Home Office Set Up For Couples

A couple working at home, together, need not be an idle dream.

One or the other of you may have already been established in a home office, but then maybe a change in employment conditions means that you are both now in need of some sort of home office. If the existing space isn’t large enough for the both of you, then having two separate offices may be the best solution. In my home we have two and a half offices and there’s only two of us!

Inevitably both of you will use a home office to varying degrees. What’s important is having a home office set up which works, so that you can both flourish and prosper in your endeavors, be they work, pleasure or both.home office for couples

Budgeting For Expenses

Do you have enough money in the joint checking account for a few pieces of home office equipment and furniture? See how much extra you can squeeze from it, then sit down and write out exactly what ‘s needed for the supplies and equipment. Together, you can always cut down on the expenses such as eating out a lot or that extra large cappuccino in the morning, or a few visits to the outlet stores or golf course.

If you use the dry cleaners then reduce that cost by wearing washable clothing. Once you’ve determined what your budget is for a home office upgrade, you can then set the priorities for purchase.

What Are The Priorities?

Are you setting up two offices or just one? If one, then that alone will cut down on the expenses. The top priority is an office desk big enough for the two of you as well as two comfortable office chairs. An office chair simply cannot be shared as the settings and seat and height etc. are so individualized.

If you get a simple rectangular home office desk and put shelving up on the wall, then you can sit on either side of the desk and save money on this crucial piece of office furniture. Alternately, if your home office is long and narrow, then place a desk along one wall where two of you can sit (with lots of elbow room).

Next Priority

Computers for both of you are next, and if they are hooked up to a LAN (local area network) you can save money on an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier by both using it at will. Make sure it’s wireless and you won’t end up strangling each other with cords as you rush to answer that call from a new client. Always discuss purchases with each other, by the way, so you won’t duplicate them, and one of you may think of a cheaper store to buy that case of paper from, for instance.

Phones & Communication

Buy a two-phone (at least) portable system. Each of you can place your handset close by you and the base unit may remain in the center of your desk area, thereby giving you each enough space to grab that file from your desk drawer while still holding into the phone. Even if you have one Internet account, always have at least two separate email addresses.

Having one server saves you money but everyone needs an email account so that clients may communicate with them directly. Gmail is a good choice for this because you can set up accounts for free and the capacity is virtually unlimited. If you need a website and your spouse has a completely opposite product or service to sell or offer, then think about two sites unless you simply cannot afford it.

Aim For A Calm Atmosphere in Your Home Office

If you are sharing your office it’s great to have low-volume music playing if you both like that sort of thing, as well as the same genre of music to create a nice ambiance. Lighting is also important, this also sets the tone. But be sure to think practical here and make sure there’s lots of light in the office where needed. Just enough will make for a creative and productive atmosphere. My own personal choice is for a good desk lamp and then either wall lights or a central ceiling light. Remember to save money on electricity by using eco-friendly light bulbs in your lamps. There are many kinds now and you may have your pick.

Be polite and encouraging to your spouse working alongside of you in the home office. Don’t underestimate the tensions that can be caused by living and working together. You might think sharing a home office will save you money but if having separate offices saves your marriage…….set up multiple home offices like me!

Lloyd Burrell enjoys writing reviews on home office desk furniture.  Lloyd lives on the West Coast of France with his wife and two children.

Photo Credit: Nathan Searles

What Are The Benefits Of A SIPP?

If you’re in the process of considering pension options, there’s a very good chance you’ve been looking at opening a SIPP (Self Invested Personal Pension). You’ve probably heard that there’s benefits to be had from a SIPP as opposed to other options, however are you aware as to what they are? To try and help you consider all options, we’ve put together a brief look at the benefits of a SIPP to enable you to make the best and most informed decision when it comes to taking out a pension.

SIPP Gives Flexibility & Controlmoney retirement

When it comes to a SIPP, you’re in full control as to how your money is invested and there’s a significant number of options available to you, all of which come with complete flexibility. You make the decisions as to what your money is invested in and who manages these investments for you and it’s this level of control which you receive when compared with other types of pension which has made SIPP’s an increasingly popular option in recent years.

