Missionary Record Journal Book is an article about how to keep odds and ends of information for missionaries in just a blank book.
Choosing the actual book
Okay, so the good news is that these books are always out there because businessmen use them frequently. The bad news is that they are expensive, like $50+ dollars. But go to Office Depot and look in the section of materials for accounting, like ledgers and stuff.
Requirements for what we want
- Hardback if possible, no binder ringers.
- Just regular horizontal lines. Normal spacing for handwriting on the lines.
- Page numbers if possible.
- Do not get the ones with dates in it, one page per day etc.
- Tabs that you can write on and affix to a page
- You want about 150 to 250 pages. Not too much that it doesn’t lie open easily and not too little that it will not last you the year.
Note: While the accounting section of an office supply store will have good examples, they are expensive. So get the idea and then go to back to school sections and buy something hardcover there. If you can find it for school, the number of pages will be lesser, but it will cost you $5-$10.
The Missionary Record Journal Concept
Okay, I really cannot remember if I saw bits and pieces of this concept over the years or what. Sometimes I call this my junk book. It is where I put all my junk. If I were a regular business, this would be my desk drawer where I keep stuff.
So to give you a context, you buy this book and work your way through the book adding information, and after about 3-4 years to buy a new one and archive the old one. This book is what you want it to be. No two people are going to have the same information in it, nor arranged the same way. It is totally your way, your flexibility.
But this book is not a book of data. Names, addresses, phone numbers all go into your phone, your desktop, your laptop. Keep all that there.
This book has other odds and ends of information.
Before you start, index the book
By this, I mean make sure there are page numbers on each page. Start at the beginning and start with 1 through the end of the book, putting a small number on the upper outer corner.
Next, make the first 3-5 pages the index, and the actual first page of information is going to start on like page 6.
Records of Gifts
Of course, whatever your situation is, under a mission board or under a church, they will send you a relationship each month with your donations.
But I have about 2 pages set aside for “other gifts.” When you stay at somebody’s house and they shake your hand before you leave and they leave a $20 bill in it, that probably should be registered. Your wife is overwhelmed by a throw on a bed, and the lady of the house gives it to her. You have a flat tire, and the somebody in the church pays to have a new tire put on your car. Or just some people in the church take you out to eat or put you up for the night.
All of these occasions are examples of Other gifts, and you should send a thank note to each one of those people. I write down the date, the person, their address or email, and what it was that they did for me.
Keeping your IRS records.
Now I am going to get into trouble here next. You can keep your IRS records here. I understand that there are great software packages out there to do your taxes with, but I do not believe they are optimized for people like us, missionaries. First of all, we work out of the country making our situation fall under special categories as far as business expenses and such.
You can spend a lot of money and days and weeks of time installing and learning a software program to do your taxes as a missionary, or you can do it simply in a day.
I am assuming you have studied the IRS manuals and guides for running a business. No accountant can do this for you. You will have to know what is business and what is not, and you have to keep track of that and then give it to your accountant.
But, very simply, you need to know how much money you took in, and then you need to list all of your business expenses (for your records if you are audited) and then give the totals to your account to do your taxes.
So you need receipts as much as possible, and you need to know what valid business reason there was to make the expense.
For me, that boils down to: 1) Office expenses, 2) travel expenses, 3) entertainment expenses, 4) Utility expenses. I have tried to find other things that would qualify as a missionary business expense, but I cannot find them. You depreciate your American car, but going to the field, any foreign cars outside the US don’t qualify for depreciation nor expensing. Take taxis instead
Write at the top of the pages “Office Expenses” year page 1 through page 5. Travel 2 pages, entertainment 2 pages, and Utility Expenses a page or two. If you are on deputation, you probably want a Meal Allowance set of 4 to 6 pages. Yes, in most cases you won’t use all those pages. If you run out of space, make a footnote at the bottom where you run out of space “continued on page 17” and you are good.
Enter the beginning page of each in your front index. Year two in the book, make a sticky tab with the new year so you can find where you are quick. You are now ready to input your taxes. Can you do this better on an Excel Spreadsheet? Probably. But while it adds up a column of numbers right well, it also can be accidentally changed or entirely erased very nicely too. (My Records book can be scanned to my hard drive or a DVD.)
If push comes to shove, a calculator and this book of records, and you can do most of your taxes in a day. If you make it a habit of summing up each page when it is full (I do each page 3 times to make sure I get the same number each time), then come the end of the year, you have very little to do.
As previously mentioned, this makes a good place to put lists of things that get lost on electronic devices. Christmas present list for your family back home, and that kind of stuff.
- IRS Estimated payments
- List of addresses where you have lived and the dates*
- This is actually necessary when your kids are born out of the US and are grown up and you have grandkids. There are situations where the US government wants to know how many months you have lived in the US.
- Activity ledger. Where you go, what you do. What churches or individual supporters you visit with or without a service.
- Important telephone calls (people tell you that they will help you with something, or a possibility of support, or that they will send you a special love gift for some need, write down so you won’t forget).
- I help support my kids in college with some or all of their bills and I keep my accounting of that here.
So each person can make this record book whatever they want from it. But it can be very useful to you if you do this. Some years I only add a dozen or less pages of information to it. Other times I find it is handy to stick a lot of information in it Since it is all handwritten, most probably you don’t want long lists of things. We did this for our wedding, and I wrote down every wedding gift, who it was from and their address for a thank you note. It worked well.
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