By LESLEY GREGORY
By now many of you will have fallen into one of two camps: those who love working from home (WFH), and those who can’t wait to go back to the office.
That perspective is mostly about how you’re able to cope in a home office. Do you have enough space for at least two people to have their own office spaces? Or are you sharing the dining table? Those with interruptions like noisy neighbours or younger, needier children may find it hard to focus. Others will find their home office is quieter and more productive than the open-plan space they shared at work.
But there’s another way to look at WFH: as an opportunity to save some money.
Yes, some of you may have had to invest in a desk, a more ergonomic chair and other office fittings. But there are other substantial savings that free up money. Think about how you can redirect this money to savings and investments rather than letting it fritter away.
Dressing for the office can be expensive – much more expensive than the casual clothes you’re probably wearing now. And you don’t need as many clothes because people aren’t there to see the same outfit on high rotate. Your shoe bill will definitely be lower, as the item least likely to be seen on a Zoom call. Goodbye heels, hello slippers. My estimate is that I’ll easily save about £800 on clothing and accessories in 2020.
If you were used to wandering out of the office to buy coffees and a full lunch, you could have been spending around £15 a day. That’s a whopping £3600 a year – and that’s with four weeks holiday. To be fair, your home groceries bill has probably gone up, but certainly not by that much. And that’s offset by the fact that, in our household, we are buying “emergency” takeaway food much less often. There’s now always someone home to get dinner started on time. Let’s call it a saving of £3000.
The brakes are definitely on public transport costs if you’re WFH. Depending on where you live, and how far you were travelling each day, you could have been spending £1000, £2000 or even more on bus or train fares. If you were driving to work, the cost of petrol and parking, let alone depreciation of your car, could have been even higher. Our household is saving at least £140 a week on the luxury of driving to work. That’s £6720 a year. A weekly travelcard might be setting you back, say, £3000 a year.
Some employers have paid to set people up with the right equipment for a home office. Some of you will have made your own investments in equipment, or had it already.
In broad terms, items directly connected to earning an income, where you’ve borne the cost yourself, can be claimed in your next tax return.
So, keep your receipts and remember to correctly apportion the private component of expenses like internet. I’m estimating an additional £400 in my next tax return.
When you add it up, the savings could add up to a tidy sum. Of course, the numbers will differ depending on your location and habits, but it highlights the point there are savings to be captured and applied more productively elsewhere.
Doing this exercise may also give you some perspective for when you do return to work — in our case, getting back into the habit of public transport rather than expensive car parking.
It’s also something to think about if your employer gives you the option to continue WFH even after some semblance of normality returns. After all, they’ll have discovered they are saving money too.
LESLEY GREGORY is an experienced personal finance and consumer journalist. If you’re interested in more of her personal finance tips, here are some more of her most recent articles:
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