Happy New Year! I originally wrote this article for inspiredbirthpro.com but thought I’d expand and update it for the new year, in hopes it will be helpful to those who made resolutions to be more organized.
For the first five years I was in business, my doula business finances were a mess! I was getting plenty of births, but I had no idea if I was making a profit, how much, and when it came to the end of the year, figuring out my expenses for tax time was just awful!
And then I stumbled on a product that solved all most of my accounting problems. It was called the “File-it!” calendar, and I used it for the eight years with great success. And then it was discontinued and I was so sad. I struggled to find a new system that worked for me. Just today, I discovered a new company making a nearly identical product! It’s the BasixTwo File Folder calendar.
This calendar hangs on the wall – essential to not getting buried in mounds of stuff on my desk – and I use it to record the places I go and the mileage. I do NOT use it for appointments I’ve not attended yet, or for non-business related stuff. I just record trips after the fact.
Each month of the year is printed on a file folder sized pocket. I put all the receipts for business related expenses in this pocket. When I deposit a check from a client, I write the client’s name on the bank receipt and it goes in the calendar, too. If a non-business related receipt ends up in there, no big deal. Again, it’s on the wall, so I never have to go looking for the place where the receipts go.
At the end of each month, I tear off the file folder pocket for that month. I go through my purse looking for more receipts. (Bonus! Purse gets cleaned out once a month, too!) I enter all the miles, deposits and receipts on the computer. After I’ve entered in the miles, I figured out the dollar deduction for those miles (using the current IRS formula –for 2014 it is 56 cents per mile for business trips) and reimburse myself for those, too. I personally use an Excel spreadsheet with different tabs for income, expenses and miles driven, but you could easily use Quickbooks, MS Money, or another program for this. If you’d like to try the Excel sheet I use, you can download it (and other doula business freebies)here.
And to motivate myself to actually DO this every month, all monies I get for my doula work go into a separate bank account for my business. At the end of the month, I write myself two checks: One reimbursing myself for expenses paid, and one paying myself any profit I can withdraw at that point. Can’t get the money into the non-business account without doing the accounting!
When I am done, the file folder pocket goes into a drawer in my desk. At the end of the year, I bind a year’s worth together with a rubber band and move it to a filing cabinet for more long-term storage. This has been amazingly helpful for me. Just having it on the wall as opposed to in a drawer or shoebox makes it always easily accessible. I’m not promising myself to write everything down as it happens – because I know myself and I won’t do that! Forcing myself to balance the accounts once a month helps me to keep my finger on how well my business is doing financially and how much money I have to spend on things like conferences, books, etc. And I spend a lot less time trying to figure out what the receipts mean, as I can more easily remember a transaction from February 12 on March 1 than at tax time the next year!
I don’t have any connection at all either calendar company, but I have found this calendar system to be so helpful to me in keeping a simple, doable accounting process for my business. Now that I know better how much I make and where the money is going, I am better able to find ways to do things I love, like attending big conferences every year, while still making a profit.