The clock has struck midnight, and rung in a new year.  And you only have 105 days to get in shape.

Your books, that is.  April 15th is coming up fast, and you want your books to be looking goodwhen the big day rolls around.  Fortunately, there are many ways in which getting your books healthy is a lot like getting yourself healthy.  So, to help you keep a resolution for good accounting in the new year, we’ll be comparing it to the most consistently popular New Year’s resolution.

How to Clean Up Your Books in the New Year

1.  Make a plan.  A common first step to those seeking to lose weight is to get a gym membership.  Likewise, those who are serious about cleaning up their books should invest in some good accounting software.  It is also imperative that, if you haven’t yet, you set up a chart of accounts and have separate bank accounts and credit cards for your personal and business finances.

2.  Smaller, frequent efforts are more beneficial than larger, infrequent efforts.  Going to the gym once a week for four hours isn’t going to help you as much as going three times a week for one hour.  In fact, you’re expending more energy for less results.  Bank reconciliations are similar.  Doing your reconciliations on a monthly basis is a huge, exhausting chore.  Doing reconciliations weekly or even daily is an easy, manageable routine which keeps your books in better shape.

3.  Follow your document “diet”.  Yes, we’ll go ahead and admit this point is a bit of a stretch.  (Extended metaphors are hard, guys.)  Would it help to say that receipts are the organic granola of accounting?  Anyway, just like a lot of people track their calories while attempting to lose or maintain weight, you should be tracking your purchases as well.  When tax-time arrives, those documents are a great asset for itemizing deductions.

4.  If it’s too much to do alone, get help. Personal trainers make their living showing people how to work out, but they still can’t do the exercise for them.  That’s just one (of many) ways in which accountants are cooler than personal trainers.  A good accountant can do project work and help you get your books in order.  However, many business owners prefer to avoid the work entirely, entrusting an expert with keeping their books long-term.

Imagine how easy it would be to get in shape if you could just pay a trainer to go work out for you.  Just shows how much easier it is to take care of your financials.