Post-Pandemic Budgeting Strategies: Work-Related Expenses

Key Takeaways
  • Transitioning from home to office work will increase monthly costs.
  • Transportation, food, work attire, and daycare all cost more when your job requires you to work from an office.
  • You can mitigate the higher costs by carefully reviewing and adjusting your budget.

Working from a home office created new dynamics for families across the country. You had to figure out how to work, live, and take care of children from your home. As things begin to reopen and the pandemic fades into the rear-view mirror, bosses are calling workers back to the office.

Before you transition back to your daily commute, take a look at the costs you incur when you work from an office.

The Commute: Your drive to work costs you in terms of car maintenance, gas, parking fees, tolls, and for some, public transportation costs. The US Census Bureau reports that 86% of workers commute to work, with 76.4% driving alone and 5.2% using public transportation. According to an ABC News report, the average person commutes 16 miles each way, consuming about an hour a day traveling to and from work.Public transportation is generally a tradeoff between time and money. It costs less to take the bus or train, especially if you must pay for parking, but it takes longer to get to work. A Commute Cost Calculator can help you figure out the cost.

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Food: Lunches and sometimes buying breakfast on the way can add a significant amount to your budget. On average, workers spend $3,000 annually or $37 each week on lunches.

Child Care: One of the most significant areas of savings (and frustration) during the pandemic was providing care for children. Childcare averages $847 per month or $10,158 annually for a toddler. If you were both a caregiver and an employee, you might have saved thousands of dollars over the past year. A return to the office will mean incorporating these expenses back into the budget.

The summer months are generally the most expensive because you must also provide care and supervision for school-aged children as well as preschoolers. Summer camps are back in full swing, which may mean an immediate increase in childcare costs as you transition back to the office.

Clothes: The cost of dressing for work can add up quickly when sweatpants are no longer the fashion choice of the day. Work attire generally requires more upscale clothing, accessories, and dry cleaning. The average employee spends $3,300 a year dressing for work.

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Tips on Budgeting for Work-Related Expenses

Save on your commute: AAA estimates that it costs 55 cents a mile to drive to work for insurance, gas, and car maintenance. A car payment, parking, and tolls could drive costs even higher. Switching to a fuel-efficient vehicle, using ride-share services, or taking public transportation are three of the most effective ways to reduce the cost of your commute.

Save money on work lunches by packing a lunch.You can easily prepare a lunch from home for around $3 a day instead of the $10 to $15 it costs to eat out. Eliminating your morning coffee run could add another $1,000 in savings.

Reducing childcare costs is tricky because you do not want to sacrifice the quality of care to save money. However, taking a few steps to reduce childcare costs can have a significant impact on your budget. A few ideas include the following:

  • Use a flexible spending account(FSA) to cover the cost of childcare with tax-free dollars.
  • Take the childcare tax credit when you file taxes (you cannot double-dip with the FSA).
  • Work split shifts to reduce the hours you need to pay for care.
  • Research the cost of a nanny or au pair if you have multiple children. Daycares charge by the child, where nannies and au pairs charge by the family.
  • Request to continue working from home, even if it’s only part-time. However, be aware that drop-in childcare options cost more an hour than weekly or monthly rates.

Save money on clothes by delaying purchases, repurposing older clothes, and buying what you need at the end of the season.

Final Thoughts

Returning to work will require you to rethink your budget to account for the costs associated with working in an office. The days of going to work in sweatpants and a commute that involves walking down the hall can dramatically affect your costs. Be proactive and find out how these changes will impact your budget before getting called back to the office.

  • How can I reduce my work-related costs?

    You can save moneyby paying attention to how much youspend getting to and from work and the amount you spend on food and work attire. Childcare costs are the other major expense families incur in order to work outside the home.

  • What should I expect when my boss requires me to return to the office?

    Most employers are taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some of those include less close physical interactions with clients and co-workers, required vaccinations, and additional cleaning protocols.

  • Is remote work here to stay?

    Major tech employers like Microsoft, Amazon,and Twitter are creating permanent policies that allow workers to decide if they want to work from home or in an office. But not everyone wants to work remotely. It can be an isolating experience and make it more difficult to advance with the company or find suitable mentors, which are important elements of a career.