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How much money could you save by working remotely?

The benefits of working remotely to both employers and employees have all but been shouted from the rooftops, since the model became a mainstay in the tech community. More and more, companies are adopting the approach for its flexibility, access to greater talent and heightened productivity. I’ve read about greater work life balance, more free time to do other projects and the potential to reinvigorate rural communities. But as I was scrolling through Twitter recently, I came across something I’d never considered. There, nestled between some celebrity gossip and a link to a marketing webinar, someone was claiming to have saved thousands of dollars simply from making the switch to working from home.

A quick Google search showed that others had claimed it to be true for them too and I immediately wanted to calculate my own savings.

As I began to jot down numbers, the savings from removing my commute were immediately obvious. Reducing the twice daily car trip would absolutely lower the amount I spent on petrol. But as I started to consider other changes in habits like buying coffee and lunch or the kinds of clothing I wear now, over what I would wear to office it really did begin to add up.

While everyone’s spending habits are of course different, and working from home isn’t guaranteed to change them – it’s definitely likely. To showcase some of the potential savings you could expect, I looked at five major world cities and compared the average spending I would correlate to those working from an office and those working from home.

Commuting

Aside from accommodation, transportation is one of the largest recurring costs in most people’s lives. Whether you drive every day or use public transport, by removing (or even just reducing) the need to commute to and from work, you’re almost guaranteed to save on costs.

Some of the obvious costs associated with your daily commute include petrol, parking and tolls or the cost of you monthly transit pass, but it’s also worth considering the cost of time spent in traffic or waiting for a late bus to arrive.

Traffic and wait times are big factors in determining the cities for best and worst commutes. One study, compared 74 cities worldwide to determine Nice, France had the best commute, followed by Cuenca, Equador and Bilboa in Spain. The worst commute title was given to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, followed by Bogota, Columbia and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Giving up a lengthy or difficult commute is enough of a reason to make the change to working remotely, but cost savings definitely help.

NYC public transit commuters have an average journey of 1 hour and 42 minutes each day, including wait time, and could spend $5.50 each day if buying one-way tickets.

*there are some cost savings associated with purchasing monthly
passes, but for this comparison, we’ve opted to include one-way tickets only.

If NYC workers made the choice to work from home even two days a week, they could save $44 a month and $528 a year. The savings jump up to $1320 a year when working from home full-time.

Of course, you’ll have to leave your home at some point and with your change in the structure of your day you may find this means paying for transit at times you wouldn’t have previously. For example, going to get groceries, where you previously may have done this on your way home from work – thereby using the same ticket. With this in mind, it’s unlikely transit savings will be as simple as the chart above. However, the regularity of these costs will definitely go down. For the most accurate cost breakdown, it’s a good idea to map your general movements over each week to determine when you would still need to use public transport and when you could give it up with the change. You may find working from home encourages you to go to more cafes and restaurants in your area and get groceries from your local shop rather than ones closer to your office, thereby reducing the need to commute for those extra activities too.

Commuting by car

For drivers, there are a number of cost considerations to calculate your overall savings. These include of course, gas, tolls and parking but you could also save money on car maintenance or even the cost of registration if you go down to one car per family.

*Monetary values are given in USD. Cost per day is based on an 8-hour day, and cost per month is based on 20 working days in a month

*Monetary values are given in USD. Cost per day is based on an 8-hour day, and cost per month is based on 20 working days in a month

Parking

The average Manila driver is spending over $USD700 a year (13% of their annual income) on parking alone, which could all be saved by making the switch to working from home full time.

Paying for gas is a costly essential for most commuters. Fluctuating prices make it hard to budget for but as a necessary expense, most people simply have to cop the increases making cuts elsewhere. Cutting your commute won’t mitigate this expense completely – you’ll still need to drive at least sometimes for errands, visiting friends and family and transporting items. However, you may find you can go down to one car per family, or at the very least make that tank of gas stretch out to two or three weeks rather than your regular one.

Coffee

Making your coffee at home is, of course, always an option, and something that I’m sure many people do already. It’s one of those goals I always tend to make when I’m looking to cut back on spending because it seems like an easy switch. But I find it really difficult to implement when I’m heading to an office every day. For many of us, a warm cup is part of our morning routine that sets up the day ahead. I often find myself heading to a coffee shop when I need a break in my day and it’s hard to say no when other colleagues are heading out too. Besides all this, I actually enjoy having coffee at my desk as I work so making some at home before I leave isn’t always practical.

