Now that many of us are working from home, we don’t get the familiar perks like snacks, a desk, chair or maybe even a computer! These things were always provided to you in your office, but since the COVID-19 pandemic we are no longer going to the office, but rather to our home office.
But, working at home can cost more than you think
If you thought working at home was going to save you money, think again.
Despite the potential for savings on commuting-related expenses, dry cleaning bills, and shopping for work attire, there are other less-obvious expenses that can really pile up while working from home.
Many employees may not realize they are likely plunking down significant change on below-the-radar things like electricity bills, phone data plans, supplies for their home office, and personal device wear and tear, says Patrick Donnelly, vice president and senior wealth advisor at The Colony Group, a registered investment advisor.
“With summer fast-approaching, those electricity bills are going to increase even further as the heat sets in and the air conditioners are cranking,” he says. “Employees may be incurring the costs of basic office supplies (think ink cartridges) and they may even be purchasing desks, chairs, monitors and other critical office items.”
Then there are even more under-the-surface expenses—like the potential cost of increased wear and tear on employees’ personal technology devices. “Home computers, laptops, and tablets are getting worked harder than ever and these devices will not last as they otherwise would,” Donnelly says.
To convert some expenses into money-saving opportunities, consider asking your employer for reimbursement on things like office chairs, computers, or even pens, paper, envelopes and other supplies, Donnelly says. And, of course, try to keep the electricity bills at bay by wearing lighter, more relaxed clothes and keeping the temperature comfortable, but moderate. It should go without saying to turn out lights when they aren’t in use.
Understanding these at-home costs is just the first step, however. Make sure you incorporate spending changes into your working budget. If you don’t already do this, there are plenty of personal financial websites and apps that allow you to aggregate your various accounts in one place and monitor all your transactions. You might start by checking out free apps such as Mint, PocketGuard, Wally and Clarity Money. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, and there are additional for-cost apps as well. Just be sure that any fees you pay are worth the services you’re getting.
Ideally, you’ll have been budgeting all along, but if not, try using digital tools to recreate your pre-pandemic expenses and then do another tally now. This exercise will help you understand where you may be spending less and where you may be spending more. This, in turn, will give you a better understanding of the bottom-line impact on your finances.
For many, working at home is a perk. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into an overly expensive one.