How to Save Money When Working from Home
Whether you work remotely full-time or a few days of the week, here's how to make your take-home pay stretch even further when you work from home.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels
As the pandemic has accelerated a new work-from-home era and you find yourself continuing to work remotely, one advantage is that you've probably been able to save from not having to commute, or getting your clothes dry cleaned, buying fancy lunches with co-workers, or stopping by a Starbucks for your daily latte.
Whether you work from home full-time or only a few days a week, you may be wondering how you might be able to make your take-home pay stretch even further. Here are a handful of ways you can save some dough as a remote worker:
Inquire About Employer Reimbursements
If you had to use some of your own money to pay for work-related equipment and supplies, consider asking your employer if they can reimburse you for these tracked expenses. This may include:
- Subscriptions to productivity platforms
- Office supplies such as pens, pencils, paper
- Printer, ink, and paper
While there's no federal law that requires employers to cover you for these expenses, a handful of states do require companies to foot the bill for necessary business costs for their workers, including: California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, and New York.
One thing to note is that working from home doesn't mean you qualify for the home office deduction. That's a tax write-off that's for self-employed folks, not for remote workers who are gainfully employed by a single company.
Use Furniture and Equipment You Already Have
To save on the costs of a home office setup, start by making the most of furniture, supplies, and equipment you might already have. Don't forget to check long-forgotten areas in your home where equipment might be collecting dust. Think storage closets, your garage, and separate storage units. You might find a printer that's in perfect working order, or a tangle of extension cords that have newfound use.
Look for Inexpensive Items Online
You can also save money when working from home by shopping online during sales and looking for great deals on furniture, supplies, and equipment for your home office space. The savings don't stop there. You might also be able to swoop in on deals on software and subscriptions during once-a-year sales. Keep an eye out for when those annual deals are offered.
Make the Most of Natural Sunlight
While this might seem like a small matter, as you'll be spending more time at home and using more utilities, gas and electricity, if possible carve out a work-from-home space where you might be able to enjoy natural light coming through the windows. And on sunny, warm days, consider working part of the time outside. Not only will you get your dose of Vitamin D, but it could help shave off a few dollars on your electricity bill.
Score Free Items from a Buy Nothing Group
If there's a Buy Nothing Group in your neighborhood, scour for items people are gifting to see if there's anything you could use for your work-from-home setup. Buy Nothing members give away a wide variety of items, including office furniture, supplies, and computer accessories and monitors. You can find a directory of Buy Nothing groups online.
By participating in a Buy Nothing Group, you not only receive items that you can use for your home office but you can get rid of unwanted items. And by getting rid of stuff you no longer use or want, it can also help you realize how much you bought out of habit or impulse. In turn, it could help save by spending less in the future.
Spend "Extra" Time Cooking and Doing Chores Throughout the Week
As you are most likely saving time by not commuting, taking office clothes to the dry cleaners, and spending an hour for lunch with coworkers, you can make the most of any extra time you've saved by cooking more. You can either batch cook before or after work, or consider tossing some items in a Crockpot before you start your workday. By the time lunch hour rolls around, you'll have a home cooked, warm meal ready for you and your family.
Go on a Workcation
You might be able to save money by working part of the time while traveling. Depending on your employer, you could kill two birds with one stone by enjoying local sites and still being on the clock. You might not have to take as much time off, and can spend part of that time as if you're on vacation.
Consider Moving to a Less-Expensive Part of the Country
While this might be a more dramatic step, if you can work entirely remotely, mull over the possibility of uprooting to a more affordable part of the country. As many folks moved out of expensive parts of the U.S. to enjoy a less-expensive part of the country, you could save dramatically on housing and everyday living expenses such as on eating out, groceries, and filling up your car gas tank.
Start by playing around with a cost-of-living comparison calculator. If you're serious about it, have a chat with your boss or someone in your human resources department to see if this might be a possibility. If so, are there any different requirements or expectations for those working out-of-state? Besides potentially enjoying a lower cost of living, are there any tax implications for working out of state? And would you have to pay income taxes for two states when performing work in two states while you made the move?
Put the Money You Save Toward a Specific Goal
Put any money you save toward a specific money goal. This might be to pay off debt, towards an end-of-summer vacation or for a down payment on a house, or maybe toward something long-term such as retirement. Whether you end up saving that money or investing it, the important thing is that you're putting it toward a specific goal.
The effort you put toward saving is an achievement in itself. But if you don't put that money toward a specific goal, you might end up spending it frivolously. And your efforts might be for naught.
Working from home can have many perks, including making it easier for you to free up cash, and save even more. By intentionally finding ways to save while you work remotely, you can make greater progress toward your financial goals.