Use Recurring Transactions in QuickBooks Online

Save time and ensure that repeating transactions are processed as scheduled.

Save time and ensure that repeating transactions are processed as scheduled.

You know how much time QuickBooks Online already saves you. Customer, vendor, and item records need never be entered again once they’re created for the first time. Pre-built forms use your record data to complete transactions quickly and accurately. Customizable report templates provide real-time overviews of your financial status in every area.

There’s another way QuickBooks Online can reduce the time you spend on accounting chores: recurring transactions. If you have invoices, bills, and other transactions that occur on a regular basis, you can save all or part of their data to use again. You can even choose to have them dispatched automatically. 

Here’s how it works. You need to create a template, a type of model, for each recurring transaction. To do this, simply create the transaction you want to repeat. Say it’s an invoice for a service you provide monthly to a company or individual. You’d fill in all the required fields, then click Make recurring in the horizontal toolbar at the bottom of the screen. This window will open:

When you click    Make recurring    at the bottom of a transaction, this window of options will display.

When you click Make recurring at the bottom of a transaction, this window of options will display.

Select the Customer first by clicking the arrows to the right of the blank field. QuickBooks Online will fill in contact information and automatically display name that as the Template name. You can leave it there, or you can try to think of a phrase that describes the transaction, so you’ll remember it. Next, you need to decide how QuickBooks Online will handle the transaction. There are three options:

  • Scheduled. Be very careful with this one, since QuickBooks Online will automatically create and dispatch it. This only works if the information in the transaction—minus the date—is always exactly the same.
  • Reminder. This is safer. QuickBooks Online will display a reminder in time for you to complete and process the transaction.
  • Unscheduled. QuickBooks Online will do neither of the above, but the template will be available to use as you need it. This is good for infrequent transactions that share some common information.

Next, taking into account variables like delivery methods and due dates, enter a number in the field in front of days in advance. Then skip down to Options and click the box in front of all the statements that apply to that transaction. The bottom line in this window contains the fields that will let you specify the transaction’s Interval. Click the arrows next to each field to open its menu. 

In the example above, we’ve indicated that the invoice occurs monthly on the first day of the month, starting on January 1, 2017. You don’t know how long this will recur, so we’ve left End set to None. When you’re satisfied with everything in the window, click Save template in the lower right corner.

To see a list of the repeating transactions you’ve defined, click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen and select Recurring Transactions. A table displaying them will open and display columns including Type, Interval, and Previous Date. Look toward the end of one of these lines. To modify the template, click Edit.

The    Recurring Transactions    screen gives you an overview of the templates you’ve created and provides links to action options.

The Recurring Transactions screen gives you an overview of the templates you’ve created and provides links to action options.

There are other options here that vary depending on the type of transaction. In the screen shot above, the template is a bill. You can:

  • Use it to create a new transaction,
  • Duplicate it and modify it, to make a new template,
  • Pause it, to temporarily suspend its recurrence,
  • Skip next date and resume after the next interval, or
  • Delete it.

QuickBooks Online also includes a report that will display all the templates you’ve created. Click Reports in the left vertical pane, then All Reports (unless this list is already active), then Accountant Reports. You’ll find the Recurring Template List in the lower right corner.

Recurring transaction templates can save you a lot of time and increase accuracy. Conversely, they can result in unbilled revenue and past-due bills—or even duplicate transactions—if they’re not created with precision. We’d be happy to step in and guide you through the process for the first time.

Paying Bills in QuickBooks Online 

In a previous column, we talked about setting up bills in QuickBooks Online. Now it’s time to pay them.

We recently laid out the benefits of using QuickBooks Online for bill entry and payment. It’s faster than manual methods. It leaves an electronic record of your accounts payable. And it helps ensure that bills are paid accurately and on time.

As we discussed, QuickBooks Online employs a two-step process for bill payment. Once you’ve completed the first (setup), the hard part is done, and you can move on to fulfilling your financial obligations. Let’s take a look.

Warning: Because you may be “handling” a lot of your bills twice in QuickBooks Online, this system can take some getting used to. We’ll be happy to walk you through the process until you’re comfortable.

Before you can pay a bill, you must create a template and enter its details. You can even set up payments to recur, as shown here.

Before you can pay a bill, you must create a template and enter its details. You can even set up payments to recur, as shown here.

