This time of year is always a little stressful for home business owners. It’s tax time, and you need to be ready to prepare your taxes. As you get ready to complete your taxes, here are 3 things to consider:

1. The 1099-K Could Add Headaches

A few years ago, the IRS introduced the 1099-K to its arsenal of forms. The idea is that those who use third-party payment processors like PayPal might be fudging some of their numbers. The new form is issued by third-party processors to those with at least 200 transactions and $20,000 in receipts. The downside for independent contractors is that many of us are paid via PayPal, but our clients don’t realize they don’t have to issue a 1099-MISC anymore. This leads to double-reporting of income, the IRS demanding more money, and a headache as you try to prove that you have reported everything correctly. Keep careful track. If you use PayPal, consider downloading the reconciliation file to help you as your prepare your home business taxes.

2. Don’t Forget All of Your Tax Deductions

As you prepare your home business taxes, don’t forget about the deductions you have coming to you. While some of them, like office supplies and the home office tax deduction are fairly obvious, don’t forget about the following deductions, if they are applicable:

  • Business travel
  • Insurance
  • Memberships in trade associations
  • Costs associated with networking

You might also be able to a dependent care credit if your child is in daycare for part of the time. This can be a good tax break if you qualify since it is a better tax break than a deduction. A deduction reduces your taxable income, while a credit is a dollar for dollar reduction in what you owe — kind of like a gift card you can put toward your taxes.

3. An Accountant Can Be a Big Help

I’ve used an accountant for years to help me get my taxes done. If your tax situation is complex, or if you find yourself spending long hours preparing your return, it can make sense to use an accountant. I find that the time I spend preparing my taxes can be more profitably spent working. I make more during that time than the accountant costs. Plus, if an accountant is preparing your home business taxes, the cost is tax-deductible. Add up how much time you spend preparing your taxes. If it makes sense, you can consider turning to an accountant so that you have better use of your time.

Add up how much time you spend preparing your taxes. If it makes sense, you can consider turning to an accountant so that you have better use of your time. You still need to take care of some paperwork items, such as gathering records and preparing your profit and loss statement, but having an accountant do most of the work can help you stay better organized and save time and effort.

Plan ahead, organize yourself, and prepare. You’ll be glad you did when it comes time to file your home business taxes.

There’s a lot to talk about when you plan to get married. From where you will live to how to raise your children, it helps to be compatible in a number of areas. One of the most important subjects to talk about is money, though. Understanding how your potential partner feels about money, as well as creating a plan for spending, is very important.

Money is an essential part of life, and it’s one of the most important things that we all deal with every day. Your money situation can have a big impact on everything from your mood to your health, and a difficult situation can strain your marriage. Before you get married, it’s a good idea to make sure that you are on the same page financially. According to COUNTRY Financial, there are five main things to talk about before you tie the knot:

1. Spending

One of the biggest things to consider is your spending plan. Determine how much money you will make combined, and get an idea of what your joint expenses will be. Will you be able to meet your needs for housing, food, and other items? You should also talk about your spending priorities and figure out whether or not you are compatible. Do you prefer to spend on experiences or things? How will you handle large purchases? Will you divide up discretionary spending in a way that allows each of you to spend on what you want?

2. Insurance

If you plan to start a family, it makes sense to talk about insurance. You want to make sure that either of you can provide for your family in the event of a death. Figure out how much coverage you will need, what kind of policy makes sense, and what you hope to accomplish with the coverage. Perform an analysis of how much insurance your family will need, and get as much coverage as you can afford.

3. Debt

Have a frank conversation about debt. It can be embarrassing to talk about debt, and reveal what you owe, but it’s important. You need a joint plan for tackling any debt that you both have. You should also talk about credit score and understand where each of you stands in terms of credit and debt situation. Make it a point to address these issues early on — and decide how much you can handle. In some cases, it makes sense to put off a wedding until you are both on the same page.

4. Saving

Talk about what you will put aside each month. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Are the compatible? Make sure that you understand how your potential partner thinks, and be sure to put together a plan that works for both of you.

5. Retirement

Not only do you need to figure out how you will save for retirement, but you also need to talk about what retirement will look like for you. You might not be compatible if one of you wants to stay at home and maybe hit the golf course on occasion, while the other wants to travel the world.

Getting these realities out in the open early on can help you decide if you really are ready to get married, and help you create a plan that you can work on together.

