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Here's what you need to become your own accountant! If you love running a business, but despise keeping the books, this is the book for you! Revised throughout to cover the latest updates and enhancements made to QuickBooks, Quickbooks 2005 For Dummies covers the basics, walks you through the software ...
Here's what you need to become your own accountant! If you love running a business, but despise keeping the books, this is the book for you! Revised throughout to cover the latest updates and enhancements made to QuickBooks, Quickbooks 2005 For Dummies covers the basics, walks you through the software installation, and guides you step-by-step through various accounting functions, including:
Written by Stephen Nelson, the author of more than 100 books, including all editions of QuickBooks For Dummies, Quickbooks 2005 For Dummies takes you beyond everyday accounting tasks and helps you use information to boost your productivity and profits by:
To expedite your bookwork and grow your business by the numbers, you don’t have to hire expensive consultants or become a CPA; just become a QBE—a QuickBooks Expert. With this book and your QuickBooks software, everything you need to know is at your fingertips!
In This Chapter
* Why you truly need a tool like QuickBooks
* What QuickBooks actually does
* Why QuickBooks is a popular choice
* What you need to do (in general) to get started
* How to succeed in setting up and using QuickBooks
I want to start our conversation by quickly covering some basic questions concerning QuickBooks. Questions like, "Why even use QuickBooks?", "Where and how does a guy or gal start?", and most important, "What should you not do?"
This little orientation shouldn't take more than a few minutes. Really. And the orientation should let you understand the really, really big picture concerning QuickBooks.
Okay, I know you know that you need an accounting system. Somebody, maybe your accountant or spouse, has convinced you of this. And you, being the team player that you are, have just accepted this conventional viewpoint as the truth.
But just between you and me, why do you really need QuickBooks? And what does QuickBooks do that you really, truly need done? And heck, just to be truly cynical, let's also ask the question, "Why QuickBooks?" Why not, for example, use some other accounting software program?
Why you need an accounting system
Start with the most basic question first - why do you even need anaccounting system like QuickBooks? It's a fair question. So let me supply you with the two-part answer.
The first reason is that federal law requires your business to maintain an accounting system. More specifically, Section 446 (General Rule for Methods of Accounting) of Title 26 (Internal Revenue Code) of the United States Code requires that you have the ability to compute taxable income by using some sort of common-sense accounting system that clearly reflects income.
If you decide to just blow off this requirement - after all, you got into business so you could throw off the shackles of bureaucracy - you may get away with your omission. But if the Internal Revenue Service examines your return and you've ignored Section 446, the IRS gets to do your accounting the way it wants. And the IRS way means that you pay more in taxes and that you also pay taxes earlier than you would have otherwise.
A second reason exists for maintaining an accounting system, too. And here I sort of go out on an editorial limb, but I'm going to do it anyway. My strong belief - backed by a couple of decades of business experience and close-hand observations of several hundred business clients - is that you can't successfully manage your business without a decent accounting system. Success requires the ability to accurately measure profits or losses and the ability to reasonably estimate your financial condition.
This second reason makes sense, right? If your friend Kenneth doesn't know when he's making money, which products or services are profitable, and which customers are worth keeping (and which aren't), does he really have a chance?
I don't think he does.
So, to summarize, your business must have a decent accounting system no matter how you feel about accounting and even no matter how time-consuming and expensive such a system is or becomes. The law requires you to have such an accounting system. And successful business management depends on such an accounting system.
What QuickBooks does
Go on to the next question that you and I should discuss: What does QuickBooks do to help you maintain an accounting system that measures profits and losses and other stuff like that?
QuickBooks truly makes business accounting easy by providing windows that you use to record common business transactions. For example, there's a window (you know, a Windows window that appears on your monitor's screen) that looks like a check. And to record a check you write, you fill in the blanks of the window with bits of information like the date, the amount, and the person or business you're paying.