To review quickly, we created a bill by clicking on the plus (+) sign at the top of the screen and selecting Bill under Vendors. Once you’ve created a bill, you can click on Make recurring at the bottom of the screen to establish periodic payments (as pictured above). You can choose to have payments that are always the same sent automatically, or you can request a reminder so that you can change the amount before emailing or printing. Those reminders appear when you first log into QuickBooks Online. You can access them by clicking on the corresponding link under Tasks

Making Payments

QuickBooks Online makes it very easy to pay bills. You can do so from a handful of different screens on the site – sometimes in multiple places on the same page.

  • Click on the Vendors tab in the vertical toolbar on the left side of the screen. The page that opens displays a horizontal chain of bars near the top, color-coded to indicate what they represent: Purchase Order, Open Bills, Overdue, and Paid Last 30 Days. Each segment tells you how many transactions share that status as well as their total dollar amount. When you click on a segment, the table below changes to include a list of the actual transactions. At the right end of each line is a Make Payment link that you can click to get a payment screen. If you want to see the actual bill that was sent, click on the Vendor name itself.
  • You can click on the plus (+) sign at the top of any screen where it appears and go to Vendors | Pay Bills.
  • Open the bill itself and click on the Make Payment link in the upper right corner.
A partial view of the    Bill Payment    screen

A partial view of the Bill Payment screen

When you’ve opened a bill that you want to pay, double-check the information in the upper part of the screen. The Vendor details should, of course, be correct, but make sure the date reads as it should. And look in the box to the right of the vendor’s name. If it’s not displaying the correct account for the transaction, click on the double arrows and select the right one.

QuickBooks Online will follow its own numbering system for bill payments. If you want to assign your own by entering a reference number of some kind, delete what’s showing in the Ref no. field and add your own. The Bill Payment # in the upper left will change to reflect that.

If there are multiple bills in the list below, click in the box in front of the one(s) you want to pay to create a checkmark. Look at the end of each line, too. QuickBooks Online defaults to a full payment for bills. If for some reason you’re planning to make a partial payment, replace the dollar amount in the Payment box with your own. In the bottom left portion of the screen, you can enter a Memo if you’d like and add an Attachment. When you’ve checked everything for accuracy, click Save and close or Save and new in the lower right corner.

Automation Helps

Paying bills manually can be painful. Beyond the fact that you’re watching money leave your accounts, the mechanics of writing checks and/or dispatching electronic payments on time—and keeping everything organized—can be a constant challenge. QuickBooks Online’s bill-paying tools can help with that.

Customizing QuickBooks Online Forms

Make a good impression on your customers by sending them well-designed sales forms. QuickBooks Online helps you create them. 

Your company’s “brand” can be composed of many things (and has many definitions), but it’s really about what pops into your customers’ minds when they think of you. Key components include your logo, your color scheme, and any other identifying visual element that people associate with your business.

A good way to reinforce this image is by making sure that a unifying graphic theme runs through every piece of print or web-based customer content you create, like your website, brochures, blog, and ebooks. Your brand should also be visible on all sales forms you dispatch, like invoices and receipts.

QuickBooks Online comes with its own default sales form style; this is the layout and content that will automatically display when you start a new transaction. You can easily change this and have it apply to all transactions.

Your logo is an important element of your company’s brand. QuickBooks Online lets you include it on sales forms.

Your logo is an important element of your company’s brand. QuickBooks Online lets you include it on sales forms.

Here’s how it works. Click on the gear icon in the upper right of the screen, next to your company name. Select Custom Form Styles to open the table of existing styles. There should be one labeled Standard, though there may be another labeled Classic. You can make either the default by clicking Make Default or Remove as default using the down arrows and links under ACTION at the far right of each row.

Click the Edit link for the default style. This screen contains many of QuickBooks Online’s customization tools. The Style tab in the left vertical toolbar is automatically highlighted. In the column to its right, click through the five design options available and leave the desired one selected. Then click the plus (+) sign in the upper right of the screen. Browse for your logo file when the directory opens and double-click on it to add it to the top of your sales forms. Choose the color scheme you want by clicking in the correct box displayed below.

When you’re done there, click on the Appearance tab to specify your logo’s placement and change any other settings.

Content Critical

You can decide which fields should and shouldn’t appear on your sales forms by checking and unchecking boxes.

