Ready to Work Remote? Here Are the Home Office Essentials You Need

As work-from-home jobs become more ubiquitous, so do requirements for home offices.

We’ve noticed some trends in home-office requirements — some very reasonable and others… not so much. For example, some employers give thousands of dollars in stipends to deck out your home office while others require specific 17-inch dual-screen monitors without providing reimbursement.

Most remote jobs are somewhere in the middle, but it’s likely that you’ll need to invest a little in your home office before it’s work-from-home ready.

This list of home office essentials is based on common remote job requirements and advice from remote employees. It will give you an idea of what items your home office might need and how much it will cost to transition into a work-from-home career, particularly in the sales, customer service or IT fields.

Typical Office Requirements for Work-From-Home Jobs

Computer Setup

Portability is a large consideration for remote jobs. After all, half the fun of working at home is curling up in bed with your laptop on those lazy days. If that’s the case, a light laptop is your best option. But computer prices may make you feel a little queasy.

Work-from-home reporter James Duren agreed.

“Spending more than $1,000 on a MacBook, for example, isn’t always feasible, even if we write them off [on taxes],” Duren said.

He uses a $170 Chromebook.

“The most beneficial aspect of it is that everything is stored in the cloud,” Duren said. “So I’m never at risk of losing documents in the event my laptop dies.”

This is a double-edged feature, however. The biggest adjustment may be the availability of apps and programs. The Chromebook is its own operating system, which means some popular applications aren’t available to download.

For jobs that require specific sales or IT software, an inexpensive PC with the latest Windows operating system may be the best choice.

High-Speed Internet

Besides a computer, the most common requirement for a work-from-home job is a steady, hard-wired internet connection. That means your laptop or computer must directly connect to your modem with an ethernet cable — not through Wi-Fi.

Typically, employers will require minimum upload and download speeds. The sweet spot seems to be 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. Try Ookla’s internet speed test to see if your current connection meets that standard.

To find the best deal, there are many websites that compare internet providers based on speed, price and area of availability. According to an estimate by internet and phone service search engine WhistleOut, you will likely pay $30 to $50 a month to meet the minimum internet speed requirement for most work-from-home jobs. (WhistleOut is owned by Clearlink, which also owns The Penny Hoarder.)

But be sure to do some comparisons on your own to get a more accurate number, as your location may affect prices.

Landline and Phone

In the customer service and sales industries especially, a solid home-office phone is a godsend. You’ll typically need call forwarding, holding, conferencing and voicemail features in your day-to-day, which is pretty standard for most office phones. Amazon has a slew of models between $50 and $80. It’s probably overkill to spend more than that.

If you were hoping to skirt landline costs by using a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service like Google Voice or your own cell phone, most employers in phone-reliant industries forbid it. They typically want a dedicated landline.

Landlines are becoming antiquated as VoIP services are taking over, but some large companies like AT&T provide plans for less than $25 a month when bundled with internet services. If you already have a landline service, adding an additional line or bundling it with your current internet or cable provider may save you some cash, too.

A woman takes a work from home call while wearing a headset at her home office.
Getty Images

Headset and Microphone

Headsets are frequently required, but even if the job listing doesn’t specify them, a noise-canceling headset can do wonders for productivity. And during meetings or phone calls, you’ll probably need your hands free for note taking.

“For telecommuting, the most important tool is a good headset that allows me to comfortably attend meetings without the noises of my neighborhood intruding,” remote content writer Arwen Brenneman said.

Several remote workers recommended their favorite pair of headphones and headsets to The Penny Hoarder. If you have the funds, software developer Austin Grandt recommends Bose QuietComfort headphones.

“The headphones are perfect for working at home or in a shared setting like a co-working space, as the noise-cancelling puts me into my own zone,” Grandt said. “The built-in microphone on the cable of the headphones also works great for when you have to have video chats or phone calls.”

The Bose headset can range anywhere from $200 to $400 on Amazon, depending on the model.

