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Saving Money On The Holidays

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The best time of the year has finally arrived. As people are gearing up for merry-making, the list of expenses also gets longer. The thought of ringing in the new year with a pile of debt can make you restless. Make a comprehensive plan, shop smart and enjoy your holidays with full vigor. Here are some smart tips to save you from spending too much on the holiday season.

Make a budget

Think about how much you can spend. Do not go overboard with spending. Include even the smallest anticipated spending in your budget like postage, greeting cards, Christmas décor, and so on. Observe all the expenses minutely and try to save a few bucks if you can. Before you go into a store, think about how much you want to spend on an item. If you can stick to your budget with every purchase, you can allocate some extra money on some unexpected expenditures.

Use cash

Using cash for holiday shopping is a great way to save some money. You can only spend how much you have. Credit cards are like short-term loans. These cards enable you to shop more than you can afford and regret later.

Put yourself on the shopping list too

Sometimes, you buy something very expensive for someone out of impulse, but you never buy that for yourself because of budget constraints. Sometimes, it is better to splurge on yourself too. Check the impulsive gift shopping to save money.

Send e-cards

Sending e-cards is a great way to save money on postage. E-cards are mostly free and come with attractive personalized options.

Choose an inexpensive method to make merry

You do not need to buy extravagant gifts for everyone in the family. Instead, take them out for a ride to see the neighborhood Christmas lights. You can also bake some cookies or cakes for them or try making Christmas crafts for the kids.

Take advantage of the discounts and sales

Holiday sales are the best opportunity to get some amazing gifts at low prices. Check the online deals too. Do some research and ensure that you are paying the best price available in the market for a product. You also need to know when to stop splurging.

Become a Secret Santa

You can use your finances to participate in charity during the holiday season. Instead of buying endless toys and gifts for family and friends, donate generously to this noble cause. You can be on your budget and at the same time arrange toys, clothes, and books for those less fortunate. You can also ask your family to join these celebrations and experience a unique feeling.

Arrange potluck parties

Organizing a big party for family and friends is an age-old tradition for Christmas and New Year. However, arranging and decorating the party in a generous way is a pricey affair. Cooking a lavish meal also needs lots of time and money. Let all your guests know that you are preparing the main dish for the party, and you would appreciate if they can bring in sides, appetizers and drinks. You can also send emails to all the guests requesting a special dish for the party along with the invite. After all, collaborative effort is known to produce great results.

It’s normal to get carried away by the festivities and spend a fortune on shopping. However, having a balanced budget for your holiday shopping can save you from the extra financial burden.  

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Business

What Type of Bookkeeping is Best for Business?

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Regardless of industry or number of employees, every business requires bookkeeping in some capacity. Larger businesses might employ one, two or even more full time bookkeepers, while smaller businesses may hire a part-timer to review the books once a month. No matter the business, it’s important that owners and managers understand that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to bookkeeping.

While cost is always a dominant factor when choosing the bookkeeping process for a business, it is not the only one to consider – after all, businesses should not bank on a bargain when it comes to the person in charge of overseeing their finances. To better understand the different “types” of bookkeeping, here are three categories to consider:

1. Traditional bookkeeper

Whether your business is small or large, you’ll need to hire an experienced bookkeeper with a formal education and accreditations. Specifically, the bookkeeper should have substantial experience in business accounting, preferably in your particular industry. This way, you can rely on their previous learnings, which will allow for a shorter onboarding period.

It’s important to consider the role a bookkeeper will play in relation to your business’s Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Typically, bookkeepers are in charge of processing an organization’s financial transactions and documents, including purchases, receipts, sales and payments. Those transactions are recorded in a ledger or journal. In addition to the daily ledger, most businesses use software, (think QuickBooks or Sage), to keep track of entries, debits and credits. Keeping two separate recordings, one manual and one virtual, results in a trial balance with a final total of debits and credits that match. The ideal bookkeeper, particularly those who are certified, will classify and summarize financial information into financial reports, balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements.

A CPA’s priority should be analyzing business processes and reporting, and providing advice to the business owner, especially for complex tax filing concerns. While a bookkeeper handles the businesses’ day-to-day transactions, the CPA will review and analyze the financials at specified times throughout the year. To ensure cohesion and integrity of the business’s finances, it is critical that the bookkeeper and CPA work as parts of a system.

