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Advanced Features

Ten Overlooked QuickBooks Reports That You Should Use

16 Bank Reconciliation Tips and Tricks

Use Accounting Ratios to Stave Off Financial Problems

Profit & Loss Report Versus Statement of Cash Flows

QuickBooks Helps You Navigate Tricky Waters

How To Easily Track Your Inventory

How to Take the Pain Out of Paying Your Bills

4 Ways to Manage Prices in a Down Economy

QuickBooks 2012: New Paths to Better, Faster Financial Management

Billing for Time and Expenses: How It Works

Do You Need to Use QuickBooks’ Fixed Asset Tools?

Using Sales Receipts: When and How

What Are Payroll Items in QuickBooks?


More Tips:

Use QuickBooks Pro to manage your business and personal checking account.

QuickBooks Pro can be used to manage many different files. In your case, you could have a QuickBooks file called “Business”, and a completely separate QuickBooks file called “Home” to manage the separate checkbooks. For more information on the creation of a new company file, click on File in the menu bar, then New Company.

What Are Payroll Items in QuickBooks?

Are you considering processing your own payroll in QuickBooks? Whether you’re moving from a payroll service or getting ready to pay your first employee, you’re taking on a complex set of tasks that requires a great deal of setup and absolute precision. But the reward is complete control over your compensation records and transactions, and constant access to your payroll data.

If you have no experience dealing with paychecks, deductions, and payroll taxes, we strongly recommend that you call the office before you get started. While QuickBooks simplifies the actual mechanics of setting up and running payroll, there’s still a lot you need to know.

It goes without saying that accuracy is critical here. You’re responsible for your employees’ livelihoods and for maintaining any benefits they receive. Federal, state and local taxing agencies will count on you to submit the proper payroll taxes and filings on time; failure to do so can result in stiff penalties and worse.

A Look Around Payroll Items

That said, here is a brief preview of how QuickBooks Payroll Items work. First, make sure that payroll is turned on. Next, open the Edit menu and click Preferences, then clickPayroll & Employees | Company Preferences.


The Company Preferences screen in Payroll & Employees Preferences

Under QUICKBOOKS PAYROLL FEATURES, make sure the button in front of Full Payrollis filled in by clicking on it. If you’re interested in exploring Intuit’s online payroll service, someone can tell you about that, as well as advise you on the other options displayed here.

This element of your accounting is complicated enough that QuickBooks has a separate setup tool to guide you through the myriad details you’ll need to provide. You find this tool by going to Employees | Payroll Setup. This is a multi-screen, wizard-like tool that walks you through the process of providing information about employees, compensation, benefits and other additions/deductions, and taxes. Each page poses questions, and you provide answers by entering data and selecting options from drop-down lists. In doing so, you’re creating Payroll Items.

This is a time- and labor-intensive process, one that will send you scrambling for all of the minutiae that make up your payroll system. Once you have your payroll framework established, though, as we said earlier, everything will be in one place and easily accessible.

A Useful List

The information you entered in Payroll Setup is likely to change and need modification. Maybe you forgot to account for something while you were working in the wizard, or perhaps you just want to look up a bit of payroll data. To do any of these, open the Listsmenu and click on Payroll Item List.


You can access this menu from the bottom of the Payroll Item List screen.

The window that opens contains a list of the Payroll Items you created. It looks like a checkbook register, with one line devoted to each item. You’ll be able to view, for example, its Type, any Limit imposed, the Payable To name, and Tax Tracking designations. At the bottom of this list, you’ll see three drop-down menus: Payroll Item, Activities, andReports. When you click on the down arrow next to Payroll Item you’ll see the menu displayed in the above image.

Warning: There are many options in this menu for altering Payroll Item definitions. QuickBooks allows you to do this, but use caution here. If it involves an action that you are not familiar with, please call the office for assistance.

