I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa's.
For several years I resisted the idea of using my debit card or other plastic to pay my monthly bills. I was constantly bombarded with invitations to pay using my bank's online resources, including using cards, but I resisted, month after month. Old habits die hard – that's a fact. I was comfortable looking at my account online, but not paying bills with the options available. Checks, I surmised, were not dead and had served me well over the years. I would not abandon my paper!
Enter the digital age of powerful technology designed to make our lives easier and more efficient. Enter the all-consuming needs of running a successful business and finding checks overwhelming, sometimes. Enter the need to focus on clients and contracts, not payments, with paper. Enter…using cards and online resources from my bank to pay my bills.
Why did it take me so long to get efficient?
Well, we're a small business. I can't always predict from week to week how much 'cash' will be in my account. I worried that using a card would too easily allow me to spend over my limit, or get caught in the "insufficient funds" merry-go-round, which comes with overdraft charges.
I felt that not sitting at my desk, sometimes for an hour at a time, sometimes longer, to write checks and review my account, gave up my power to be in charge.
What changed my mind? Time. I just don't have the time to sit at a desk and write check after check. I realized I was giving paper checks too much power over me! They were the ones in charge, not I!
Yes, I still check my account and take time to understand my balance on a day-to-day basis, but I now know that using my cards gives me more control, not less. Since I already keep track of my account, I know what's available, and I know what my budget will bear. Using cards frees me by having the cash automatically deducted from my account. I no longer worry about overdrafts because I am always aware of what's available. Best of all, there are no checks floating around the Netherlands...waiting to clear. The account is balanced daily now.
Not only do I save time and energy, which allows me to relax more, but using cards gives me better documentation. The banks are very good about allowing free downloads of your account information, and about sharing your spending habits over time. When tax time comes around, I just visit my bank online and I have an immediate view of all my business spending, all in one place – to share with my tax advisor. Each transaction is recorded by the bank, and is easily checked on, via my online account.
And, one of the nicest things about not writing checks any longer is not having my fingers cramp up from signing my name over and over and over. It may seem like a small thing to appreciate, but I do all my work online, so having to 'write' a check and sign it, or just sign it after printing via my software, has become onerous. It's so nice to just tap, tap, tap my keyboard.
Let's recap: how can you become more efficient in 2014? Use your cards responsibly, thoughtfully, and with purpose.
You'll save a lot of trees and keep your fingers nimble for more important work - like creating new contracts for new clients.
Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently.
Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner's success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa's small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.