If you’re looking for a cheaper setup, Srhythm has a highly rated noise-reduction headset with a built-in microphone for around $50.

Desk

It would be pretty rare for a job listing to specifically require a desk. It’s kind of a given.

But desks are sometimes overlooked. Realistically, the standard cubicle-sized desk doesn’t work for apartments or home offices.

So it’s good to consider your size and storage limitations when shopping around.

“I believe the best purchase I ever made was a stand-up desk,” said Matt Schmidt, a remote insurance adviser. “Being able to go from a sitting desk to standing desk throughout the day was a lifesaver.”

Schmidt recommended the xec-FIT desk, which runs for around $300, but you can find adjustable desks for half that price on Amazon.

What about portability?

“A $15 IKEA bed-tray is my go-to for working from the cozy comfort of my couch,” Brenneman said.

An office desk and chair are shown in this photo. Both a desk and office chair are essential items to purchase when working from home.
Getty Images

Office chair

If there is one home office essential to splurge on, it’s the office chair. Being uncomfortable is really distracting, and bad posture leads to a host of other long-term issues. Creature comforts are important when it comes to sitting for hours at a time.

“One of the most important items for me personally is a comfortable and posture-support chair,” said Nicholas Kinports, a remote business development executive.

His go-to chair is from Aeron. The model he suggested will cost you up to $500, but Kinports said it’s worth every penny.

For a more budget-friendly option, try the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Chair. According to ReviewGeek, it’s the best chair if you’re trying not to sell an arm and a leg to support your back.

“It’s the little things that can cause distractions and discomfort,” Kinports said. “Make sure you invest in exactly what you need to achieve your best focus everyday.”

Dual Monitors

Monitor specs are usually contained to the IT, sales or customer service industries. But as a writer, I find dual monitors extremely beneficial. They help me stay organized by separating tabs and tasks to certain screens.

“As a [software] developer, an extra screen is also a must,” said Grandt. “Something that is larger than the 13-inch laptop… keeps me productive.”

PC Magazine rated the best monitors of 2021, and Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 received a great review. Its screen brightness and portability make it ideal for home-office use. And in most home offices, desk space is a luxury. Consider adding a monitor mount for an extra $30 or so.

The Little Extras

Although they may not be considered “essential,” making your home office comfortable enough to work in every day may require a few more touches of comfort. You may not need any of the following items to get started, but you’ll likely want to incorporate some of these extras into your home office eventually:

  • Office supplies. Think notepads, pens and paper clips.
  • Power strip. The more electronics you accumulate, the more you’ll appreciate extra outlets.
  • Good task lighting. Your eyes will thank you for it.
  • Shelving or an organizational system. Yes, you can be totally digital. But you still may want a place to store professional reference books or your coffee mug collection.

If you land a work-from-home gig that doesn’t cover home-office costs, be prepared to dish out $700 as a one-time investment to ensure your workspace is up to snuff. For the costlier options on the list, it could run you up to $2,500 — not including monthly internet, phone payments or pajamas.

And freelancers, be sure to write these expenses off as itemized deductions on your taxes.

Adam Hardy is former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

A happy woman who struck it rich throws cash around
ViDI Studio / Shutterstock.com

If you’ve looked over your budget and think you can’t cut it down anymore, maybe you need to look a little harder.

There are probably some expenses you still could reduce — or drop altogether — to save thousands of dollars a year.

We found some examples of these costs. Here’s how to slash them if you are really determined. If you eliminated all of these expenses, you’d save a whopping amount — around $31,665 per year, based on averages.

But even by shaving off just 10% of these expenditures, you’d be around $3,167 richer by this time next year.

1. Rent

Nikodash / Shutterstock.com

The national average rent was $1,392 per month as of January, according to real estate research company Yardi Matrix. That’s $16,704 per year.

If you were to move somewhere the cost of living is lower, or bring in a roommate, you could cut your housing costs significantly.

And if you moved in with accommodating family members, you might be able to go rent-free, at least for a time.

