Your money: making it work – from home

October 27, 2020

With many of us now working from home this could be a good time to review your finances. You can use our budget planner to work out what you are spending your money on and compare this with your income. Work out a plan that suits you (or your household) and helps you keep control of your spending effectively while working from home.

Here are some tips to help you make the most out of the money saving benefits that working from home can bring.

Tax relief on expenses

You may be eligible for tax relief on expenses like light, heat, phone and broadband. Check with your employer if they are paying an allowance towards your expenses while you work remotely. You can receive up to €3.20 per day without paying any tax, PRSI or USC on it. If your employer pays you more than €3.20 per day to cover expenses, you will pay tax, PRSI and USC as normal on the amount above €3.20.

If your employer does not pay you an allowance, you may be able to claim tax relief at the end of the year on the taxes you have paid.

Find out more about tax relief and how to apply.

Review your broadband package

There’s no doubt that using your home as an office means you need good broadband to make sure you can work without interruption. There are plenty of options out there and now could be the ideal time to shop around and look for a better package that could save you money.

When checking out broadband providers, think about which type of pricing model will suit you best: a flat monthly fee or a pay-as-you-use plan. Usually you are required to sign up for a minimum period, often a year. It’s important to check what the contract period is, and what exactly you are committing to, before you sign up. If you already have a broadband provider, check your current contract before switching to a different package or provider, as you might be charged if you decide to cancel your contract early. Remember to shop around – some providers offer broadband without having to sign up to a contract.

You will usually be supplied with any equipment needed to access broadband, like a modem or router, depending on the kind of service you sign up for. Be sure to ask before you sign up to a service, and make sure it includes all the equipment you will need.

Wi-Fi call where possible

Many companies and organisations are set up with online meeting and video conferencing platforms such as Skype, Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp, among others. Make sure you check if you can call someone through these options first before using up minutes on your mobile package or landline.

Save on your home heating bills

Now that the winter months are fast approaching and we are working from home, we need our home offices to be warm and comfortable, so you may find that your gas and electricity bills are getting higher over the coming months. Making a few simple changes can lead to big savings on your gas and electricity bills.

Some simple tips to save on your heating bills:

  • Heating water is one of the most expensive electricity costs in the home. You can save money by only heating as much water as you need. Install a timer control switch for your hot water tank if you don’t already have one.
  • Keep the water warm with insulation or a lagging jacket on the tank. A good quality 80mm lagging jacket will save you up to 30% on your water heating costs. It will pay for itself in just three months.
  • Insulating your home is an easy and cost-effective way to save money on your heating bills. For example, insulating your attic can cut your heating bills by up to 25% and you may be eligible for an insulation grant.
  • Reduce your heating to a comfortable 20°C. Lowering your thermostat by just 1°C can knock 10% off your heating bill.
  • Get your boiler serviced every year to help ensure it is safe, that it’s operating efficiently, and to help avoid breakdowns. Modern boilers are far more efficient and cost effective than older types. Make sure you always use a registered gas installer.
  • Block up leaks and drafts, particularly around windows, doors and the roof. Never block vents in your rooms.
  • Use heavy curtains, preferably lined ones, to keep in warm air. Close curtains at night – even in empty rooms. Open the curtains during the day to let in the heat from the sun. Make sure that curtains don’t hang over radiators as they will block heat getting into the room.

More money saving tips can be found on the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) website.

Switch providers

If you think you are paying too much for electricity or gas, you should see if you could switch to a new provider and save. Switching is easy, can be completed in a matter of minutes and it’s also free. Shop around to check which plan works best for you. Make sure you are comparing like with like and remember domestic and business rates will differ. Make sure you compare both the unit rate and the standing charge when comparing plans.

Here are some things to consider when switching:

  • Consider getting natural gas and electricity from the same provider. Some suppliers offer discounts if you get both your gas and electricity from them.
  • Consider paying by direct debit. Most suppliers offer discounts if you pay your bills by direct debit.
  • You are entitled to a 14-day cooling-off period, so if you are not happy with the terms and conditions of your contract, you can cancel it within that time. Remember though, if the service has already started, you might have to pay for the portion you have used.
  • For accredited price comparison websites visit bonkers.ie, www.switcher.ie. or powertoswitch.ie

The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities has a list of electricity and gas providers with some helpful hints and tips on switching.

Public transport

Many people are seeing the advantages of not having to pay for the train, bus, petrol or parking. If you paid for a Taxsaver travel ticket before you started working from home, and are no longer required to travel to work, a refund will be offered to cover the remaining period of ticket validity. This should be from the time the restrictions were put in place.

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