This post by guest blogger Barbara Sanderson appears in our series of tools for WAHMs and mompreneurs.

[caption id="attachment_4699" align="alignright" width="170" caption="Barbara B. Sanderson, CPB"]Barbara B. Sanderson, CPB[/caption]As a bookkeeper, I often feel a kinship with dentists: Everyone needs us, but they don’t like us. Well, it’s nothing personal, but there it is!

Nonetheless, I've worked with a lot of companies over almost 25 years, and I'm happy to share some tips that will save you time, keep your home-based business organized, and save you money, too:

Take it as it comes

The secret is to be organized on an ongoing basis, rather than throwing everything in a tray, bag or box and then sorting it out at year end. (Of course, many of my clients don’t sort it out at all; they leave that to me! This in turn costs them more money since it takes me more time.)

Have a spot

Every time you walk through your door with business related paperwork, put it in a spot designated as your “in box” or “work to be done” tray. Then, when you are ready to catch up your posting to your Wave (or other accounting) file, your papers are all in one spot, and you know exactly what needs to be done.

Also, when the box or tray is empty, you’re up to date and you have a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. You can also check the financial position of your business right up to that moment, and that gives you control over your next business move.

Be consistent

From experience I can tell you that you need to be consistent. It’s easy to drop things on the kitchen counter and think, “I’ll get that later.” With kids, dinner prep, laundry, cleaning... you get the picture. That small pile will quickly grow to a mountain of paper that still needs to be dealt with, and worse, will get mixed up with other papers coming into your home that have nothing to do with business.

Don’t let your pile get too big, or it will start to add stress to your life. Try setting a regular day each week for posting everything new.

File it away

Of course, all those posted items now need to be filed away or kept in a hot file if further action is needed, but you’re well on your way to being organized and on track for your eventual year end.

If you have lots of paperwork flowing through your business, it’s best to create files for your largest suppliers with alphabetical miscellaneous files to hold the rest. Don’t forget to label each folder with the year to keep it all straight. (For Canadian businesses: Remember, the CRA requires you to keep your records for seven years. American businesses, see U.S.-targeted advice.) I keep file boxes by year with my most recent two in the house and the rest stored away. Each year in January my husband finds it therapeutic to shred the oldest box of records!

— Barbara B. Sanderson, CPB, is a Certified Professional Bookkeeper, and has been working with clients in Ontario, Canada since 1987. She has two stepchildren, five grandchildren, and two Maine Coon cats, none of whom ever ask her to look after their bookkeeping. You can reach Barbara on LinkedIn.

Wave is free online accounting for small businesses. It's perfect for home-based businesses and freelancers.