According to the results of a survey recently published by Student Loan Hero, one of the biggest financial resolutions made by Americans this year is to pay down debt. Many Americans feel saddled with debt, and are concerned by the restriction it represents to their financial freedom.

If you are one of those who resolved to pay down debt this year, here are some ideas for sticking with it, and not becoming discouraged:

Start Small

You might not be in a position to realistically expect to pay off all your debt this year. You might not be able to come up with an extra $500 a month immediately. Don’t let that stop you. Any progress is good progress. Start small. Look for ways to put an extra $50 or $100 toward your debt pay down each month.

Once you get comfortable with that small start, you can increase the amount that you put toward paying down debt. You can increase it by another $25 or $50, depending on what you can handle. You can also use the debt snowball method or some other type of debt reduction plan that works for you.

When you start too big, you set yourself up for failure. Be realistic about the situation and don’t get bent out of shape if you need to change things up a little bit. Tweaking your plan a little, while still moving forward, is better than quitting.

Acknowledge Your Progress

One of the best things you can do is acknowledge your progress. You don’t want to reward yourself by spending money, but you can reward yourself with a relaxing evening in. Or, just look at the progress you’ve made and congratulate yourself. You can also think about what you will enjoy moving forward. What will you do when you have more money because you aren’t paying interest to someone else? Consider these questions, and use them to feel better about your situation. When you look at how far you’ve come, it can provide motivation to stick with it, even if you are moving somewhat slowly. Know that your forward progress is an important step forward and use that to motivate you.

Start Over When You Need To

We all experience setbacks. One of the downsides to getting hung up on New Year resolutions is the idea that once you fail, you’re done for the year. Don’t think like that. While you can use the beginning of a new year to figure out what you want from life, and reflect, don’t get caught up in the idea that you can only make changes at the start of the year. You can set new goals and adjust course anytime. If you need to take a step back and re-evaluate, do so. Start over when you need to. When you need to rethink how much you put toward debt each month, or whether a financial setback means you need to start over in a couple of months, the important thing is that you get back up there and keep working on improving your financial situation.

Every year, many of us resolve to make the most of our money by spending less. Making more money might also be a major goal that many of us have.

No matter your goals, you can help reach them by practicing frugal living. Here are 5 tips that can help you with your frugal living objectives in the coming year:

1. Rethink Your Things

One of the biggest expenses many of us have is things. We buy things, and then we have to pay for the space to store them. Rethink your things this year. Before you buy something new, ask what you’ll actually do with it, and then consider getting rid of something you already have to make room.

At the very least, go through your storage unit and get rid of what you can. You’ll save on monthly storage costs, and if you sell some of the stuff you might even make a little money.

2. Cut the Cord

Finally, it’s time to cut the cord. If you have Internet, you can stream a lot of what you want to watch for much less than cable or satellite. I save about $150 per month since cancelling the satellite and going all-streaming for my TV-related entertainment. It’s amazing how much you can save just in TV costs when you change the way you manage your entertainment.

3. Know Your Priorities

This is an underrated way of saving money. Few of us think seriously about how we want to use our money, and what really matters to us. As a result, it’s difficult to keep more money in our pockets. Once you understand what really matters to you, and you stop spending on things that don’t matter to you, being frugal becomes easier. If you aren’t spending on things that don’t matter, chances are that you are spending much less.

4. Use a Waiting Period

Once again, it’s easy for us to lose track of what really matters to us when we’re in spending mode. Rather than buying something immediately, institute a waiting period. You can decide what works for you, whether it’s 14 days, 30 days, or 60 days. Anytime you want to buy something, put a waiting period on it. Revisit the item at the end of the waiting period. Chances are that you don’t actually want it badly enough to use your hard-earned cash on it. I find that if I can do without something for a month, I really probably don’t need it. It’s a good way to keep from spending more money on things that I don’t really care about.

5. Remind Yourself of Your Long-Term Goals

Finally, keep your mind on what you want to accomplish in the future. Remind yourself of your long-term goals. When you feel like spending on some pointless item, ask yourself what else you could be doing with the money. I find that reminding myself that I could go on a weekend getaway with the money I’d spend on TV keeps me more interested in setting the money aside than buying the TV. Whether you hope to be debt-free or travel the world, reminding yourself of your long-term goals can help you avoid spending money right now.

Now that a new year is underway, many consumers are figuring out how to get ahead financially. Making money resolutions is a common tradition this time of year, and one resolution you can make is to earn more money.

