This is one of my favorite times of year, not because it's the holiday season (that part is actually more stressful than enjoyable), but because it's the perfect time to reflect on the past year's progress and make plans for the upcoming year. I like to start doing this earlier in December, that way I'm ready to put the plan into action at the start of the year.
Make more money
Make sure you have a concrete goal to work toward. For example, you might want to increase your annual income by 10% or your monthly income by $500.
There are a few ways to make more money - increase your rates, take on more work, or establish additional revenue streams. There's an upside and downside to each option. You may lose current clients if you increase their rates. Increasing your workload may leave you with less time for other activities. And it can take time to start generating income from a new revenue stream.
Save more money
I need to do this more in 2013. I have a few big goals to reach in the upcoming years and saving money will be critical for reaching them.
Putting more money into savings means reducing your current spending or increasing your income or both. Again, a concrete savings goal will be easier to achieve, e.g. save $300 each month or save $1,500 for trip to Disney.
Budgeting is tricky for freelance writers and other self-employed workers because our incomes vary each month. One month you could make well over what you need to cover your expenses and the next month your income may only cover a few of your expenses.
Budgeting takes practice so it's important not to give up on a budget that doesn't work right away. The other important thing is that you don't spend all the extra money you make during those great months. Instead, save that money and use it in the months that you don't earn as much.
Set aside money for taxes first
I admit, sometimes it's hard to set money aside for income taxes. But, it's something you have to do if you live in America and you're full-time self-employed. Skipping your taxes may seem easier, but when tax time comes around, you'll regret it. It's much easier to set aside a few hundred dollars each month than it is to come up with a few thousand dollars at tax time.
Check your credit
Make it a point to check your credit each year. Get your free credit reports (three of them) through AnnualCreditReport.com and a free credit score through CreditKarma.com or CreditSesame.com. Watch out for "free" credit reports or scores through any other site. They'll probably ask for your credit card number, enroll you in a trial subscription, and charge your credit card if you don't cancel.
Contribute to a retirement plan
There are tax advantages for most retirement contributions. But the tax advantages are a great fringe benefit of saving for retirement. The real benefit of retirement savings, of having money when you decide to stop working, won't come for several more years. It never really gets easy to set money aside for retirement, but when the time comes to quit writing, you'll be glad you made the sacrifice.
These are just a few examples of annual goals. What are your financial goals for next year?