Working from home has seen many people's energy, broadband and mobile costs rise. But that doesn't have to be the case.
The recent outbreak of Covid-19 has been the catalyst that has forced countless companies to finally embrace more flexible working arrangements, albeit at an accelerated pace.
Like it or loathe it, working from home (WFH) appears here to stay and we’re likely to see more and more people continue with it even as life and business slowly gets back to normal.
And while WFH should see most people save hugely on their commuting and childcare costs, other expenses are likely to rise.
As always, here at bonkers.ie, we have your back. So here are 12 ways for you to cut back on costs and save money while working from home.
1. Invest in some Tupperware and a slow cooker
If there’s one positive to take from the Covid-19 pandemic it’s that it's afforded us some extra time to put a bit more thought into our food habits. And one easy and healthy way to eat better is by preparing our own meals, which both your body and your budget will thank you for.
By far the easiest way to make savings is batch cooking. This can sometimes evoke negative connotations but this shouldn't be the case. It’s possible to prepare really tasty meals in large quantities and at a fraction of the cost of eating out.
Meals such as stews, soups, pasta dishes, as well as casseroles can all be batch made and frozen in a chest freezer for later consumption - and if you have a slow cooker your options are endless!
Tupperware or generic plastic food containers can be purchased for as little as €10 to €20 for a set of five or more, which can be used to plan your meals for the week ahead while a slow cooker can be bought for under €50.
Not only does cooking food at home help to save money otherwise spent eating out, meal time can be re-taken as a designated family time, and can be used to chat with those you live with during lockdown, which can really help with your mental health at a time like this.
2. Use your cooking appliances more efficiently
Before working from home every day, many of us disregarded or simply weren’t aware of the sheer amount of energy that's used to prepare our food. Appliances use a lot of electricity, especially during the day. However, these simple cooking tips will help to keep your costs down as you spend more time cooking at home.
If you’re cooking using the oven there's no need to wait until it's reached its desired temperature before putting your food in, especially if it’s meat or food that requires a half hour or longer. You wouldn’t turn on your electric shower for ten minutes before using it, so why should an oven be any different?
However, as a general rule, if you’re baking or cooking anything that contains flour and eggs you will need to preheat your oven, but in most other cases you don’t as you're simply wasting money. Keeping the oven door shut as much as possible during the cooking process will also help to conserve energy and save money. Leaving the oven open after it has been turned off will also help to heat the room and make use of any remaining heat.
Make sure to keep a lid on your saucepans too so that you're not letting energy escape. And when you're making a cup of tea, don't overfill the kettle. Many people fill the kettle by force of habit, but if you only want one cup of tea, simply fill it with 250ml instead of 1l.
3. Splash out on a coffee machine
Another enormous expense we encounter is our morning cup of coffee, and if you're anything like me there'll be an afternoon and an evening one too!
If you regularly purchase coffee on your morning commute, depending on where you pick it up, it can set you back as much as €3.50 or more per cup - which is over €70 a month.
And while our spend on coffee has probably gone down as more of us WFH, many of us still probably find ourselves walking to the local coffee shop most days to get a daily fix of freshly brewed java (as well as some fresh air of course).
So if you haven't done so already, now's the time to finally invest in a good cafetière, Nespresso, or coffee machine. These are all much cheaper alternatives to getting your daily coffee fix when working from home, and can be just as tasty, especially when you make it yourself! A large coffee pot can be bought for €10 in Lidl, and perhaps even cheaper online while some Nespresso machines are on offer from the likes of Arnotts and Brown Thomas for under €100.
4. Change your immersion and heating settings
Working from home will also mean a slightly different daily routine for many people so it might also be worthwhile checking the settings on your immersion and heating systems and changing them to a slightly different time to accommodate your new routine. For example, you may previously have had the immersion and heating set from five to seven every morning. However if you're now getting up an hour later as you no longer have a long commute, there may be no need to have the heating or water on so early anymore.
And of course is goes without saying that if you don't have a good quality lagging jacket for your immersion then now's the time to buy one. Heating water uses a huge amount of electricity so don't let it go to waste.