If you want to make more money in the new year, here are 10 ideas that can help you boost your income:

1. Freelance

If you have a skill that is conducive to freelancing, this is one of the easiest ways to make money — and do it from home. Writing, editing, graphic design, software development, website development, and coding are all things that can be done from home as a freelancer, and there are many opportunities to do these things. A couple hours a night can provide a little extra cash for you.

2. Pick Up Extra Shifts

For those paid hourly, sometimes it works to pick up an extra shift. If you haven’t put your name down to work an extra shift now and then, make it a point to do so now. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish, and how the extra money helps.

3. Start a Side Business

Your side business can be one way to make extra money. If you work part-time, or if you are a stay-at-home parent, a side business can be the way to go. Businesses like pet sitting, babysitting (check state and local regulations), teaching music lessons, and lawn care can all be successful and provide extra income.

4. Virtual Assisting

You might be able to help someone keep track of appointments, emails, and do basic research. Virtual assisting is becoming a booming business, and you can get a piece of it if you are organized, can work from home, and have a few hours a day to devote to managing others’ lives.

5. Rebate and Survey Sites

If you want to make a little extra money, or get rebates and save that way, you can use rebate and survey sites. There are apps that will help you earn points toward rebates on things you usually buy, and you can take surveys for small amounts of cash or reward points. I use Swagbucks, and so far it’s been a way for me to earn Amazon gift cards that I can use to save money on my regular purchases. These sites won’t provide a lot, and I don’t devote a great deal of time to them, but if you have a few extra minutes, you can earn a few bucks.

6. Set Up Recurring Income Streams

I still receive money from the book I wrote a couple years ago. You can also add affiliate programs to your website. It’s possible to set up these recurring income streams. It can take a lot of time and effort to be successful, though, so you will need to put in at least three hours a day just to get things going. But, over time, if you do it right, you can come out far, far ahead.

7. Start Income Investing

Another thing you can do is start income investing. You don’t need a lot of money to start investing in dividend paying assets. It can be a smart way to start seeing a little more income, and build your portfolio at the same time.

No matter who you are, there is something you can do to earn a little extra money this year. And a chance that you could do multiple items on this list to help you start getting ahead.

It’s time to think about getting ready to prepare your taxes. Filing as early as possible makes sense for a couple of reasons:

  1. The earlier you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund
  2. Filing early means you reduce the chances of being a victim of tax refund fraud

Being organized is key to getting your taxes filed early on. Here’s how you can be ready to go as quickly as possible:

Know What Paperwork to Expect

Various organizations are supposed to send out paperwork by the end of January, meaning that you should have what you need by the first or second week in February. Know what you’re expecting. Some common forms to expect include your W-2 from your employer, a statement of interest from your mortgage lender, and student loan interest statements.

Think about what other paperwork you might receive, depending on your situation. This includes information about side income or dividend and interest income and statements related to your retirement account.

Don’t forget about paperwork you might need to request. If you want to apply for a dependent care credit, you will need tax ID information from your care provider. When you have a business, it usually makes sense to prepare a Profit & Loss document. Make a list of paperwork involved and then set up a folder to keep it all. Check off each item as you receive it.

Begin Organizing Receipts

There are a number of deductions and credits that require receipts. If you donate to charity, you need a receipt that shares the appropriate information. For business owners, keeping receipts of expenses is also important. Now is the time to round up your receipts and get organized. Sort out receipts by category, making sure to keep business, medical, donations, and other categories separate from each other. This will make it easier to verify your costs and claims as you prepare your taxes (or if you bring your taxes to a professional).

Review the Year for Additional Information

Don’t forget to review your year for things you might have missed. Whether it’s mileage for your car or whether it’s the fact that you’re eligible for a health care tax credit, you might have missed something. If you use financial software to help you track your spending, generate a report that can help you identify spending categories. This is a good way to review where your money went, and find items that you might have missed for tax purposes.

This is also a good time to see if you can make last-minute moves for a deduction. You can make a last-year contribution to a Traditional IRA or Health Savings Account even if it’s already past December 31. It might make sense to do so.

Make Your Appointment

If you prepare your own taxes, now is the time to buy your tax prep software, or upgrade your current suite to the new year. If you have someone else prepare your taxes, call to make an appointment. Make your appointment for the beginning to middle of February, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

When we think of self-improvement, we often think of it as something that costs us money and reduces our financial viability. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Yes, you can spend money on self-improvement. But that doesn’t mean that it’s money poorly spent. In fact, your efforts for self-improvement can be an investment that pays off and helps your finances down the road. Here are some examples of how self-improvement can benefit your finances:

Invest in Better Education

A better education can cost money, but it can also boost your earnings down the road. Those with bachelor’s degrees have higher median earnings than those with high school degrees.

