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December 2013
Volume 10, Issue #9

The Gift of (Financial) Knowledge

Happy Holidays! I trust we all had a very good Thanksgiving and are in full-out panic mode trying to organize holiday greetings and gifts as well as our business and personal lives.

As my children got older, we stopped buying them gifts. We now just give them a set spending limit and they tell us what to order. I realize that probably takes the surprise out of it for a lot of folks, but I'd much rather they do their own shopping and get something they truly want.

I was, frankly, feeling a little guilty about that this year... until I realized that I'm actually teaching them a valuable lesson. This year, for Christmas, Cassie asked for a PS4 for her room. Those of you with game fanatics know that this is NOT a cheap item and is above Santa's $200 per kid limit.

Then she went to work. She did her homework, researched the different bundles and prices, and watched the sales. She realized that the games for PS4 are going to be expensive because they don't work with the previous versions and the console itself is above what she could save. In the end, she settled on the PS3, asked her grandparents if they would kick in cash this year instead of a gift,and did a bunch of extra chores to earn extra money. When she saw a big price drop at Amazon, she bought it.

Sure, I could have bought her the PS4. But that wouldn't have taught her the value of a dollar or about working for what she wants. It broke my heart a little, since my first inclination, as a mom, is to give her what she wants. But that doesn't teach them a lesson in finance or prepare them for life after they leave the nest.

I’m quite sure my kids hate having a bookkeeper mom.

Candy

NOTE: IRS gives new rates, special note that the biz one is down a half cent starting 1/1/14. You can click here to read about it.

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In this issue...

Article: Do You Bill Your Clients the Right Way?

Tax Deadlines: December 2013/ January 2014

Spotlight on Boomerang - Bringing Productivity Back to Email

Tech Talk: Five Things to Consider When Buying a Laptop Computer

Do You Bill Your Clients the Right Way?

By Hitesh Bubbar

Most small businesses think they're doing it right. Still, there are times when they don't have enough resources to keep up with the cash flow of their business. Of course, there is nothing as satisfying as getting paid on time, but the questions is - how frequently do you get paid on time?

The fact is - not more than 10% of the startups or small businesses have a systematic way to invoice clients. Rest do not have a proper way, yet. Small businesses often fancy their chances of getting more projects from clients at once and expecting the client to pay in lump sum. However, seldom does it happen. They are not able to influence their clients by not being able to send professional looking invoices.

Invoicing can sometimes give you nerves, especially when you're not doing it right. You may consider these things while you bill your clients -

How To Create an Invoice

Well, it all depends on the size of your business. However, it's recommended for every business to go for online invoicing, instead of working with paper invoices. And it doesn't have to do anything with the size of the business. Online invoicing not only saves money, but your time as well.

Personalized Invoices

When you're able to send customized/ personalized invoices to clients, you automatically make a mark. Doing it manually is again tedious. You may find several invoicing templates online to use and customize. A clear and concise invoice is what your clients look for, so they could understand the terms clearly and pay you on time.

Invoices - Complete and Structured

You must make sure that your invoice is complete and shouts every possible thing that both parties agreed on while signing the contract or finalizing the project. Minute details like tax details, late fee, interest charges, business name, service given, total amount, waiver, discount fee, etc are to be mentioned.

According to a study, a complete invoice is catered and paid 90% faster.

Invoice Timing Matters

The best time to send an invoice is probably when a service is rendered or the task has been completed by the vendor. For example - A freelancer can send an invoice when he's done with the project or the first level of the task in order to keep going with some cash in hand.

Else, the best thing to do is to observe the payment nature of the client and address him with an invoice just at the right moment.

About the author: Hitesh Bubbar is a Social Media Enthusiast who has been consulting and helping people excel in developing effective marketing strategies. He presently writes for Invoicera, an online billing and time tracking software that simplifies your billing and invoicing needs.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com

Tax Deadlines

12/16/13
- Employers Make Monthly Payroll tax deposit on the 15th of each month
- Corporations - 4th Quarter Estimate Due

12/31/13
- Last Day to Open KEOGH account for 2012 deposits

1/15/13
- Individuals, Farmers & Fishermen Pay 4th Quarter Estimated Tax Payment
- Estates & Trusts 4th Estimated Tax Payment
- Employers Make Monthly Payroll tax deposit on the 15th of each month

1/31/13
- File Form 2290 - Heavy Highway Vehicles
- Furnish W-2s recipients
- Furnish 1099 MISC to recipients
- Furnish 1099 Interest to recipients
- Furnish 1099 Dividends to recipients
- 4th Quarter Payroll Reports
- File Employers Annual Payroll Reports
- File Annual Payroll for Agricultural employees
- 4th Quarter Federal Excise Tax Return & Payment Voucher

Spotlight: Boomerang - Bringing Productivity Back to Email

I am, as anyone who knows me can tell you, a HUGE fan of Inbox Heaven. I found this about four or five years ago and it changed my life. I have a small business, several blogs with varying degrees of activity, am a member of numerous online forums, and, frankly, was at the point where just the idea of opening my inbox made me want to cry a little every morning. Inbox Heaven helped me finally get rid of the stomach upheaval that came with clicking “refresh” on my email in the mornings.

