DISCLAIMER: I am a CPA, but I am not your CPA. The information in this article is for informational purposes only and is not tax or legal advice, nor can be relied upon as such. The author is not liable for any losses related to actions or failure to act related to the content of this article. If you need specific tax advice consult with a CPA who specializes in your subject matter and taxing jurisdiction.
If your house is anything like mine this time of year, then it must mean you too are in full on Christmas Break mode. In reality, Christmas Break hasn’t officially started around here. I still have a few days left this week before the kids are officially on break. Which means I still have a few days left in the year to wrap up 2019 and begin getting prepared for 2020.
Getting prepared for next year might be the last thing you feel like doing with just a little over a week away till Christmas. But now is the perfect time to tackle this. Time flies over Christmas Break. I know every year I am able to take Christmas Break off with my kids because of the perks of being a work-at-home business owner. I enter the break each year with typically the same agenda: family time, food, more family time with food, & plans to get organized for the New Year. Typically I only manage to get the family time and food in, as both come so abundant this time of year.
But this year I don't want to enter Christmas Break with the same agenda again. I don't want the Break to end and feel like I never accomplished what I set out to do. I also don't want to feel tied down to accomplishing my “Christmas Break Agenda” and miss out on making memories with my kids or have regrets or resentment because I chose to complete my to do list over spending time with them. Nope! This year I’m going to do things different and you can too.
Spend the next 3 days wrapping up 2019 and getting ready for the New Year. Then when those 3 days are complete, call it a wrap and don’t look back. Fully enjoy the time as a family while your kids are home over Christmas Break. Take in a movie; go ice skating; have a marathon board game day; or try out a new recipe. Whatever you enjoy doing together as a family make it a point to do it this holiday season. Then when you enter next year, you can enter it feeling refreshed and ready to take on a new adventure.
For the next 3 days I want you to put all your focus into doing the following items:
Day 1 – Wrap Up Business
If you’re not actively planning on working in your business during the last week of the year, go ahead and get as much business wrapped up now.
CONTACT PAST DUE CUSTOMERS
Take a look at a Customer Account Balance Statement to determine which customers have past due balances. Then contact the customer by phone or mail. Mail the customer a copy of the past due invoice and a copy of your payment policy.
If you don’t feel like contacting customers for collection issues close to the holidays, then make a plan to contact these customers your first day back. Get ready now to make the call. Print past due invoices and contact information for each customer you will be contacting. Make a copy of your payment policy. Then put all the information in an easy to find spot, so you can tackle it right away when you get back.
If you have finished all billable work for the year then make sure the invoices for this work gets mailed out before the end of the year. Just think how nice it will be to start the New Year with cash flow coming in because you billed your clients now.
Review through all the work you have finished this past month and make sure all clients were billed for completed work. If you are unable to bill a client because the job is not yet complete, then make a plan to complete the work over the next couple of days. If there isn’t enough time in this year, then put unfinished client work as a number one priority on your "To Do List" when you return next year.
PAY YOUR BILLS
Get all those payments for your business taken care of today. Even if the payments are not due for another week or two, make it a priority to take care of all business payments through the start of the New Year. You can write out the checks and get the payments ready to mail now. If you’re not ready to mail them yet, you can just hang onto them until they are ready to mail.
OUT OF OFFICE NOTIFICATIONS
If you're planning time away from your business over the holidays, then make a plan for clients to contact you. If you are not wanting to deal with clients over the break then make sure all your clients are notified. The easiest way to do this is to setup an auto-reply email and voicemail message. Make sure to include in the message when you will be returning, an alternative contact (if applicable), and any other information that would be applicable to your clients so they can continue business operations as usual.
YEAR-END ACTION STEPS
If you missed last week’s episode of The Back Pocket Accountant Podcast I talked about the 8 Year-end Action Steps you need to complete for your Mom Business. If you haven’t started on these steps yet, make sure to check out the episode to learn more about the action steps. You can also find a listing of the action steps in the show notes for this episode.
Day 2 – Wrap up Personal Taxes
For Day 2 we are going to start to prepare our documentation for tax time.
PREPARE FOR THE TAX INFO FLOOD
It seems that as soon as the kids head back to school after Christmas Break the tax information starts pouring in. You’ll recognize these envelopes flooding through your mail because most will be stamped with “Important Tax Information” on the front.
