Transitioning to an Office Environment

For years I worked from home as a freelance writer and editor. When one of my clients offered me a job with a guaranteed bi-weekly paycheck and good benefits, I felt I owed it to my family to take it. I was sure the extra money would significantly change our lifestyle. What I found was that working in an office added a number of new expenses to our monthly budget. To save money I found I had to be resourceful and look for ways to minimize the impact of these unanticipated expenses. Below are a few tricks I found worked for me.

1. Carpooling

As much as I can't stand being stuck in traffic and navigating my way through the highways every morning and evening, I do enjoy the time alone in my car. I use that time to decompress, listen to music or podcasts, and reflect on my day. Consequently, sharing a ride with a co-worker was one of the hardest things I had to do. But it just made financial sense. With a round-trip commute of nearly 100 miles, I was spending almost $400 dollars per month on gas. In addition I needed to get oil changes on my car every six-to-eight weeks, was wearing down my tires, and constantly performing maintenance on my car. Share my commute with just one co-worker cut my expenses in half, saving me $2,500 per year in gasoline and oil changes alone.

2. Lunch

I love a hot lunch. It is my favorite meal of the day, but buying lunch out every day was costing me a fortune. Fifty-two weeks per year (minus three weeks of vacation and twelve holidays) left me with 233 work days per year in which I needed to provide myself with lunch. Depending on my choices, those lunches, varying from a sandwich with water and a small bag of chips to a small pizza, cost between eight and twelve dollars. If I err on the lower side and say it cost $8 every day, that is still $1,846 per year. I found, by bringing in my lunch, even with the cost of all the ingredients, I was only spending about half that amount, saving me roughly $932 per year.

3. Coffee

Again, here was another sacrifice I made that at first seemed pretty painful, but to which I rapidly adjusted. I liked my gourmet coffee. I only had one small cup per day, but it was amazing how quickly that added up. A $2.50 cup of coffee over the 233 working days mentioned above, comes to an annual expenditure of roughly $582. Even with coffee prices somewhere around $10 per pound, making your own coffee at home produces significant savings. A pound of coffee (using 2 tablespoons of grounds per five ounces of water) will make between forty and fifty cups of coffee per pound. If we go with the lower number of forty, that will require you purchasing approximately six pounds of coffee per year, at a total cost of $60. Throw in the milk or cream, and some sugar, and you are still spending less than $100 per year, compared to the $582 you spend to buy it out.

4. Dry Cleaning

Teaching myself to iron was maybe one of the biggest cost savers I ever learned. Bringing five shirts and five pairs of pants to the dry cleaners cost me between $25 and $30 dollars per week. Once I learned how to iron my own clothes, all that savings went right into my pocket. Even if it meant a little extra time or money on detergent or electricity, those additional costs are so small as to be hardly measurable. Even if the dry cleaning was only $20 per week, over forty-nine work weeks that comes to $980 per year back in your pocket.

5. Birthdays and Other Reciprocities

I am not suggesting being anti-social, but unless you work with really good, close friends, it can feel like some of the events you are asked to contribute to can be a steady drain on your wallet, and rarely come back to you in equal value. Yes, celebrating a co-worker’s birthday or wedding or birth of a child are exciting and great excuses to build camaraderie with those around you, but you end up giving up significant amounts of money to these causes. On a team of 20 people, you are looking at contributing to at least one birthday party per month. You throw in baby showers, graduations, Girl Scout cookies, football pools, and wrapping paper drives, and you will find that not only are you digging into your wallet regularly, but often unknowingly compensating for the stinginess of those around you. I am not saying "don't participate" in these fun, team-building moments, especially for those involving close friends, but what I am saying is choose your causes judiciously. Often, those who ask for money most are the ones least likely to contribute something in return.

In Conclusion

If we eliminate the last category from our spending calculations (due to variations in working environments, team sizes, and office policies), what still manages to appear are opportunities for significant savings through little changes to your job routines. In fact, if you add up the potential savings calculated above (understanding that these are really rough numbers and that your choices will move these numbers up or down) the savings found in carpooling ($2,500), bringing in your own lunch ($932), bringing in coffee from home ($482), and doing your own ironing ($980) leads to a potential savings of nearly $5,000 dollars per year! What could you do with an extra $5,000 in your pocket?