But... I needed more. I didn’t know what, but you can only do so much with a single location for all to-do/to-handle emails that have varying degrees of importance. Enter Boomerang for Gmail.

I really, really like the uncluttered look of a nearly empty inbox. If I have an email that needs following up in a week, rather than leaving it in my box as a reminder I can use Boomerang to resend it to me in a week as a reminder. Need to email a client, but don’t want them calling me back about something I happen to be working on at 2am? Send later lets me write the note while it’s fresh in my thoughts and set it to send at a time when I wouldn’t mind the phone ringing in response.

Boomerang keeps me and my team responsive and on top of our workload. Of course, YMMV, but when I find a great tool that I personally use every day (and now there’s a mobile version, woot!) I like to share the wealth. What tools make doing your job a little easier?


Have you nursed a secret longing to be in the spotlight, center-stage, all eyes on you?

If you would like to be featured in the OffAssist spotlight column, and have not been featured in the past twelve months, contact Patty@OffAssist.com and we'll see if we can put you in the limelight.

Fine print: We do reserve the right not to feature anyone and a request is not a guarantee that you will make it into the newsletter. Also, if your news, announcement, etc. is time sensitive or tied to a specific date, please let Patty know in your email.

Tech Talk: Five Things to Consider When Buying a Laptop Computer

Some of this (notably the connectivity section) is a little out of date, but overall it’s still a good starting point if you’re thinking of buying a portable computer for someone for the holidays.

By Jason Kohrs

Purchasing a laptop is a large investment, and one that can be complicated by all of the options, manufacturers, and technical mumbo-jumbo that needs to be sifted through. Before you spend a lot of money on a laptop, it is important to spend a little time considering some basics that may affect the decision-making process. This Tech Tip will take a look at five of the innumerous things worth considering when buying a laptop computer.

Ergonomics

If you are going to be spending any significant amount of time working on this laptop computer, you’re going to want to be comfortable. A well-designed interface is essential for comfort, as well as good health. Carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis may be some of the more common conditions associated with extended computer usage, and selecting the most comfortable laptop may help avoid them all together.

The keyboards on laptops generally feature compressed layouts with smaller keys, which may place a strain on hands and wrists as users try to adapt to these miniature arrangements. Generally speaking, the larger the laptop, the larger the keyboard, as they are usually designed to span the entire width of the unit.

Most laptops use either a touchpad or tracking pointer (knob) as a replacement for a mouse. These may be adequate for occasional use, but even the best designs can become frustrating and uncomfortable when used extensively. Plus, when used for game play or other applications where precise motion is critical, they just don’t cut it.

Purchasing a separate mouse may be the best bet, as it allows you to place your arm in a more familiar (and comfortable) position, as well as providing something that may fit your hand much better. Notebook mice are available in a wired or wireless version, and generally feature a slightly smaller footprint than your typical mouse.

Connectivity

Being able to connect to common devices is just as important on laptops as it is on desktops, but being able to add these connections down the road is not as easy on a laptop. Upgrades aren’t as easy on laptops due to the basic design, so make sure what you need is included up front.

Wireless networking is almost a must-have feature on laptops now. The cord has been severed to every other shackle confining you to your desk; don’t let network connectivity hold you back. Wireless networking adapters are available as upgrades via either PCMCIA cards or USB adapters, but many now offer it onboard, hidden inside the system’s housing. Integrated wireless is the best option if available, as it requires fewer accessories to carry and to configure, and leaves those expansion ports open for other uses.

USB 2.0 may be the most common peripheral connection, and many laptops may still come with just one port. That’s fine if you don’t mind carrying around a USB hub, but the more you have to carry, the less mobile you are. A good example of the importance of USB is that many people decide they want to use a separate mouse for ergonomic reasons, and generally it will connect via USB. On a laptop with just one port, you now have to juggle the use of the mouse with connecting anything else, like a digital camera, MP3 player, or an external hard drive.

Firewire may not be as popular as USB, and as such, it doesn’t show up at all on many computer systems, regardless of whether they are desktops or laptops. Having this connection may not be necessary for everyone, but for those who want it, keep in mind that its inclusion on any particular laptop is not a given.