This is fairly self-explanatory. To Edit or Delete a Payroll Item or make it Inactive, highlight it in the list and click on the correct option. You can also Customize Columns in the table and perform other related tasks. When you click on New Item and select EZ Setup on the next page, this window opens:


You can add Payroll Items by working your way through this wizard-like progression of screens.

QuickBooks will help you here by asking questions and building a Payroll Item based on your responses.

There’s much more to know about working with Payroll Items and assigning them to employees. When you’re ready to start processing payroll in QuickBooks, don’t hesitate to call the office for help getting started!

Using Sales Receipts: When and How

How do you let your customers know how much they owe you, and for what products or services? In these days of ecommerce and merchant accounts, your customers may provide a credit card number over the phone or on a website. Or perhaps you send invoices after a sale and receive checks or account numbers in the mail. QuickBooks can help you both create the invoices and record the payments.

There’s another type of sales document that you can use in certain situations: the sales receipt. You’d probably be most likely to use one of these when customers pay you in fullfor products or services at the same time they receive them.


If you receive full payment for a product or service at the same time the customer receives it, you should use a sales receipt.

Completing a sales receipt is similar to filling out an invoice or purchase order. Click Create Sales Receipts on QuickBooks’ home page or open the Customers menu and selectEnter Sales Receipts. A screen like the one above will open.

Choose a Customer from the drop-down list and a Class (if applicable). If you have created more than one Template (more on that later), make sure that the correct one appears in the field. Verify that the appropriate Date and Sale No. read as they should. Click on the type of payment you’re receiving, and enter the check or credit card number where necessary (a small window will open for the latter).

Note: If you are working with a type of payment that does not appear in the four icons, click on the arrow below More to add it.

Now you’re ready to select the products or services you sold by clicking on the arrow in the field under Item to open the available list (if you have not created a record for what you’re selling, select and complete the fields in the New Item window that opens). Enter the quantity (Qty. ). The Rate, Amount, and Tax fields should fill in automatically, based on the information you entered when you create the item’s record.

When you’ve entered all of the items that the customer is paying you for, you can choose which Customer Message will appear on the sales receipt (you can see your options in the drop-down list found in the lower left corner of the screen). Anything you enter in theMemo field will be for your internal use only; it will not appear on the printed or emailed sales receipt.

Click Save & Close or Save & New.

Customizing Sales Receipts


QuickBooks provides tools for customizing forms, including sales receipts.

QuickBooks’ forms contain the fields most often used by small businesses. But you can alter them in numerous ways to meet your company’s needs. To customize a sales receipt, open the Sales Receipt window and click on the Formatting menu. Select Manage Templates.

You’ll want to make a copy of the original sales receipt so that the original will always be available. Click the Copy button in the lower left. “Copy of Custom Sales Receipt” appears in the list of templates. In the Preview pane on the right, click in the field next to Template Name and replace the existing name with a new, more descriptive one if you’d like. ClickOK.

The Basic Customization window opens. Click on Additional Customization at the bottom of the screen. You’ll see a window like the one in the image above. Click theColumns tab. The list on the left displays all of the columns that can be included in the body of your sales receipt.

Click in the boxes below Screen and Print to indicate which columns should display on your QuickBooks screen and which should appear on the customer’s copy. The numbers in the Order column can be changed to reflect which column will come first, second, etc.

Numerous Options

There’s a lot more you can do to customize your QuickBooks forms. And there are other situations where you might want to issue a sales receipt. We’ve only been able to touch on both topics here, but would be happy to schedule time with you to explore these elements of QuickBooks.

Do You Need to Use QuickBooks’ Fixed Asset Tools?

Much of the work you do in QuickBooks is short-term. You send an invoice and it gets paid. Your purchase order is fulfilled, and the products move into your inventory. You run payrolls and submit their related taxes and other payments.

Managing the life cycle of your fixed assets is an exception. Fixed assets are physical entities that you purchase to help your business generate revenue, like property, a vehicle or a commercial oven. By definition, they must be in use for over 12 months.


