I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. I love all the festivities- the parties, the cookies, the time spent with loved ones eating big of meals and drinking one too many glasses of wine.
There’s a wonderful indulgence that I’m more than willing to partake in (don’t let anyone take that cookie from you!)
The side effect of the indulgence is being less diligent about the other things. Like those super boring admin tasks that we need to do that are way less fun than eating another cookie.
Often we get wrapped up in the festivities of the holidays and then BAM we wake from our cookie fog and realize we’ve been slacking on our money during the holidays. This might mean we spent too much money, blew off our record keeping, or have a stack of receipts waiting to be filed.
But what if it didn’t have to be like that? What if you could stay on top of your money AND hang out by the cookie table all night (are you sensing a theme about what I like to do during the holidays?).
Here’re five tips to stay on top of your money during the holidays:
Check Your Balances Daily
Here’s the thing – most people spend a lot of money during the holidays- not just in their personal lives but in their businesses too.
There are holiday cards to send out (hello advertising deduction!). Cocktail parties to attend (did someone say meals and entertainment?). And gifts to buy for your favorite clients (you do know you can write off professional gifts, right?).
The holidays are the most wonderful AND the most expensive time of the year.
During the holidays, you want to be sure you are actually keeping track of how much you are spending. I HIGHLY recommend checking your credit card and checking account balances daily during the holidays. For two reasons.
First, it’s just good financial management to keep track of your spending during high spending periods. You want to keep a watchful eye on what goes out and make sure what is coming in is enough. If not, you need to reel back the spending to actually match your cash flow.
Second, sometimes in the holiday frenzy, we make mistakes about what we buy. We use the wrong card and mix up business and personal expenses. By keeping an eye on your accounts, you will ensure that you catch any oopppps expenses and note them immediately.
Refer to your budget
The holidays are the number one time that people go off budget. We just talked about how the holidays are a time of spend, spend, spend. After you look at your balance (and notice what you are spending money on), the next step is to go back to your business budget.
Check to see if these extra expenses are in your budget. Do you have a cushion to absorb the extra spending? Are you going to stop spending in one area to offset more spending in another? Are you picking up more work so you have more to spend?
Really think through these questions. The money you are spending needs to come from somewhere and your budget tells you where your money comes from and where it goes.
If there is money being spent that you don’t have in the budget- it’s time to get creative and figure out how you are going to pay for all those cookies!
Don’t just spend and expect the money to show up later. For most businesses, January is a slow month, so be sure you make adjustments in your budget to pay for everything right now.
Put your receipts somewhere
One of the easiest ways you can stay on top of your finances during the holidays is to simply put your receipts somewhere. Your goal is to avoid losing your receipts because you’re in a rush and shoving tiny pieces of paper into small, forgetful places.
The reason you want to be really diligent about keeping your receipts handy is because you will eventually need them (either to reference or organize) and you will spend a million years looking for them.
When you do FINALLY find them, all the precious time you set aside to deal with your finances will have been sucked up in the frantic search for a tiny piece of paper lurking in the more obscure corner of your home.
That’s a major bummer.
Start with your wallet or purse. Dedicate an area of your wallet to JUST your business receipts or buy a small pouch to keep in your bag for receipts. EVERY single time you purchase something business related, put the receipt in its dedicated area.
Next, move on to your desk. If you have a dedicated receipt filing system- awesome! If not, then just make an envelope to keep your receipts in. When you get home, transfer your receipts from your wallet to the envelope for safe keeping.
Utilize small pockets of time
When I first decided to write this post, I wanted to call this section Do Something Daily. Then I imagined swarms of overworked and overwhelmed solopreneurs laughing at the thought of actually having time to work their finances daily during the holidays.
That Andi! She’s a riot!
SO- instead I’m calling it Find Small Pockets of Time- which means look for the small breaks in your schedule (you know those random 15-30 minutes that are just floating around) and do something in those pockets for your finances.
My challenge to you is to ONLY use these small pockets for finance related tasks- that means every time you have an extra 15 mins, do one thing for your money.
What kinds of tasks can you do in 15 minutes? You can:
Organize your receipts
Do 5-10 lines of bookkeeping entry
Open and file finance related mail
Check for unpaid invoices
Send invoice reminders
Doing just one of these tasks every day will keep your finances in tip-top shape during the frenzy of present opening and cookie tasting.
You know how everything gets really slammed all at once and you’re in a whirlwind of festivities and then you have ONE random day where everything slows down?
That’s the time to start batch processing your financial tasks and get yourself caught up.
Unlike the last section, where you are finding small pockets of time to do one or two tiny tasks, this section is all about stretching a large chunk of time to its full potential. That’s where batch processing comes in.
Batch processing your finances means concreting on one big task you need to do and doing it all at once.
If you need to catch up your bookkeeping for 3 months, don’t just focus on all the small tasks you need to do for one month. Instead, focus on doing one task for all 3 months (for example, entering 3 months of expenses for your credit card, or logging 3 months of invoice payments, etc.).
The reason batch processing works is because you aren’t constantly interrupting your workflow. I don’t know about you, but when I get going on one task I’m completely focused and rocking!
But when I’m in a stop-and-go routine with my tasks, it looks like this: “Now I do this. And now I do this. And now a quick min to look at Facebook. Oooohhhh- shiny. [1 hour later] Oh yeah- I was doing something.”
Stay on task by batch processing your finances.
Feeling empowered to stay on top of your finances during the holidays? Don’t forget to get the cheat sheet of 10- 15-minute bookkeeping tasks so you can keep your money on lock down!