Don't Be An April Fool!
By Lana Fletcher
"I'm the biggest fool again", many people admit on April 1 as they dig through piles of financial information, looking for all the tax deductions they can find.
Most of us use computers for all kinds of activities and can't imagine how we ever functioned without them.
But I've discovered many people don't use their computers for their bookkeeping. No doubt some of you are like that – so I want to get you excited about expanding the use of your computer and of experiencing the joys of handing your accountant your tax reports on February 1, as soon as your 1099's come, instead of on April 10, the last day the accountant will accept them.
You're probably thinking, "That's easy for you to say, you’re probably the bookkeeping type and I'm not."
I'll admit I always kept my checkbook balanced no matter how many hours it took to do it manually, and I kept a filed-pile system so it only took me a few days, not a few weeks, to get my tax information together. But I also like to expend as little time and energy as possible on necessary, yet tedious tasks.
My daughter didn't inherit my somewhat natural organizational skills, so she was one of the 'never balance your checkbook' types. She was glad she was still a student so she didn't have taxes to worry about.
I find that kind of person pretends that they like being 'could-care-less' all year long--until tax time comes. Then they have to admit the word is really 'careless' and suddenly they don't like being that way at all.
The reason for not being organized is that it takes too much time – but in the end they have to admit that it takes a lot more time not to be organized.
So when my daughter heard me singing the praises of computer bookkeeping, she decided to try it. Now she has become an every month balance your checkbook person. Why? Because with very little effort she does what took too long to bother with before. In fact, she goes beyond me in some areas, like online bill paying and banking.
It won't work to decide you'll do it when you have more time or energy, or when you aren't so distracted. I had to decide to begin on January 1, 1994.
My daughter had been killed in a car accident in September 1993, so in January I was barely functioning in any area of my life. But I had promised myself I would start using a bookkeeping program on the computer.
I forced myself to begin with one entry at a time. I found it actually helped this old, wounded dog feel saner to be able to learn a new trick.
You couldn’t say it was a good time in my life. So if I could do it then, I know you can do it now – no matter what challenge you may be facing.
Since I also do the bookkeeping for my husband's business, I figure the payroll. I hate to think how long it used to take me to figure the payroll from time cards and how many mistakes I made. The other day I timed how long it took me on the computer to enter the payroll data, print the checks, and figure the payroll taxes – 15 minutes … and a good part of that was signing the checks. I haven't found a way to have the computer sign my name.
The bookkeeping program I use makes personal bookkeeping equally simple. Any bills I pay monthly can be put in to automatically enter themselves on the day I choose – whether it's weekly, semi-monthly, monthly, quarterly, or, as in the case of property taxes, semi-annually. I no longer have to worry about forgetting them or clutter my mind with trying to remember them.
Once I've entered an account name, for example, "Salvation Army," ever after when I hit "s," the rest of the name and address are automatically filled in. Since this information also prints on the check, I use a window envelope to save even more time. The amount I paid last and the category it goes under, such as "contributions," also shows up.
Then at the end of the month/year I can print out one report that tells me how much I spent on contributions.
My tax consultant loves to see me coming on February 1 when he's still fresh for the tax season.
Another nice thing is that you can take the use of a bookkeeping program as far as you want. I hire a CPA to do the IRS yearly taxes and the business quarterly taxes because I don’t want to. However, my daughter files her own taxes electronically.
I challenge you to get a bookkeeping program going on your computer that works for you. Then you can:
1. Keep a balanced checkbook;
2. Gather your tax information easily and quickly;
3. Feel good about yourself; and
4. Maybe even enjoy it!
Best of all, come next year, you won't be an April fool!
Lana Fletcher lives in Chehalis WA with her husband. They have one adult daughter. Their younger daughter was killed in a car accident. She is the church clerk, has attended Toastmasters for several years, and enjoys making Creative Memories albums, gardening and writing. You may contact Lana through the Letters page of this magazine.
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