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Written by: Lyndon

What’s wrong with how we do finances?

When I joined Jo full time with our company last year I had my own shortlist of things I wanted to work on. With an undergrad degree and two grad degrees in business, I “clearly” brought something to the table and wanted to prove my worth right out of the gate. (My competitive nature had NOTHING to do with it…)

One of the first things on “the list” was to do a simple audit (aka: review) of our systems and processes as a company – including our approach to handling finances. In school I took my fair share of accounting classes and learned the best practices. As soon as I started laying out my grand plan to Jo it became very apparent that it would add a lot more work.

I had just run into the biggest hurdle for most small business owners when it comes to finances: you either have to prioritize time for your finances or you have to hire someone (bookkeepers/CPAs are amazing if you’re at that point in your business).

When given the option between making money or documenting money in a spreadsheet it’s a pretty obvious choice for a lot of people.

Ever the outside-the-box thinker, I refused to accept that those were my only two options. I wanted the elusive option C: simple, quick, and easy-to-understand finances. Turns out it exists; it only took changing software, banks, and processes.

It wasn’t sustainable

A few years ago as an invested third party, I convinced Jo to start using Quickbooks to manage her business finances. It’s an excellent application made by Intuit for bookkeeping. It has a ton of great features, syncs with your banks, and connects to tax software to save time quarterly and at the end of the year…and it turns out we weren’t using it at all.

To use QuickBooks correctly it takes some commitment to set things up; to make sure everything is documented correctly and to balance the books with your bank accounts when need be. As someone who had learned the importance of pristine bookkeeping in accounting 101, I struggled to wrap my head around prioritizing something else over ensuring that everything was correctly entered into QuickBooks (no, I never had a plastic pocket protector or carried a little calculator everywhere).

When we spent business money we would either use a debit card attached to a business bank account or just use our personal credit card. This meant we were forever trying to separate what was a business transaction when reviewing our personal credit card statements.

Ontop of that, we were planning for taxes by putting about 30% of all income into another checking account – but there wasn’t any specific math being done on what we needed to be paying quarterly and we’d just figure it all out in one marathon “party” in February or March (respectably) before the annual tax deadline (you know the drill).

To summarize: we weren’t using QuickBooks (but we were still paying for it), we were commingling our personal and business charges on one credit card, and we were using a simple rule of thumb for taxes hoping it would work out come tax season (not even doing quarterly payments 🤦‍♂️).

To be fair a lot of first-time business owners fall into a similar situation – you didn’t start an accounting business – you started photography, coaching, or candle-making businesses since that’s what you’re passionate about.

What would be a good solution?

Before getting to how we simplified our finances, I think it’s important to look at what our objectives were when looking at that elusive option C. What worked for us may not be the right solution for you if your business is at a different point or you have different objectives. So here goes – these are the things we valued in the end:

  • Simple: Quickbooks taught us that if the solution was too complicated or took too much time it wouldn’t be used. Since we’re not big enough yet to have employees or some of the other things that would necessitate a more complicated solution we’re able to have this as an objective.
  • Tax conscious: While combing through emails, credit card statements, and Venmo feeds to get all of our deductions to file taxes is fun and all…we needed a more structured system to consistently track and support the process of paying quarterly taxes.
  • Separate church and state: As a registered business, I felt it was time to start keeping our finances separate as well. This would also make tracking finances much easier and reduce a lot of confusion.
  • Self-service and mobile-friendly: If I’m being honest this was more of a pet peeve than a must, but the bank we were working with wasn’t mobile-friendly and we more than once had to go in person or spend too long on the phone to do something with our business account.

In a year or two, these priorities will probably shift and our current optimal solution will change again (we’ll have a CPA one day, it’s on the vision board 🎯)

The grass IS greener on the other side of the fence 😱

Over about 6 months we slowly started shifting and making changes, but by the end of January this year we had settled into our new plan that we’ve now been going steady with for a couple of months.

The first objective that we tackled was separating church and state. Since I’m a big fan of free money, I prefer to put most charges (at least big ones) on a credit card so that we can get cash or points back (Credit cards aren’t for everyone, this isn’t required to our solution. If you’re not in the habit of paying off a card in full each month we’d recommend sticking with a debit card).

The simple answer was to have a dedicated credit card that our business charges would go on; and be directly paid from our business bank account. For us, our largest expenses are travel for work, so we went with a Chase Sapphire Preferred for the travel benefits it would give us.

All the other objectives – self-service, tax, and simple – ended up all coming into play as a result of changing banks for us. As we started looking at what options there were for banks that met our criteria we came across Found Bank (thanks @thepassionscollective for the rec), a smaller bank start-up focused on self-employed people and entrepreneurs.

Found has a simple web interface and mobile application for managing our finances. More importantly, they have built-in expense tracking and tax planning. Every transaction gets assigned a purpose and Found calculates taxes based on income and expenses (tax deductions) on every line.

It also has a dedicated Taxes Account that can auto-withhold from income and use all your “Tax Savings” to calculate a Tax Estimate. Each quarter you can directly pay quarterly tax prepayment from in the application.

At the end of each month, I now enter any of our transactions on the dedicated business credit card into our Found App (takes maybe 15mins) and then go through categorizing transactions that weren’t automatically categorized. Found will tell you which transactions are required to have a receipt added and any other specific tax things that you’re not expected to know (and for anyone like me, they have some simple visual reporting features 🤌).

At the beginning of this blog I said there were three parts to this change, let’s summarize:

  • Software: Stopped using QuickBooks → Found’s built-in tracking
  • Banks: Old school brick and mortar Bank Business Checking accounts → Found Bank fully online & opened a dedicated Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Processes: Nothing → Forming the habit that at the beginning of a month I “close” the last month, but importantly this process has to be quick so I don’t dread it.

I’ve probably lost half of you already so we may as well wrap up…

A lot of people have some deep-set emotions (even scars) when it comes to money and finances that make it difficult to even start thinking about a better way. That’s totally okay, everyone has their own journey. Hopefully, this planted the idea for you that it doesn’t have to be a slog. There is an elusive option C for you as well if you’re willing to take 3 steps.

Step 1: Identify your objectives (definitions of success)

Step 2: Look at MANY options (settling for the first isn’t usually the best)

Step 3: Commit to your solution, and keep improving it over time

As you can probably tell we’re big fans of Found Bank. Right now if you sign up with our referral link you’ll get $20 once you spend $100 in the first 30 days. In the future, I’ll do a feature round-up of our favorite features of Found Bank.

Did you enjoy this article? Do us a solid, give us a shout-out (bonus points if you include the link) on social media 😆. Or shoot us a dm on Insta @joelleelizabethandco if you wanna chat about it. We’d love to hear from you!

*This blog post includes affiliate links

Comments +

  1. Lara says:

    Super helpful post!! As someone who is currently exploring the prospect of starting her own business, bookkeeping and finances have been a point of overwhelm for me. It’s helpful to see transparent yet constructive content like this that helps make each step of starting one’s own business feel that much more “within reach”.

    • Lyndon says:

      I’m glad it helped, it’s always kinda difficult when you don’t know where to start. Hopefully the steps at least give you a direction to start in.

  2. […] week on the blog we took a look at how we’ve overhauled our business finance process of managing finances at Jo&Co. In that blog post I outlined what led us to alter our processes, […]

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Content Creators, Coaches & Educators for Branding Photographers