If your home has an extra room, another option to offset housing costs is to rent that room to travelers. Try listing your spare space — or the entire home — on a vacation rental website like Airbnb, Homestay or Vrbo (short for “Vacation Rentals by Owner”). Read more in “Do This a Few Days Each Month and Watch Your Mortgage Disappear.”

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $16,704 (based on the national average rent)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $1,670

2. Car payment

szefei / Shutterstock.com

The average monthly new-car loan payment was $568 as of last year, according to Edmunds. That’s $6,816 per year.

If you can, don’t buy a new car. Instead, opt for used vehicles. Cars are one of the first things cited in “You Should Never Buy These 12 Things New.”

Ideally, you would save enough money to buy a car outright instead of financing it, to avoid paying interest on the loan. If that’s not possible, at least try making a bigger down payment to lower your monthly car payment.

Getting rid of a personal vehicle and taking public transportation, walking or biking instead would be a major money-saving shift.

Or, depending on how much you drive, a ride-share service like Lyft or Uber might help you save money. You’d stand to also save on a car payment, insurance, gas and on the biggest auto expense of all, depreciation.

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $6,816 (based on the average new-car loan payment)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $682

3. Cellphone

Man stares at cellphone
chainarong06 / Shutterstock.com

American households spent an average of $1,218 per year on cellular phone services as of 2019, the latest calendar year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released consumer expenditure data.

You could cut costs by adding a few friends or family members to your plan, or by changing your plan.

Also see what you can save by comparison shopping among carriers using Money Talks News’ cellphone plan comparison tool.

If you don’t use your mobile phone a lot or are home enough to justify a landline, consider ditching your mobile service, or get a prepaid plan.

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $1,218 (based on average household spending)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $122

4. Dining out

grocery shopper
mavo / Shutterstock.com

Sometimes you don’t feel like cooking, and that’s allowed. But let it be a habit, and it can cost a couple hundred bucks a month.

The average household in the U.S. spends $3,526 per year dining out, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cooking at home is much cheaper.

Reducing your restaurant spending can make a noticeable difference to your budget. Here are tips and tricks to help you shave costs: “12 Ways to Slice Your Next Restaurant Check in Half.”

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $3,526 (based on average household spending)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $353

5. Cable

Minerva Studio / Shutterstock.com

If you haven’t cut the cord yet, you might want to consider it. The average household cable package costs about $217 per month as of 2020, according to DecisionData.org. That’s $2,604 per year.

Cutting the cord could cut that cost dramatically, with the many free and affordable alternatives to cable and satellite TV. “The 8 Best Money-Saving Cable Alternatives” gives pricing for some of the best TV alternatives.

Lowering your costs is great. Free is even better. For no-cost options, read about “15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home.”

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $2,604 (based on the average cable package)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $260

6. Gym membership

Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock.com

If you’re a committed gym rat who gets your money’s worth from a monthly gym membership, more power to you.

But many of us sign gym contracts in a burst of enthusiasm and quit after a few months. The gym membership contract, however, can keep you making monthly payments, whether you use the facility or not.

While membership programs and costs vary, Healthline says memberships average $58 per month, or $696 per year.

Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic already has got you exercising on your own for free. If not, give it a try. Running or walking regularly and doing a strength-training program at home, for example, lets you eliminate gym fees entirely.

We have other ways to trim costs in “8 Smart Ways to Save on a Gym Membership.”

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $696 (based on the average monthly gym fee)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $70

7. Movie tickets

Multiethnic movie happy audience clapping
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

The cost of a movie ticket averaged $9.16 in 2019, according to the latest data from the National Association of Theater Owners. Prices have been creeping steadily up at least since 1969, when a movie ticket cost $1.42, on average.

Hoping to treat the family when the pandemic has passed? Ka-ching.

If you won’t give up the movie theater entirely, there are cheaper options. For example:

  • Attend matinees.
  • Take advantage of senior discounts.
  • Look into independent cinemas that charge less for films that were released earlier in the year.

