Working from home lets you save money on commuting costs and a professional wardrobe, but your home office brings its own expenses too. Most home-based workers provide their own furnishings, office supplies, and equipment. Other expenses, like increased utility bills, can creep up on you unexpectedly. Here are some tips for managing the expenses of running a home-based career.
Don’t Overspend On Furnishings
Image via Flickr by jnyemb
The best principle to follow in any business is to use your money to meet customer expectations; the rest is about your ego. If you’re an attorney meeting well-heeled clients in a home office, you may need to invest in matching cherry furniture because your customers expect to meet you in a posh office. If customers won’t be visiting your home office, you can get by with a second-hand desk and filing cabinets. Do spend money on ergonomics, though, like a supportive desk chair, a monitor riser, and a gel-filled wrist rest. Skimping in that area will only lead to more spending on medical or pain relief measures later.
Save On Supplies
Office supplies seem small, but they add up quickly. Shop in bulk through a discount supplier online and buy generic whenever possible. If you buy a lot of any particular item, though, you might do better to work with a small local source so you can negotiate a better price. Look for coupons from Office Depot or follow their Facebook discount page. Staples offers coupons and deals online too.
Consider the Home Office Deduction
Many people skip the home office deduction on their taxes because it doesn’t seem worth the trouble. If you use an area of your home regularly and exclusively for business, it is yours to take. A new simplified reporting method makes the calculation as simple as multiplying the square footage of your office area by a prescribed rate. As a bonus, once you claim a home office, you can also deduct travel between your home and any central office, client location, or worksites you visit.
Utilize Free Resources
Before you pay for software, check out the range of free professional apps and online tools that can help you manage your time and money. These free programs can help you manage tasks and projects, track billable hours, and keep up with tax deductible expenses.
Keep Power Bills Down
When you leave for work during the day, you can adjust your thermostat and save big on power bills. If you’re going to start being home full-time, you’ll need to get creative. Add a space heater to your office so you can still turn the house thermostat down. In summer, use fans, ceiling fans, and open windows to your advantage. To reduce the cost of running your computer and equipment, plug everything into power strips (surge protectors will keep your equipment safer) and flip the switches on those strips when you leave the office. Even powered-down equipment can draw electricity.
Working from home is a dream for those who are fed up with commutes, office politics, and noisy surroundings. With a little attention to detail and a thrifty mindset, you can cut the costs of making that dream a reality.
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