Working from home? Watch out for these money traps

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Not having to go into an office every day can seem like the best thing for your bank account. Gone are your commuting costs, daily lunch tabs and those pricey dry cleaning runs for your work wardrobe. But working from home still comes with its own set of bills. Create a work-from-home budget with these costs in mind to make sure clocking in from your couch is as good for your wallet as it is for your work life.

Grocery Bill

Let’s face it: If you’re home more, you’re going to spend more time eating there. While you’re no longer making trips to the vending machine at the office, you’re also not benefiting from the occasional free lunch or weekly donut spread in the break room. That can mean you’re nibbling your way through the fridge’s contents faster than you ever have before. It’s still a good idea to keep your kitchen stocked with your favorite foods so you can get through the day nourished and energized (and not be tempted to order takeout), but you should also reset your grocery limit to account for your new normal when it comes to eating in.

Utility Bills

Keeping the lights on all day will raise your electricity bill—but not by as much as you’d think. Energy-efficient bulbs typically use about 25-80 percent less energy than traditional lights, saving you money while going green (win-win).1 Of course, if you keep the TV on, too, your electric bill could go up. And don’t forget about the heat and AC costs. After you’ve been working from home for a few months, take a hard look at your utility bills to get a sense of your average costs. Can you bring that number down by setting the thermostat a few degrees higher in summer or lower in winter? Figure out what feels doable for you, then aim to stay close to that average each month.

Tech Support

Your company probably had in-house tech support, which made it easy to get help if the printer was on the fritz or your computer kept freezing. But if part of your work-from-home deal requires you to cover any maintenance issues out of pocket, keep a cash cushion to handle minor repairs that may come up. If you’re using your own computer, it’s a smart idea to spring for an external hard drive to back up your files.

Office Supplies

You probably never thought twice about hitting up the stock cabinet for pens, highlighters, staples, notepads ... the list goes on and on. You’ll now want to keep track of how many supplies you need to work efficiently at home. And don’t forget to factor in the cost of paper and ink for your printer. Like any expense directly related to doing your job, find out if your employer will reimburse you before shelling out the cash. If not, you may be able to save those receipts and get a break on your taxes.

 

1 “How Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Compare With Traditional Incandescents,” United States Department of Energy

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