What is a Cash Flow Statement?

Cash flow is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot — but do you actually know what it means? Cash flow measures the money coming in and out of your business and can provide a good snapshot of your organisation’s financial health.  It’s different from profit, which tracks the revenue that remains when all expenses are distracted.

A cash flow statement (CFS) is a record of your cash flow at a given point in time. It tracks many different types of cash and cash equivalents and benefits everyone from executive staff to investors. Read on to learn more about why a CFS is an essential part of bookkeeping for professional services.

What is a Cash Flow Statement?

Your cash flow statement is different from other regular reports like the balance sheet or income statement. Key tenets of a CFS include:

  • Covers a set period of time
  • Tracks cash movements
  • Measures increases and decreases in cash
  • Starts with net income and ends with cash balance

A CFS covers three main areas of your finance activities. These are: operating cash flow, investing cash flow, and financing cash flow. 

The operating section of your cash flow statement records things like salary payments and overhead costs associated with the sale of your product. Your investing activities include the cash flow generated from the acquisition of long-term assets or selling investments like real estate or patents. The financing portion of your CFS will track cash from investors or banks, including cash from a loan.

How Do Businesses Use Cash Flow Statements?

Cash flow statements are a vital part of financial analysis. Your organisation can use your CFS in a few key ways. Your may find these reports useful for:

  • Determining your current solvency. You can look at a cash flow report to see if you have enough cash on hand to cover your current bills. If you complete a monthly cash flow statement, you can spot trends and notice negative cash flow sooner rather than later. If you’re unclear about your current ability to cover liabilities, an accurate CFS is a good place to start. 
  • Reviewing historical data. Cash flow statements can also be used to see where your money went. Not sure where you’re overspending by a tonne? An itemised CFS tells you. You can also review cash flow over a period of time, which may help you pinpoint where you started to spend a lot more money. 
  • Projecting for the future. Your cash flow summary also helps you plan for the future. How much more cash do you need to bring in each month? Do you need to cut back on overhead costs to afford more real estate? A cash flow statement can be a key piece of a planning strategy. If you have negative cash flow over a period of time, you are less likely to be approved for loans or attract a buyer. 

Based on what your cash flow statement reveals, you may need to change the way you handle your invoicing process and other activities associated with collecting cash. Outstanding debts are detrimental to cash flow. 

Structure of a Cash Flow Statement

Your organisation can lay out your cash flow statements based on your unique needs, but there are a few pointers to keep in mind. In order for your statement to be as beneficial as possible, you want to make sure the form includes several essential components. 

  1. Divide the CFS by cash coming in and cash going out. Incoming cash is usually listed at the top of the statement, with cash going out beneath it. When outgoing cash is subtracted from incoming cash, you have your current cash balance. 
  2. Itemise incoming cash and expenses. Beneath both cash received (also called inflows) and expenditure sections, divide the cash activities more specifically. This helps you identify exactly where money is coming and going. For instance, under cash inflows, you may have sections that include: sales, accounts receivable collections, and new investments. 
  3. Code activities by operations, investments, or finances. You may want separate sections for these types of cash flow activities. 
  4. Denote positive versus negative cash flow. Traditionally, positive balances in cash flow are written in regular numerals, and negative balances are written in parentheses. For instance, if you gain $5,000 in sales and pay out $1,000 in repairs, you would write 5,000 under inflows and (1,000) under expenditures. 

How is Cash Flow Calculated?

There are two main methods of figuring out your cash flow. One is more simplified than the other. If you are a larger company with a lot of investments and loans, an indirect method may be required. Smaller companies can choose to use the direct method to calculate their cash flow. If you need help with either method, enlisting online bookkeeping services may be a lifesaver. 

Direct cash flow method

This form of cash flow is the easiest. It only requires you to add up the operational costs and subtract them from operational cash flow. The result is the net income of your business. It does not take into account any ongoing investments or outstanding accounts receivable. 

Indirect cash flow method

An indirect calculation is more complicated. It considers long-term investments and financial activities. It uses an accrual basis, meaning it will track payments when the service is complete, even if you don’t yet have cash in hand. If you lodge taxes using the accrual method, you may want to use the indirect cash flow method to keep your records. 