As you receive your tax information have a place to begin collecting it all. Utilize a file folder, tray sorter, or small box. Figure out what is going to work for you to quickly be able to find all your documentation in one place.
You will need to be able to track what you receive as it comes in. This will ensure that you have all your documentation before you begin preparing your taxes. I’ve made this step a lot easier for you with my Individual Tax Organizer. This is a FREE PRINTABLE to help you organize your individual taxes. Use the checklist to mark off each form as you receive it.
BEGIN GATHERING TAX INFO
The Individual Tax Organizer not only helps you keep track of all the tax information coming in, but it also prompts you to total receipts and find additional information for tax related deductions or credits. You can begin on Day 2 to start gathering this information.
Focus today on doing the following:
Prepare a record of Self-Employed Health Insurance paid
Gather receipts for textbooks used in post-secondary education
Prepare a record of Retirement Contributions made during the year
Collect receipts for medical expenses including: doctors, dentists, equipment, glasses or contacts, prescriptions, and laboratory fees.
Prepare a log of medical and charitable miles driven during the year
Assemble charitable cash contribution acknowledgement receipts
MAKE CONTACTS FOR TAX INFO
As you begin to gather your tax info you may discover how little of the documentation you actually kept. If you make arrangements today to obtain the information it likely will be in your mailbox just in time for the New Year.
If you can’t find your prescription charges then contact your pharmacy to request quarterly prescription statements. Or if you can’t remember if you made retirement contributions this year, contact your financial adviser. Find out how much you contributed this year and how much you can still contribute before tax time.
Did you travel a lot this year for medical care but forgot to record the mileage? Review your calendar and write down the dates you traveled for medical care. Then log into a mapping program like Google Maps and calculate the round-trip mileage for all of your medical trips.
If there is information you can’t find now don’t leave it to later to find it. Take care of it today. Then what you can’t accomplish today make note of it, so you can attempt to get right back to it when you return from break.
Day 3 – Plan for Next Year
New Year’s Resolutions before the New Year? Yep, that’s right. Most people only begin to think about their resolutions on January 1st, but at that point they are more just an idea, then an actual plan. And without a plan, they may just stay as an idea all year long.
What if you went into the New Year knowing exactly the resolutions you wanted to accomplish and you knew exactly how you were going to accomplish them? Think of what you could accomplish and how little time would be wasted getting to your goal. Instead of bragging about your New Year’s Resolutions on social media the first week in January, why don’t you instead brag about how you are already killing it at your goals!
Goal setting can be hard, especially if you don’t know where to begin. To keep things simple, I want you to focus on coming up with one single goal for each of the 3 categories of Business, Family, and Self.
DETERMINE YOUR GOAL
Begin the goal setting process by determine your goal for each category. The easiest way to decide on a goal for each category is to reflect on this past year’s failures and successes.
Was your first year of business a smashing success, but at the expense of you working endless hours into the night? Maybe you need to hire some help for your business or bring in an after school baby-sitter to help you with the kids so you can get in more work time.
Perhaps 2019 was the year you finally started working out and getting healthy. You’ve been going to the gym 3 days a week and making it a point to eat only fruits and veggies for snacks. You look great and feel great, but decide you want to challenge yourself even more. Set a goal to run your first 5k or to incorporate “Meatless Mondays” into your weekly menu.
Grab a cup a coffee and set aside 30 minutes today to reflect on this past year.
In your journal draw two columns, one for success and one for failures. Write down in each column how the year went. Utilize this list to help you determine your goals for the next year.
PLAN THE ACTION STEPS
Remember you only need to pick one goal for each of the categories. Once you have determined you goal, start listing the steps you need to complete to accomplish that goal.
For example, if you decided to reduce your evening work hours by hiring a baby-sitter your action steps might look something like this:
Inquire at Mom’s Group for a baby-sitter available after school
Contact list of baby-sitters for interviews
Interview and hire a baby-sitter
Plan work tasks to complete while baby-sitter is here
Stop working by 7pm each night so I can get a good night’s rest
Your action steps should essentially be the baby steps you are going to take to achieve your goal.
The more you break the steps down into smaller tasks the easier it will be to accomplish your goals. Not only that, as you complete each action step you will feel a greater since of accomplishment because each step you’re making progress towards your goals.
I challenge you this week to spend 3 days wrapping up this year. Then get ready to take in all the family and food and fun that the holiday season brings.
You got this Mama!