Spending money is a fact-of-life and it is something all of us have to do in order to exist. In these tough economic times where money is tight, and there is not too much of it sloshing around, most of us have to try to reduce our costs and expenditure to maintain the same kind of lifestyle we have become accustomed too.

It is a strange concept that in order to make money we have to spend money. Think about your typical working day and consider the money you spend whilst earning your salary. From the costs of actually getting to the office, to the costs of food and drinks during the day, to the costs of getting back home in the evening, as well as any ad-hoc costs such as drinks and nibbles with fellow work colleagues to sponsoring your boss to do a charity run, it is clear to see that we spend an awful lot of money. In fact, the total amount is likely to be frightening. Unfortunately, much of this expenditure is necessary and it is not possible to omit it altogether, however there are ways in which costs can be minimised as far as possible.

Arguably, the largest work expense for an employee is food. We all know from our weekly trips to the supermarket the cost of food is ever increasing, therefore it s only natural that the cost of readymade sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes and pastries follows suit. The cost of readymade lunches compared to the ingredients and labour involved in making them is simply extortionate, and rather than buying a readymade lunch, it is far more cost effective to buy all the ingredients you need for a week’s worth of lunches and make your own.

Readymade lunches are full of preservatives and whilst this gives the food a longer shelf life it doesn’t do our bodies that much good. In addition, readymade lunches are often full of fat, sugars, salt and calories, which is not that good. By making your own lunches you will have total control over what does and what does not go in to them therefore you can tailor the ingredients and the nutritional content to your own tastes.

Many people will argue they buy readymade lunches because they do not have time to make them in the mornings or because a lunchbox is another item that has to be carried to the office. Well in response to this, make the lunch the night before it is needed and keep it cool in the refrigerator, and carrying a lunchbox isn’t that much of a deal is it? Consider all the advantages associated with making your own lunch and it is easy to see that having to carry a lunchbox and having to spend a few minutes each night making the following day’s lunch is well worth it.

Many people like snacks during the day, which is fine, and many employers’ provide vending machines for this purpose. Snacks bought from vending machines are notoriously more expensive than if they were bought from a local shop and the machine owners justify the prices because of the convenience associated with vending machines. Rather than buy snacks from vending machines it is far more cost effective to buy bulk packets of snacks from the supermarket and devour these over the working week.

If you are the sort of person who finds it hard to make snacks last and will devour them simply because you can then put the snacks in a lockable box and give the key to a fellow work colleague. Better still use a fellow work colleague as the vending machine and get them to distribute one snack a day.

A vehicle is another major expense for many people. With the volatile costs of fuel that seem to be ever increasing, the extortionate parking costs as well as the spiralling costs associated with owning a car, such as maintenance and repairs, travelling to work is becoming more and more expensive. In order to reduce travelling costs try a car share scheme with some of your work colleagues and split the costs. If it is possible to join such a scheme, remember to do your share of the driving so you don’t look like a miser.

Not only is car sharing likely to reduce your travelling costs it has other benefits in that it allows you to do your bit for the environment and reduce your carbon footprint as well as providing some social time with your work colleagues out of the work place that may lead to increased staff morale and some new friendships.

If, for whatever reason it is not possible to car share try to seek out public transport, such as the train, tram or bus. Using public transport is likely to save some money, although you do need to ensure the timetables coincide with your working pattern otherwise you may find yourself stranded. An alternative is to cycle to work and there are many cycle schemes open to employees to encourage them to get to work in this manner. Cycling to work does have some obvious health benefits, however many work places are not geared up for cyclists.

Taking your own car should be seen as the total last resort, although it is unfortunate that many employees are forced in to doing this.

 Many people will buy a daily newspaper on the way to work to read at lunchtime. Rather than buy a paper, why not read it online? Virtually all of the major newspapers have a website which is bang up to date with the news so save yourself some money, do your bit for the environment and reduce your carbon footprint by not buying a paper and read it on screen.

Many people may argue the daily newspaper provides entertainment on the daily commute. Instead of reading a paper there are loads of cheaper alternatives to keep you amused on the commute. For example, take a book and read, download music on to an MP3 player and listen to music, download an audio and/or visual podcast and watch/listen to that. If you stop and have a think about it there is plenty to do.

 Hot beverages are expensive and buying a coffee on the way to work is going to cost a lot of money over time. Rather than buying readymade coffee, why not wait until you get to work where it will be much cheaper or even free? If you have a long commute or are the sort of person who cannot function without an early morning coffee, then make one at home, pour it in a thermos flask and take that with you.

This will mean you have to carry a flask but if you weigh up the potential savings, it is easy to see that taking your own coffee is well worth it.

Arguably, the points above are the most common areas where employees spend a lot of money during the working week, and a lot of it is unnecessary. By following some of the advice above it is possible to make some huge savings. There may be other unnecessary expenses you incur during your working week, which could lead to some significant savings if properly monitored and controlled.

How to make it work for you

The simple answer is to budget. In order to calculate your potential savings note down everything you buy and how much you spend each day during the working week. During this exercise, it is important to be disciplined and note down everything. Do not leave anything out. At the end of the week analyse your spending. Were all of the costs absolutely necessary or could some be omitted? The objective is to identify areas where unnecessary expenditure can be eliminated and areas where necessary expenditure can be reduced. With this information you need to devise a plan of action, perhaps set yourself a weekly budget that once exceeded is gone and will not be extended under any circumstances.