Figure 1: You’ll need our help in depreciating the book value of your fixed assets, but careful recording of them will make your QuickBooks reports, your taxes and your company’s worth more accurate.

QuickBooks can help you track these, but both the value of your company and your tax obligations–and the sale price, should you eventually sell them–are affected by how the book value of your fixed assets is depreciated. It’s important that you work closely with us over the life of each one. What you can do on your own, though, is to maintain absolutely accurate records in this area.

Two Paths

The best time to start recording information about a fixed asset is while you’re creating a transaction related to its purchase. You can build an item record for it as you’re filling out the Item section of Enter Bills, Write Checks, Enter Credit Card Charges or Purchase Order.

Let’s say you’re writing a check for a new company truck. You’d go to Banking | Write Checks and fill in the blanks. Click the Items tab below the MEMO field, and then click the down arrow in the ITEM field. Scroll up to the top of the list if necessary and select . You’ll see this menu:


Figure 2: Keep track of your company’s fixed assets by creating item records for them. You can do this as you’re entering transactions for their purchase.

Click on Fixed Asset to open the New Item window.

Transactions Not Required

There may be times when you’ll want to create an item record for a fixed asset when you’re not processing a transaction. Such situations include:

  • Cash purchases
  • Transfer of a personal asset to your company
  • Purchase of a fixed asset with personal funds, or
  • A multi-item purchase.

To do this, click on the Lists menu and select Fixed Asset Item List. If you’re adding a new one, right-click anywhere in the list part of the screen and select New (or click the down arrow next to the Item button in the lower left of the screen and click New). The same New Item window that you opened from the check-writing screen appears.

You’ve already chosen Fixed Asset as the TYPE, so your cursor should be in the Asset Name/Number field. Enter an easy-to-recognize name so that you’ll be able to quickly identify it in reports. Select the correct Asset Account (ask us if you’re not sure) and type a description in the Purchase Description field, clicking the correct button for new or used.

Enter the Date purchased, the Cost and the Vendor/Payee. Don’t worry about the SALES INFORMATION fields until–and if–you eventually sell the asset.


Figure 3: You should be able to complete the New Item window in QuickBooks for your fixed assets on your own, but consult with us on any questions.

Under ASSET INFORMATION, enter the Asset Description (you can write a lengthier description here), its Location, PO Number if applicable, Serial Number and warranty expiration date. Add Notes if you ‘d like, and you’re done–unless you want to incorporateCustom Fields. If so, click the Custom Fields button in the upper right, then Define Fields.

(We can provide the depreciation and book value numbers under FIXED ASSET MANAGER.)

Your fixed asset records are critical elements of QuickBooks. You may be storing similar information elsewhere in your office records, but QuickBooks needs it, too, so you’ll have a comprehensive accounting of your company’s value.

Billing for Time and Expenses: How It Works

Billing for inventory parts is easy. Pick the items from a list and specify a quantity. Poof. Done.

Billing for costs, time or mileage is a little more complex. QuickBooks has built-in tools to help you do this, but it’s a bit of a process.

To simplify your workflow, do this groundwork first:

  • Go to Edit | Preferences | Time & Expenses | Company Preferences. Click theYes button under Time tracking and indicate your choices under Invoicing options. If you plan to mark up some costs and want a default number, enter a percentage and account (these can be changed on individual invoices).


Figure 1: As you do with other QuickBooks processes, make sure that your Preferences are set correctly.

  • Add any billing items necessary by clicking Lists | Item List and then Item | New in the lower left corner.
  • If you plan to bill for mileage, go to Lists | Customer & Vendor Profile List | Vehicle List and enter information about every business vehicle.

Invoicing for Services

If you’re a service-oriented company, you bill for time frequently. This is easy. You’re probably already familiar with the Enter Time entry in the Employees menu. Whether you make individual time entries or complete a timesheet, it’s critical that you make the correct selections for each Customer: Job, Service Item and Payroll Item field, and check theBillable box.

