If you’re currently working at home because you have to, not because you choose to (thank you, pandemic), you might miss the office right now. Catered lunches and free cappuccino at the office may do more for your appetite than the meals you’ve been making from home.
And though you’re probably aware that you’re saving money by working from home (no parking fees, for example), have you sat down to figure out exactly how much you’re saving?
Spoiler alert: The average person can save about $4,000 per year by working remotely.
Your total amount will vary based on where you live and the choices you make. But, we’ve looked at some common categories where you can save money by working remotely.
1. Commuting Costs
The average commuter spends between $2,000 and $5,000 per year on transportation costs. Commuting by car costs more than commuting by public transportation. But either way, traveling to and from the office really adds up.
In 2018, the average household spent $2,109 on “gasoline, other fuels, and motor oil,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s up from $1,968 the previous year (or a 7.2% increase).
The average commuter travels anywhere from 5 to 13 miles for work, with some people commuting as much as 47 miles for their job. And all that driving means filling up. A lot. For example, if you commute 10 miles one way for work and you work in the office five days a week, you probably fill up once a week. If you get 20 miles per gallon and the average price of gas is $2.60 a gallon, you’ll spend $624 a year just on gas.
However, if you work from home even two days a week, you’ll only spend $374.40 a year, saving you $249.60. Check out a commuter cost calculator to figure out how much you spend gassing up your ride every year.
As a remote worker, you’ll spend a lot less on gas. You won’t spend zero, of course. There are still errands to run and road trips to take. But you won’t spend nearly as much because your commute is as close as your home office. And you certainly won’t be extreme commuting!
Owning a car is about more than filling the gas tank. There’s maintenance, too. Oil changes, tire rotations, and all the other regular (and unexpected) maintenance tasks you do to help keep your car safe cost money.
While different types of cars (electric versus pickup truck, for example) have different annual expenses, in 2017, car owners could expect to spend between $6,354 and $10,054 a year on maintenance.
It’s important to note, however, that these estimates assume you drive approximately 15,000 miles a year. As a remote worker, the odds are pretty good that you’re driving far less than that. The less you drive, the less wear and tear you add to your vehicle. And the less wear and tear, the less often you have to pay for maintenance.
While that’s not necessarily a cost-saving—you still have to change the oil regularly—you can spread your expenses out over a longer period of time. And, the less you drive your car, the longer it will likely last, saving you the expense of replacing your ride before you’re ready.
You’ve probably seen the car insurance commercials that explain how they’re giving refunds or credits to policyholders right now. That’s fantastic! But did you know that if you work from home all the time, you might be able to score lower insurance rates permanently?
When you sign up for a car insurance policy, the provider asks you how far you commute. Generally, people commute to and from work when there are more people on the roads. More people on the roads usually leads to, you guessed it, more accidents. That, in turn, means you’ll pay a higher insurance rate because the odds are higher you’ll get into an accident.
Equally important, though, is the amount of time you spend on the road commuting. Generally, when you sign up for a policy, the company asks you for your annual mileage and your commuting mileage. These are two different numbers. Your annual mileage is how much you drive your car in a year, no matter the reason. Your commuting mileage is how much you drive your car for your job. The higher your commuting mileage, the longer you’re on the road, and the more likely it is that you’ll have an accident.
If you drive less than 5,000 miles a year for work, you could qualify for a lower insurance rate. This will depend on your total annual mileage, but not commuting to work will help lower your mileage, which could result in a cheaper insurance rate for you.
By now, you’re probably thinking public transportation is the way to go (COVID-19 notwithstanding). Well, don’t be so sure.
First, not every community has safe and reliable public transportation. And sometimes, even when public transportation is available, it’s not always an option due to schedules or location.
In a major metropolitan city, you’ve got options. You’ll also need a lot of cold hard cash.
In 2017 (the last year data is available for), people who relied solely on public transportation spent between 3% and 4% of their average income per year on public transportation costs. For example, a commuter in Philadelphia could spend $96 for a monthly pass or $1,152 a year. And a New York City commuter would spend $127 a month or $1,524 a year on passes.
