Better Money Habits: Reworking your work-from-home budget – - Freelance Rack

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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Better Money Habits: Reworking your work-from-home budget –

Hundreds of companies are quickly embracing a work-from-home culture that began during the coronavirus. Eighty-two percent of U.S. office employees, about 75 million people, say they’re willing to trade their corporate cubicles for comfy couches, according to Global Workplace Analytics, a firm that studies workplace trends.

As that happens, many Americans are discovering the real costs of working from home. While some obvious costs may be cut, any change in lifestyle can come with hidden expenses that can add up if you aren’t prepared. (A survey found that the average U.S. household is spending about $108 more a month as a result of working from home.)

Here are five key areas where you might see some savings and surprise splurges. So be sure to think through your budget—whether it’s what you are doing with newfound money or how you’re keeping track of your spending.

The kitchen

Savory savings: As you work from home, you’re most likely no longer making the morning coffee shop stop or buying lunch each day—many reports say the average American office worker traditionally spends about $3,000 annually for both. And those after-work happy hours with co-workers? Cheers to saving that cash, too.

Hidden costs: While many companies offer employees free food, if you’re working at home, those costs will land on your plate. But it’s not just higher household grocery bills for three meals a day. Market research firm The NPD Group found that snack food consumption rose 8 percent in April, a number that is expected to rise in the coming years. What’s more, being housebound could make you want to occasionally treat yourself to a nice meal, but ordering take out can also throw off your budget.

Home remedy: Take the time to meal plan each week. Writing out what your household regularly consumes can make you more efficient with using leftovers, and intentional rather than impulsive about last minute grocery store purchases. Fifty-six percent of consumers surveyed by NPD said they plan to avoid food waste by saving meals for another day. That’s a strategy that’s not only healthier for your body but your wallet as well.

The garage

Commuting savings: When your rush hour consists of small moves from pajamas to video calls for work, that could lead to major savings on your monthly transportation expenses. If you’re no longer driving to the job, you could see savings on gas, tolls and parking. (Americans are projected to save $20 billion at the pumps, according to Global Workplace Analytics.) Of course, there’s also less wear-and-tear on your automobile, so you won’t have to spend as much to maintain and repair it. And if you don’t have to spend on a monthly bus or train ticket, that can also boost your bottom line.

Hidden costs: Many companies offer employees commuter benefits, where tax-free funds can be used to pay for daily transportation. If you work from home, your annual tax burden could be higher. Also keep in mind that whether you own or lease a vehicle, you’ll still have the same payments to make, even if you’re using it less.

Home remedy: Consider the number of automobiles in your household. Could you go from a two-car family to one car? That could potentially lower how much you pay each month for automobiles and insurance. And if you are driving fewer miles, can you get a discount on your car insurance by calling your insurance company and talking to them about the change in driving habits?

The playroom

Sitter savings: For many working parents, finding quality childcare is a challenging task—and an expensive one—to begin with. According to, weekly childcare costs rose 15 to 20 percent over the last seven years, to the tune of $565 for a nanny and $215 for a childcare center. How much will you save on childcare while working from home? It depends. One of the bigger impacts of the current environment is childcare needs and availability. Each household is different based on each situation, however, you likely won’t have to pay as much. And if childcare centers return to normal, you could have more time to drop off and pick up your child by being home.

Hidden costs: If you choose to no longer send your child to daycare or aftercare, you could still end up paying for a babysitter or someone else to help with schooling. If that’s not a realistic financial option—or if your child distracts you from work—you may decide to cut back on work hours, which would mean reduced income.

Home remedy: There are many ways to lower your childcare costs. If you can block your calendar in the after-school hours to be with your child and make up the work time in the evening, you can cut back on after-school program costs. Also, many businesses are increasingly realizing the challenges working parents face, so ask your company if it offers any type of childcare reimbursement.

The wardrobe

Stylish savings: With far fewer in-person meetings and interactions, you might not spend as much on makeup or feel compelled to update your work wardrobe every season. Regardless of what room you are working in, it’s a fairly safe bet nobody will ever see your shoes—so you’ll no longer need to cough up serious money for a new pair of pumps or brogues. In addition, you’re also likely to see lower dry-cleaning bills.

Hidden costs: Most Americans still love to shop—probably even more so in the new work-from-home reality. While consumers aren’t spending as much on work-related clothing and footwear purchases, they’re buying lots of other things online. NPD Group said sports and home fitness equipment, as well as children’s and adult bicycle sales experienced double-digit sales increases this year; similarly, Netflix subscriptions rose 72 percent in the U.S. during the coronavirus. Be mindful of how often you’re clicking the “buy” button, as impulsive spending can blow a hole in your budget.

Home remedy: The little things can quickly add up. Create two lists — one for things you need to buy and another for long-range items you want to buy. And if you’re running up a shopping tab on your credit cards, develop a good plan for paying off the balance.

The home office

Utility savings: You may find that when your home becomes a satellite office, your company will cover overhead costs like upgraded internet speed, mobile data plans and office supplies. If you’re self-employed and working-from home, many home-office costs may be tax-deductible. If you work from a dedicated home office—meaning the room isn’t used for anything other than business—you can deduct repair costs made to your office, which could lift the overall value of your property in the long run.

Hidden costs: There’s no avoiding the fact that more time at home means increased energy usage. When you work from home, you’re on the hook for absorbing the costs of powering your house during business hours —think electricity, heating and air conditioning, and water. According to, most people working from home are paying about $121 more a month for utilities.

Home remedy: You could see major savings by investing in home upgrades to boost energy efficiency. Small changes like switching to environmentally friendly lightbulbs or a smart thermostat can make a real difference. If you’re looking to make a longer-term investment, consider installing solar panels, energy efficient windows or additional insulation. Certain energy-efficient upgrades may also qualify for state and local tax incentives.

See more stories on our Better Money Habits page.

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