A lot of people are focusing on holiday shopping this time of year. Personally, my workload has increased and I haven’t given shopping much thought. (I really need to get on that!) But I have thought about my finances and some things I need to do as the year comes to a close. There are tons of year-end money lists out there and they all talk about decreasing taxes, selling investments, and saving for retirement. There are a few other things I like to think about when the year ends.
Evaluate your performance against your goals.
At the beginning of this year (or the end of last year), you made a few financial goals – how much money you wanted to save, what you wanted your gross income to be, to pay off a certain amount of debt, etc. The end of the year is the time to see whether you met those goals or not. Don’t beat yourself up if you fell short; maybe your goal was too aggressive or maybe something happened this year that kept you from accomplishing everything. Just take it as a lesson learned and use the information to set your goal for next year.
Organize your receipts.
Boring, but totally necessary. Ideally, you’ve been categorizing receipts throughout the year. If you fell off the wagon mid-year and starting tossing them all in a shoebox, now’s a good time to get them organized again. Categorizing your receipts makes it easier to take tax deductions for certain business expenses like office supplies, internet, equipment purchases, etc. Not only that, knowing what you spent this year will help you make a budget for next year.
Check your insurance coverage.
Now is a good time to review all your insurance policies – life, health, auto, disability – to make sure you have the right amount of coverage. Health insurance may be the only insurance that you can’t change right away – because of open enrollment times, but the other insurances typically let you make changes at anytime during the year.
Consider a raise.
Employers rarely increase rates on a “just because” basis and neither should we. If you decide to charge a higher rate next year, make sure you can justify the increase to your future clients. You also have to decide whether the rate goes up for all clients or just new clients. Jenn mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating – use the writing rate calculator to help you decide what your hourly and per word rate should be if you decide to increase your annual income.
Create a business budget for next year.
Your 2010 receipts will help you figure out where you spent money on your business. Before you spend any money on your freelance writing business in the new year, you should decide how much you’re going to spend and what you’re going to spend it on. Having a plan in place will cut back on unnecessary spending. You still have to be smart with business expenses, even if they are tax-deductible.
A special move for 2010, only: Pay your January health insurance premiums in December.
This year only, self-employed workers don’t have to pay self-employment taxes on health insurance premiums. We always get to deduct this amount from our Federal income taxes, but this year there’s a special provision to extend the deduction. Paying your January premiums in December lets you get a savings you wouldn’t get if you wait until 2011 to pay that premium.