10 Surprising Ways Working from Home Affects Your Budget

published Oct 2, 2019
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Working from home” isn’t simply a trend, it’s a whole new way of life: Between 2005 and 2017, the number of regularly telecommuting employees in the U.S. grew by 115 percent, according to FlexJobs. And recent data from Fundera finds that 3.7 million U.S. employees work from home at least half the time. I’ve worked from home (WFH) for years and have noticed people become increasingly interested in my set-up. To answer a couple of common questions: No, I don’t work in my pajamas every day, but, yes, the WFH life has definitely impacted my budget. While I do save a significant amount on some work-related expenses and even get to write some things off on my taxes, I spend more in unexpected ways, too.

Thinking about making the switch yourself? Here, the surprising way working from home will affect your budget:

1. You’ll save on commuting costs

This is probably the most obvious work-from-home benefit. Personally, between a $308 Long Island Railroad pass and $127 MTA subway pass, I’m saving at least $5,500 a year. However, my commuter costs aren’t zero: I still venture into the city for meetings a few times a month. But since I’m not commuting during peak hours, I can buy an off-peak price ticket, saving me about $8 round-trip.

For those who previously drove to work, there are less obvious commuter savings, too. For example, not only are you saving on gas, but since you’re putting fewer miles on your car, it’ll have less wear and tear and you won’t have it serviced as often. You might even save on car insurance, too: Deeann Harper, a small business support specialist in Orlando, Florida, says she contacted her insurance company after starting to work from home. Because this lifestyle change lowered her annual mileage, her premium was discounted by about $20 a month.

2. You’ll spend more on Internet

While barking dogs and mowing landscapers will drive you crazy, there’s nothing more frustrating to a telecommuter than a slow internet connection. Not only are occurrences like waiting for pages to load or troubles during video calls annoying, but they can also end up costing real money in terms of lost productivity. This means getting speedy, reliable internet is absolutely imperative.

When I moved into my new home, I spent $40 more a month to upgrade to the fastest internet speed available. Since it helps me get my work done faster, I think it’s totally worth it.

3. You’ll save on food and coffee

Even if you’re frugal with your food budget when working in an office, it adds up quickly: According to a 2015 Visa survey, Americans spend about $53 a week on lunch, that’s $2,746 a year, and some spend over $9,000 a year buying lunch!

“My husband and I have always been big cooks and brought lunches to work often when we worked in offices, but I still estimate we spent money on the following weekly: About two cups of coffee daily for me, lunch out once a week, breakfast out about twice a week and buying snacks,” says Adrienne Smith, a Brooklyn-based content strategist.

However, when you work from home and have access to a fridge, pantry, and full kitchen, you’ll find those lunch costs going way down. Not only will you cook more, but you’ll always be able to eat those leftovers, too, meaning less food waste overall.

Don’t underestimate how much your coffee costs will go down, either: While working in an office, Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a freelance writer and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area, says she would take pricey coffee breaks several times a week. But now that she works from home, she’s noticed their absence in her budget—even after investing in an espresso machine and milk steamer.

4. You’ll spend more on your home office

You know that office printer that’s always jammed, backed up, and/or getting serviced? Yea, you’ll miss it once you have to shell out for a high-quality printer, toner, and paper.

Other office supplies you should prepare to spend on? Pens, notebooks, paper, toner, batteries, light bulbs, bookshelves, file cabinets—the list goes on and on.

5. You’ll save on clothing costs

You probably won’t get rid of all your business clothes after working from home, but you’ll notice you’ll spend less on clothing:

“Not having a ‘second’ wardrobe aside from a few pieces perfect for client meetings saves me a lot of money,” says Leslie Woynowski, owner at The Agent Help Desk, who has worked from her New Orleans home for a decade.

Not only will you buy fewer pieces of pricey work clothes, but you’ll get a longer life out of the ones you already have. And wearing them less often means you save money on dry cleaning, too. And remember: Working from home means you can throw a load of laundry in during the workday and get away with rewearing clothes more frequently.

6. You’ll spend more on utilities

Ready to run your air conditioner all day long during the hot summer months, or keep the heat cranked up during the winter? Many of those who start working from home are surprised by how it affects their utility bills.

“I live in Florida and the electricity costs for my home business can get substantial in July and August,” says Harper.

After the initial sticker shock, you might look for ways to lower your costs. Nicole Handler, freelance creative in Austin, Texas, recommends taking advantage of breezy days by opening up all your windows whenever possible instead of turning on the AC. She also advises positioning your desk by a nice window with lots of natural light so you don’t have to turn on lamps.

7. You’ll save on gym costs

Many WFH-ers say they’ve found themselves nixing their gym membership in exchange for home set-ups. Handler says she’s been able to save $200 a month on fees after installing a treadmill and some weights in her home.

Additionally, home workers see that they find it easier to fit a workout into their day, too: “I love can grab a quick workout on the Peloton bike in between work calls,” says Marlon LeWinter owner of NRGized Media in Delray Beach, Florida.

8. You’ll spend on additional home costs

If you’re working from home, you might realize you’re adding things like toilet paper and tissues to your shopping list more often than before. It’s only a couple more dollars here and there, but it can definitely add up!

9. You’ll save on dogsitters

If you work outside of your home, you’ll most likely need someone to let your dog out during the day. This can get pricy, though: According to HomeGuide, pet sitting services are about $20-30/day. However, working from home eliminates this cost. For example, working from home means I can pop-out to take Jackson, our two-year-old Lab-Shepherd mix, out on midday walks and bathroom breaks.

10. You’ll spend on an accountant

If you’re telecommuting for your employer, you’ll have to check with your staff accountant about what qualifies as write-offs come tax-season. However, I always recommend that full-time freelancers, independent contractors, and other self-employed people hire an accountant to help them properly prepare their taxes and prevent audits. Though this is pricy upfront, sometimes it even ends up paying for itself in additional write-offs.

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