When you create invoices, this box will open after you select a customer:


Figure 2: QuickBooks lets you know when there are time and costs to be billed for each customer.

You can let QuickBooks enter the time totals now, or add them later by clicking the Add Time/Costs button. Either way, the Choose Billable Time and Costs window opens. Add a checkmark next to each entry that should be billed, and click Options… to indicate whether you want one line for each time entry or would rather combine all similar service item types.


Figure 3: QuickBooks wants to know which entries should be invoiced.

More Complexity

If you’re done with billable expenses for this invoice, click OK. If there are other costs that you covered, click the Expenses tab to see all transactions that you earmarked for this client on a bill, check or credit card. You have the option here to mark up the cost by a percentage or amount (even if you established this in Preferences), and to specify an account.

Do the same for Mileage, which you would have entered previously — when it was incurred — at Company | Enter Vehicle Mileage. Then select any Items that you purchased for the customer. Your records should be correct, assuming that you were conscientious about assigning expenses to customers and jobs.


Figure 4: It’s easy to pull billable expenses into invoices if they’re documented carefully.

Turning expenses into invoices and then into income can be complicated. Let us know if we can help. We are your partner in building a successful business.

QuickBooks Tip:

Here’s a cool little keyboard shortcut. Hit F2 while you’re in QuickBooks, and you’ll get the Product Information screen. It’ll tell you everything you want to know about your specific copy of QuickBooks, like your release and license number, the file size, number of users logged in, audit trail status and the total number of accounts, customers, employees, etc.

QuickBooks News Update

Please note that as of May 31, 2012, Intuit is discontinuing support for QuickBooks Pro, Premier and Simple Start 2009, QuickBooks for Mac 2009 and QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 9. You can continue to use these solutions, of course, but live technical support and add-on services like payroll, credit card processing, online banking and bill-pay will not be accessible. Talk to us about upgrading if you’re using any of these products or services.

QuickBooks 2012: New Paths to Better, Faster Financial Management

As it usually does this time of year, Intuit has introduced new versions of its Pro and Premier products. QuickBooks 2012 promises to help you get better organized, save steps, and acquire more in-depth financial insights.

The new Express Start is designed for businesses that want to blast through setup and start entering customers and invoices. You have two other options though.

Advanced Setup is the old EasyStep interview that solicits more details. You can also open an existing file or convert data from Quicken or other accounting software.

Express Start requires minimal input. Company name, industry, company type, tax ID, and contact information is all that’s required. After you save your company file, it lets you start adding or importing customers/vendors/employees, products/services, and bank accounts.


Figure 1: Express Start simplifies company setup

An Activity-Driven Calendar

QuickBooks’ Reminders keep you apprised of each day’s tasks, but they don’t provide any information about the past or future. QuickBooks 2012 solves this problem with its new Calendar. When you enter an appointment, to-do, or key business task (invoices, bills, purchase orders, etc.), it appears in the calendar. You can display a graphical view of the month that tallies activities for each day and lists them below. Daily and weekly views are in list form and links open the original documents.


Figure 2: The new Calendar displays daily, weekly, and monthly views of your financial transactions

Save Excel Formatting

Once you’ve formatted a QuickBooks report in Excel, it’s frustrating to have to reformat it each time you run it for different time periods and/or with your ever-changing content. Excel Integration Refresh simplifies this process. You can now export a report to Excel, make formatting changes and save them, and then reapply them later to the same type of report using different date ranges and your updated QuickBooks data. Acceptable alterations include:

  • Row and column header font formatting
  • New formulas
  • Renamed column and row headers, and report titles
  • Resized columns
  • Inserted columns and rows
  • Inserted formula text

You can do this by opening your report in QuickBooks and clicking Update an existing worksheet, or by launching your report in Excel and clicking the QuickBooks tab on the toolbar, then the Update Report button.


