How to stay organized in a marriage
|| BY Penny Catterall ON May 18, 2016
My husband and I will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary on May 21st. Like most couples, we’ve had our ups and downs – but we’ve gotten through them and raised two wonderful sons, and we have what most would agree is a successful marriage. We are also lucky that we both have the same organized outlook on life, especially with respect to using cloud-based or other tech solutions to enhance that organization. Here’s what we use to stay organized in our marriage.
First, we share a Dropbox account, a cloud-based file storage system that both of us can access from any computer or mobile device. Over the past several years, as I have traveled my “paperless” journey, our filing system has gone almost completely digital. My husband and I have worked together to create a virtual filing structure that is easy for both of us to understand and use, so that each knows exactly where to file any new documents and where to locate older documents or archived files. Our basic digital file structure includes folders like Financial, Health & Medical, Taxes, Family Personal, and Home & Household, as well as ones for each of our businesses (as we are both self-employed). We scan all new documents that come in the mail, put them in the agreed upon folders, and then fire up the shredder!
We also keep our day-to-day lives organized by sharing each other’s calendars through iCal, Apple’s native calendar app (this can also be done through Google Calendar). I include the name of my client and their address in my calendar entry, so my husband will know where I am in case of an emergency. Using this system, we never have conflicts or mix-ups on dates for doctor’s appointments, vacations or picking up kids from college!
Probably one of the most important tools we use to stay organized is LastPass, an online password management system through which we securely share our internet passwords. We each have our own LastPass account, but know each other’s master passwords in case of an emergency. LastPass also allows the user to share specific passwords with a trusted party, so each of us shares financial, frequent flyer, and any other passwords the other might need. It always astonishes (and worries) me when my clients don’t know the passwords for their important shared accounts. If anything were to happen to one of them, the other would have a significantly harder time getting the information necessary to maintain all of the family’s accounts.
I am grateful that my husband embraces technology, and its ability to keep us organized, as much as I do. It definitely has helped us get through 28 years together – along with a lot of love, patience and humor!
3 Easy Tools to Manage Small Business Finances
|| BY Penny Catterall ON May 5, 2016
If you are one of the almost 18 million solopreneurs in the United States, you have to deal with managing your small business finances one way or another. This is one of the least liked, but most important aspects of running your business. After all, making money is what makes it a business, rather than a hobby. There are many variables involved in business accounting, but at the end of the day, (or month, or year), you’ll want to know:
- How much you made (a)
- How much you spent (b)
- Your profit (a) – (b)
Even if you don’t want to know, the IRS does! Keeping track of your income and expenses on a regular basis is essential in order to accurately pay your quarterly estimated income taxes. If you are just starting out and don’t have the resources to hire a bookkeeper, using a modestly priced financial management software tool or app can make accounting a lot less painful. In addition, using a separate credit card for your business expenses is critical. You are NOT your business – your personal and business expenses should be kept separate, especially as far as the IRS is concerned.
What to look for:
In choosing a financial management tool, you may want to consider the following features:
- Cloud-based (i.e. your information always backed up and available from any device)
- Logs expenses and/or income by automatically syncing with credit cards and bank accounts (so you don’t have to enter transactions manually)
- Categorizes expenses and income for tax purposes
- Tracks sales tax and estimated taxes due
- Has a mobile phone and/or tablet app
- Generates accurate reports like balance sheets, sales tax reports, A/R and A/P for yourself, your accountant or your investors.
- Can generate a Schedule C for year end taxes
Following are a few of my recommended favorite tools for online accounting and small business financial management:
- Provides integrated invoicing with PayPal
- Logs expenses by syncing with credit cards and bank
- Tracks project time by client and task
- Tracks sales tax due by state
- Apps available for IOS and Android
- Starts at $25 per month
- Automatically imports data from bank, credit cards, PayPal, eBay, Etsy and Amazon
- Tracks income and expenses and sorts by category
- Creates reports such as P&L, spending and best customers
- Creates and sends customized invoices
- Creates tax worksheets and reports including annual summary, Schedule C, sales tax and estimated taxes
- $9.99 a month
- Basic version avalailable at $13 per month
- Creates invoices and estimates
- Tracks sales and expenses
- Applies sales tax and creates reports
- Prints checks
- Advanced versions have:
- Payroll capabilities and can generate 1099s
- Inventory tracking for product based businesses
Any of these, and many other online accounting and financial management tools that are currently available, will go a long way towards making managing your small business finances a quick, easy and relatively painless task!
Tips for a Stress-Free Move
|| BY Penny Catterall ON April 27, 2016
As we all know, moving can be an extremely stressful experience (especially when combined with the stress of buying or selling a home). The prospect of packing up your entire life and putting it in a completely new location is overwhelming for most people. To help reduce move-related stress and to simplify the moving process, here are some important tips:
- Purge as much as you can from your current home before you pack up the rest – you don’t want to go to the trouble of packing and moving a lot of stuff that you’ll only end up throwing away once you settle into your new home. (This should go without saying, but it’s surprising how many people forget to do it.) Now is the time to get rid of those old dishes that you never really liked, the books that you won’t be reading again, or the toys that your kids have outgrown. There are a lot of disadvantaged families who would benefit from your donations, and you’ll save money by not having to pack and move those items.
- Start packing well ahead of your move date, if possible. Pack the least-used items (like holiday decorations) first, and the things you need to use everyday last.
- Go paper-less if you haven’t already. Getting your bills and statements online will not only help you avoid the hassle of having your mail forwarded, but also will leave you with less paper to pack and move.
- Go through your files and get rid of bills having to do with your current house, such as utilities or landscaping. Feel free to scan one or two for reference, but there is really very little need to have access to all your old electric bills once you’re in your new home.
- While packing, take an inventory of the items in all the boxes – more detail is better than not enough when it comes to moving. You may think you know what “dining room contents” means when you pack it, but unless you write down “crystal, china, linens, & silverware” you are unlikely to remember these details when it’s time to start unpacking.
- Also, be sure to label your boxes with where they are going as well as what’s inside. That will help the movers get your things in the right place more easily. Pack things that are going to the same room together.
- Use the right sized boxes. Heavy items, like books, should be packed in smaller boxes to make them easier to move. Large boxes are great for lightweight items, like towels & linens. Pack the heaviest items on the bottom and the lightest on top.
- Make sure to think about unpacking when you pack. For instance, if you have kids who share a room now but won’t in the new house, make sure to box their items separately.
- Empty your trash before the movers come. Movers often pick up trashcans and move them as-is.
- Pack a ‘first night’ box for each bedroom and for the kitchen. Bedroom boxes should contain bed linens, pillows, blankets and pajamas. Include necessary toiletries if you are making a local move. “First night” kitchen boxes can contain paper plates, napkins and plastic utensils & cups, the coffee maker and any non-perishable breakfast foods that help your family get off to a good start in the morning. Throw in toilet paper and paper towels, too!
- If your move involves kids, think about what they will be doing while the house is being packed up, and while it’s being unpacked at the other end. Having craft supplies, books they enjoy or other activities arranged can reduce stress for everyone.
- Consider how a move might affect an older adult. Moving day will be chaotic and noisy. Enlist the help of a friend or relative to take them to lunch, a movie, or a museum while things are being loaded and unloaded.
I hope these tips will help you plan and execute a smooth and stress-free move. If you are in the DC area, feel free to contact Order Your Life for help!