Working From Home - Tips on Managing your Budget

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by Siobhan, North Dublin MABS

It has been recommended that where possible people should work from home as a precaution against spreading of COVID-19. As a result of the restrictions introduced by Government over the movement of people and non-essential goods and services, it has been necessary to adapt at short notice, and start working from home.

For many of us, working from home is very different and something new. We are presented with a new way of working and new challenges. Once we get over the technical hurdles and settle in, that’s when we might notice changes to our spending. Some bills may increase and others reduce.

We have put together things for you to consider while working at home that we hope you will find useful to help you with your budgeting.

Stay up to date with information

Trying to navigate social media for accurate information can make things more complicated, increasing our anxiety. There is a lot of ‘fake news’ or simply inaccurate information out there, so it is vital that you only use reputable websites for information to rely on.

Citizensinformation.ie provides up to date information on a wide range of important matters such as tax and social welfare payment as well as other matters such as driving tests or rights on cancellation of flights, consider this website your one-stop-shop.

MABS.ie has weekly blogs, giving readers tips on budgeting and contacting creditors. MABS.ie also has a live feed that keeps up to date with supports and measures such as Mortgage Payment Breaks and initiatives with utility providers, to name a few topics.

The Government has launched a Together Campaign and portal on the Government of Ireland website gov.ie. The portal provides advice and tips on how to look after yourself and others during this challenging time. Here are the different categories.

Budgeting for Working at Home

If you have never budgeted before, don’t worry. Start with a pen and notebook. Put all your money coming in on one page and money out on the other. Your phone or computer calculator will help you do the maths. We have a number of resources to help with this. You can use the online simple budgeting tool, download our spreadsheet calculator (you will need Microsoft Excel to use this) or download the MABS Budgeting App from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Start small with a budget for three months; identify any shortfall and things you need to plan for. Focus on priorities – food, utilities, rent or mortgage, phone and internet, any medical expenses and other important expenses you have.

If you think you are going to struggle to make some payments, contact your creditors to explain your situation.

MABS can assist you. You can contact us on 0761 07 2000, or by emailing helpline@mabs.ie, or you can message us through our new messenger service on our website. You can find the contact details for your local office here.

Making small savings

Many families are currently experiencing increases in their food shopping bills. For most, family members are all eating at home for every meal, when they might usually eat at work, school or college.

We usually think of meal planning when we know we will be pushed for time to cook after work. However, meal planning is an excellent way to help reduce food bills at the moment. Plan your weekly meals and snacks and reduce the amount of food waste by only buying the food you need. When shopping, ask yourself “do I need it?”

If you have more time at home, try cooking from scratch rather than buying ready-made meals – it is cheaper, especially for bigger families.

A budget will help you decide on what expenses you can reduce or remove altogether. Review the standing orders and direct debits on your bank statements to see where you can make some savings.

For example, companies who provide sports channels and gym memberships may allow customers to suspend these charges at this time. Contact your provider and ask what they are offering. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.

Shop around to make your money go further - compare prices for food, gas, electricity, phone and internet. Contact your current provider and see if they will give you any discounts. Websites such as Bonkers.ie offer cost comparisons which can help you decide.

What can your current phone or broadband providers offer you?

It was announced recently that all major telecoms providers have committed to several measures to help people stay in touch and work from home during COVID-19. All major providers have signed up, including BT Ireland, Eir, Pure Telecom, Sky Ireland, Tesco Mobile Ireland, Three Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland and Vodafone.

Some measures include temporary upgrades of your current package or other offers like zero use websites, such as school and government website.

You can find out more information here, and perhaps a call to your provider could be worth it to see what is on offer to you. Again, if you don’t ask, you won't know.

Maximising your income

Income Tax Relief

An employee who works from home can claim tax relief to cover the additional expenses such as heating and electricity. Revenue allows an employer to make payments up to €3.20 per day to employees who satisfy the conditions for the relief, without deducting PAYE, PRSI, or USC. Any payment by your employer of more than this figure will be taxable. Find out more here.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

An employee who uses part of their home for work will not be affected by their Principal Private Residence Relief claim for full exemption for CGT. Find out more here.

Local Property Tax (LPT)

A reduction in LPT cannot be applied for use of a room in the home.

Motor Tax

There is no provision to allow for a break in payment of Motor Tax. However, it is possible to declare a vehicle off the road, provided this is done in the expiry month of the current tax disc. Such a declaration requires the car to be kept off a public road.

Other possible reductions or refunds

Motor Insurance

There is no statutory requirement for any motor insurance provider to offer a reduction in premium where the car is not being used. However there is anecdotal evidence that insurers will look at reductions in individual cases sympathetically, and some insurers are offering partial refunds. Some level of Third Party Fire & Theft cover must be maintained in the event of total loss or damage. Please check with your insurer and ensure any reduction offered does not affect issues such as your no claims bonus or reinstatement of full cover.

Health Insurance

Private Health Insurers have indicated partial refunds in premium, and you should contact your provider for specific details of your entitlements. The HIA advises individuals to check with their insurance company to find out the measures that will be available to them. Anyone who has concerns about their individual policies is advised to contact HIA consumer advisers at info@hia.iewhere staff will be happy to help answer any questions you may have.

Home & Contents Insurance

There is no provision to allow for a reduction in the cost of home & contents insurance. It is, therefore, vital that this cover is paid up to date.

Life Assurance

Insurers will consider offering payment breaks for cover and it is advisable to satisfy yourself that such breaks will not invalidate cover. As this is a payment break you will be required to repay such premium at a future date.

You can contact your local MABS office , chat through our live chat or call the MABS Helpline on 0761 07 2000, Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm or you can check the MABS News Feed for further updates and guidance.

Follow @MABSinfo on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.