You can decide which fields should and shouldn’t appear on your sales forms by checking and unchecking boxes.

You won’t necessarily need to make every data field available on your sales forms. But you want to include every field you might possibly need without displaying extraneous content areas. QuickBooks Online lets you turn fields on and off and change their labels easily by checking and unchecking boxes.

Click the Header tab on the left to start this process. Among your options here are:

  • Form names. Do you want invoices to say “Invoice,” for example? Do you want to use form numbers and allow custom transaction numbers?
  • Company. How much of your company’s contact information should appear?
  • Customer. Do you want fields for Terms, Due date, etc?
  • Custom. Do you need to define custom fields?

You’ll see more options when you click on the Activity Table tab in the left vertical pane (see image above). Not only can you choose what content appears and how its labels read, but you can also indicate what percentage of that line each entry should occupy. Under WIDTH%, click on the plus (+) and minus (-) buttons to the right of each number to size it (your numbers, of course, should total 100).

Warning: Many of the decisions you have to make when customizing sales forms are simple. Others take some consideration, like custom fields and the handling of billable time. We can help you with these.

Click on the final tab in the left navigation pane, Footer, to add or edit text that should be displayed at the bottom of your sales forms. Click Save in the lower right when you’re done.

Some settings may need to be tweaked in    Account and Settings.

Some settings may need to be tweaked in Account and Settings.

Note: As you’re browsing through the content options available as described above, you may find that a field appears to be missing or needs a default setting changed. If this occurs, click on the gear icon in the upper right of the main screen, then on Your Company | Account and Settings. Click on the Sales tab in the left vertical pane to get to Sales form content.

Consistent, well-designed sales forms will help promote your brand and present a polished, professional image to your customers.

Creating Reports in QuickBooks, Part 2

 

 

Last month, we discussed QuickBooks’ report Preferences and The Report Center. We’ll look at report customization this month.

QuickBooks makes your bookkeeping faster, safer, and more accurate than what you could do using a manual system. Still, you may occasionally tire of your daily tasks. You want to know what all of these forms and records mean in terms of your overall financial health. You want to see reports.

The actual mechanics of creating reports in QuickBooks are fairly straightforward. You can go to the Report Center, make a selection, maybe change the date range, and voila! Your company’s related data appears in neat rows and columns. 

You may be able to get some of the information you need by simply changing the date range on a QuickBooks report.

You may be able to get some of the information you need by simply changing the date range on a QuickBooks report.

But perhaps you to see different columns than what QuickBooks’ report templates include. Further, you might like to filter your output for more meaningful, targeted analysis. And frankly, some of QuickBooks’ reports—particularly those included in the categories Company & Financial and Accountant & Taxes—can be a little advanced for the average small businessperson with little bookkeeping experience. They’re easy to run, but difficult to understand.

So we strongly encourage you to let us run these more complex reports, like the Balance Sheet, for you on a regular (monthly or quarterly) basis. They can provide valuable insight as you continue to make critical business decisions.

But we don’t want to discourage you from working with QuickBooks’ reports on your own. You could run A/R Aging Detail, for example, to keep an eye on past-due payments, or Unpaid Bills Detail to see where you stand with your own financial obligations.

Make Reports Yours

Sometimes, QuickBooks’ own report output is a bit too broad for your needs. So the program provides sophisticated customization options. You can work with these to narrow down and shape the data that appears in your reports.

First, columns. Building reports from scratch would be too time-consuming and frustrating for you to do all of the time. And it’s unnecessary, since QuickBooks provides templates for its reports, sets of columns and data filters that would serve some businesses well, but which can be modified by each user.

Try this. Open the Profit & Loss Detail report and click on the Customize Report button in the upper left corner. The Modify Report window opens.

QuickBooks lets you modify the columns that appear in reports.

QuickBooks lets you modify the columns that appear in reports.

The Display tab should be highlighted. Change the Report Date Range if necessary by clicking on the down arrow to the right of the Dates field. You can also create your own custom date range by deleting the dates in the From and To fields and entering new ones, or by clicking on the small calendar icons and clicking on the desired dates.

Warning: Do you understand the difference between running reports as either Accrual or Cash? This is important. If you don’t, let’s get together to go over some basic report concepts.

It’s easy to change the default columns that appear in reports. You can either enter a column label in the Search Columns box or scroll down the list of all possible labels. Click in the space in front of the ones you want to include, and click on existing checkmarks if you want to remove those labels. You can also designate a sort order, either Ascending or Descending.