Figure 3: This window opens when you click Update Report in Excel

A New Report Community

There’s always room for more report formats. QuickBooks 2012 offers a library of Contributed Reports, variations created either by Intuit or your fellow users. You can select one of these, like Customer Sales By Quantity By Item Detail and instantly populate it with your own data.

You can sort these templates by industry and rating, and view them as a list, in a grid, or in the Report Center’s Carousel view.

Centralized Operations

QuickBooks 2012 also saves you time with its new Centers. The Inventory Center works similarly to those available for customers, vendors, and employees. It’s a clearinghouse of item records and transactions that can be viewed and sorted. You can also do inventory housekeeping tasks here, like adding items and launching transactions.

The Lead Center helps you carefully track new leads that you either paste in from Excel or enter manually. You can add to-dos and notes to contact records, and convert them into customers.

Upgrading Can Be Tricky

Intuit has included other, smaller time-saving organizational and reporting tools in QuickBooks 2012, like One-Click Transactions, which lets you create related transactions from existing ones (i.e., invoice to credit memo) with one click.

There’s nothing especially difficult about using most of QuickBooks 2012’s new features. But upgrading and setup are sometimes quirky, and the Excel Integration Refresh tool has a learning curve. We’re happy to help you start your company file on the right foot or get acclimated to this latest version.


Figure 4: Track your leads and convert them into customers in the new Lead Center

4 Ways to Manage Prices in a Down Economy

We are living in a period of “accelerated change”. Indeed, the ground does seem to be shifting beneath us almost faster than we can comprehend, so it’s important to stay nimble in these difficult times.

One way you can do so is to closely manage your prices. In some cases you may need to ratchet your prices up to cover a commodity cost-spike. Or, you may want to offer special deals to your best customers to help retain their business.

In this article we’ll discuss four methods you can use to manage prices (and change) within QuickBooks.

Create Discount Calculations

Studies have shown that it’s far easier to get additional sales out of existing customers rather than from new customers. Targeted discounts are just one way to try to encourage your customers to buy more.

However, if you do offer a discount, don’t just type over your standard prices on the QuickBooks invoice, create a discount calculation instead. This accomplishes two things:

  • Your customers see on their invoice exactly how much of a break you’ve given them.
  • You can track how successful your campaign was.

It’s easy to set up a discount calculation:

  • Choose Lists, and then Item List.
  • Click the Item button, and then choose New from the menu (or press Ctrl+N).
  • As shown in Figure 1, Choose Discount from the Type list.
  • Assign an item name, complete the description field, and then enter an amount or a percentage.
  • Choose an account from the list-you may wish to create a separate account so that you can easily track the amount of discounts that you’ve offered.
  • Choose Tax or Non-tax to indicate whether the discount is applied before or after sales tax, and then click OK.

Figure 1: A discount item allows you to create and track percentage or amount based discounts.

Keep in mind that discounts only apply to the previous row of the invoice or sales receipt. To apply the discount to multiple items, you must create a Subtotal item:

  • Choose Lists, and then Item List.
  • Click the Item button, and then choose New from the menu (or press Ctrl+N).
  • Choose Subtotal from the Type list, and then assign an Item Name and Description, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 3 shows a multi-line invoice, along with a subtotal and a discount on all of the items.

Figure 2: A subtotal item allows you to apply a discount to multiple items on an invoice or discount.

Figure 3: Include a subtotal on your invoice when you wish to discount multiple items.

Use Price Levels

Price negotiations are becoming more prevalent and you may find that you have to offer a standard discount to one or more customers in order to keep their business.

In such cases, you might find the price level feature helpful, so that you don’t have to remember to include a discount item on each invoice:

  • Choose Lists, and then Price Level List.
  • Click the Price Level button, and then choose New (or press Ctrl-N).
  • As shown in Figure 4, assign a name to the price level, such as 10% Discount.
  • QuickBooks Pro users can only establish Fixed % price levels, which are applied globally to all products. QuickBooks Premier and Enterprise users also have the option to create Per Item discounts, where you can selectively discount only certain items.
  • Specify whether to increase or decrease item prices, and optionally choose a rounding method.

