and add in your folder and page protectors.

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3) Add each page of the calendar to either each page protector (if using 12) or every odd page protector (if using 24). This is so that you don’t have to go running around each month looking for a calendar. I have a separate work calendar that I have near my desk to keep an eye on upcoming work events. I also have them on my phone, but I try not to use my phone while I’m working. I also get a strange satisfaction from crossing of the days with a pen as they pass. Whatever floats your boat. I already had the January calendar up on the wall, so you’ll see February here.

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4) Close the binder and turn the spine towards you. If you are 100% sure that you will not need a bigger binder or that you won’t ever need to use it again, so ahead and write 2015 on it. If not, use the masking tape to write on so that you can reuse (or hopefully outgrow!) your binder. Measure the tape to the binder length, then start writing. If you are smarter than I am, you don’t cut the tape first. You turn the tape around the other way so that you only use as much tape as you need, not estimate and then wind up cutting some off each end. Make it as pretty as you like. Also, decorate the cover, if you so choose.

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5) Now, I used little flags instead of dividers here. I’m cheap and it seems insane to me to spend $6 for something I’m barely going to use. Do what you need to stay sane. You can also use the masking tape doubled over instead.

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Finished product!

 

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Now for the not so fun part, sorting through all those receipts. If you have receipts for this year, put them into the folder until you are ready to put them into your spreadsheets. [Don’t have financial spreadsheets to track your expenses and income? Check back tomorrow for free downloads!]

Here’s a picture of my 2014 binder so you can see what a month can look like:

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And also a little reminder of why I try and update this twice a week:

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Can you guess what we bought?

Come back tomorrow to find out and to download free spreadsheets to make your business run more smoothly!