5. Make sure you're on the best broadband package for your needs
Working from home requires a number of necessities to get you through the day, many of which you normally would have relied upon your employer to provide. One of these is a strong and reliable broadband connection. And the good news is that there are plenty of great deals on offer right now for those looking to save.
Customers who switch broadband with bonkers.ie today could get speeds of up to 1000Mbps or pay as little as €20 a month for unlimited fixed-line broadband.
Whether you're looking for a cheaper package, more data, or a faster connection, our broadband comparison service lets you easily compare prices, speeds and features across all the main providers in Ireland.
6. Wi-Fi call where possible
Most bill pay plans these days offer unlimited calls but if you're on a pay-as-you-go plan and are being charged for calls, but have free data, try to substitute making a costly landline or mobile call for calling over Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or one of the many and various free internet calling services instead.
7. Avail of the e-worker tax relief
Many tax incentives are relatively unknown and underused by those who need them and the e-worker relief is no exception. If you work from home it's possible to claim tax relief on certain expenses such as lighting, heat, and even broadband.
These tax incentives were available to those working from home on a full or part-time basis before the country went into lockdown and are now available to anyone forced to work from home, too!
Employers can pay members of staff €3.20 per day, which is exempt from PRSI or USC, to cover the additional costs of working from home, such as increased energy expenses. However, employers are under no legal obligation to do so.
In the case of an employer not ponying up, or if they are simply unable to do so, employees have the recourse of claiming the money back against their own tax bill at the end of the year. To do so, however, you will need receipts of bills and written correspondence from your employer to state that you do in fact work from home and are eligible. Nonetheless, if you now work from home you're eligible for tax relief which can go a long way to help paying the bills.
And what's more, if you work from home and your employer chooses to cover the daily costs of up to €3.20 you can still claim tax relief from Revenue on costs incurred that exceed this limit.
How much can I claim?
Revenue’s rate for the cost of running a home office is 10% of the total cost.
If your employer pays you the given allowance, the amount paid to you is deducted from the amount you can claim back from Revenue.
Take for example if you've been working from home for six months due to Covid-19 and your bills for energy and broadband come to €1,000. You will be able to claim back a total of 10%, which works out at €100.
The amount you receive back will however depend on your tax band. So if you pay tax at the higher rate of 40% you will receive 40% of €100 back, working out at €40.
8. Conserve energy usage on your laptop and computer
As we all get used to our new living and working arrangements one thing we might not be used to is conserving energy on the devices we work with. Bad habits like leaving your laptop constantly plugged in or forgetting to use the most energy efficient settings for your computer all add up. However, there are some simple and practical measures you can take in order to make sure the devices you use when working aren’t guzzling electricity.
One of easiest things you can do is not leave your electrics constantly plugged in. Most devices left plugged in continue to drain energy and can account for 15% of the device's total usage. So pull the plug whenever your laptop or computer isn't in use.
Also, leaving a laptop or phone constantly plugged in can cause extra wear and tear to the battery meaning you could have to replace it sooner than necessary. In general it's best to abide by the 40-80 rule, which advises to disconnect the mains once the battery reaches 80% or above and reconnect when the battery drops below 40%. This is because undercharging and overcharging can lead to a battery’s lifespan being depleted quicker.
Another small tip that goes a long way is changing the energy saving settings on your laptop and monitor. These settings allow you to adjust specific features such as dimming the display while on battery power and sleeping automatically when not in use, which will help to reduce the amount of energy your device uses, as well as helping with overall battery life.
9. Choose the best seat in the house
Choosing the right workspace will not only help to maximise your ability to tackle your workflow, but could also save you money on your energy bills.
It may seem like a task reserved for an episode of Room to Improve but mapping out your work space to follow the natural progression of sunlight throughout the day is worth the short time it takes to plan, especially if it saves you turning on the heating unnecessarily.
