The work from home trend has been all the rage for quite a few years now. While the concept seemed foreign just 10 or 15 years ago, it’s quite likely that you–or someone you know–spends at least some time working from home.
It’s not hard to point out the obvious benefits of working from home. The freedom. The work-life balance. The money savings.
But wait. Does working from home really save you money? In reality, those daily expenses quickly add up when compared to working in a traditional work setting.
Most people automatically assume that working from home will equate to cost savings because you will not be tempted to go out to eat with your fellow workers multiple days per week. And that may be true. But think about how much more food you will need at home if you are working there all the time. The money you might saving on eating out simply shifts to your grocery bill!
You can curb this potentially high expense by pre-planning and making smart food choices. Avoid filling your kitchen with snacks and sweets like a vending machine. Instead, stock up on fresh fruits that will give you the energy you need to complete your work day at home. A little meal planning could go a long way, too. Surf the internet for meal ideas, then pack each serving into washable, reusable containers that you can quickly grab and get back to work. Your food choices will definitely affect your productivity, so do your best to stay away from things like chips, cookies, candy and similar items that provide little to no nutritional value.
Printer ink. Paper. Computer software. Sticky notes. Writing utensils. Who’s going to pay for all the work-related office supplies you need? It is true that some companies will either supply these goods on your behalf. Other companies may require you to purchase them first, then reimburse you later. If you work on a freelance basis or you own your own business, then of course, buying supplies is all up to you. No matter what your situation is, it is crucial to know up front what kinds of supplies, you will need, how often, and who is responsible for buying them.
If you work for a company that allows you to work from home, you probably have to meet certain criteria before you are approved to do so. For example, if you do not have access to reliable and fast high-speed internet service, you may not be able to perform your job efficiently from home. That means you would have to install or upgrade to a service that can accommodate your work needs. If your company does not cover that cost (and they probably won’t because internet service is considered a pretty basic necessity these days), then you have to decide if that added monthly charge is affordable for you or not.
Bills, bills, bills
There’s no way around it–your utility bills are going to increase when you work from home. Electricity will be in use all day long. A person who works from home full-time will always use more power than the average person, especially when you have one or more computers running all day. And that’s just the beginning. Your air conditioning or heat, depending on the season, will be in use all or most of the day. Are you ready for those increased bills every month?
No matter what expenses you have to pay out of pocket as a freelancer or a work from home employee, it would be wise to consult your tax professional about which expenses are considered tax-deductible and can be written off come tax season.