The Savings (and Costs) of Working from Home

Oct 11, 2012 -
If you're considering making the leap to working from home—whether full-time or part-time, as a remote worker for your company or an entrepreneur on your own—chances are you've already made plenty of pro-and-con lists: more freedom, less stability. More creativity,  less structure. But what about the financial aspect? Oh, I'm sure you've run the big numbers like income, but what about the smaller, day-to-day costs of working from home versus working a traditional office job? Here are some monetary costs and benefits of working from home you may not have considered:


Commuting Expenses The average American spends about 25 minutes each way commuting to and from work daily. By commuting only from your bed to your laptop, you can save considerable amounts of gas money—not to mention extra costs like tolls, parking fees and repairs from the added wear and tear on your car. In fact, if you're a two-car household and you're comfortable with the idea, you could even sell one of your cars altogether, not only saving you gas money and insurance fees, but also giving you a nice little windfall to put aside for some of your startup costs. Eating Out Grabbing a coffee at Starbucks every morning. Going out to lunch with coworkers to escape the cube (or because you didn't have time to pack a lunch). When you're working from home, you no longer need the convenience that comes from just buying your food instead of preparing something at home. You also need less of a reason to treat yourself/de-stress/escape your horrible boss by running out to eat. Even if you're frugal about how much you spend eating out, it still adds up fast. Clothes You know that cliché about people working from in their PJs? Well, it's true. Maybe you're not a “conference call in my footie pajamas” person, but you also no longer need to put on a suit and tie each day. (Unless that motivates you somehow. To each his own.) Whether you're rockin' the sweats, t-shirt and jeans or hoodie, you no longer need to worry about updating your work wardrobe each season or paying dry cleaning costs. You'll still want to keep a few good pieces on hand in case you need to meet a client in person or have a Skype call, but if you invest in a few classic pieces that can be updated with accessories, you can make just a couple outfits fit all your needs. Office Parties and Fundraisers No more will you have to pay $10 for stale cake and greasy pizza to celebrate the birthday of an office mate you barely even know. No more will you feel guilted into purchasing wrapping paper, candy bars or gourmet popcorn to help the children of office mates you barely know go on school trips or join pewee soccer.


Taxes If you're working remotely as an employee of a company, this one may not apply to you. But if you run your own business or do freelance or subcontracting work, you know all too well how large a chunk of your income the government takes once you become self-employed. Be sure to talk to a CPA when considering making the transition to self-employment so that you understand exactly what kind of impact your new situation will have on your bottom line. Health Care Again, if you're not under someone else's employ, your health care costs are now yours to bear.  Be careful to consider that extra expense when you're calculating how much salary you'll really be taking home each month. Utility Bills If you have a dedicated home office, the good news is that you can write off some of these expenses, at least for the portion of your house made up by your office. (Again, see a CPA for advice for your specific situation.) But the fact remains that when you're working from home, your utility bills are going to go up. You can no longer turn the furnace down for eight hours a day in the winter. And even if you're careful to turn off lights and appliances in rooms you're not using, you'll still be using the kitchen, bathroom and other areas that would normally be dark while you were at the office. So be prepared to see your utility bills jump a bit. Technology and Office Equipment When you're doing it all from home, your old patched-together PC and lowest-grade internet may not cut it anymore. While there's no need to run out and buy an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax machine, bear in mind that you may need to invest a little extra to make your business effective and efficient. You might need to purchase accounting software to keep track of your various clients or shell out for business-grade internet service if you're accessing large amounts of data or participating in a lot of video conference calls. The good news is that, just as with utilities, many of these expenses can be written off. Do you work from home? What added expenses/savings have you noticed? Kelly Gurnett is Assistant Editor of Brazen Life and runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger extraordinaire here.