Working from home has become the norm for lots of people this year – and it looks like many who’ve set themselves up at makeshift desks around kitchen and dining room tables could be there for some time yet.
While you may be saving money on your regular commute to work, working remotely can also generate other added expenses.
Money-saving tips to keep costs down when working at home
So, if you’re going to be working from home this winter, what steps can you take to keep any extra costs down? Here are some suggestions…
1. Find out about claiming tax relief
Employers may pay employees up to £6 a week tax-free to cover additional costs if they have had to work from home. But employees who have not received the working from home expenses payment direct from their employer can apply to receive the tax relief from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
HMRC said in October that it had received over 54,800 claims from customers using a new online portal, which allows workers to claim tax relief for working at home.
Eligible taxpayers can claim tax relief based on the rate at which they pay tax. So for example, if an employee pays basic rate tax at 20%, and claims tax relief on £6 a week, they could potentially receive £1.20 (20% of £6 a week) towards the cost of their household bills.
You can check whether you can claim at www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home.
Depending on the circumstances, it may also be possible to claim tax relief on equipment bought as part of your job. More information can be found at www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees.
It’s also worth asking your employer about any additional equipment they can provide, or expenses they’re willing to cover while you work from home.
2. Turn your thermostat down a touch
Around two-thirds (64%) of UK households set their thermostat to 20 degrees celcius or higher, according to a study from Uswitch. But the comparison website calculates that if households turned the heating down by just one degree, they could potentially save up to £80 a year on energy bills.
As well as turning the heating down, switching energy suppliers and tariffs is another way to save cash. Uswitch says anyone who is worried about paying their energy bills this winter should contact their energy supplier, who can offer advice and support.
Some people may be eligible for free insulation grants to help them pay for home improvements that will keep costs down longer term.
3. Look for other ways to save energy around the home
There may be lots of ways you’re wasting energy around the home without realising it. Using energy saving lightbulbs and unplugging gadgets when they are not being used can help keep household bills down when you’re working from home, as well as when you’re not working.
And when you pop to the kitchen for a tea break, make sure you only put the amount of water in the kettle that you’ll need for your cuppa.
4. Watch out for mobile charges
Perhaps you’re spending more time using your own personal mobile than usual, rather than work phones. Uswitch estimates that a third (32%) of UK consumers have faced additional costs over the past year, totalling £489 million.
Those affected say they’ve clocked up an average of £38.90 over and above their regular payment during the past 12 months. Common culprits for bill shocks include making international calls, app purchases and subscriptions, and exceeding data allowances.
It may be worth seeing if your network provider has a more suitable tariff for your needs, or working out what you can avoid doing to keep your costs down.
5. Finally, beware of scams while you’re working from home
Bear in mind you may be more prone to clicking on criminals’ phishing emails while you’re working from home, if you’re distracted because you’re working to tight deadlines and there’s no one else present to ‘sense check’ what you’re clicking on.
Consumer group Which? has also recently issued a warning about computer takeover scams. Fraudsters may phone up pretending to be tech support workers from reputable brands. They then try to persuade victims to install remote access software which is used by many legitimate IT workers.
This allows them to steal your money and personal details. In one case Which? heard about, someone lost £80,000 after being scammed by a person claiming to be an engineer ensuring her internet connection was working. The caller claimed they had found several security alerts on her account and then convinced her to download technology.
One person even told Which? he had requested tech support for problems with his computer before later receiving a call from a fake engineer. Across the UK, reported losses in the past year due to computer software service fraud have totalled over £16 million.
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