How to Avoid Seasonal Bumps in Your Cash Flow

Posted on 19. Feb, 2014 by in VirtualConnections Newsletter

How to Avoid Seasonal Bumps in Your Cash Flow | Third Hand BookkeepingMany businesses operate with seasonal peaks and valleys.  Retail stores just completed their busy holiday season.  Construction contractors are busy when the weather is good.   Accountants are very busy from January through April, but also experience a quarterly peak in July and October.

Your business many have its own calendar of busy and slow times.  If your business goes through slow times, then your cash flow may suffer at certain times of the year.  But having seasonal sales is only one of the reasons for a bumpy cash flow.

You might also have a business where annual payments are made for many items such as equipment purchases, software licenses, insurance renewals, and other large costs.  On the revenue side, it could be that your clients pay you annually, which can be hard to predict.

There are many solutions that can help to smooth out the seasonal bumps, and here are a few ideas for your consideration.

Plan for Prosperity

When income and expenses go up and down and up and down, it’s really hard to know if you have enough money for obligations coming up.  Creating a budget can help a great deal.  Consider creating two budgets:  one that shows the ups and downs and one that averages a year’s income and expenses into twelve equal parts.

With both budgets, you’ll be able to see which months will be deviating from average and by how much.  From there, it’s easy to create some forecasts so you can stay on top of your cash requirements.

Cash vs. Accrual Basis 

It might help your business decision-making to convert your books from cash basis to accrual basis.  This is a huge decision that should be made with an accounting and tax expert, as there are plenty of ramifications to discuss.

In some cases, the accrual basis of accounting will help keep those annual payments from sneaking up on you as 1/12 of the payment can be accrued on a monthly basis to a payables account.  This also keeps your net income figure steadier from month to month.

If your clients prepay their accounts on a yearly basis, you can book the income monthly and keep the difference in a Prepaid account.  This spreads your revenues out and recognizes them over time.

“Hiding” Money

If you feel accrual basis accounting is a little too much of a commitment, your accountant can still work with you to help you avoid the impulse of spending too much during the cash-rich busy season.  Perhaps the excess cash can be put into a savings account until it’s needed.  You can draw out 1/12 each month as you need it.  A little planning such as the above suggested forecasts will help you determine how much you can take out each month.   You can even name the Savings account “Do Not Spend!” or “Save for a Rainy Day.”

If it’s just too tempting to have all that excess cash building up in the good times of the year, try one of the ideas above to take back cash flow control and smooth out those bumps.

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One Response to “How to Avoid Seasonal Bumps in Your Cash Flow”

  1. Kelly Boros 7 March 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    One way to control how much money leaves your company (especially during seasonal bumps) is to negotiate with your vendors to see if they offer a pay ahead discount. If you can buy products or services in bulk in advance and pay 6 months to 12 months out, you are eliminating an extra monthly charge (or charges) which can leave you with extra cash on hand. Plus these one off expenses are easier to budget for year over year.