Bookkeeping 101 book for a writer doing research.
September 15, 2018 1:54 PM   Subscribe

I am a playwright developing a story about a character that keeps the books in a small retail store. I know nothing on this subject. She’d be in charge of payroll and paying bills. I need a basic introductory book on whatever category of accounting this falls under. I mean, real fundamentals so that I can get ahold of the proper language and better understand core responsibilities. Suggestions welcomed! Thanks.
posted by captainscared to Work & Money (4 answers total)
How small are we talking? Because a small retail store probably does not have a dedicated bookkeeper. They either have a store manager who keeps books along with their responsibilities for ordering stock, hiring and scheduling employees, etc, or the bookkeeping is done by a bookkeeper who comes in once a month or if the store is part of a chain of stores, books are kept centrally.

In terms of references, "Bookkeeping for Dummies" is a title that exists -- they print different editions for different countries since the requirements vary. It'll give you the basics you'd need to know. There are also tons of online resources like BusinessLink that aim to give you an overview of how to set up bookkeeping for your own small business that would give you the vocabulary.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:06 PM on September 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hit YouTube, try "basic small business bookkeeping".

But I am a person who works in accounting and the actual details are extremely skimmable. Bookkeeping is pretty much just documenting everything that comes in (sales transactions made in the store and from mail/internet orders, maybe they hold classes or events that make some money, coffee shop, whatever) and everything that goes out (rent, bills, purchase of inventory and supplies, payroll) and doing the math. Usually 90% of collecting this documentation is on the manager to handle - they do the reporting out of the Point of Sale system, download the credit card receipts, enter in or turn over receipts for purchases from vendors, make sure rent gets paid etc. The bookkeeper usually only gets into the software periodically, maybe monthly, to make sure taxes are appropriately dealt with and all applicable expenses are correctly expensed, payroll is performed properly, maybe do the financial reports to send to the owner. Certainly managers can be bookkeepers, and sole proprietors do all the jobs unless they use a service.

Paying bills for businesses is exactly like paying bills for people.

It is still possible to do payroll by hand and a place running on razor-thin margins might, but not all the small business accounting packages even offer any real payroll functionality because almost everyone uses ADP, Paychex etc now because the fees are cheaper than the time and effort to not fuck up all the moving parts. 1099 is easy, it's just cutting a check, and I believe all software will track that and spit you out the right IRS data at the end of the year, but presumably this place is paying W-2 rather than independent contractors.

You can get a little fancier than that, but it's not really interesting.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:48 PM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Along looking at Wikipedia or Bookkeeping for Dummies...
Chapter 13. Business Features from the Free Accounting Software | GnuCash documentation. You can probably browse through the GnuCash documentation/help/tutorial and figure out the double-entry bookkeeping and basic business/personal use cases.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:02 PM on September 15, 2018

Please remember you're writing a play about a character who is a bookkeeper, not a play about bookkeeping. The decisions that you make about what to teach about bookkeeping should be reflective of who that character IS and how they DO things in the world.
Are they neat and precise?
Are they messy and disorganized?
Are they on time paying bills?
Are they always late paying bills?
Do they like using a favorite pencil and ledger?
Do they like using the coolest software?
Do they consider numbers and figures their friends or their enemy?
Reveal character through bookkeeping, don't try to teach the audience bookkeeping.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 3:39 AM on September 16, 2018

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