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How to stay on top of your bills and expenses

When you work at home bills and expenses arrive thick and fast

When working from home it’s essential to stay on top of all your bills. Utilities

Electricity, gas and water bills land on all our doormats with monotonous regularity. These do not change for homeworkers except be prepared for higher than average bills. Because you are there throughout the day, you will automatically use more heating, water and electricity. These on-costs can hit cashflow so be prepared.

You can claim an element back against tax – just be careful not to be greedy about this. If you claim too much, you potentially tell the taxman that your home is all about business and then, when you come to sell it, he may treat any profits made as capital gains.

If you use any heavy electrical equipment, you may have a different requirement from usual household supplies – check with your power supplier.

Now that most of the utilities are privately owned, you can shop around for the cheapest supplier. This might be worthwhile if your costs are going to be a lot higher but balance the money saved on your bill with the time spent on finding the cheaper supplier.

Telephone

If you have teenage children, arguing over the phone bill will probably be part of your way of life – even with itemised billing. Once you start working from home, the telephone bill can become a serious bone of contention.

If possible, have at least two lines into the house. This makes sense, not just for easier division of the bill, but also to avoid your children hogging the line when you are waiting for an important business call.

Also, most homeworkers will need internet access and probably a fax line – one telephone is just not enough these days. BT have launched their BT Home Highway package with a flourish – splitting one line into three – and there are other systems on the market.

Think carefully about what you need and shop around. It is probably as well to have a separate business voice line. Again you don’t want your young child answering the phone to an important client and potentially costing you the deal.

With companies fighting to secure our internet business it is a good time to have a dedicated line for the internet. With a range of free access, and now free internet calls, offers on the market – your best bet is to shop around and keep your eyes open. With free calls, millions of us will possibly have our internet lines open all day – the telephone companies may be dreading the drain on their resources – but we will need separate lines into our houses to cope.

And think about what will happen when you are away from home. Again, mobile phone packages are two-a-penny these days and there is bound to be a cost-effective option for you.

But who will answer the land line in your absence? If your other half is out at work all day and the house is otherwise empty, think about automatic diversions on to your mobile. An answer machine is essential – just remember to tell the children not to wipe any messages. Many answer machines come as integral parts of a telephone.

Also think about a cordless phone. That way you can be out in the garden on a sunny day and not tied to your office, waiting for the phone to ring.

Travel Expenses

And finally, another sometimes unexpected drain on your startup resources are travel expenses. Even though you are working from home, there will often be a need to travel – whether this is simply a trip to the post office each day with your mail or whether it is flying off to exotic parts to meet a client.

Think about the up-front costs and how much you will be able to claim back. Some expenses you can charge to clients while others can be offset against tax, but you will need to fund them all yourself up front.

Overall, none of these costs should impact too heavily on the business as long as you have factored them into your initial planning.

You can claim an element back against tax – just be careful not to be greedy about this.

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