If you are reading this, you are most likely working at home or soon will be. Considering how many people have been working remotely over the last year regardless of the pandemic, you may also be reading this a decade into your remote work lifestyle. It is absolutely a lifestyle different from what most people are used to, complete with its own routines, benefits, and budgeting and money concerns.
Alternatively, you might be one of the millions of people working from home for the first time, likely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Like most significant shifts in your life, things can get expensive if you do not pay careful attention and appropriately adjust your expectations and expenses. Some people will adapt more quickly than others, and financial considerations are a major part of this.
Almost by default, you will save money by working from home, at least over the long term. The savings from commuting costs alone could save a person thousands of dollars per year, not to mention savings on expenses relating to being away from home and regularly needing outside conveniences.
Yet when you work from home, there might still be unnecessary expenses or ways to leverage your situation to save even more money. Here are some of the main ways you can save money and live a better life while working from home, no matter your reason or experience.
Tracking, Budgeting, and Personal Management
Understanding where you spend your money is key to saving it. Not only this, but proper accounting can help you save money on financial expenses, debt, and taxes. Additionally, keeping organized will save time when you need records. You cannot expect to remember what you did eight months ago when those records would be relevant today. Here are a few ways you can save money that follow this line of thinking:
1. Look at Your Taxes
While we aren't tax professionals, we can say with certainty that there are many potential deductions on the books for your equipment if you work from home as a freelancer or even have to set up a home office. Whether these potential deductions play a key role in your tax bill each year or not depends on how much you have to spend and the laws in your state, but keeping all work-related receipts and getting a file together is definitely worth it.
If you are ever in doubt, we recommend you consult a tax professional instead of doing everything yourself. While it may not seem like the cheapest thing at first, and they can cost you up-front, finding the right person can easily mean that you save more than you thought on your tax bill each year.
2. Review Your Travel and Transport Expenses
While we aren't saying that you should get rid of your car (although perhaps that second car is not as necessary for your household as it used to be), your transportation situation is the most immediate difference you will see between working from home and traveling to your workplace. Your monthly gas bill will be lower, and you will not be putting as much wear and tear on your vehicle.
As part of your budgeting, make a realistic expectation of how much you will use your car, how much maintenance will be needed, etc. While you shouldn't overestimate and keep going on as before when you commuted every day, you also shouldn't assume you will barely use your vehicle at all, that you will not travel, or you won't need regular maintenance. Depending on your vehicle, you may be able to save money in multiple areas.
3. Separate Your Accounts and Carefully Budget
If you are spending money on your setup and anything related to remote work, then we recommend setting up a separate account or credit card for just those expenditures. Doing so makes tracking easier and helps ensure you get reimbursed more easily, if applicable to you.
This is especially the case if you are running your own business, working as a freelancer, or are in another situation where you are generally expected to provide your own equipment. You may also be able to get a good deal with starting such an account or credit card, although the details vary by region and by institution. This is one of those concepts that we hope gets your mind going and searching for more industry or situation-specific information, as what will be best for you will not be best for other people working from home.
4. Log Your Hours Carefully
Working at home often diminishes the boundaries between work and the rest of your life, and that might mean that you feel the need to check work email before you go to bed or obligated to take a work call even though you are off the clock. People without set hours are especially prone to this, and if you are your own boss, you know exactly what we are talking about.
How much money are you losing because you are not logging those five-minute work calls when you are technically off? How many hours could you save or bill for? How much more efficient could you be? You might be surprised by the results, and if there is a problem, you might want to look at a new system or bring it up to your supervisor.
By logging your hours carefully like this, you also help set up boundaries for yourself and your clients or workplace. That will become ever more important as you continue to work from home and reestablish norms for both yourself and the people you work with or for. We recommend using a time tracking app such as Toggl or Harvest. While some can be intrusive, if you are just using it for your own purposes, there is nothing to worry about.
