Whether you’ve relished the chance to ditch the commute and set up a home office, or you’re now suffering a combination of cabin fever and Zoom fatigue, it’s likely that working from home has cost you money. Even if you didn’t realise it.
Thankfully, you can cut the cost of working from home in quite a few ways. And you may even be able to claim some money back through tax relief.
Claim tax relief
Before you think about cost cutting, think about recouping. You can claim up to £125 for the year, even if you’ve only worked a single day from home since April 2020. HMRC has made special allowances for people who’ve had to work from home due to Coronavirus.
If your employer has asked you to work from home, you’ve got two options:
- Claim £6 per week, or;
- Claim for the exact costs you’ve incurred.
If you’re claiming for the exact amount, you’ll need receipts. If you’re claiming the £6 per week allowance, you won’t.
You’ll need to set up a Government Gateway ID account to claim. It takes about 10 minutes to claim if you’ve got your National Insurance number and a P60 to hand.
Shop around for a new broadband provider
Your home broadband package might be fine for browsing the web and watching Netflix. But if you’re now having to upload large documents and share your screen via Zoom, you might be finding the performance a bit limiting.
Before you simply upgrade to a more expensive package with your current provider, compare deals and shop around. Some of the major mobile networks are offering great home broadband deals to existing phone customers.
Speak to your employer about supplying home office essentials
You might be tempted to splash out on an expensive office chair or high-res monitor to make working from home a bit more comfortable, but speak to your employer first. They may be able to send you the things you need for free.
Many UK employers have been working hard to make sure staff have the correct equipment at home to work safely, comfortably and productively, and that includes larger items like furniture.
If your employer can’t provide what you need, make sure you keep receipts for anything you buy as you’ll probably want to claim for your exact expenses, not the £6 per day allowance.
Audit your subscriptions, regular and recurring payments
Since you’re not heading into the office, it’s unlikely you’ll be hitting the gym on your lunch break. So make sure your gym isn’t still taking a Direct Debit for your membership. The same goes for rail season tickets.
Make sure you cancel any Direct Debits and claim a refund on those you’ve already paid for. Do this by contacting the railway operator you buy your season ticket from, or by getting in touch with The Rail Delivery Group.
If you typically commute by car, you might be eligible for a partial refund on your car insurance. A lot of major insurers are issuing refunds. This is because premiums are calculated using your estimated annual mileage.
If you’re not using your car at all due to working from home, you could declare it as ‘off the road’ (SORN declaration) and you won’t need to pay vehicle excise duty or get an MOT. But only do this if you never drive it. You don’t want to get into trouble for popping to the supermarket!
Be mindful of your energy consumption
If you normally work in an office 9-5, Monday to Friday, you’re probably spending at least an extra 40 hours a week in your home due to lockdown. The extra demand on lighting, heating and even electricity can quickly add up.
We’re not advocating that you work by candlelight, but there are some small steps you can take to keep on top of your utility bills, such as:
- Turning lights off when you leave a room.
- Dialling down some of your radiators. You’ve probably got the heating on for longer due to being at home all day, but you don’t need to heat rooms you’re not using.
- Unplugging your laptop. It’s tempting to keep a laptop plugged in all day, but it’s unnecessary. Unplug printers, scanners and any other equipment you only use from time to time.
You probably still have a boss, but working from home does bring some of the benefits we normally associate with self employment. One such advantage is not having to eat in the work canteen or pay over the odds for convenience food.
A 2018 survey by the New York Bakery Co. found that office workers spend an average of £6.08 a day on food. So, by being at home, you’re likely to already be saving.
Since you’re literally feet away from the kitchen anyway, why not use one or two lunch breaks a week to batch cook for the rest of the week? You could shave as much as £100 per month off your food bill.
Think about starting a side hustle
It’s not cost cutting but it is potentially profitable, though this one comes with a caveat; check your employment contract first! Some employers don’t allow their staff to do work on the side, especially in the same sector. For those with a bit more freedom and flexibility, working from home provides a great opportunity to launch that side hustle you’ve been planning.
According to trade union research, the average worker spends almost one hour a day commuting. You’ve already recouped that time, so why not put it to use earning extra cash? There’s loads of ways to earn a bit of extra cash too, from taking surveys to selling your skills on sites like Fiverr or People Per Hour.
And if you don’t fancy a side hustle, you could use the time you aren’t commuting working towards a pay rise with some professional training. For example, you could complete Google Ads certification in six hours, or the Python Essential training course on LinkedIn in less than five.
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