Living with credit, Protecting yourself, Travel

How telecommuting is padding my budget

Sienna Kossman

Working from home may mean less time spent in front of the mirror in the morning, but I’ve found it also means more savings and less financial stress.

In early May I moved from Texas to Alabama, joining nearly 3.3 million other Americans who telecommute for work, according to the most recent Global Workplace Analytics statistics. Since then, I’ve noticed how telecommuting has impacted my wallet.

I’ve had more money in my checking account recently, but until now, hadn’t sat down and really reviewed any telecommuting savings. In the spirit of continuing my financial education journey, last week I compared my current and past monthly expenses.

My spending history revealed I’ve cut my monthly gas costs in at least half, down from about $60-$80 a month to about $25-40, depending on how much I drive on the weekends. Other living expenses, such as rent and utilities, have also decreased, but not specifically due to telecommuting. My personal savings are accentuated because I split housing costs (i.e. my rent is now only $387 a month compared to $1,100 before) with my boyfriend, but working from home has helped me save money in other areas of day-to-day life.

Overall, I’m spending money less frivolously now that I’m working from home. Here’s what has changed:

Fewer clothing and beauty product purchases
When you work in-office and get ready each morning (well, as a woman anyway), you wear out (or get sick of) your outfits, use up beauty products and for me, more frequently wear pricey disposable contacts. I’ve bought fewer items of clothing in recent months because I typically only wear comfortable pants or athletic shorts and a T-shirt during the week and don’t have the need for any more nice items of clothing.

I also style my hair and wear makeup much less frequently than before, which helps prolong the life of my products. Wearing glasses more often means contact lens orders last longer, saving money there as well.

More home-brewed coffee
I still love coffee, but not leaving the house each morning helps me avoid a pit stop at Starbucks to feed my caffeine dragon before heading into the office. I make coffee at home nearly every day now, buying coffee elsewhere only once, maybe twice, a week and usually as a weekend treat while running errands. This saves me at least an extra $10-$15 a week.

Less eating out
When I worked in-office, the idea of brown-bagging my lunch always sounded like a great idea, but that plan usually lasted a couple days and then I’d be driving to buy food during my lunch hour. Even if it was only a $5 sandwich here or a $10 salad there, those costs really added up by the end of the month.

Now that I work from home, it’s actually more of a pain to go get food for lunch than it is to wander down to the kitchen and make something. I spend more money on groceries than I did before, but an extra $50 of food from the grocery store can make almost twice as many meals as $50 of restaurant lunches. Plus, for me, buying groceries also encourages healthier eating, which is an added health bonus.

Decreased car use
Less driving means I don’t need to change my oil and car fluids as frequently. My car also doesn’t get as dirty, which means I’ve been purchasing fewer $10-plus carwashes that don’t perfectly clean the car anyway.

Besides the immediate savings, using my car less may also save more money overtime. I only put a few hundred miles on my car last month and before I moved, I was averaging close to a thousand a month. If I want to trade in my car after paying it off, at this rate I’d probably get more back for it, especially now that I’m not putting it at risk for accidents in hectic rush hour traffic.

Overall, it’s been nice to see how these slight changes are affecting my budget. I’ve been able to pay off lingering credit card debt, increase my monthly student loan payments by $60 — and even make extra payments occasionally. I’m also consistently adding to my emergency savings fund and am able to afford all the routine puppy medical costs for my dog.

Additionally, before telecommuting, I was regularly strapped for cash. I was living paycheck to paycheck, but don’t think I realized how financially stressed I was until about the end of June when I’d settled in after my move and paychecks weren’t disappearing from my bank account quite as quickly.
As a young adult, I really appreciate this arrangement while tackling student loan debt. My outlook on debt repayment is now much more positive, and I appreciate my paychecks more because I have more control over what can be done with them.

While full-time telecommuting may not be an option for everyone, if you are floundering financially or looking for a way to refresh your outlook on your career and debt management, it might be worth asking your employer if you could telecommute intermittently. According to a Fortune report, only 33 percent of major U.S. employers allow regular telecommuting but twice as many permit occasional telecommuting.

I’m excited to see how my telecommuting arrangement will help my budget around the holidays when shopping and travel increases. At this rate I’ll soon need to seriously revamp my student loan repayment plan and learn how to strategically invest my money for the future. Stay tuned.

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