Figure 4: Price levels allow you to apply automatic discounts to everything a customer purchases.

Note: You can use price levels to increase or decrease prices.

Change Item Prices

Competitive or other pressures may mean that you need to globally change all of your prices at once. Fortunately, you can use the Change Item Prices feature to do so:

  • Choose Customers, and then Change Item Prices.
  • As shown in Figure 5, select an Item Type from the list, and then select the items you wish to change, or click the Mark All checkbox.
  • Indicate a percentage or dollar amount to increase prices by. This can be based on the current price or current cost of the item. Enter a positive number to increase the price, or negative number to decrease the price.
  • Click the Adjust button to see the impact of your changes in the New Price column, and then click OK to make the changes permanent.

Timesaver: You can also manually fill-in the New Price column if you prefer to make targeted adjustments to selected items. This is easier than manually opening each item one at a time.

Figure 5: The Change Item Prices feature allows you to adjust multiple prices at once.

Add a Surcharge

We’re fortunate that gas prices are currently far less than were they were just a few months ago. However, who knows how far they may go this summer during peak driving season.

At some point you may need to consider adding a fuel or other type of surcharge to help recover costs beyond what you’ve factored into your existing prices:

  • Choose Lists, and then Item List.
  • Click the Item button, and then choose New from the menu.
  • As shown in Figure 6, choose Other Charge from the Type list.
  • Assign an item name, complete the description field, and then enter an amount or a percentage.
  • Choose an account from the list, and then click OK. As shown, you may wish to create a separate account so that you can easily track the amount you earn from the surcharge.

Important: As with discounts, Other Charge items only apply to the preceding row on an invoice or sales receipt. Be sure to add a Subtotal item to your invoice if you want the surcharge to apply to multiple rows of your invoice or sales receipt.

Figure 6: The Other Charge feature allows you to compute fuel and other surcharges.

How to Take the Pain Out of Paying Your Bills

Settle Up Fast with Quickbooks’ Bill Paying Tools

Some of the financial crystal ball-types are telling us there are signs that the recession may be drawing some of its last breaths. But those bills are still coming in, and you may have had a long, dry summer and less income that you can use to meet those business obligations.

The desktop versions of QuickBooks can help. They can’t magically make more money appear in your coffers, but they can help you manage your bills so you’re always aware of what’s coming up and don’t get any nasty surprises. This keeps both you and your vendors happy, and minimizes the chance of affecting your credit report adversely. You can also maximize cash flow by being hyper-aware of when each bill is due and timing them appropriately.

(These bill-paying tools are available in all QuickBooks versions above Simple Start.)

Enter First, Then Pay

Of course, you can mimic your old manual method of bill paying by simply using QuickBooks’ check-writing convention. But if you do this, you risk paying the bill twice. If you follow the process shown in Figure 1 by entering and the then paying, you’ll ensure that you record the expense in the same period it occurred.

To start, click the Enter Bills or Vendors/Enter Bills icon. The Enter Bills dialog box opens as shown in Figure 2. If you received a bill, be sure that box in the upper right is checked, and that the Bill radio button is filled in.

Figure 1: You’ll find these icons on QuickBooks’ graphical flow chart.

Figure 2: The Enter Bills dialog box.

Next, click the arrow next to the Vendor line to select an existing vendor or add a new vendor. Change the date if necessary, and enter a reference number (this may avoid confusion later). Then, enter the amount due.

When you initially set up vendors, you either set up terms for each vendor or accepted the default. So the Terms field should already be filled in, and will generate the correct bill due date. Enter a descriptive memo in that field if you’d like.

Tip: Use the right-click menu when you’re entering bills to see more options.

Since this was an expense, you’ll want to record it as such. Make sure the Expenses tab is highlighted, and click in the Account field. Click the arrow that appears to drop down the list, and select the appropriate expense type. Fill in the rest of the field on the line, making sure to check the Billable box if this is something you can bill back to a customer. If the expense needs to be split into separate categories, create a new line and amount for each. Your bill now looks something like Figure 3.

