Who doesn’t want a 50¢ solution? I think that is about what a pen and a 6″ x 9″ envelope would add up to… especially if you already set up my “Trade Show Lead System” — you have both items at your fingertips.

Being on the road and living out of a suitcase makes it very easy to misplace those teeny-tiny receipts they give you when you take a cab.  Or by the time you get home, you can’t remember how many bellmen, shuttle drivers or skycaps you handed a few dollars to.  Since I’m spending half of January away from home, I thought it would be a good time to share my system for keeping track of each and every business expense.

You are running a business and need to treat it as such. You do have separate bank accounts for your personal money and your art business money, right?  (Please tell me you do!)  I also hope you have some sort of accounting software — I’m a big fan of QuickBooks, it isn’t hard to use once you have it set up and most accountants like it, which means they spend less time looking through your pile of receipts.   Less time means a smaller big for helping you with your taxes.  Who doesn’t like smaller bills?  Big royalty checks, small bills, that’s the secret to success!

My expense system is even easier than my lead system. Take an envelope.  On the front, write down the date.  Under it, make a quick list of any expenses.  If I use a credit card, I put a “C” (for credit card), otherwise I assume I used cash.  Then the receipts go in the envelope.  Easy!

tradeshow-expensesWhen I get home, they come out of the envelope and get put in piles by date.  Then I tape them on copy paper and staple the pages together — so all receipts for the trip are together in one place.  This gets put in the folder where I keep all business receipts.  (Keep receipts for 5-7 years in case, heaven forbid, you are audited!)

Finally, I use the notes on the outside of my envelope to enter all the expenses into QuickBooks.  I create a “Customer Job” for each trip so it is easy to run a report and figure out exactly how much the trip cost.  The sooner you get your receipts organized and entered upon returning home the better… just get it out of the way so you don’t misplace or forget anything, thereby missing out on write-offs!

Here’s to your successful business!

~ Tara