Track ALL the Things
Until you know what you’re really spending, you can’t create a workable budget, let alone a fun one. Start by tracking all your business expenses, no matter how small. A simple spreadsheet will do; no need to get fancy.
If you want super simple and old school, keep a small notebook with you at all times and jot down all your expenses during your daily routine. At the end of the day, you can categorize them on your spreadsheet into Business vs Personal expenses. This example is a little neater than simply throwing receipts into your pocket or purse, although saving those receipts is important for tax time so don’t be quick to toss them.
Don’t worry right now about cutting expenses; we’re just getting an overview picture of how much you spend in your business on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Until you know the details, you can’t set a budget or invest back into your business wisely.
If you want totally hip and modern, check out these tracking apps for your smartphone:
Fudget – a no-frills app that allows you to keep a running list of income and expenses on your phone. Fudget gives you a running balance based on your list however it does not integrate with your bank. There are also no categories to manage; simply input your income and/or expenses on a daily basis. Available for both Android and iOs.
Dollarbird – a calendar-based app that allows you to input income and expenses as well as assign categories so you know exactly where your money is going and why. Did you stop at Timmie’s for a morning coffee or did you go there for lunch with a client? There’s a difference and Dollarbird will make note of that difference. You also have the option of syncing your calendar with a spouse or business partner so you both have the most up-to-date information. Available for both Android and iOs.
Wally – an intuitive app that tracks your expenses, takes photos of your receipts for tax time and helps you set financial goals. Uses categories to sort each expense. Available for both Android and iOs.
As with any app or software, there are dozens if not hundreds available for the purpose of tracking your business expenses so do your research carefully. You’ll also find free versions along with ad-free paid options. It’s easy enough to try out the free versions first before upgrading to a paid plan (which very often requires an annual commitment).
Get Organized While Tracking Expenses
Now that you’re playing with your tracking app and getting your expenses organized, take some time to organize your financial accounts. Do you have a business account separate from your personal account? Do you also have a PayPal account? What’s your balance in all your accounts?
If you do any business online, it’s wise to have a PayPal or a Square account. Both of those companies allow for online payments (including credit cards) and if you sell physical products, Square has a small Point of Purchase card reader that’s free for new users.
Do you need both accounts? Probably not, although PayPal is probably better known than Square. Square also transfers money to your bank account the next business day. It’s nice to have that quick money but if you prefer to have a balance in your online account until the end of the month, PayPal is the better option, as there are no transfers until you request one.
Your PayPal and Square accounts need to be linked to a bank account so be sure to use your business account here. Just ask your accountant how tricky it is to divide personal versus business expenses out of one account when tax time rolls around. Start with a solid foundation by keeping ALL your business expenses away from your personal expenses.
Start your day by checking your online bank account balance; knowledge is power. Then, if you pull out your wallet for anything, pull out your app and track the expense. If tracking business and personal at the same time prove difficult or overwhelming, just focus on your business expenses, such as:
- Mileage – are you going to a business networking meeting or meeting a client in real life?
- Autoresponder Service – usually a monthly recurring expense
- Subscription Fees – do you belong to any paid online memberships? Your local BNI chapter?
- Outsourcing – track it all, from the 5 hours per month you pay a virtual assistant to the one-time project you had for a graphic designer.
- Online Scheduling Software – free versions often have advertising; it’s best, in this case, to pay for an upgrade so only YOUR branding is visible to your clients.
- Website Hosting – vitally important for maintaining your online presence
- Computer Anti-Virus Program
- PayPal Service Fees
- Estimated Business Taxes (you never want to be caught off guard with taxes!)
Those are just a sampling of what you should track. If your wallet comes out, track it. Many apps allow you to mark certain expenses as recurring so it’s very easy to add it once and then it automatically shows up next month.
Now is the time to start looking at ALL your business expenses and make note of any duplications. Do you have extra domain names that you haven’t used? Consider selling them or letting them expire. Is there a less expensive autoresponder available? Switch plans or commit to sending out more emails to your list. Do you really use and receive value from the paid online groups you belong to? If not, cancel your subscription without regret.