This doesn’t mean you have to get a four-year degree to be successful financially, though. In some career fields, an associate’s degree can be just as lucrative, as can certain training certifications. Be careful about how you go about it, but a better education can improve your life, boost your skills, and make you a better person — and help you earn more money.

Don’t assume that all education has to be conducted formally, either. If you are willing to read up on business and money management, you can better direct your financial resources in a way that boosts your ability to take care of yourself. A good course might help provide you with the knowledge you need to get on the path to financial freedom. Think about how you can learn more, and then put that knowledge to work.

Invest in Your Health

One of the best ways to save money over time is to invest in your health. You might have to spend a little more time and effort preparing healthier meals, and sometimes healthy food costs more, but in the long run you’ll be in better shape. Your health insurance premiums will increase at a slower rate and you’ll reduce your chances of developing expensive diseases and conditions.

You don’t even have to spend money to exercise if you want to improve your health. You can exercise at home or outside, and not have to worry about spending on a gym membership or on expensive equipment. Look for ways to stay active and boost your nutrition, and you’ll save money on health care costs down the road.

Networking

Learn how to communicate effectively and network with others. You’ll discover that you can open yourself to opportunities this way. When you know people who can help you with your career, or mentor you, there are chances to increase your earning power.

Even volunteering can be a good way to network. You’ll help your community and grow as a person, and possibly meet people that can help you better manage your money or advance in your career. You might be surprised at how improving your skills and networking abilities can enrich your life as well as ultimately help your finances.

Don’t assume that your efforts to improve yourself don’t offer chances to get better with money. When you work on self-improvement, more opportunities follow — including financial opportunities.

We all know that one of the cornerstones of financial success is having a plan for our money. Even if you think you are doing it right, and managing the basics like you should, the reality is that you can still fail financially.

The reasons have a lot to do with your mindset and the ways that we trip up and spend too much. A recent article from The Wall Street Journal offers some insight into the reasons that your budget might be failing — even if you do everything right:

1. Not Giving Future Expenses Enough Weight

According to the article, most of us are good about estimating future income. We have a good handle on what might be coming in. What we fail to do is accurately estimate future expenses. We don’t adequately plan for future expenses — especially unexpected expenses. We don’t think about our outflows, and that can skew the financial plan and lead to problems. You spend more now, thinking that you have adequately prepared because you don’t give enough weight to future costs. When the future does arrive, you discover that your planning hasn’t been enough and you wind up in trouble.

2. Spending Money to Reward Yourself

We always hear about how we should reward ourselves when we reach certain goals. Hitting milestones should give us something to celebrate. While rewards can be one way to motivate you to save more, or plan for retirement, or do any number of positive things, the problem is that too often the reward involves spending money.

According The Wall Street Journal, this is a path that can lead to financial problems. First of all, spending money as a reward means that you are diluting the impact of your good financial decisions. The other problem is that when we feel good, it’s easier to spend more than we had planned. So you might go overboard and spend more than you expected for your reward.

Instead of rewarding yourself by spending money, think of other rewards that could be helpful. Maybe taking an afternoon to relax can be a reward. I’ve started rewarding myself with alternatives, such as going on a hike instead of staying home. Or, I’ll give myself an extra hour of reading or make an extra phone call to a friend to chat. This provides me with an extra treat during the day, but it doesn’t require me to spend money.

3. Letting Your Good Behaviors Lead to Overconfidence

Finally, another reason your budget might be failing is due to your overconfidence. The article points out that you feel financially responsible when you are saving money and taking other actions you know you should. Your good behaviors lead to an overconfidence about your situation. You might spend more than expected because you think you are in a good place to “afford” it when you really can’t.

Another difficulty comes when you are so bent on keeping your savings high that you borrow for big purchases because you don’t want to draw down your savings. You might use credit cards to excess, and run into problems later.

Be careful about the way you manage your money, no matter the situation. Stay in check and make sure your budget really is working for you.