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $109.92 (based on the average movie ticket cost and assuming you’re seeing one movie in theaters per month)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $11

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

A happy woman who struck it rich throws cash around
ViDI Studio / Shutterstock.com

If you’ve looked over your budget and think you can’t cut it down anymore, maybe you need to look a little harder.

There are probably some expenses you still could reduce — or drop altogether — to save thousands of dollars a year.

We found some examples of these costs. Here’s how to slash them if you are really determined. If you eliminated all of these expenses, you’d save a whopping amount — around $31,665 per year, based on averages.

But even by shaving off just 10% of these expenditures, you’d be around $3,167 richer by this time next year.

1. Rent

Nikodash / Shutterstock.com

The national average rent was $1,392 per month as of January, according to real estate research company Yardi Matrix. That’s $16,704 per year.

If you were to move somewhere the cost of living is lower, or bring in a roommate, you could cut your housing costs significantly.

And if you moved in with accommodating family members, you might be able to go rent-free, at least for a time.

If your home has an extra room, another option to offset housing costs is to rent that room to travelers. Try listing your spare space — or the entire home — on a vacation rental website like Airbnb, Homestay or Vrbo (short for “Vacation Rentals by Owner”). Read more in “Do This a Few Days Each Month and Watch Your Mortgage Disappear.”

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $16,704 (based on the national average rent)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $1,670

2. Car payment

szefei / Shutterstock.com

The average monthly new-car loan payment was $568 as of last year, according to Edmunds. That’s $6,816 per year.

If you can, don’t buy a new car. Instead, opt for used vehicles. Cars are one of the first things cited in “You Should Never Buy These 12 Things New.”

Ideally, you would save enough money to buy a car outright instead of financing it, to avoid paying interest on the loan. If that’s not possible, at least try making a bigger down payment to lower your monthly car payment.

Getting rid of a personal vehicle and taking public transportation, walking or biking instead would be a major money-saving shift.

Or, depending on how much you drive, a ride-share service like Lyft or Uber might help you save money. You’d stand to also save on a car payment, insurance, gas and on the biggest auto expense of all, depreciation.

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $6,816 (based on the average new-car loan payment)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $682

3. Cellphone

Man stares at cellphone
chainarong06 / Shutterstock.com

American households spent an average of $1,218 per year on cellular phone services as of 2019, the latest calendar year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released consumer expenditure data.

You could cut costs by adding a few friends or family members to your plan, or by changing your plan.

Also see what you can save by comparison shopping among carriers using Money Talks News’ cellphone plan comparison tool.

If you don’t use your mobile phone a lot or are home enough to justify a landline, consider ditching your mobile service, or get a prepaid plan.

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $1,218 (based on average household spending)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $122

4. Dining out

grocery shopper
mavo / Shutterstock.com

Sometimes you don’t feel like cooking, and that’s allowed. But let it be a habit, and it can cost a couple hundred bucks a month.

The average household in the U.S. spends $3,526 per year dining out, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cooking at home is much cheaper.

Reducing your restaurant spending can make a noticeable difference to your budget. Here are tips and tricks to help you shave costs: “12 Ways to Slice Your Next Restaurant Check in Half.”

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $3,526 (based on average household spending)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $353

5. Cable

Minerva Studio / Shutterstock.com

If you haven’t cut the cord yet, you might want to consider it. The average household cable package costs about $217 per month as of 2020, according to DecisionData.org. That’s $2,604 per year.

Cutting the cord could cut that cost dramatically, with the many free and affordable alternatives to cable and satellite TV. “The 8 Best Money-Saving Cable Alternatives” gives pricing for some of the best TV alternatives.

Lowering your costs is great. Free is even better. For no-cost options, read about “15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home.”

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $2,604 (based on the average cable package)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $260

6. Gym membership

Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock.com

If you’re a committed gym rat who gets your money’s worth from a monthly gym membership, more power to you.