But by removing your commute altogether, and working from home, the hard work is already done for you. There’s no need to engage a lot of will power to skip your regular stop or bypass the lobby café when it smells so good.

Even if you choose to work from coffee shops a few times a week, this is still likely to be less frequent than your every morning coffee stop. Even more, if you enjoy an afternoon brew.

As with everything, the cost of coffee differs around the globe and your total savings will largely depend on how much coffee you regularly consume. However, a 2012 survey from Accounting Principles found that workers in the US spend about $20 a week – $1,000 a year – on coffee alone. 

To calculate your potential savings, add up your monthly coffee bill and then subtract the cost of at-home beans (as well as any coffee shop visits you will make in your new routine).

For example, if you live in the UK, you could save over $USD100 a month if you drink 2 cups of coffee each workday and switch both to homebrew. That’s $1350 a year!

NB: these calculations only include a direct switch from café to home-brewed coffee and don’t include any at-home coffee you may already buy as a supplement. 

Lunch

For those of you working in an office full-time, you’re probably already intimately acquainted with how much more you spend when you opt to buy your lunch over bringing it from home. Particularly if you’re hitting up trendy inner-city spots.

Even if you’re pretty good at meal prep, office birthdays, catching up with colleagues over your lunch break and even things like Friday afternoon drinks can all push you to eat out more than you would if you were working from home. In fact, one study said that only about one-third of workers actually pack a lunch to save money.

Although preparing your food at home isn’t without its own cost, the mark up on even simple items like salads is huge at cafés and restaurants. If you’re doing this a couple times a week it can add up extremely quickly. Even with the potential to spend a bit more on your weekly grocery shop to cover all your lunches, you’ll definitely still see savings overall.

At-home meals can vary in cost depending on the ingredients you use but even at $5AUD ($USD3.45) per meal (generally, an overestimate), someone living in Sydney Australia could save $USD2,270 annually by switching all their lunches to home-made.

Childcare

Working from home is still, by nature, work. So, you’re unlikely to be able to completely remove the need for childcare altogether. Trying to get anything done with a toddler in the house can be difficult already but add in the need for quiet times during conference calls or uninterrupted hours for ‘deep work’ and it’s near impossible.

In saying that, flexible hours without the need for a commute has allowed many working parents to reduce the hours of their childcare and cut out after or before school care altogether. They’re able to finish work in time for school pickup or start later to do the drop-off, and with the reduced hours may be able to find another solution than traditional childcare centres.

Childcare is a major expense for working parents, making up over 50% of an average monthly income in the UK and any reduction to the total is likely to make a big difference in the family budget.

Clothing

We’ve all heard the jokes about remote workers logging into video conferences with a business shirt up top and pyjama bottoms below. And while I’m not encouraging you to forgo wearing clothing in favour of pyjamas every day (that will definitely affect your productivity and overall sense of self), working from home does drastically reduce your need for traditional office attire. Even if your office leans more casual (as is becoming more and more customary), you’ll still likely have some distinction between work and casual clothes.

By going remote, you’ll be able to wear more casual clothing most days, and while you may find yourself having to buy more of this kind of clothing, they are for the most part cheaper than corporate wear. The amount you’ll save will largely depend on how much money you regularly spend on clothing and what proportion of that you generally spent on office wear.

However, for those who still wear more corporate attire, dry cleaning and maintenance costs will definitely decrease dramatically by switching to more casual clothing full time.

If you dry-clean five suits a month in Manilla, you could save up to $108.95 US by switching to clothes you can wash at home. That’s approximately 24.64% of the average monthly income.

Overall savings

These calculations have been made with average costings and earnings in mind. For a more accurate cost breakdown of your own savings, you may like to use a calculator like this one by Global Workplace Analytics.

Otherwise, it’s fairly easy to track the changes you would be able to make to your budget by looking at the areas listed above. You may even find some extra savings that apply to you like Friday afternoon drinks with your team or even unnecessary shopping on your lunch break. Regardless of your individual spending, it’s clear that remote work can provide most people with a great deal of saving potential. Just another benefit to add to the list.

– Bree Caggiati

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