5. Invest in What You Need
If you have been working from home for a few months now and there is no direct path to working in the office soon, it is time to start investing in what you need to get the most from your work. Ideally, you will take home what you need, or your company (if applicable) will provide you with the required equipment. However, that might not always be the case, and more specialized peripherals can truly improve productivity (we strongly recommend investing in a second screen) and your income along with that.
Yet how does spending money on these things now act as an investment? You will save time (one of your most important resources, which we will talk further about later), and you will not have to pay to rush services, deliveries and deal with other charges when you inevitably need something down the line. Preparation generally pays off in the long run when you work from home.
6. Use What You Have First
While in some ways this might conflict with the previous advice of investing in what you need, you should try to go through and utilize what equipment and supplies you have already before completely dismissing it in favor of a new setup.
Testing everything you can is vital. Even though you should use what you have, you should not be caught unaware when you find a device you were counting on does not work. Sometimes things have expiration or use by dates that are more suggestions than a requirement. Other times they truly will not work after that date. Some programs and tech items have not been supported for some time, making them liabilities. There is a different story behind every situation and item, so use your best judgment.
From this, you will be able to get the most of what you have and save some money and be able to perhaps clear some space by getting rid of items that turn out to be useless or junk. You could use this space when creating a better and more stable home office or remote work setup.
Lifestyle and Environment Changes
All ways of saving money are effectively lifestyle changes. Still, while some are more related to organization or your mindset, these are specific things you can change in your regular life to save money while you are working from home.
7. Learn More About Your Area
Now that you are working from home, you might not necessarily have any more freedom from your workload, but you may have more opportunities to adjust your schedule in your area. Rare deals, farmers' markets, and downtime offers at your favorite places are things you can perhaps more readily take advantage of now that you work from home.
You may also discover locations, shops, and attractions that you would never have learned about otherwise by reviewing your area. And while they will inevitably cost money, you may also save on travel time, time in general, and be able to go longer without taking a long and expensive vacation.
8. Reconsider Your Subscriptions
While you may have wanted to get a better internet connection, and that might be entirely necessary given how important that connection is when working at home, there are plenty of other subscriptions that might change in their usefulness once you start working from home.
You also might have signed up for several different management services or tracking services as a part of your initial working from home push (we recommend that you do). While these services can be helpful, you also may not need a premium version of them, and you likely do not need more than one or two. If you find the right one for your setup, you will not need to spend too much.
It might be that the gym you went to after work is no longer the most logical choice or that some of the subscriptions you might have used to save time do not have a point in the current remote work environment. You might not need to have so many entertainment-based subscriptions or streaming services with all the work you must do at home. There are plenty of other services you simply will not use now.
Whatever the reasons, a quick review of all your subscriptions (we recommend checking your credit card statement) cannot hurt. Whatever you do not use, cut without regret. It is not like you cannot start it up again later.
9. Start Cooking for Yourself More
Perhaps you had a habit of going out for lunch each day when you worked outside of the home. This might have even made sense, depending on how busy you were at the time and the disdain of eating a small cold meal for lunch every afternoon. However, now that you work from home, you can likely cook for yourself more with the time you have and the close distance you are from your kitchen.
Just because you are cooking for yourself does not mean that you can't treat yourself. Great ingredients might cost a bit more depending on where you go, but it will always be cheaper than going out. An average dinner out can cost as much as a pair of filet mignons to cook to your preference, and whatever else you'd like to go with it (and your homemade meal will likely be healthier to boot). Make cooking fun for yourself, and you will stick with this.
If you are extremely short on time and do not know if you have the time to cook an extra meal, you can just make extra dinner and have it for lunch. Even your reheated home cooking will be cheaper and likely healthier. Meal prep does not even need to be some extended weekly ritual, as some videos or sites might have you believe (although that can be a healthy part of your week). Sometimes cooking a bigger roast or extra rice one night is all that is needed.
10. Virtual Lunches
No, we are not suggesting you eat only virtual food, as interesting as that might be. Instead, consider virtual hangouts (probably lunch or brunch) where you chat with your coworkers or other people in your field to either get to know each other, share ideas, or whatever you would like. You could even make it a regular lunch and online chess game if you would like. The choice is yours, and you will not be limited to people immediately in your area.
