Can You Actually Save Money by Working From Home?

We’re all trying to imagine how the post-pandemic world might work. For workers whose employers have said they can Work From Anywhere, there’s an important question to ask: will I save money by working from home?

Sure, it’ll feel great to return to the office and socialize with actual human beings, but if working from home – even a couple days a week – leads to a financial windfall, we need to know that in order to make a better decision.

There are some indications that during Covid, home-based workers have indeed been saving money. You ma have noticed articles over the past several months with headlines like “U.S. savings rate hits record 33% as coronavirus causes Americans to stockpile cash, curb spending.” These savings, the article explains, was the result of a decline in consumer spending, which dropped by 13.6% in April 2020.

No More Commuting Costs

Were you one of the people who saved money by spending less? If so, you might attribute the savings to the end of your daily commute, which on average costs $6,380 per year (and obviously can cost much more in some regions). When you add in parking, eating lunch at a restaurant near the office, a daily coffee habit and perhaps professional clothes and cleaning – the cost of going to the office starts to add up.

In its Work From Home Experience Survey, the consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics concluded that “a typical employer can save an average of $11k per half-time remote worker/year.” If true, that’s an $11k bonus for staying at home!

Beware Hidden Expenses

Yet, we’ve seen some research that any savings gained from the elimination of your daily commute will be offset by cost increases, such as utilities, groceries and food delivery (which are probably a substitute for pre-covid restaurant dining). Creditcards.com funded a study that found home-based workers spending more than commuters in early 2020:

“Work-from-home employees reported they are spending an average of $182 more on groceries and $121 more on utilities per month, but also saving a bit on child care ($34), gas and public transit ($33), restaurants and takeout ($27) and clothes and dry cleaning ($4). In total, those forced to work from home due to COVID-19 are spending an average of $108 more per month on food and utilities.”

The sample size for this survey was small (2,768 people, of which 822 worked from home), so take this information with a grain of salt. 

Results May Vary

One thing the creditcards.com survey points out is that spending seemed to vary by generational cohort, parental status and income bracket.  

“Millennials spent the most ($208 more) compared with Gen-Xers and baby boomers, who spent $2 less and $24 less, respectively. Parents with children under 18 spent $173 more per month and non-parents spent $103 more.”

How Do Your Expenses Compare?

In researching the topic, we uncovered some national averages for work-related expenses, which are itemized below.

Expense category

National average pre-pandemic

National average during COVID

Notes

Automobile (gas, depreciation, wear & tear)

$6,380/year

unavailable

We used the IRS’ 2019 mileage rate of 58 cents per mile, times the average US commuting distance of 11,000 miles per year. (source)

Contract parking

$120/mo.

unavailable

This figure is the mean rather than the average. (source)

Lunch

$281/mo. (source)

unavailable

 

Coffee shop

$117-$167 (source)

unavailable

 

Work clothes

$21-$62/mo. (source)

unavailable

 

Electric

$115/mo.

+$121/mo. (source)

 

Groceries

$641/mo. (source)

+$182/mo. (source)

 

Food delivery

$290/mo. (source)

In its U.S. survey, Vitagene found that Detroit had the lowest per-capita spending and Seattle the highest.

Childcare

$500/mo. (source)

-$34/mo. (source)

 

Pet care

$43/mo. (source)

unavailable

 

Try the Employee Savings Calculator

Here's a great calculator published by Global Workplace Analytics, that will help you calculate a more accurate estimate of whether or not you will save money by working from home.

More to Consider Than Money

Of course, not every decision is about the money. So, in evaluating whether the remote-work lifestyle is for you, you need to also consider what you value and how working from home might affect how you spend your time. Here, we have two pre-pandemic statistics to consider. 

  • Commute time - The average commute time in the U.S. prior to the pandemic was 54 minutes per day. (source)
  • Family time - Prior to covid, the average family spent just 37 minutes together. (source)

Not a Black-and-White Choice

One thing that rarely gets mentioned in coverage of the post-pandemic workplace is a third option. You see, employees have more choices than just choosing between the home office or the corporate office. Keep this in mind as you consider your options in 2021 and beyond.

Flexible Workspaces Abound

The fact is that thousands of flexible workspaces, such as coworking spaces and serviced offices, are already located close to where employees live. These workspaces provide similar infrastructure to a corporate office, like high speed internet, private offices, printing, coffee, etc. But instead of belonging to one company, these workspaces host freelancers, entrepreneurs and employees from many different companies. 

Flexible workspaces are like gyms, in that people pay a membership fee that varies depending on the level of access they want. Also like a gym, flexible workspaces are social environments, where workers tend to network and make friends over time. 

Best of all, flexible workspaces are affordable. A basic coworking membership, which allows you to show up, grab an available desk and work any time during the week, might start around $250 per month. A private office will cost more. You can also rent meeting rooms by the hour. Increasingly, employers are open to covering this kind of expense, as it ensures a more professional work environment than the typical home office.

Keep in mind that instead of going stir-crazy working from home, you can always find nearby flexible office spaces on LiquidSpace.com.

Topics: workplace freedom

Visit LiquidSpace.com
Talk to someone about WFA management

Other blogs you might like