The bottom line 

A cash flow statement specifically identifies what cash or cash equivalents are coming in and out of your company. These reports are necessary to lodge accurate taxes and spend responsibly — and they can inform your invoicing process and the way you spend. To get started, you’ll need to gather receipts, salary expenses, and invoices. You don’t need to analyse the numbers alone. A virtual bookkeeping service like Visory can assist with regular cash flow statements and strategic planning.

Cost Controls: Strategies for Keeping Your Expenses in Check

If your organisation’s bookkeeping reveals a negative cash flow, there are a few ways to turn things around. You can find new income streams or you can slow your spending — or both. 

But you don’t have to be in financial distress to implement cost cutting measures. Cost controls are also a preventative measure that keeps you from overspending in the first place. With carefully controlled expenditures, you can stay in the black. Read on to learn more about the keys to keeping expenses in check. 

What is Cost Control?

Cost control is the practice of analysing a business’s expenses and financial data for the purpose of reducing spending. Putting cost control measures in place can keep your budget on track, help you evaluate your spending patterns, and allow you to make informed projections. The process seeks to identify opportunities to eliminate or reduce spending streams. 

Cost controls compile both fixed and variable costs and divide them into cost centres. Once both types of expenses have been properly attributed to the correct centres, your financial staff can begin strategising about ways to cut back on spending and increase revenue. 

Common forms of cost cutting include:

  • Layoffs or reducing staff hours
  • Limiting staff travel
  • Finding less expensive suppliers
  • Bundling services for discounts
  • Reducing non-essential perks
  • Lowering leasing costs
  • Buying in bulk to reduce per unit cost

Why cost control matters

Out-of-control spending will torpedo a promising company in no time. When you implement cost controls, you can nip problems in the bud. 

A cost management system helps your business:

  • Maintain responsible hiring practices. Can you really afford to hire a new full-time bookkeeper? Overspending on payroll  is a common mistake in growing companies. Alternatives like part-time staff and remote contracts can cut costs without leaving you short handed.  
  • Keep budgets on track. Defining a budget for each department and project is crucial. A cost cutting analysis identifies areas where you can reduce your budget and come in at or under your desired costs. 
  • Make plans for scaling your organisation. Pinpointing where you can cut costs also makes it easier to scale at a responsible pace. A solid cost cutting plan will identify when you’re ordering too much inventory or spending too much on storage. You will grow when you’re ready. 
  • Set expectations for staff spending. A report in hand allows you to communicate about spending more effectively with your team. You can let your project managers and other team leaders know exact spending parameters so they don’t go over budget. 
  • Define spending-conscious deadlines. Is your team wasting time? Time management problems are a major reason for overspending. Cost cutting may mean shortening deadlines. 
  • Increase profitability. Ultimately, cost controls serve to make your organisation more profitable. By lowering payroll costs, cutting unnecessary expenditures, and becoming more efficient with time management — you can reap better profit margins. 
  • Set appropriate prices. Cost control analysis can determine the cost per unit of whatever it is that you sell. Once you factor in labor and material costs, you may realise it’s time to increase the price tag of your product or services. 

Strategies for Keeping Your Expenses in Check

You believe in the merits of cost control management. But how exactly do you go about implementing effective measures? These strategic moves are a savvy way to figure out which costs need to be reduced. 

Define specific KPIs

Do you want to manage staffing costs or reduce your technology expenses? You can’t know whether you have succeeded in cost cutting unless you know what your goals are. A key performance indicator (KPI) is a specific metric that helps you define your wins and losses. For many companies, KPIs include things like achieving a specific profit growth or increasing the number of client accounts. In regards to cost controlling, KPIs may measure how much you lower your expenses in specific areas. 

Anticipate market fluctuations and inflation

You should also consider market changes when you plan for cost cutting. As inflation requires a larger budget in one area, you may have to control costs elsewhere. A cost control plan needs some flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. 

Track expenses in real time

Reviewing past spending is good, but tracking real-time expenditure is better. Red flag overspending before it goes too far by using software that tracks your costs as they happen. That way, you can identify issues sooner rather than later and adjust as necessary to meet your goals if unnecessary spending occurs. 

Consolidate your purchases to negotiate better pricing

Everything from insurance to bulk item purchases can often qualify for a discount if you ask. Consolidate your purchases to fewer vendors to give yourself some leverage. For instance, property insurance and auto insurance may be bundled for a better rate. You may be surprised at how much cost cutting is possible with a few simple changes. 