Depending on how your home is laid out, you may find certain rooms to be warmer and/or brighter at different times of the day, so where possible, you should follow the path of the sun so that you’re in the right room at the right time in terms of warmth and light for a more comfortable WFH experience!
Here’s a general guide to the orientation of most rooms and how they attract natural sunlight.
North facing rooms
The sun rises in the East and sets in the West and because of this North facing rooms generally have less light. Think of it as a room facing north having its back to the sun. This means that a room facing due north can feel colder as it has its ‘back’ to the light. For example, if you live in a two-bedroom apartment with a north and south facing room, working in the south-facing room in the mid-morning or early afternoon is best if at all possible.
East/West facing rooms
In East facing rooms, because the sun rises in this direction your space will be radiant in the morning and colder in the evening time. This is of course the opposite for rooms facing West. It all depends on your living situation and what you have to work with.
South facing rooms
Rooms facing south are perhaps the easiest to work in as they love the sun and directly face natural light for the majority of the day. Moving into a south-facing room at midday might work well as it will already have had time to heat up and you will be able to experience the sun’s natural light in all its splendour and for its peak hours.
10. Check out Amazon Prime
For many workers a Thursday evening stroll into town or the local shopping centre was a regular occurrence to window shop, browse or pick up some items. But with many highstreet stores set to remain closed until the end of summer at least, buying online may be the only way for people to get their retail fix for the foreseeable future.
And while online retailing is easier and safer than hitting the highstreet at present, it comes with one disadvantage - delivery charges, which for Irish customers can often be excessive to what our neighbours in the UK have to pay. But that's where Amazon Prime comes in.
Redefining online delivery, Amazon offers customers a to-your-door delivery service through its Amazon Prime monthly subscription. Coming in at a cost of just under €10 per month for Irish customers, it’s possible to completely circumvent delivery charges. Prime delivery also allows customers in the Republic of Ireland access to unlimited two-day delivery - sign me up!
Not only this, Prime account holders will also receive access to stream or download thousands of popular movies and TV shows with Prime Video, Amazon’s online streaming service which is included in the subscription price.
It’s true that many websites, especially online clothes retailers, will offer free delivery if you order over a certain amount. However, with Prime, delivery is very reliable and is always free for Prime account holders, and with Prime Video thrown in, the subscription really is appealing for those working from home.
However, there’s still a lot to be said for shopping around. Signing up can save you money on delivery costs, give you great discounts on products as well as satisfy your entertainment needs, however, it really depends on your spending habits and what exactly it is you're buying.
11. Apply for a tax refund
With more time spent at home now's the perfect occasion to save some money by playing catch up on all that life admin you've been putting off - chief of which is applying for a tax refund.
It can’t be underestimated just how quick and easy applying is and the whole process can be completed within a matter of minutes through 'PAYE services' in your online account, accessible through revenue.ie, or else on the RevApp.
Tax refunds can be claimed for up to four years and if you haven’t claimed anything since 2016 then there is no time like the present to do so as you could be in for a nice lump sum as you work from home.
To check if you’re due a refund for any of the years 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019 all you have to do is go to the PAYE service in your online account and request an ‘End of Year Statement’, which is called form P21. It’s that simple.
And that’s not the only way to save some money on tax when working from home. While doing some life admin why not take a look at these 10 ways to pay less tax.
12. Switch energy providers
Last but not least, it’s quite possibly the money-saving technique we talk about the most, but it’s certainly the most effective time and time again when it comes to saving our customers some cash, and fast!
Luckily we’re coming into the summer months when energy bills usually tend to fall. However, many customers have experienced a rise in their electricity usage since working from home, so now is as good a time as ever to change suppliers!
Similar to applying for a tax refund, switching energy providers can be completed in a matter of minutes on bonkers.ie. Just use our easy-to-use price comparison tool which compares the best gas and electricity deals on the market. You could save up to €421 if you switch your gas and electricity bills while working from home today.
Stay in touch
So there you have it, 12 ways to cut back on costs while working from home to save you some dosh.
If you have any questions about working from home or would like to know more, you can leave us a comment below.