Cut the hidden costs of working from home with these easy tips
Working from home is fantastic; you save on gas, you don’t have to spend an hour or more in traffic each day, and the dress code is unbeatable. However, setting up and running your own home office means that you pick up some of the costs that would otherwise be paid by your employer. Here are a few tips to minimize those expenses and hang on to more of what you earn.
Buy used, and upgrade regularly -: One of the biggest drains on small businesses is the cost of computers, printers, and other appliances—and if you work from home, you bear a part of that cost. Computers, like cars, lose a lot of their value as soon as they leave the store; you can take advantage of that by buying lightly used computers from online retailers, or searching your local online classifieds. Unlike cars, computers are relatively inexpensive to repair and upgrade, so as long as you have a computer repair shop you trust, you don’t have to worry too much about getting a “lemon”.
Also, be realistic about your needs. If you work in an industry like freelance writing that mainly involves web browsing, word processing, and spreadsheets, you don’t need a $1000 computer; a $250 business notebook with a couple years on it should more than suffice. And even when your computer starts to sputter over basic tasks, a new computer may not be the smartest option; buying some extra RAM or paying for a thorough malware sweep might solve the problem for a tenth the cost of a new machine.
Watch your energy costs -:
- Buy green appliances. While you’re shopping around for your home office supplies, use a service like http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/greenmeter/id289973918?mt=8 Green Outlet to find out how much energy drain you’re signing up for. Your computer and monitor are easily the biggest drain on your electric bill, so buy an LCD instead of an energy-guzzling CRT display, and if possible, opt for a laptop rather than a desktop. Desktops use eight times as much power as comparable laptops, and expend more energy in sleep mode than a laptop does running at full tilt.
- Reduce “vampire drain” by unplugging all your devices at the end of your workday. To make this easier, have your printer, computer, display, shredder, and any other office appliances plugged into a single surge protector—that way, you can simply unplug the power strip when you’re finished working. This technique can potentially halve the energy cost of running your home office.
- Stay comfortable efficiently by using fans and space heaters in your office, rather than blasting air-conditioning or heat through your entire house just to keep you comfortable in one room.
Be careful about your telecommunications bills
If you work from home, you’re going to spend a lot more time on the phone and online, so you need to be careful about how much you pay for it. Since you’ll be home most of the day, think about canceling either your home or cell phone line and consolidating. If your main office uses Skype, check out Skype Mobile as a way to handle all your internal calls for free over your smart-phone. Many other VoIP services offer wifi calling apps for your smart-phone as well. Also, do your homework when selecting an ISP; if your work involves streaming video or graphic design, an ISP that throttles your connection may seriously limit your productivity.
Julia Peterson is a writer for AndGeeks.com, a popular website that provides up-to-date news, detailed commentary, and unbiased reviews. Julia resides in Galveston, Texas in a cozy little house in the country with her husband, young son, and their Labrador retriever, Darby.