As a freelance writer, one of the things I really enjoy about my job is that I am able to work from home. I also have two small children whom I care for on a full-time basis and I love that my freelance work allows me to set my own hours so that I can spend as much time as possible with them.
However, having two children means that as a family, we need to be careful with how we spend our money and to cut costs wherever we can. I am particularly conscious that there are often things I could be doing on a daily basis that would bring about small savings. They don’t seem like much, but so far they seem to be adding up to some decent changes in our household expenditure. I therefore thought that it might be useful to share some of the ways I try to save money while working from home, which helps to ensure my freelance earnings bring us the maximum possible benefit.
Plan meals ahead
I’ve written before about how I like to plan the week’s main meals ahead of time, but I also like to do the same for all our other meals and snacks. Ensuring that I have enough healthy food to hand means that I can eat relatively well without popping to the shops each day. This means I avoid the temptation of buying unnecessary items ‘just because they’re there’ and has the added advantage of saving me time as well, as I don’t spend ages pondering what to eat and then going out to buy it!
Check your utilities packages
If you’re at home all day, you’re likely to have the heating on more than you usually would if the house was empty during working hours. You’ll also be using more water and electricity, so it’s well worth using websites such as www.mymoney.gov, www.statefarm.com, www.whitefenceindex.com or www.fueleconomy.gov to compare utilities providers and ensure that you are paying the lowest possible rates. While you’re on the case, it’s also advisable to shop around for your telephone and internet packages so that you’re not paying over the odds for these either. You may even be able to register for business rates for some of these services.
Restrict time spent on internet window shopping
Give yourself an allocated time for surfing the internet each day, so that you don’t spend too much time being tempted to buy things online. This may seem like a small point, but it’s made a real difference to me. I also always make sure that I place items into online baskets and then actually go back to purchase them later, giving me some time and space to think about whether I really want or need them. Somehow, spending money online doesn’t feel as ‘real’ as spending it in a shop, so it was all too easy to buy things that I didn’t need.
Shop around and compare prices
Despite the above advice, sometimes it is truly necessary to make purchases for your business. When these involve spending a large amount of money, it’s well worth using price comparison websites such as www.shopper.com or www.kelkoo.com so that you’re comfortable that you’re paying the lowest possible price for your goods. You could also save money by using cash back websites such as www.mrrebates.com so that you’re actually earning money on your purchases as well. Away from the internet, it may be worth checking wholesalers for cheaper prices on any business items that you require.
Seek financial advice on expenses and taxes
Once you’re self-employed, it’s necessary to keep accurate records of all your incoming and outgoings, and to store receipts in advance of filing your tax return each year. However, once you are earning enough to pay tax, you are also able to claim back value-added tax (VAT) on items that you’ve bought that are necessary for you to run your business. Make sure you have a system for storing all the receipts for these things and if you’re not confident in doing it yourself, seek advice from an accountant so that you are aware of all the expenses on which you’re able to claim tax back (even things like utilities (as mentioned above) can be applicable if you’re using your home as your place of work). This may well only need to be a one-off cost, as once you’re clear on what you’re able to claim for you can apply the same knowledge as you complete your Self-Assessment each year.
Finally, even if the above tips make little or no difference to you, you can at least remind yourself that, with fuel costs as they are, you are likely to be saving yourself a significant amount on petrol or diesel each year by working from home and not having a regular commute!