During the holidays, many people are stressed because they don’t feel like they can buy a lot of expensive gifts. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give thoughtful gifts to everyone on your list. DIY holiday gifts can allow you to provide something thoughtful to your loved ones without breaking the bank. Here are 7 of my favorite inexpensive DIY holiday gifts:

1. Sugar Scrub

A couple of years ago, I received sugar scrub from my sister-in-law. This was one of my favorite gifts since I love scented scrubs. When I looked into it, I was surprised at how easy it is to make. If you have coconut oil, sugar, and essential oils, you can make sugar scrub. You can also use a little food color if you are going for a specific color, as when you make peppermint scrub. Put the scrub in an attractive jar, and it’s a perfect gift.

2. Flavored Butter

For something a little unique, you can create different flavored butters. Garlic butter, honey butter, berry butter, and pear butter are all possibilities. Don’t forget that you can order molds and create an attractive look for the butter, or just put it in an attractive jar. The packaging is half the appeal of DIY holiday gifts, so don’t forget about that.

3. Cookie in a Jar

One of my favorite DIY holiday gifts is the cookie mix in a jar. There are numerous variations of this, depending on the kind of cookies you want to give. With this, you get a Mason jar, and layer the dry ingredients for cookies. Then, you wrap a bow around it, or cover the top with festive fabric. Make sure to print out the recipe on attractive paper.

4. Scented Candles

You can also make scented candles. You can find most of what you need at your favorite craft store. With some wax, the right wicks, and a decorative jar, it’s possible to create a candle that will smell great and make a perfect gift.

5. Brownie or Cake in a Mug

Another fun DIY holiday gift is a brownie in a mug or a cake in a mug. It’s possible to offer dry ingredients inside a fun mug. All the recipient has to do is add a couple other ingredients and pop it in the microwave to get a single-serving treat (make sure to include the appropriate instructions). I always test these out before I give them away.

6. DIY Dry Erase Board

Another inexpensive and creative DIY gift is a dry erase board. A picture frame can be a great board. Buy a picture frame. Instead of a picture, put a piece of colored paper in the frame to provide a background. Get a chunky frame and you can decorate it with ribbon, buttons, or other items that can make it look cute.

7. Decorative Cooking Utensils

Add a little pizzazz to wooden cooking utensils. Choose a color of paint that the recipient will like, and then dip the handles of the utensils in paint. Tie the set together with a bow, and you have an attractive and practical gift for the cook in your life.

While few of us really like to think about insurance, and paying premiums. However, the reality is that insurance policies can protect your assets, and make it easier for you to manage large costs related to your property.

What many people neglect to think about, however, is disability insurance. Many of us don’t like to think about the possibility, but there is a chance that you could become sick enough or injured in a way that makes it impossible for you to work. In these cases, disability insurance is very helpful.

Short-Term and Long-Term Disability

There are two main types of disability insurance: short-term and long-term. Short-term policies are designed to help you manage conditions that might take you away from work for anywhere between three months and a year. These policies are designed to provide you with a portion of your salary for a short period of time. A short-term policy covers you for non-permanent disabilities, such as injury or major illness, or it can cover you during the waiting period required before your long-term policy kicks in.

Long-term disability is designed for those who measure disability in years. It might not be a permanent situation, but if you will be out of commission for more than six months or more than a year, a long-term disability policy might help provide you with salary replacement.

Policies differ on terms. You should find out what qualifies as short-term and long-term, and be clear about waiting periods involved before you purchase the policy. Your premium will be based on the percentage of income you will be provided, or the total amount that you are eligible to receive from the policy.

Can You Self-Insure?

It’s especially important to make sure that you are prepared for disability issues because if you can’t earn money and your family is relying on you, it can be difficult. Disability insurance can help you get through those tough times without destroying your finances.

However, disability insurance isn’t always necessary. In some cases, you can self-insure. You might be able to self-insure with the help of an emergency fund. If your emergency fund is large enough to cover your living expenses for a long period of time, insurance might not be necessary. Building up passive income can also help you self-insure, since you will have a source of income that doesn’t rely on your ability to work. However, building an adequate emergency fund or passive income stream can take years. If you are suddenly struck with a debilitating disease or injury, you might not have the time to marshall your resources.

Some consumers use an emergency fund as a short-term self-insurance option, and then purchase a long-term policy for the major possibilities. The emergency fund can bridge the waiting period. It’s important to carefully consider your options before you purchase a policy. I have a small disability policy designed to help me cover some of my income if something happens to me and I can’t keep writing. However, I also have other assets I can rely on as well. Consider your situation and decide what works best for you.