The Savings (and Costs) of Working from Home

Since I want to start giving you all a more nuts-and-bolts peek at what it’s like to be on this quest, I thought I’d do a little cost-benefit analysis of my recent switch to PT. Partly for your own edification, and partly because I now need to totally revamp our household budget categories, and this will help me start thinking about that.

So, here is how things will look different for the Cordelian family budget now that I’m down to PT at the office job:

 

Savings

 

1. Getting-Ready Time

Let’s be perfectly honest here. Most freelance days, I shower around 4:30 in the afternoon — just as my husband’s leaving work for the day so I’ll be moderately presentable when he gets home.

I do not do my hair. I do not do my makeup. I change into another (clean) pair of pajamas. And that’s about it.

We’ve been married 4 years and together 6, so I’ve got nothing to prove.

This also means there are additional savings on makeup and hair products used, as well as extra mileage gotten from my work wardrobe since I’m only dressing up 3 times a week now. So, the moral of this section is: Being a lazy slob is awesome for your budget! (Tweet, tweet!)

 

2. Gas, Travel Time, and Pain and Suffering

Two less days a week to commute is good for mileage. It saves me about an hour a day that could be put to better use. (Nearly two in the winter.) It’s also good for someone who doesn’t exactly love the whole commuting experience.

I cannot wait until it’s wintertime in Buffalo and I get to spend two days a week not shoveling off my car at 7:00 a.m. and not risking my life on an expressway people continue to drive at 70 m.p.h. although other parts of the country would have imposed a driving ban by this point. (Yes, fellow commuters, we all know how to drive in snow here in the B’lo. But that does not mean your car knows how to magically avoid rear-ending the driver you’re tailgating in the midst of a blizzard. Have some sense, pretty please.)

 

3. Concentration

Squeezing your freelancing into lunch breaks, evenings and weekends is doable (I say from experience), but there’s nothing like a full block of time dedicated solely to your work. I get more done in one freelance day than I used to in a week of side hustling around the former day job.

This gives me more time to work on pushing my freelance biz, and more time to focus on the rest of my life (see below).

 

4. Time to Catch Up on Chores

While my freelance days are obviously for freelancing first and foremost, the beauty of working from home is that in between working (or even while you’re working), you can also get other things done.

You can run several loads of laundry. You can wash a few dishes while you’re waiting for your lunch to heat up. You can pour Drano down the shower where you’ve been standing in 3 inches of water for the past several weeks because you haven’t had time to remember to do it.

For someone who’s already on a bare-minimum chore routine, this extra little bit of breathing room is priceless.

 

5. Convenience Food

I try to brown-bag my lunch whenever possible, but the truth is that sometimes things get so hectic I’m forced to stock up on some pricey Lean Cuisines (the only microwave food I find palatable) or run into the local 7-11 for a fresh-made sub (surprising good considering it’s convenience store food).

Having more time to plan, gather and prepare my meals, my lunch costs throughout the week will definitely be lower. (And my diet should be better, hopefully…)

 

6. Budgeting Success

I have fallen woefully behind on my coupon clipping and weekly circular monitoring. The kind of woefully behind that once led me to chuck couponing altogether out of sheer overwhelm.

I’m hoping with more dedicated freelancing time, I’ll have some extra time in my at-home schedule to get back on track with this, shaving precious dollars off our overall grocery and house-stuffs budgets.

I’ll also be better able to better monitor our weekly expenses and keep on top of our grocery list to make sure we don’t run out of stuff, which results in last-minute emergency purchases that are always twice as expensive than if I’d had time to shop around.

 

Costs

 

1. Taxes

This is the biggie.

The government loves to double-tax entrepreneurs as both employers and employees. I need to set aside approximately 1/3 of my freelance income for Uncle Sam, which means that for every dollar I lose at my office job, I have to earn a dollar and 1/3 from freelancing to break even. (Check out this great article on why the government should be encouraging, not discouraging, entrepreneurs.) I also have to spend a lot more time tracking each invoice I send out, each payment I get and each cost I plan on deducting.

For more detailed tax tips, check out this article I wrote for Brazen Life.

 

2. Higher Utility Bills

Although I try to turn off the lights in rooms I’m not using, the fact is that working from home two days a week means our electricity and heating bills are going to be a bit higher. Especially the heat bill, since I can turn off lights in unused rooms but it would be a bit cumbersome to shut the grates in every room I’m not in during the day, then reopen them again at night.

 

3. Less Physical Activity

The sad fact is, when I’m home working on my freelancing, I rarely leave my computer. I’ll get up to grab lunch (which I eat at my desk), change the laundry if needed, and tell my dogs to stop barking at the mailman as they do every day at 12:30 p.m. (Because that damn guy just keeps coming back!)

But for the most part, I’m actually more sedentary when I’m home than when I’m at my office job.

At least at my office job, I have to get up to make copies, stamp postage on letters and send faxes (which are all on a separate floor). I go into other people’s offices to ask them questions. I lift and put back heavy files. I break up my sitting spells every now and then. But at home, I type, and type, and type some more thanks to all of that added concentration time.

I’ll have to start coming up with some ways to get my butt moving more on the days I’m home. Perhaps I’ll start interspersing a walk with the dogs into my freelance afternoons (since I can so do that now!).

 

4. More Stress When I Am at My Office Job

Condensing my 5-day week into 3 days will no doubt lead to some extra stress when I’m at the office. We did hire on an additional secretary to help with some of the clerical work, but there are certain paralegal-y things that only I can attend to.

This could get a little crazy at times, but it’s a tradeoff I am more than willing to accept for the freedom it buys me.

I am also willing to put up with snarky sludge comments like “Enjoy your day off!” while trying to restrain myself from saying, “You mean, enjoy my second job, at which I work twice as hard as I do here?” Because in all honestly, I frickin’ LOVE this second job, so it kind of is like a day off.  Just not the “watching HGTV all day eating bonbons” day off I think my coworker is envisioning.

Fellow work-from-homers: What costs/savings have you noticed? Anything else I should be watching out for?

Image: Flickr

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  • Abbigail Kriebs

    I am itching to talk my current company into letting me stay home one day a week (two would be better, but I’ll shoot for one to start with). Almost everything that I do can be done from my home office (aka kitchen table), and I would love to save the commute/shower/small talk time at the office and just work from home for a day, in between loads of laundry. Congrats on your new – and more flexible – arrangement!

    • Thanks, Abbigail! Do a quick Google search on “how to convince your boss to let you work from home.” There are dozens of great articles on how to broach the topic and what kinds of arguments you can make to show him it would actually be to the company’s benefit.

      It’s also helpful too to couch it in terms of a “trial run”–i.e., what if we try this for a few weeks and see how it helps my productivity? That takes the pressure of risk off your boss, plus then if things work out, you can always up the trial run to 2 days a week later after your company has gotten comfortable with the 1 day a week arrangement. Good luck! 🙂

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    Go for it. BTW, the reason the dogs bark at the mailman every day is not because he keeps coming back, but because their barking MAKES HIM GO AWAY every single day!

    • Durr! Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?

  • Omar

    I’m doing the google search! I’m having a hard time trying to explain why it would be a good idea for me to work from home =)


    We’ve been married 4 years and together 6, so I’ve got nothing to prove.” oh yeah, when I work from home I will be in pijamas all day =)

  • I got uber sick last month and worked from home for about a week, resulting in us blowing our internet data cap (no unlimited broadband here and my work is all online). Sigh.

    • Ick. I hope your company reimbursed you? (And I hope you’re feeling better now!)