If you want to work with the Advanced options, or if you come across a Display screen that puzzles you (depending on the report, you may have some complex choices), let us know.

QuickBooks report    Filters    screen

QuickBooks report Filters screen

When you’re done here, click on the Filters tab. This is a powerful element of QuickBooks report customization. You can limit your report output to data that meet certain criteria. In the image above, for example, you can tell QuickBooks which subset of Accounts should be included. Click on the Billing Status filter, and you can limit the results to Any, Not Billable, Unbilled, or Billed. You get the idea. 

You can apply multiple filters to a report. Every one you select will appear in the list under Current Filter Choices. 

We’ll skip the Header/Footer and Fonts & Numbers tabs, since these are primarily cosmetic options you can explore on your own. But you can see from this brief overview how you can use many QuickBooks reports as is or customize them extensively. And we do recommend that you work with reports regularly, both on your own and with us. The insight they provide can help your company grow and flourish instead of just getting by.

Creating Reports in QuickBooks, Part 1

QuickBooks comes with dozens of report templates that can be run as is. This month and next, we’ll show you ways to make them “fit” your company.

Reports are your reward for all that hard work you put in entering records and transactions in QuickBooks. Sure, you can always find individual invoices, sales receipts, and customers by using the software’s search tools, but in order to make smart business decisions, you need to be able to see related subsets of the information you so carefully entered in neat rows and columns.

You’ve probably created at least some basic reports in QuickBooks. You may have, for example, wanted to see who’s late paying you, or whether you have unpaid bills. You might need to know your stock levels, or which purchase orders are still unfilled. You certainly want to keep a close eye on whether you’re making or losing money.

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The QuickBooks Report Center displays examples of reports you can create using your company’s own data.

QuickBooks makes it easy to get those answers in only a few seconds. But to get really meaningful, targeted views of your accounting information, you’ll  want to shape your reports so that they reveal precisely what you need to know. You can do some of this on your own, but you might want to enlist our help to drill down even further – and to create and analyze the more complex output that some reports can provide.

Configure Preliminary Settings

As we often do when we’re starting a tutorial on a specific QuickBooks feature, we’re going to send you to the Preferences window first thing. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Reports & Graphs. With the My Preferences section open, you can instruct QuickBooks on some of the ways reports should be handled. You can choose to:

  • Have the Modify Report window open every time you create a report (to remind you to make any necessary changes first).
  • Set your Refresh options. If you always want to have the most current data displayed when you generate a report, you can tell QuickBooks to Prompt me to refresh or Refresh automatically by clicking on the button in front of the appropriate response. Choose Don’t refresh—the fastest method—if you don’t want to be interrupted when you’re working with a report. You can refresh when you’re done.
  • Draw graphs in 2D to make them run faster, and Use [black and white] patterns instead of colors to better differentiate between segments.

Each person who has access to QuickBooks can set these Preferences any way he or she wishes.

Setting Up Company Preferences

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You must be the QuickBooks Administrator to set Company Preferences.

You can decide on your own whether Aging Reports should start the aging process from the due date or the transaction date. Decide how you want Items and Accounts to appear in reports. And if you click the Format button located directly below Default formatting for reports, you can alter their appearance, for example, by changing fonts and indicating what information should appear in the header and footer.

For other preferences, you may need our help. Do you understand the difference between running Summary Reports as Accrual or Cash? And have you worked with a Statement of Cash Flows before so you can assign accounts to various sections? This is a report we should be generating and analyzing periodically for you, so don’t worry about dealing with it on your own.

Note: QuickBooks was designed for small businesspeople, not accountants. But if you really want to get the most out of it to make the best business decisions possible, let us help you with those concepts you don’t understand.

Navigating the Report Center

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The QuickBooks Reports menu

Unless you’re working with a very old version of QuickBooks, you have two options for accessing the software’s reporting functions. You can simply click on Reports in the left vertical pane to open the Report Center. Or you can get there by opening the Reports menu (which includes links to other areas, like the Transaction Journal, in addition to lists of QuickBooks’ reports divided by category).

Next month, we’ll look at some reports and their customization options in QuickBooks. In the meantime, as always, we’re available to work with you on enhancing your knowledge of QuickBooks reports and their setup.