QuickBooks also has a handful of other windows that you use in a similar fashion. For example, QuickBooks supplies an invoice window that looks like an invoice you might use to bill some customer or client. And you fill in the invoice window's blanks by recording invoice information such as the name of the client or customer, the invoice amount, and the date by which you want to be paid.
And here's the really neat thing about these check and invoice windows: When you record business transactions by filling in the blanks shown on-screen, you collect the information that QuickBooks needs in order to prepare the reports that summarize your profits or losses and your financial situation.
For example, if you record two invoices (for $10,000 each) to show amounts that you've billed your customers, and then you record three checks (for $4,000 each) to record your advertising, rent, and supplies expense, QuickBooks can (with two or three mouse clicks from you) prepare a report that shows your profit, as shown in Table 1-1.
The parentheses, by the way, indicate negative amounts. That's an accounting thing ... but back to the real point of my little narrative. Your accounting with QuickBooks can be just as simple as I describe in the preceding paragraphs. In other words, if you record just a handful of business transactions by using the right QuickBooks windows, you can then begin to prepare reports like the one shown in Table 1-1. Such reports can be used to calculate profits or (ugh) losses for last week, last month, or last year. Such reports can also be used to calculate profits or losses for particular customers and products.
I know I was kind of harsh in the first part of this chapter - bringing up that stuff about the IRS and business failure - but this accounting stuff is really neat! (For the record, that's the only exclamation point I'll use in this chapter.) Good accounting gives you a way to manage your business for profitability. And, obviously, all sorts of really good and wonderful things stem from you operating your business profitably: a materially comfortable life for you and your employees; financial cushioning to get you through the tough patches; and profits that can be reinvested in your business, in other businesses, and in community charities.
Let me also mention a couple of other darn handy things that QuickBooks (and other accounting systems, too) do for you, the overworked business owner or bookkeeper.
What Explains QuickBooks' Popularity?
No question about it - you need a good accounting system if you're in business. But you know what? That fact doesn't explain why QuickBooks is so popular or why you should use QuickBooks. (Let's ignore for one moment that you've probably already purchased QuickBooks.) Therefore, let me suggest to you three reasons why QuickBooks is an excellent choice to use as the foundation of your accounting system:
I should tell you, because I'm an accountant, that the ease-of-use quality of QuickBooks is not all good. Part of the reason why QuickBooks is easy to use is because it doesn't possess all the built-in internal control mechanisms that some more traditional accounting systems have. Those internal control mechanisms, of course, make your financial data more secure, but they also tend to make the accounting software more complicated to use.
What's Next, Dude?
At this point, presumably, you know why you need accounting software and why QuickBooks is probably a really reasonable and maybe even an excellent choice. In other words, you've swallowed my line about QuickBooks hook, line, and sinker. That decision on your part leaves the question as to what you should do next. Let me say this: In a nutshell, before you can begin really working with QuickBooks, you need to do the following:
1. Install the QuickBooks software as I describe in Appendix A. 2. Run through the EasyStep Interview as I describe in Chapter 2. 3. Load the master files as I describe in Chapter 3.
If you're thinking to yourself, "Whoa, cowboy, that seems like a bit more work than what's involved in installing spreadsheet software or a new word processor," you're right. You may as well hear from me the ugly truth about accounting software: Accounting software - all of it - requires quite a bit of setup work in order to get the things running smoothly. For example, you'll want to build a list of expense categories, or accounts, to use for tracking expenses. And as another example, you'll want to set up a list of the customers that you invoice.
Rest assured, however, that none of the setup work is overly complex. It's just time-consuming. Also, know from the very start that QuickBooks provides a tremendous amount of hand-holding in order to help you step through the setup process. And remember, too, that you've got your new friend - that would be me - to help you whenever the setup process gets a little gnarly.
How to Succeed with QuickBooks
Before you and I wrap up the little why, what, and how discussion of this chapter, I ought to provide a handful of ideas about how to make your experience with QuickBooks a successful one.