This can save you money by reducing your desire to eat out. While some people do not need much social interaction to get by, others will quickly realize that an office's more social environment (or a substitute) is necessary for their mental health. Without it, they might not talk to other human beings outside of their family for weeks. That stress leads to poor spending habits, among other issues, so ensure you are taking care of that need.
Your behaviors as you work from home are determined, at least in part, by your mindset. By understanding your mindset and changing it in some small and large ways, you can start to live a lifestyle better suited to working from home and saving money while doing so. Here are some of the key methods to begin with:
11. Embracing Personal Convenience and Comfort
While you are working from home, you are going to get more stressed out at times. Depending on your personality and how you prefer to work, this stress can reach dizzying levels. Ignoring it because you don't think it feels right to be stressed out when working from home or that other people would love to be in your position will not help anyone. It will only lead to poor decision making, high spending in an attempt to solve the problem, and worse feelings down the line. You are going to need an outlet.
What you can save money on is how you take care of yourself. Much like how you can make your own coffee instead of going out every day to spend money, you can get tools and home kits to help you relieve stress. A home spa kit will cost less than going to the spa, and you will not have to deal with travel stress. If you are spending more time at home due to your work, you can make sure your home is where you want to be instead of spending more time out in the world.
12. Understand Your Situation
We do not mean this to say that you should panic and start to worry about your life's stability. While many things are changing, you are still the same person as before. You simply have to adapt to working from home, likely in addition to a bunch of other problems and benefits. This is easier said than done over the course of weeks and months.
If you are now working from home, measuring how you spend your time and money now will be helpful, as will simply understanding how you feel at the end of each day. What are you spending money on that is no longer helping your life? Is your income expected to change? Would it make sense to move to a different apartment or home in your area if remote work is expected to be long term and you no longer need to be close to the office?
Your remote work situation allows you new opportunities to live a cheaper, happier lifestyle. You may need to look around and start considering some big changes.
13. Go for the Greatest Value Instead of the Lowest Price
Whenever you're trying to save money, you might be tempted just to get the cheapest option whenever you are buying something new. However, this is rarely the best course of action, especially when you need what you buy to be reliable, or instead, you want it to work for a while. Would you rather have a pair of shoes that lasted you five years for $200 or a pair of shoes that cost you $100 and last a year and a half?
This particular consideration will look differently to you, depending on how long you might be working remotely. Therefore, those in uncertain situations might wish to hold off for the moment and try to get by before they get an unexpected notice that they're expected back at the office. However, if you know you will be working at home for a while, go for quality items and tools. We promise you your future bank account will thank you for it.
14. Do Not Forget About the Value of Your Time
There are many ways you can save or perhaps even make additional money while you are working from home. Still, we recommend that you not obsess over saving money to the degree that you use up all the time and energy that could be put towards better endeavors. While working towards convenience in every conceivable way, spending whatever you can to achieve it is likely not a good plan.
Remember that you are getting paid for your time (or what you can do with your time) and that your time has value. Spending an hour to search for online coupons will probably not save you much money when weighed against everything else you could be doing. Even the time you spend resting could be more valuable if it helps you stay sharp and advance in your career or do more for your clients in the long run. Don't treat your life as a checkbook to be balanced, but keep this in the back of your mind if you think you are getting too thrifty.
As mentioned earlier, balance is key to long-term success when working from home, and earning more is just as viable an option as spending less.
As you can undoubtedly tell by this point, not every point above will be something you can use. In fact, some might be contradictory or counterproductive to what you want. Ultimately, how you can save money while working at home depends on your working situation, whether you think working from home will be permanent, what kind of setup and routine you need, and various other factors only you know.
Nonetheless, we hope that in the above list, you find the ideas that can spark a change in your life for the better, whether it saves you money, frees you from some worry, or in another way entirely. We thank you for reading through all the way and hope that you come back to this page as needed.