Click the Items tab and fill out the fields there if your expense involves products. You must have Inventory turned on to do this. Click Save & Close or Save & New. QuickBooks now works in the background, increasing Accounts Payable and dropping the bill into several reports.

Figure 3: Make sure your completed bill entry screen is as complete as possible.

Paying Your Debts

When it’s time to pony up, click on the Pay Bills icon, or click Vendors/Pay Bills. You’ll see a screen similar to Figure 4. Check the radio button next to the correct preference to view all bills, or to limit the list to those on or before a specific date. Put a check mark next to the bill(s) you want to pay. The correct amount should fill in by default, but you can change this to make a partial payment.

If you want to view the bill, take a discount, or use credits, click on those buttons. Select a payment date, method (check or credit card), and toggle to the correct account if it’s not showing.

Figure 4: The Pay Bills dialog box. Make sit easy to finish the job.

Once you’ve paid a bill, your Accounts Payable and checkbook balances decrease, and the vendor balance and reports are updated. QuickBooks stamps a PAID watermark on the bill to avoid confusion later on.

Tip: To find bills you’ve already paid, go to the Vendor Center.

So stop stacking your bills on an old spindle and ruffling through them every day to see what’s due. You’ll find that there are numerous benefits to using QuickBooks’ bill-paying features, such as an improved credit rating, a dearth of past-due notices, and better cash flow.

How To Easily Track Your Inventory

Do you know where your physical inventory items are? Whether you keep them in a closet, in an unused office, or a warehouse, you need to keep a close watch on how many products you have, how many have been ordered, and when it’s time to reorder. Fortunately, QuickBooks has tools that help you track all of those numbers. If you’re conscientious about making use of them, you should have a good sense of the state of your inventory, wherever you store it.

Note: These tools are not available in Simple Start or QuickBooks Online.

Inventory 101

Let’s take a look at the life of an inventory item. First, you have to tell QuickBooks that you will be selling products. It asks for this information during the EasyStep interview, but if for some reason you didn’t set this up, you can still do it. Click Edit/Preferences, then Items & Inventory, and then Company Preferences. Make sure the first line is checked, as well as any others you want active, as seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1: You can have QuickBooks track your inventory by selecting this option in the Preferences window.

Next, check your Chart of Accounts to see if you need to add any accounts to meet your inventory needs. This is easy. Go to Lists/Chart of Accounts, or click the icon on the home page. The Chart of Accounts is simply a list of the accounts your company uses, and the balance for each. QuickBooks sets a chart up for you based on the type of company you have, but as your business grows, you may need to add more. Figure 2 shows an example of the Chart of Accounts window.

Figure 2: The Chart of Accounts window shows you the balance for each of your accounts.

To add a new account, click on the arrow next to Account and click New. Select the correct type of account, and answer the questions in the Add New Account window. If you have any questions here, consult QuickBooks’ help file.

See Your Inventory In High Definition

Next you’ll have to define your company’s products. Click Items & Services on the home page. The Item list opens. You can always come back here when you need to edit an item, but you may want to create one now. So click Item/New. You’ll see a screen similar to the one pictured in Figure 3, but its fields will be blank. Item records in QuickBooks contain a good amount of information about each item, which will be used in forms like invoices and documents like reports.

Figure 3: An item record allows you to define your company’s product.

Fill out the information in each item record for each item you sell. You won’t be able to alter the numbers in the lower right corner; these come from other parts of the program. As for the other values, the need to make changes depends on the field. When you defined the item, you entered an On Hand amount. This of course will change as you sell, so you can change the reorder point. Conversely, the average cost (value of your inventory) is calculated by the program; it’s the total cost of items in stock divided by the number of items in stock. On P.O. and On S.O. simply indicate how much of your inventory is promised on purchase orders and sales orders.

