Make sure you’re not losing out when you’re in your home office.
I’ve been working from my home office since I went self employed nearly two years now, and the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
I’ll deal with the latter first – and it’s pretty much just missing having colleagues. There are things I do to mitigate this, such as weekly video chats with other members of my money blogging community, though it’s not quite the same.
However, the freedom I’ve had over my hours and the ability to go off to the cinema or play tennis in the afternoon more than make up for it.
It can also be a bit of a money saver, as those normal day-to-day expenses like travel and lunches go out of the window. And though there will be some extra costs, there’s plenty you can do to bring those down.
So if you are based at home, here are the things I’d recommend you look into now to make sure you’re getting the most from your money.
Make sure your internet is up to the job
If you get frustrated with internet speeds at the best of times then you are going to find it worse if you’re at home all day too.
I made the decision to move to Virgin Media’s high-speed network when I went fully freelance to make sure I could quickly upload my videos and podcasts, but you’ll probably be fine on a standard fibre line from the likes of BT.
But don’t pay too much for this. If you’re out of contract, this is your chance to shop around and look for the best prices. Always check what extras you can get from cashback sites – it could well be more than £100.
You should also haggle with your existing network to see if they’ll give you a free or cheap upgrade. If they think you’re genuine about leaving they do tend to magically find extra savings.
Get back-up broadband
If your internet goes down it’s likely you won’t be able to work. I’d certainly struggle to run this blog! Fortunately, my mobile network allows me to “tether” by computer to my phone’s personal hotspot and use the included data allowance.
It’s a great back-up, but it’s also been really useful in the past when I’ve not been able to get wifi on trains, hotels or in cafes.
I’m with Three (there are often some great deals which I’ll share here) which lets you do this in the UK, Europe and even some countries across the world. , but most networks also allow you to do this. However, if you use more than your data allowance you could get hit with extra charges – and these can be very expensive.
Personally I’d ask my network to give me a warning when I’m close to my allowance and shut data off when it’s gone rather than get a massive bill.
If you do tether to your phone’s data, make sure you turn off auto-updates on your computer. As I discovered this can wipe out all your data very quickly. Fortunately Three were good about adding some more data onto my account for free to help me get to the end of the month.
But having your phone as back up doesn’t mean you should suddenly sign up for unlimited data. Remember you’ll be able to connect to your home wifi throughout the day so you won’t need huge data allowances. In normal times most people are fine with less than 5GB or so. Here’s more on how to find out just how much data you need.
Avoid pricey conference call numbers
I’ve always hated having to call into conference lines which required an 0845 or 0870 type number – really expensive. So if this ever comes my way I always take a look at Say No to 0870.
You simply type in the number you have to call and it’ll let you know if there is a normal (01, 02 or 03) or freephone number you can call instead.
Alternatively, there are lots of video conferencing options that won’t cost much money. Facetime, What’s App and Facebook Messenger all allow you to talk to your contacts, but can be limited.
I tend to use Zoom and the free option lets you talk for 40 minutes. That should be more than enough for a meeting. If you need longer then you can just start a new meeting.
Use free software
You might be used to Microsoft Word or Excel in the office, but there are free cloud-based alternatives which will be just as good for most people.
I use Google Docs for everything, and I can access them from any computer or device as long as I log in with a Gmail account.
Reduce your energy use
The obvious change for gas and electricity is to switch your supplier to the cheapest fixed deal. Easy, quick and a big money saver. You absolutely should do this.
But there’s more you can do too in terms of making your home more efficient, from easy fixes such as using draft excluders through to longer-term measures like loft insulation. Here’s a good list of quick wins to reduce how much you use via the energy saving trust.
Personally I make sure I’ve always got a warm hoodie in my office, and for winter I’ve got a pair of fingerless gloves to allow me to keep typing away.
Find out what you can claim
If you are working for a company, check to see if they will fund extra costs you have as a result of being at home. That could be contributing to your phone or broadband bills, supplying an ergonomic chair or even buying a laptop.
If you’re self-employed then talk to your accountant about any allowable expenses you can use to lower your tax bill.
Shelling out now can save more money later
If you have to buy everything yourself you might be tempted to just blag it with what you’ve already got. If that’s a laptop and a sofa then you could be asking for trouble.
Hunching over a laptop and slouching on the sofa all day is likely to cause you all sorts of problems with your back and shoulders, which could eventually lead you to pay for massages and physiotherapy.
To reduce the chances of this I got a stand-up desk from Ikea, but even just a standard desk will help. Make sure your chair has decent back support.
I also use a desktop computer so I’m looking straight at a screen rather than down, but if you can’t afford a new computer you could look at buying a monitor instead and connecting your laptop.
Don’t forget to go via cashback sites for anything you do buy to maximise your savings.
Have some self-control in the kitchen
Ok, so if you don’t have to buy your lunch each day you will save some money. Great. I find that I don’t have the time to make a proper lunch so I tend to make sure I cook more the night before and have the leftovers.
When you know you’ve got a fridge or cupboard with snacks and treats it’s really easy to just pop to the kitchen and grab a bite to eat. This isn’t just bad for your waistline, it’s not great for your bank balance either.
I also try to make sure there’s fruit available so I don’t resort to chocolate and crisps.
Save your savings
Despite the odd extra cost, you’ll ultimately be paying less – particularly as you won’t have commuting costs and there’s less need to buy new clothing that’s office-friendly.
So what do you do with that spare cash? Save it. Don’t make the mistake of just leaving it in your current account. Do that and you’ll just spend it elsewhere.
You need to set up a separate savings account and move any surplus to it. This should be somewhere that pays the best possible interest (here’s my monthly updated list of the best accounts).
But you could also consider using an automated savings app like Chip too. This will analyse your bank account and work out how much you can afford to save then automatically move it to a different account. Here’s more on how it works.