2. Advanced bookkeeping technology

All businesses should implement some level of technology into the accounting workflow to lessen their financial and administrative burden. When considering advanced bookkeeping technologies, businesses must ensure that the technology works harmoniously across the board, while solving for particularly tedious tasks within the workflow.

For example, one of the more time-consuming, monotonous tasks in the average accounting workflow is data entry. From invoices to expense receipts, businesses are flooded with excessive yet necessary documents on a daily basis. For more streamlined and efficient data entry, businesses should employ expense tracking and management technology. Proper expense tracking ensures that employees are getting reimbursed for their expenses on the job while maximizing tax deductions and protecting the business in case of an audit.

To ensure the business’s expense management technology seamlessly plugs into their existing accounting workflow, owners and managers should be on the lookout for three features:

1. Mobile capture: Bulky scanners are office gadgets of the past. In today’s business world, mobile apps and software can turn your smartphone camera into a mobile scanner, allowing business owners and employees to simply snap a photo to extract data points, like totals, dates and vendor names, and import them into the proper location.

2. Integrate with advanced accounting software: Proper “locations” are often powerful accounting software, like QuickBooks or Sage. Through integration with the accounting software, the data entry process is not only streamlined, but ensures the correct information is being put into the correct data field.

3. Cloud Capabilities: In today’s increasingly-connected world, business owners and employees need access to their most important business documents at all times, so it’s important that their expense management systems are connected to the cloud. In addition to ease of access, the cloud promotes a collaborative work environment and allows coworkers to always be on the same page.

While most businesses use some combination of advanced technology and a traditional bookkeeper, those that are looking for a completely hands-off (and expensive) approach should consider a virtual bookkeeper.

3. Virtual bookkeeper

With the ubiquity of cloud technology and the popular practice of remote collaboration, some businesses are employing new virtual bookkeeping services. Virtual bookkeepers stand in as an entire outsourced accounting department for a business. With a team of bookkeepers, businesses have a unique system of checks and balances giving the owner peace of mind.  While they may lose the personal approach of a single bookkeeper, they can rely on availability and speed with multiple bookkeepers available at a moment’s notice.

When deciding what kind of bookkeeper will work best, it’s important for businesses to realize that advanced technology can supplement (or even replace) certain aspects of the bookkeeping workflow. While a full-time bookkeeper can certainly manage the entire process, businesses that implement certain software can eliminate tedious steps of the process, saving time and money. By allowing technology to solve for menial tasks, business owners may be able to move to a part-time bookkeeper or even take over the role themselves.

Each option comes with pros and cons, and it is determining the best fit for each individual business that is paramount.   Business owners and managers should keep their bookkeeping process current; both to the market and their businesses’ ever-changing requirements. There is always room for improvement, so constant evaluation and tweaking of workflows to ensure an efficient bookkeeping process, and ultimately, a better return on investment, should always be employed.

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Business

Solving The Labor Productivity Problem

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Labor productivity is a measure of a nation’s economic performance. It can be expressed by comparing output (the amount of goods and services produced by the nation), to input (the number of labor hours used to produce those goods and services). Growth occurs when output increases faster than input, and is measured as the difference between the two. For example, if output is measured as growing at 5 percent during a given business cycle, and input grew at 2 percent over that same time period, then overall labor productivity growth is said to be 3 percent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor productivity fell by .2 percent in 2016. This was the first negative growth since the Great Recession of 2007-2008. While more recent numbers have shown short-term increases in labor productivity since then, the overall trend for the current business cycle indicates that the U.S. is in historically low growth as compared to every cycle since the end of World War II.

Why is Labor Productivity Flatlining?

While everyone agrees that labor productivity is historically low, no one can agree as to the root causes. You know the old joke: If you ask 10 economists a question, you’ll get 12 different answers. One theory is that our methods of measuring productivity are outdated, but measurement errors can’t in and of themselves account for the drops. Another school of thought posits that the downward trend is indicative of a slowdown in innovation rather than one in productivity, where today’s inventions lack the far-reaching effects of the industrial revolution and early 20th century electrification of the U.S.  Opponents of this view point out that those effects are measured with the benefit of hindsight, and that modern innovations such as the internet are still evolving. A correlating factor, these opponents claim, is that businesses have been too slow to adopt these new technologies, which has hurt growth. This claim dovetails into a root cause that researchers at the Brookings Institution believe could account for almost half of the drop in productivity all on its own: businesses are not investing in their own productivity.

