Working from home is more common than ever. What was once a fantastic work perk has become the norm for many occupations. According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of workers who are able to work remotely continue to do so by choice in 2022, even as many others are returning to the office.
If you’re one of those fortunate enough to continue working from home (or have the option to), your budget probably looks a lot different than it used to. Commuting expenses turned into food delivery charges and wardrobe spending turned into exercise subscriptions. You might be trying to keep your home at a comfortable temperature in the middle of the day, which increases the cost of utilities. You may also have substantial costs maintaining a work-from-home office.
If you need to make some adjustments in your work-from-home (WFH) budget, check out these tips.
How Working From Home Affects Your Spending
Working from home changes what you spend money on — and possibly how much you spend every month. You probably expect to save on regular expenses that you no longer have like transportation and lunches out. But you’ll spend more in other areas such as electricity, heat, maybe decorating the space behind your desk chair for video meetings.
Here are some big expenses you may have already incurred:
Home Office Equipment
When you’re regularly working from home, the dining table may not be a great place to set up shop. Also, a chair that is meant for all-day sitting, aka an ergonomic chair, may lessen any stiffness or aching you feel in your back or neck.
If you’re a fantastic scavenger, you might have scored a desk and good chair for free, but most people spend anywhere between $240 to $2,500 on basic office furniture. If you needed to add an office to the existing space in your home via a remodel, you could have paid anywhere between $15,000 and $80,000.
Your company likely provided a laptop. But connecting it to a larger screen makes work easier on the eyes. And if you have a lot of programs open, two monitors are even better. Likewise, a full-sized keyboard and mouse help reduce the strain on your back and shoulders. And if you video-conference a lot, a ring light, external mic, and wireless headphones can enhance the experience — all of which are likely not offered by your IT department.
If you’re not going out to work out in the gym, you may have invested in some fitness equipment such as an indoor exercise bike or treadmill as well as subscriptions for your at-home workouts.
Steps for Adjusting Your Work From Home Budget
More than two years into working from home (if you started when the pandemic did), you’ve likely made any big office furniture and technology purchases already. So now you just need to figure out how much more or less you are regularly spending. These steps can help:
Track current and pre-pandemic home and home-office expenses
Combing through your bank account and credit card statements, calculate what you’re spending on electricity, gas, water, internet, cell phone, landline, printer cartridges, paper, and office supplies for at least one month — and the same month in 2019. To get a better picture of costs, you may want to compute costs for the past three months and corresponding three months in 2019 (or even better, the past 12 months and corresponding 12 months in 2018 and 2019) and get an average. Now subtract your pre-pandemic costs (probably the smaller number) from your current costs. This is roughly how much your monthly home expenses have increased.
Track current and pre-pandemic office or work expenses
Include work clothes, shoes, dry cleaning, gas or other commuting expenses, lunch, happy hour bills, coffee drinks, and anything else related to work. Again, you can do this for one month this year and the corresponding month in 2019. Or for three months this year and pre-pandemic or last 12 months and corresponding months pre-pandemic — and calculate the average. Next, subtract today’s costs (probably the smaller number) from your pre-pandemic costs. This is roughly how much your monthly office or work-related expenses have fallen.
Compare your home costs to your office expenses
Do your increased costs offset your decreased costs so that you’re basically spending the same amount now than you did pre-pandemic? That’s great! There are no adjustments to make.
If you’re spending more now than pre-pandemic, find ways to save
Part of the increase is likely related to inflation, but you’ll still want to lower your home expenses that have increased. Find areas to target for making cuts, below.
Or perhaps you want to rethink working from home if your company is offering flexibility. Read on for WFH pros and cons to help you make the decision.
Recommended: How Much Money Should I Save a Month?
If you’re spending less now than pre-pandemic, find ways to grow your savings — and celebrate!
It looks like you are keeping more of your paycheck working from home. It’s no surprise, actually: average commute costs exceed $4,500 each year, and that figure continues to climb with rising gas prices. Of course, you could spend some of the freed-up disposable income, but you may be best off putting the money somewhere it can grow. Check out some ideas, below.
Ways to Trim Costs in a Work-From-Home Budget
If your WFH budget needs some recalibrating, here’s where you may want to look for costs that can be cut.
Working from home means you’ll most likely see a bump in utility costs to keep everyone comfortable throughout the day. California residents, for example, used 15-20% more energy through 2020 than the previous year. To shave costs, consider taking energy-conserving steps such as shutting down your computer at the end of the workday and closing AC and heat vents and doors of unused rooms during the day.
You’re likely spending less on lunch if you are making it in your kitchen. But are you? Or are you ordering in dinner more than before? Food delivery apps saw tremendous growth during the pandemic — as did online grocery delivery services. When looking for ways to cut expenses, you may want to limit how many times you order in a week — and stop having your groceries delivered.
Potential Impulsive Spending
According to a study of 2,000 Americans in 2020, the pandemic brought on a slew of impulse purchases, especially in hard-hit areas with shortages and price increases. At the time of the poll, the price of the average impulse buy was more than $180. Be aware of this whether you’re shopping online or in person.
Recommended: 33 Ways to Make Money From Home
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What to Do With Saved Money From Working From Home
During the pandemic, the personal savings rate skyrocketed to as much as 33% — almost five times what Americans were normally able to save prior to the shutdown (7%). Working from home turned out to be a boon for the bank accounts of many. If you’ve been able to save as a result of working from home, you may want to consider making one or more of these moves:
• Pay off debt
• Start an emergency fund if you don’t have one yet
• Increase your contribution to your retirement account
• Park the money in a high-yield savings account
• Invest through a brokerage account
Rethinking Working From Home
If your employer is letting you choose where you work and you are spending more now than you did before, you may want to reconsider working from home. Consider which advantages and disadvantages apply to you, and how much they matter to you.
Advantages of Working From Home
• Better work-life balance
• No commuting
• Fewer office politics
• More independence
• Save on expenses like wardrobe, coffee runs, lunches with coworkers
Disadvantages of Working From Home
• Lack of separation between work and personal life
• Increased childcare or housework load
• Many, many distractions at home
• Possible less productivity
• Weaker connections to coworkers
• Isolated work environment
Figuring out how to make working from home work is no small task. Beyond the increased amount of juggling you’ll have to do, many struggle with how to stay productive working from home. Some people prefer the environment of a formal office.
Working from home has its pluses and minuses — and one plus is saving money on all the expenses that come with commuting to work, having to be presentable, and eating lunch outside the home. But if your work-from-home expenses exceed those savings, you may want to look for ways to lower your spending — and possibly reconsider working from home (if it’s optional).
But if you’re saving more by working from home, you’ll want to figure out where best to sock away the money. If you decide you want to keep it liquid but still have it earn interest, SoFi high-yield banking offers a competitive APY with direct deposit. You’ll also pay no minimum account fees, monthly account fees, or overdraft fees.
How much money do you save when working from home?
How much money you save working from home depends on your situation and personal habits. If you no longer have high transportation costs or pay less for childcare, you could be saving a substantial amount of money. If you’re spending more on utilities or food delivery while working from home, you may not save that much.
Does working from home cost more?
Working from home may increase costs in your utilities, groceries, and home office equipment. However, it may be cheaper if you had been paying a lot in transportation and wardrobe expenses that are no longer required.
Is it better or worse to work at home?
While some appreciate the found time from not commuting back and forth or freedom from not having someone breathing down their necks, others enjoy the structure and separate space that working from an office provides. The financial impact on your life will also vary according to your circumstances.
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