When it comes to the ways which you can invest within your SIPP, there’s a significant number of options available, with investment opportunities ranging from bank accounts (this is always the starting point as all cash must first come into the SIPP’s own account before being channelled into other investments), savings bonds and stocks and shares through to gold bullion, investment platforms, land and even commercial property.

With a SIPP, you call the shots and are in full control over every aspect of your pension, unlike personal and stakeholder pensions where the pension provider makes the decisions on how and where investments are made and simply send you an annual statement on your fund’s performance.

Transfer Multiple Pensions Into A SIPP

Many people accumulate numerous workplace pensions throughout their adult life and, as such, find themselves with more than one pension. A SIPP can offer you a fantastic option to combine multiple pensions into one and invest as you wish, as per the other benefits outlined above.

Tax Benefits

Perhaps one of the more attractive benefits of a SIPP to the majority of investors is the tax benefits which are associated with them. As an example, as a basic rate tax payer, an investment of £8,000 in a SIPP would automatically become £10,000 due to the government adding £2,000 (20%) tax relief. Such tax benefits can significantly increase your pension pot and if you’re a higher rate tax payer, you’ll receive additional relief, however it won’t be automatically added to your SIPP.

Transparent and Competitive Fees

When compared with other types of pension, SIPP’s offer incredibly transparent and competitive fees, giving you the confidence that more of your money is going into your pension pot. No one wants to be paying over the odds on fee’s and with the like’s of Liberty SIPP’s pension calculator, you can clearly see what you’ll be paying and how much you could save when compared to other options.

Increased Level Of Service

When you take out a SIPP, you’re going to be dealing with a provider who is able to offer a much greater level of personalised service than the providers of personal or stakeholder pensions. You’ll almost certainly have a dedicated team who look after you and give you the level of service which reassures you that, even though it’s invested into a pension, your money is still yours and that you’re in full control at all times.

All in all, SIPP’s offer a whole host of benefits when compared with other types of pension and at the time when you’re looking either at transferring other pensions or opening your first, they’re an option seriously worth considering.

Matthew Rankine is the technical sales and marketing manager at Liberty SIPP, using his finely tuned knowledge of pensions to drive the company forward. Matthew has a genuine passion for pensions and is constantly trawling through the registered pension scheme manual looking for new bits to excite himself.

Photo Credit: 401kcalculator.org

Easy Way to Add Up Monthly Expenses in Your Spreadsheets

Why Have a Household Budget Spreadsheet?

One of my wife’s challenges as “manager of the household budget and head of the household purchasing committee” is to work out which purchases were justified and which should be cut down on (or argued over, whatever).

While I am a total computer addict, my wife feels she has better things to do than to spend hours in a spreadsheet working these things out. Also, if I leave it to her, she is going to say all her expenses were completely justified (how many shoes does one woman need?), and mine are all up for discussion (I am not a fast-food addict, honest!).

Here is a geeky Microsoft Excel trick that makes adding up your unnecessary expenses quick and easy. Rather than label or categorize your expenses, we can quickly run through our spreadsheet marking these expenses visually, giving both a nice clue at a glance how far off the rails our spending has gone, but also allowing us to add up these expenses with a couple of key presses!

Our Magic Color-Coded Household Budget Spreadsheet

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What we decided to do is allocate a color for shoe purchases, and another color for junk food. Then we assign a macro to a keyboard combination which works out the totals to see who wins spent over budget.

Here is how an example spreadsheet might look (no, I am not showing my actual expenses, ha):

Yes, yes, I know, my need for burgers ever-so slightly outweighs my wife’s shoe purchases. Perhaps I need to hack in a fail safe …

Building the Cell Color Counting Macro

Anyway, the magic is in the macro, and here it is:

First we create a little subroutine that takes our range of data and finds first the yellow (junk food), and then the red (shoes). We could make the whole thing more generic by making the range flexible but for sake of discussion it is fixed at B4:H13 right now. If you wanted more colours, just duplicate one of the lines and change the target range (eg. To K6), and the colour value (eg. To vbGreen).