Budget wisely, Grasshopper
Here's my first suggestion: Please plan on spending at least a few hours to get the QuickBooks software installed, set up, and running. I know you don't really want to do that. You've got a business to run. A family to take care of. A dog to walk. And so on.
But here's the reality sandwich you probably need to take a big bite of: It'll take half an hour just to get the software installed on your computer. (This installation isn't complicated, of course. You'll mostly just sit there, sipping coffee or whatever.)
But after the QuickBooks software is installed, unfortunately, you still have the work of running through the EasyStep Interview. Again, this work is not difficult, but it does take time. For example, a very simple service business probably takes at least an hour. If your business owns inventory or if you're a contractor with some serious job costing requirements, the process can take several hours.
Therefore, do yourself a favor. Give yourself adequate time for the job at hand.
Don't focus on features
Now let me share another little snidbit about getting going with QuickBooks. At the point that you've installed the QuickBooks software and started the program, you're going to be in shock about the number of commands, whistles, bells, and buttons that the QuickBooks window provides. But you know what? You can't focus on the QuickBooks features.
Your job is simply to figure out how to record a handful - probably a small handful - of transactions with QuickBooks. Therefore, what you want to do is focus on the transactions that need to get recorded in order for you to keep your books.
For example, say you're a one-person consulting business. In that case, you might need to figure out only how to record the following three transactions:
So all you need to do is discover how to record invoices (see Chapter 4), how to record customer payments (see Chapter 5), and how to record checks (see Chapter 6). You really don't need to worry about much else except maybe how to print reports, but that's easy (see Chapter 15 for the click-by-click).
"Oh Steve," you're saying, "You just intentionally picked an easy business. I'm a retailer with a much more complicated situation."
Okay, well, you're right that I picked an easy business for my first example, but I stand by the same advice for retailers. If you're a retailer, you probably need to figure out how to record only four transactions. Here they are:
In this example, then, all you need to do is find out how to record sales receipts - probably a separate sales receipt for each bank deposit you make (see Chapter 5) - how to record bills from vendors, how to record checks to pay your bills (see Chapter 6), and how to handle employee payroll (see Chapter 11).
I don't want to be cranky or careless here, but one really good trick for getting up to speed with QuickBooks is to focus on the transactions that you need to record. If you identify those transactions and then figure out how to record them, you've done the hard part. Really.
Excerpted from QuickBooks 2005 For Dummies by Stephen L. Nelson Excerpted by permission.
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Part I: Quickly into QuickBooks.
Chapter 1: QuickBooks: The Heart of Your Business.
Chapter 2: Answering Mr. Wizard.
Chapter 3: Populating QuickBooks with Lots of Lists.
Part II: Daily Entry Tasks.
Chapter 4: Creating Invoices and Credit Memos.
Chapter 5: Reeling In the Dough.
Chapter 6: Paying the Bills.
Chapter 7: Inventory Magic.
Chapter 8: Keeping Your Checkbook.
Chapter 9: Paying with Plastic.
Part III: Stuff You Do from Time to Time.
Chapter 10: Printing Checks.
Chapter 11: Payroll.
Chapter 12: Building the Perfect Budget.
Chapter 13: Online with QuickBooks.
Part IV: Housekeeping Chores.
Chapter 14: The Balancing Act.
Chapter 15: Reporting on the State of Affairs.
Chapter 16: Job Estimating, Billing, and Tracking.
Chapter 17: File Management Tips.
Chapter 18: Fixed Assets and Vehicle Lists.
Part V: The Part of Tens.
Chapter 19: (Almost) Ten Tips for Business Owners.
Chapter 20: Tips for Handling (Almost) Ten Tricky Situations.
Chapter 21: (Almost) Ten Secret Business Formulas.
Part VI: Appendixes.
Appendix A: Installing QuickBooks in Ten Easy Steps.
Appendix B: If Numbers Are Your Friends.
Appendix C: Sharing QuickBooks Files.