While significantly less expensive than commuting via car, public transit still costs money. Working at home costs far less than all transportation options.
Working in an office, even one with a casual dress code, means you need “work” clothes. That could mean suits, ties, “business casual” items, or other professional apparel. In 2018, the average household spent $1,866 a year on “apparel and services,” meaning buying clothing and keeping it clean.
That’s right. No matter what it is, your clothes get dirty, and you’ve got to get them clean. And, since not everything can go in the wash, you have to consider dry cleaning costs as well.
In 2017, you would expect to pay the following average amounts for dry cleaning each time you brought your items in:
- Two-piece suit: $10 to $15
- Pants: $5 to $8
- Shirt: $5 to $7
- Ties: $3 to $6
But, depending on your industry, you may not have to just wear one suit a month, or even every week. You may have to wear a suit every day! Over time, that dry cleaning can really add up.
While you still need to buy and clean your clothing when you work at home, you probably don’t need a closet full of suits and khakis. Yoga pants, jeans, and casual tees are usually enough. Even better, you don’t generally need to dry clean these kinds of clothing. Throwing them in the wash on laundry day is usually good enough.
3. Eating Out
You are probably well aware that eating out for lunch and buying coffee frequently can add up fast. This is a discretionary cost that can amount to hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. In 2018, for example, the BLS reports that the average household spent $3,459 on “food away from home.”
Even if your office provides the best coffee in the world and free lunch every day, don’t forget the impact commuting can have on your willingness to cook. Many a weary commuter has picked up pizza on the way home because the thought of pulling together a meal at the end of the day is just too much.
Eating at home is usually healthier and cheaper. When you work at home, you can pick the foods you like, avoid the ones you dislike, and eat whenever you please. And, with a coffee maker, you can brew your own joe any way you like!
4. Tax Breaks
If you are a freelancer or self-employed, there are some tax breaks you are likely eligible for. If you are a full-time employee who works remotely (either all or some of the time), you may also be entitled to some tax breaks, but not necessarily the same as a freelancer would.
Tax breaks can include:
- Home office deduction
- Healthcare expenses
- Pass-through deduction
- Retirement contributions
- Depreciation of equipment
Taxes are tricky! However, we’ve got some tax tips that can help guide you to the many tax breaks available to remote workers. And, as always, when in doubt, contact a qualified professional.
5. The Environment
Technically, this doesn’t save you any money. But, it does help save the environment, and that can be worth a lot more than extra dollars in your pocket.
A study from 2018 points out that thanks to people who were working remotely at that time (almost 3.9 million people), nearly 3 million tons of greenhouse gases were not released into the atmosphere.
6. “Real” Salary
Have you ever tried to place a value on the amount of time not spent commuting, and what that means for your financial bottom line? Consider time spent commuting as part of your total workday. After all, the entire purpose of slogging to and from the office is to do your job.
In 2019, the average worker spent 27.1 minutes commuting one way, or 54.2 minutes round trip. However, by working from home, the average former commuter could spend up to 235 fewer hours annually on a work-related activity, or about 29 fewer eight-hour days every year. That’s basically a full month off of work!
So, how does that translate when it comes to your salary? Say you earn $50,000 a year and you’re commuting to an office. That would mean you’re making about $21.70 per hour (because you’re working an eight-hour day plus your 54ish-minute commute, or just under nine hours daily). If you skipped the commute, though, your hourly wage would rise to $24.04 an hour!
Save Money With a Remote Job
It’s hard to put a dollar value on your time, but if you look at these statistics, the amount of hours you save working from home instead of in an office really adds up in dollar amounts. While work-at-home jobs aren’t for everyone, one to two days a week at home can really help your bottom line.
If you’re looking for a remote job, FlexJobs can help! We’re a subscription service for job seekers that features flexible remote jobs. With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, the monthly subscription costs allow us to fully vet and verify all of the jobs on our site—ensuring that customers have a safe and positive job searching experience.
Check out our job postings and find a remote job that will help you save more money. FlexJobs members have full access to our job postings and other benefits every day. Not a member? Take the tour and learn about everything a FlexJobs membership offers.
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