Prioritise your contractor and supplier relationships

A supply shortage or price increase can really mess with your annual budget. Controlling your costs also means maintaining the relationships that may lead to price discounts. If you make your supplier relationships a priority, they may make you a priority when you need it most. Cultivating relationships can also mean referrals and other income streams in the future. 

Outsource your bookkeeping with Visory

Outsourcing your bookkeeping and reporting can also be a part of a cost control plan. When you entrust your books to a virtual team, you free up funds on your payroll budget and gain access to an informed team. You can add new members to your Visory finance team as you need them. Your virtual team will scale with you. Visory can also analyse your current financial picture and recommend cost cutting measures. 

Cost control strategies are key to running a successful enterprise. Identify key performance indicators, then cut some fat to meet your goals faster. If you need some help, learn how Visory’s reporting can help you identify opportunities to minimise costs.

Time to Reconcile: Importance of Bank Reconciliation and How a Bookkeeper Can Help

Are you reconciling your bank accounts once per year? This may get you ready for tax time, but annual bank reconciliation is just the beginning. In order to grow your business at a responsible rate, you need to get a clear picture of your cash flow, understand the types of fees you’re paying, and catch fraud before it goes too far to fix. 

When you’re doing catch-up bookkeeping instead of regularly reconciling your books, you may think you’re in better shape than you are. Imagine hiring a new full-time staff member only to learn you can’t afford them? Learn more about the importance of regular bank reconciliation and when to call in a bookkeeper. 

What is bank reconciliation?

Reconciling your bank records means comparing what the bank has on record with your own internal reports. If you have a bank feed with an accounting service, you still need to reconcile your bank feed with your official bank statement. 

A lot of transactions are included in a reconciliation. According to The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers in Australia, you should periodically reconcile your internal records against the records of:

  • Banks 
  • Credit Cards
  • Barter Cards
  • Bank Loans
  • Petty Cash
  • Cash Drawer
  • PayPal

Why do you need to reconcile your bank accounts?

Your accounting records are only as useful as they are accurate. Sounds obvious, right? You’d be surprised how much missed bank fees and other small discrepancies add up and how many business owners may wave them off as unimportant. In reality, bank reconciliation can save you thousands of dollars per year. Combined with double-entry bookkeeping, which creates two records of every transaction, regular reconciliation keeps your books tidy. 

Here are some of the reasons reconciling your bank statements is so important. 

A bookkeeper looks over a bank reconciliation statement.

Catching Discrepancies

Your internal ledger says you spent $10,000 last month, but your bank statement says you paid fees totalling $500. This difference may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but if you make the same mistake each month — you’ll be off by $6,000 by the end of the year! Discrepancies can result from honest human error or fraud. If someone is skimming money from one of your accounts, you’ll notice it faster with a monthly reconciliation process. 

Tracking Cash Flow

Reconciling accounts each month gives an accurate picture of the amount of cash flowing in and out of your accounts. You’ll see if you’re actually in the black — or just thought you were. You can also reconcile your credit card receivables as a part of this process to make sure that everything has cleared that was supposed to. 

Managing Accounts Receivable 

One major source of reconciliation discrepancies is a cheque that did not clear because the account had insufficient funds. Checking your accounts receivable as a matter of routine allows you to catch these problems so you can either rebill the vendor or customer or write off the discrepancy as a bad debt. 

Making Sure Payable Transactions Have Posted

Comparing your statement balance to your internal records often also lets you confirm that important transactions have posted to your account. It would be a shame to forget that you still have an outstanding cheque out in the world — you could easily overspend on an account when it finally posts. 

Finding Systemic Issues

If you notice a pattern of individual errors or discrepancies, you may also catch a structural issue within your accounting system. Perhaps you need to change payment services or use a different bookkeeper if the same issues arise time and again. 

How often should I reconcile my bank statements?

The Australian government only recommends that you reconcile accounts “regularly,” which is a bit vague. Ideally, you should reconcile your accounts each time you receive a bank statement. If your accounts bill on different schedules, an end-of-month reconciliation is a good habit to get into. 

How can a bookkeeping service help with bank reconciliation?

An outsourced bookkeeping service can provide reporting and insights that your current staff aren’t able to keep up with. Partners like Visory provide an outside set of eyes to give your company an objective view of your financial affairs while saving you time and internal resources. Your team gets to use the insights and reporting to make smart decisions without having to do any of the work to create them. We call an outsourced bookkeeping service a win-win.