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Sub UpdateSalesTotals()
Range("K4").Value = SumInColor(Range("B4:H13"), vbYellow)
Range("K5").Value = SumInColor(Range("B4:H13"), vbRed)
End Sub

Next is where the real work is done, the SumInColor custom function.

Function SumInColor(rngNumbers As Range, lngColor As Long) As Currency
Dim clSpecificCell As Range
Dim lngTotal As Currency
lngTotal = 0

For Each clSpecificCell In rngNumbers
If clSpecificCell.Interior.Color = lngColor Then lngTotal = lngTotal + clSpecificCell.Value
Next

SumInColor = lngTotal
End Function

First we define our variables, then we perform a loop that goes through the supplied range (rngNumbers) looking for the supplied color (lngColor). If it finds the specified color then it adds the found figure to the running total.Unfortunately, Excel does not seem to have any way we can run this macro automatically when we color a cell, so instead we must use the Options button to set a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Shift+C.

Magic isn’t it?

Can you think of any other ways to use or improve on this idea? Please share in the comments …

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Yoav Ezer co-authors Codswallop, a technology and productivity blog. He is also the CEO of a software company that produces PDF to XLS conversion software.

Photo Credit: RambergMediaImages

Paper Profusion: 4 Tips to Reduce Your Financial Clutter

cut through financial money clutterAmericans go through about 69 million tons of paper every year, the Environmental Protection Agency reports. Books and magazines comprise a large percentage of this total, but the boxes of financial documents stashed in closets and filing cabinets across the country certainly don’t help. It’s good to keep records of your transactions and accounts, but in this age, there’s just no reason to go overboard. It not only increases your risk of identity theft, but it wastes paper and takes up space. We have four ideas to help you decrease your record-keeping clutter and get organized:

Lucky 3 and 7

The IRS has three years from the time a tax return is filed to audit it. If an egregious error is discovered, they may ask you to voluntarily extend this time frame. You are not required to oblige, but the agency would then use only the information it has available to determine any potential penalties, according to IRS.gov. Those who file everything without any book-cooking trickery can safely shred returns that are more than three years old. Records of large or unusual write-offs should be kept for seven years, just in case proof is ever requested.

Two Is Enough

The typical person only needs two bank accounts, usually a checking account at a national bank and a savings account at a local bank or credit union. But many people open accounts to get a gift card or some other incentive and simply forget about them. Take inventory of all your accounts by going through old check registers and rent or mortgage receipts. If you think you may have opened an account at a bank but no longer have the account number, send the bank a certified letter requesting verification. Include as much information as possible, so they can find the account if it exists. Close accounts you are not using and transfer any funds to your primary checking or savings account.

Use Financial Apps

Stop adding to your existing clutter by using a financial planning app. Three we like:

  • Koku consolidates your finances, tracks your spending and keeps virtual receipts of transactions you make with a credit or debit card. You can access it from your iPhone or Mac anytime, eliminating the need to keep receipts.
  • Mint.com is one of the first personal finance apps created, and it is still one of the best. It communicates with your bank to analyze spending habits and creates a budget for you. It also sends reminders when bills are due and keeps all your information secure with a four-digit PIN.

Organizing

You can get most financial records and other important documents in digital form now, but that can be just as hard to keep track of as files of paper. Using a cloud backup system can organize all of your files and maintain digital backups so you never lose them. Cloud services like Mozy can be used for business or personal solutions and will even sync to your phone or mobile device so you can access your files from anywhere.

With some documents, you need a paper copy or maybe just prefer it. The problem is finding the right paper when you need it. A document scanner is a great way to keep track of the documents, receipts and other paper records you keep. You can scan a copy to your computer, which is searchable for quick access. You can also cross reference to physical files so you know right where to look for the original copy. Some scanners can be pricey, but if you only have a few documents to scan there are mobile apps like TurboScan or ScannerPro that create digital copies directly from your phone.