But many of us sign gym contracts in a burst of enthusiasm and quit after a few months. The gym membership contract, however, can keep you making monthly payments, whether you use the facility or not.

While membership programs and costs vary, Healthline says memberships average $58 per month, or $696 per year.

Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic already has got you exercising on your own for free. If not, give it a try. Running or walking regularly and doing a strength-training program at home, for example, lets you eliminate gym fees entirely.

We have other ways to trim costs in “8 Smart Ways to Save on a Gym Membership.”

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $696 (based on the average monthly gym fee)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $70

7. Movie tickets

Multiethnic movie happy audience clapping
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

The cost of a movie ticket averaged $9.16 in 2019, according to the latest data from the National Association of Theater Owners. Prices have been creeping steadily up at least since 1969, when a movie ticket cost $1.42, on average.

Hoping to treat the family when the pandemic has passed? Ka-ching.

If you won’t give up the movie theater entirely, there are cheaper options. For example:

  • Attend matinees.
  • Take advantage of senior discounts.
  • Look into independent cinemas that charge less for films that were released earlier in the year.

Total annual savings if you could:

  • Give up the expense: $109.92 (based on the average movie ticket cost and assuming you’re seeing one movie in theaters per month)
  • Reduce the expense by 10%: $11

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

4 Things to Love About a Cellphone Plan

Woman with cell phone and a heart balloon
Photo by evrymmnt / Shutterstock.com

Simply put, if there’s nothing you love about your cellphone plan right now, you’re probably doing it wrong.

There are so many cellphone providers out there competing for your business with different perks, and you just need to find one with the best perks for you.

Let’s highlight some of the best cellphone plans with the best perks available right now.

The best cellphone plan for streaming

Verizon currently offers the best combination of streaming quality and coverage. In other words, Verizon is your best bet to stream from basically anywhere and get the best possible streaming quality while you’re at it.

The downside of Verizon is that it’s typically more pricey than other networks, but on the bright side, you can get the highest-quality streaming without paying for the most expensive Verizon plan.

Verizon’s Play More Unlimited plan comes with 720p HD-video streaming and comes with a free subscription to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu.

It all ends up costing $80 a month, but when you factor in the streaming subscriptions included (about a $15 value), Verizon’s price tag doesn’t seem quite as bad.

The best cellphone plan for perks

Streaming perks are quickly becoming the industry standard as the big three major carriers offer some streaming service bundled with your cellphone service. Here’s which streaming services come free with the higher-tier unlimited plans from the big three networks:

  • AT&T: HBO Max
  • T-Mobile: Netflix
  • Verizon: Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+

Really, it comes down to your streaming preferences. For me, I would probably get the most value out of a free HBO Max subscription with the AT&T Unlimited plan, considering my 1-year-old watches more “Sesame Street” than anything on Disney+ and I can’t wait for the next season of “Succession.”

But you might have your strong allegiances to Netflix or any of the Disney streaming services, so it really all depends. Whatever your preference, it certainly makes a lot of sense to get your favorite streaming service for free with your cell service.

Here are all the plans that come from the big three providers that include a free streaming service.

AT&T Plan with HBO Max

T-Mobile Plans with Netflix

Verizon Plans with Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+

Free unlimited hotspot data

Visible Wireless offers unlimited hotspot data with its $40 Unlimited Plan. Usually, you would have to pay way more to get unlimited hotspot data with your cellphone plan, but Visible will package it all together with an already surprisingly cheap unlimited plan.

The only caveat to be aware of is that your hotspot data is limited to 5 Mbps while using Visible’s service. It’s enough data speed to browse the internet, open and send emails, check your calendar and even stream music, but things could get a little rough while streaming.

Get a free cellphone

Verizon will give you a brand new iPhone SE (2020) when you sign up for a new plan following this link. There’s really no gotcha to this deal — you just have to activate a new line on Verizon on an unlimited plan, and you get the new phone for free. Here’s the unlimited Verizon plans you can choose from that are compatible with the free iPhone SE deal.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com