When companies invest earnings back into the business—developing or purchasing better equipment, providing training and higher compensation to their labor force, adopting more efficient technology—it has a direct positive influence on net productivity growth. In the past decade, the domestic investment in GDP by U.S. businesses fell to the lowest point in over 60 years. A report released at the end of 2016 documented that the Fortune 500 companies were collectively holding $2.6 trillion in offshore accounts. Additionally, even as output has risen, wage growth for the middle and lower classes has stagnated. Having less money to spend means smaller revenue streams all around, which means less output and less investment, which contributes to the downward spiral.

Infrastructure And Personnel

Investing in your business is the key to boosting productivity. It really comes down to two areas: infrastructure and personnel.

Infrastructure, in this context, means tangible items that benefit your company. Things such as more efficient machinery and technologies, better logistics plans, or a more robust IT network are all infrastructure. Keep your business software up to date, embrace new practices such as distributed ledger systems, which keep all parties on the same page in collaborative projects, even getting better chairs for everyone can give you a bump in productivity. The more streamlined you can make your front end, the fewer mistakes and delays you’ll experience as projects advance.

You must also invest in your people. Develop your existing staff with specialized training, and retain them with good benefits and remuneration. Over the long term, as your productivity (and profit) increases, you will attract more employees, allowing you to branch out into other areas of production or take on bigger projects. You can also jumpstart your productivity boost by utilizing outsourcing companies that specialize in your field. For example, Indovance, Inc., in Apex, NC, provides expert CAD services for Building Information Management, architecture, civil and mechanical engineering, sign design, and pre-press services. Their “Twin Engagement Model” gives their clients immediate access to a highly-trained talent pool that’s ready to work on large projects. Their work can be rapidly scaled to meet changing demands without sacrificing efficiency or quality, and they quickly take on any company’s business goals and culture to be a true partner and extension of the team.  This is a great solution for business owners who want to boost their company’s productivity quickly, but don’t yet have an in-house team in place.

The synergy of investment

Positive labor productivity growth improves the standard of living for everyone. When a company (or industry, or nation) invests in itself to become more efficient, it can produce the same—or even more—goods and services with fewer labor hours, leading to larger capital gains and higher wages. More income combined with increased leisure time leads to more private sector spending and public sector revenue. This is not a zero-sum game, where a gain in one area automatically means a loss in another; this is a symbiosis, where thoughtful investment to increase productivity on a local level has a net growth effect that goes well beyond the boardroom walls.

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Venmo Debit Card Launches And Here’s How To Get One

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Popular peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app Venmo is testing physical debit cards that will allow its customers to shop at traditional brick and mortar stores using the funds their Venmo account. Square, a P2P competitor with Venmo, started marketing their own debit card. According to TechCrunch, Venmo is inviting users to a beta program that sends them a Venmo debit card that’s attached to their balance. That beta program was originally a pilot program for Venmo’s own employees back in June but is now being rolled out to normal users.

“We have started sending a limited number of beta invitations to test a physical Venmo card to some of our users. While we’re excited to hear what people think, beta features are not guaranteed to see a general release,” Venmo told TechCrunch.

From a revenue perspective, a physical debit card would allow Venmo to collect the merchant fees per transaction. This would in turn allow Venmo, owned by PayPal, to recoup the fees they pay the banks per transaction while keeping its core money payment services free for users. From a consumer perspective, this also provides a lot of convenience for people who prefer using physical cards. It also makes it easier to spend money that was just transferred into a user’s account without having to wait a day or two for the money to transfer to the user’s bank account. The money is immediately available to spend at places that have not yet partnered with Venmo.

The Venmo debit card is a Visa card issued by the Metropolitan Commercial Bank via Shift Financial. Shift Financial provides physical and virtual debit cards to payment providers. Like most debit cards, they come with a picture as a background and don’t appear to offer the customization that Square does with their sleek black cards.

The sign-up process is painless and free. Venmo users are notified about their eligibility when they open the app. Once the user’s identity is verified, the app asks to select a backup reload method in the off chance your Venmo balance doesn’t have enough to cover a purchase.

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