Seven Tools to Make Tax Time Less Taxing

tax toolsEvery year I promise to be more organized. I tell myself that I’ll start on my taxes sooner and I’ll have everything I need at my fingertips before April 15 rolls around.

While I can’t say I look forward to doing my taxes, I have to admit they are so much easier than they used to be. Gone are the days when I immersed myself in shoeboxes full of receipts and scoured IRS publications trying to figure out what I was doing. I remember hiring a babysitter on a Saturday afternoon in February each year so my husband and I could work on our taxes for a few hours. (To tell the truth, we spent most of the time arguing because neither one of us had done our part to prepare for our little tax retreat.) That was our routine every year…procrastinate…argue…scramble…and then try to forget.

But with each return we’ve filed, I’ve learned something new. And with each passing year, I’ve accumulated tools to help make tax time less stressful. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Evernote. If you’ve been around here a while, you’ve probably heard me sing the praises of Evernote. I’m fairly certain you can do everything you need with Evernote – possibly even file your return directly from the app somehow! But here’s how I use Evernote for taxes: I have a notebook containing tax information and documents. I share it with my husband as we prepare for taxes so we don’t duplicate efforts and we both know where we are in the process. We attach pertinent files to the notebook and save websites or screenshots directly in the file. We use the tagging feature to search easily for relevant notes we may have created throughout the year. It’s our “home base” for tax prep.

2. Mint. We use this app to manage our budget and monitor our accounts on a regular basis. What we just realized recently is that Mint allows you to download your data to a CSV file you can manipulate and use to collect tax information. It’s perfect for those of us who pay for certain tax-related expenses from multiple accounts. For example, if you pay some of your utilities via credit and other utilities via automated debit from your checking account, Mint enables you to easily calculate a total. [Read more…]

14 Ways to Give Your Business Some Love

Happy woman daydreaming about love in officeFeeling a little ho-hum about your business or ministry? Or perhaps you’re so overwhelmed with daily tasks that you don’t have time to give your business the attention it deserves. Many mompreneurs think of their business like another baby – one that needs some tender loving care. But it’s easy to neglect our little darlings, at times. So, here are 14 ways to give your business or ministry some love!

1. Make it official. If you haven’t established a legal entity, opened a business checking account, filed for a trademark, purchased a URL or obtained a business license, then maybe it’s time to make it official!

2. Celebrate success. Entrepreneurs are constantly focusing on what they need to accomplish and how they can improve. Pause a minute to take an inventory of what you have been doing well – and celebrate!

3. Automate. If there’s a process or task in your business that’s draining your energy and consuming your time, create a way to automate or systematize it. You can find tools to automate everything from appointment scheduling to email management.

4. Shift your perspective. Spend a day (or even an hour) experiencing your business from the eyes of your customer. You’ll discover a whole new perspective that might lead to some positive change!

5. Delegate some duties. If you’re overworked and unable to focus on the “big picture,” you may need to delegate a few tasks and experience the Gift of Support. Maybe you need to delegate housework or childcare or make your first hire in the business.

6. Generate some revenue. Nothing gives you a boost of energy like an influx of cash flow! Make a list today of 5 things you could do to quickly bring in some revenue over the next two weeks.

7. Learn something new. There’s no such thing as the status quo for entrepreneurs. If we’re not growing, then we’re dying. Take time to expand your knowledge, invest in growth and develop your skills so you can better serve your customers.

[Read more…]

The When, What and How of Making Your First Hire

The When, What and How of HiringI love the thrill of starting something new! Hanging out a shingle and embracing the adventure of opening a new business. It’s just like bungee jumping – exciting and overwhelmingly terrifying at the same time! I was only 25 years old when I made that decision, so it helped that I was naïve and fearless. But I was also filled with determination and optimism. And in no time at all, I was booming with business.

So I did what most small business owners do – I learned to do everything that needed to be done. I was in charge of customer service, sales and marketing, finances and operations. Then, I had three babies in five years and was trying to stay on top of everything at home as well. Eventually the one-woman show ran its course and I realized I needed help.

If you’re overwhelmed with tasks in your business or at home, I know you can feel my pain. And you probably know you need help. But where do you start? Well, I’m not a human resources professional but I can tell you what has worked for me over the past 20 years in making decisions to hire help.

When to Hire Help: Well, if you’re wondering if you need help then you probably should have already hired someone. I say that because most of us moms wait until we’re completely overloaded before we even recognize that we need help. But sometimes it’s difficult to determine if we really need help – or if we just have a problem setting boundaries.

When you own your own business you have to realize that there will always be more work to do. You will never be completely finished. (Kinda like laundry!) So, I think the best litmus test for deciding if you need help is to ask yourself, “What would happen if I took a week’s vacation and didn’t do ANYTHING in the business at all?” If the business or ministry would shut down, then you probably need some help. [Read more…]