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Bookkeeping Basics: Separating Business & Personal Finances

Arizona Federal Staff

Do you own a micro business, small business or even a side hustle for earning extra income? If so, it’s vital that you follow certain bookkeeping basics. Here’s a super-easy way to manage your business finances.

Separating business & personal finances
The easiest way to manage your business finances involves keeping them completely separate from your personal finances. Doing so makes your life so much easier on so many levels.

Many small business owners and side hustlers – especially those just starting out – simply use their personal bank account and credit cards to manage their business finances. Unfortunately, unless you have an excellent way of tracking your business finances, mixing the two is a nightmare when you need financial information about your business.

By separating business and personal finances, you can access the information you need without any headache. If you ever need to know how much money your business made or spent in a month, you can do so without looking through all of your personal accounts and sorting the transactions. This also helps should you ever have the unfortunate experience of getting audited by the IRS.

Setting up & managing business finances
To get started, go to your local credit union and open two new business accounts for your business – a business checking account (some may require a minimum balance or number of transactions to waive the monthly service fee) and a business savings account.

As far as spending goes, for tracking purposes (and earning perks) it’s helpful to have a business credit card. You’ll likely have to personally guarantee the card and give them your Social Security number. That’s fine, but make sure to put the credit card in your business’ name, not your personal name.

If you don’t like credit cards, simply use your business debit card that came with your business checking account.

Putting your plan into action
Once you have your checking, savings and credit card accounts open, you’re ready for your business finances to take on a life of their own.

Your checking & savings accounts
Whenever you receive any money for your business or side hustle, deposit it into your new business checking account. And whenever you have to make a business-related purchase, put it on your business credit or debit card. It sounds obvious, but these basic bookkeeping skills will help you in the long run.

Never use your business accounts to make a personal purchase or your personal accounts to make a business purchase.

So what about the savings account? You can use the savings account to set aside enough money for quarterly tax payments. This way, the money is physically separate and you can’t accidently spend your tax money on business expenses without going through the steps of transferring the money.

Receipts
There’s one more important thing to keep in mind: you should keep all of your receipts. This is bookkeeping 101. Create a folder to put all your physical receipts. For digital receipts, create a file folder on your desktop and save your digital receipts there.

Why it matters (legally speaking)
Separating business and personal finances isn’t just a convenience. In some cases, it’s required to protect yourself and your business. If you set your side hustle or small business up as a limited liability company (LLC), you likely did so to protect your personal assets should something bad happen to your company.

One requirement of an LLC to keep the personal protections is to keep your business and personal finances separate. If you mix the two, you’ll have committed an error known as “piercing the corporate veil.” If you pierce the corporate veil, people can go beyond your LLC to your personal assets to settle debts or litigation, which is downright scary.

Keeping your business and personal finances separate isn’t difficult. Simply open a couple of bank accounts, carry an additional card in your wallet, and make sure to put the right purchases on the right cards.

It makes life easier when you need financial information on your business. And depending on how you set up your company, it may even help protect your personal assets and prevent the need for legal advice in the future.

Your Turn: Do you have any tips for managing your small business finances? Share them in the comments below.