Bluetooth is another type of connectivity you may want in a laptop, but its popularity has yet to really catch up to its hype. More and more consumer electronics devices are starting feature Bluetooth technology, but for general computer applications, it may be more trouble than it is worth.

This Toshiba Satellite features a solid assortment of connections with three USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire port, integrated wireless and wired networking, and even a modem.

Power Management

If you are going to use a laptop as it was intended, away from your desk, you’re going to want it to provide as much battery life as possible. The first step is to shop around for a unit that offers the best battery life possible, and then seek out independent reviews to verify this performance. A good laptop should be able to run for four hours or more on a full charge, and as the technology advances, finding units that can double this time isn’t unrealistic.

The operating system on most laptops will allow for the hardware to be configured to utilize the battery as efficiently as possible. It is just up to the user to navigate their way to these tabs and set things like the display to turn off, hard drives to power down, or even the processor to slow down when it isn’t needed to run full speed. Not all processors can provide this speed throttling, but finding a system with a Mobile Pentium/Celeron or Centrino processor may be your best bet to ensure this capability.

Another way to ensure extended life away from a power outlet is to just add a second battery. Although you can obviously carry a charged spare in your bag, some laptops allow for two batteries to be installed at once, with one generally replacing the optical disk drive.

Size / Weight

All laptop computers are not created equal, and the size and weight of the various models reflect that. Some may weigh more than others due to the quantity of components included, but it may also be due to the quality of the components. Larger displays, multiple hard drives, and other integrated components will all contribute to the weight of a laptop. The largest single source of weight in a laptop may be the battery, and systems with two batteries as described above, should be expected to be much heavier.

No laptop may be considered heavy in the grand scheme of things, but just a few pounds more may be noticeable if you regularly have to lug it through a busy airport or across a large college campus. Geeks.com may not provided the exact weight of each laptop they carry, but they do provide a shipping weight for each, which is a good approximation of what the laptop and various accessories will weigh when loaded into your carrying bag.

The overall size of a laptop is generally governed by the size of the display included. You may have seen the commercial where Yao Ming (7’5” basketball player) and Verne Troyer (Mini-Me) compare their laptops with 12 inch and 17 inch monitors. It is an excellent demonstration of the range of sizes available in laptop computers, and how the various sizes may be appropriate for different users. Those seeking a replacement for their desktop computer may insist on a 17” display, while those seeking to minimize size and weight in the name of portability may be willing to select a laptop with a smaller display.

Future Proof

Basically, purchase as much laptop as you can afford, so that a year or two down the road you may be less likely to need a replacement.

Processors in a laptop are generally not upgradeable, or at least quite difficult to upgrade, so picking something with marginally adequate speed for today’s needs will no doubt be obsolete sooner than you might expect. Desktop computers generally offer the convenience of having their processors (and other components) upgraded, making it less of an issue, but it is important to plan ahead with laptops, or to plan on buying another one in a few years.

The graphics processor is another integrated feature that should be considered before making a purchase, as there is no upgrading. Many laptops may offer somewhat basic graphics intended for good 2D display and 3D displays that may be hit or miss as far as the quality is concerned. In general, laptops were never intended for 3D gaming, but things are changing and many manufacturers now offer higher performance graphics solutions that can rival many desktop computers. ATI is well known for their high performance graphics products, and offer the Mobility Radeon X series of graphics processors based on their popular desktop solutions.

Laptop memory is less of a bottleneck, as it is readily available and can be upgraded rather easily. That said, many notebooks offer a base configuration of memory that may not be adequate for your particular needs. It is suggested that a Windows XP system have a minimum of 256MB of memory, and you may find that this is what is offered on many systems. 512MB is the recommended amount of memory for smooth operation on Windows XP, and many users with more intensive applications to run may insist on 1024MB. If you intend to run serious business applications or want to play some modern 3D games, it may be worth having that base 256MB upgraded before the laptop ships to you.

Final Words

Picking a laptop computer will probably be more involved than reviewing five simple steps, but you have to start somewhere! Each of these steps will hopefully guide other decisions and make the process less frustrating, while also leading to the selection of the best laptop possible.

Source: Geeks.com

Have an article you'd like to write for our monthly newsletter or want to be spotlighted? Have a QuickBooks question or something you'd like to see in the Tech Tip? Email candy@offassist.com.

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This newsletter is published monthly by Candy Beauchamp of OffAssist. © 2013

Much of the advice in this newsletter is based upon the research, professional and personal experiences of the authors. If the reader has any questions concerning any material or procedure mentioned, the publisher and authors strongly suggest seeking the advice of a qualified CPA or other professional.