Get Better Organized

QuickBooks lets you create assemblies, groups of items that are sold together as a kit. If you want to create one, click Lists/Item List, then click the arrow next to Item and click New. Click the arrow under Type, and select Inventory Assembly. Fill in the blanks on the window as you would for a single item, and select the individual inventory items in the box at the bottom. This box is pictured in Figure 4.

Figure 4: An item assembly.

Once you’ve defined your items and assemblies, you can use them in two places primarily: transactions forms and records. Let’s say you’re creating an invoice. As you’re filling out the form, you’ll be able to click the arrow under ITEM and view a list of the items you’ve created. Click on one, and the details you’ve entered (like price) will appear. Click Reports/Inventory to customize and run the reports available.

Maintaining an adequate inventory-not keeping too much or too little on hand-is critical to your company’s financial balance. QuickBooks’ tracking tools can help you meet that ongoing goal.

Make QuickBooks Your Own: Specify Preferences

QuickBooks was designed to be used by millions of businesses. In fact, it’s possible to install it, answer a few questions about your company and start working right away.

However, we strongly suggest you take the time to specify your Preferences. QuickBooks devotes a whole screen to this customization process. You can find it by opening the Edit menu and selecting Preferences.


This is the screen you’ll see when you go to Edit | Preferences in QuickBooks. You can turn features off and on, and customize the software in numerous other ways.

Let’s look at some examples of what you can do on this page. In the image above,Accounting is highlighted. You can see that QuickBooks makes it easy for you to specify your preferences. You simply click in boxes to check or uncheck them. Sometimes, you’ll click on the desired button in front of a list item. Other times, you’ll be asked to enter numbers and text.

Tip: When you click on a tab in the left navigation pane of the Preferences window, you’ll notice that there are two tabs in the larger pane on the right. If My Preferences is highlighted and there are no options on that screen, click on Company Preferences.

Some of the screens here, like Accounting, contain complex concepts. Do you know, for example, why you would or wouldn’t want to Use account numbers? What Retained Earnings are?

Warning: While the mechanics of this process are simple, there may be times when you don’t understand what’s being asked because you’re either not familiar with the terms or you don’t know which option you should choose. Rather than guessing, please connect with us to set up a time to go over all of the content in the Preferences window.

Some preferences are easier to define. Let’s look at one of these.


The Time & Expenses window in QuickBooks’ Preferences

The image above is a partial snapshot of the screen that opens when you select Time & Expenses from the left vertical tab in the Preferences window.

Tip: If you start making changes and decide you’d like to return to the options selected before you started, click the Default tab in the upper right.

Your options here are very simple:

  • Do you want to use the time-tracking features in QuickBooks?
  • On what day does your work week start?
  • Does all of the employee time worked and recorded get billed back to the appropriate customer? (You can change this manually on each time entry by checking or unchecking the box in front of Billable.)
  • When you create an invoice for a customer who has outstanding time charges, do you want to be able to select those from a list?

If you check the box in front of Create invoices from a list of time and expenses, this box will appear when you open the Create Invoices window and select a customer who needs to be billed for time:


If you are creating an invoice for a customer who has received services but who has not been billed for them yet, you can opt to have those charges added to the invoice.

You’ll notice that there’s a box in the lower left corner labeled Save this as a preference. While QuickBooks allows you to specify preferences in countless areas in the Preferences window, you will often have the opportunity to make an exception for a particular action as you’re working on transactions. Also, as shown here, you can sometimes turn on specific preferences once you’ve already started a task.

You’re not required to go through all of the entries in the Preferences window before you start working. You can always go there to see if there’s a setting you can change if an element of QuickBooks isn’t performing the way you expected.

It’s a good idea to learn about all of your options in the QuickBooks software before you get started–and we can help. If you let us go through this process with you, you’ll not only learn about the customization allowed, but you’ll also get a good introduction to all of the things that QuickBooks can do, and learn more about your business and its needs.

Need help? Don’t hesitate to call!