Follow one woman as she attempts to cut $1000 off of her monthly budget! This month’s savings category is work expenses.
By Raki Wright
As a working mom, I often think about how much it costs for me to work.
For some families, the cost of childcare is more than the second parent can bring in or the family may decide that one of the parents should stay home with the young children. In my family’s case, my husband and I both work to support our family. It is imperative that I keep a check on work expenses to ensure that I am still significantly contributing.
This is the fourth month in the series where I am writing about my experience with The $1,000 Challenge by Brian J. O’Connor. My goal is to save $1,000 each month on my expenses: $100 savings in each of 10 spending categories.
This month’s category is work expenses: commuting, work clothes, lunch, parking, subscriptions & memberships, childcare, tools, professional education requirements, and educational training. My goal is to trim $100 from these expenses.
One of my goals in this challenge is to make easy cuts to my budget that are not emotionally draining. While a few of these are necessary expenses, there are still ways to trim them.
Throughout the challenge, my level of intensity has been “freeing up extra cash,” to lower my monthly costs. I am applying my savings on these expenses toward paying down the large debt that I have. There are many more extreme and creative ways to save money if you are trying to make ends meet or can barely take care of basic necessities.
While reviewing my monthly transportation expenses in the first month, I was able to make a few small changes that yielded a savings of over $50 each month! In the second month’s review of my utility expenses, I was able to trim nearly $80 each month by simply changing the way I pay bills. The third month brought in a savings of $61.
That was a grand total saved of $191 each month.
The good thing about my “freeing up extra cash” mindset is that the changes I’ve made so far only require me to get gas at a particular gas station, make one call to cancel an add-on I had forgotten about, go online to change my monthly service plan, or something similarly simple. In other words, they have been fairly easy changes.
In the book, Brian pointed out that most of the work expenses were already part of other expense categories. He focused on commuting and childcare expenses. His tactics included limiting childcare hours for three out of four weeks each month to save $90, each month.
Here’s my review of “work costs”:
Since I was old enough to have a clothing budget, I have always shopped thrift stores, consignment stores, and end of season sales. I like to buy quality clothing without the high price. So, I look for name brands I can count on and that flatter me, at reduced prices. I look for sales and end of season markdowns in February, May, August, and November. I get so excited when I find steals at up to 75% off.
To save on lunch costs, I pack my lunch. Sometimes I bring a week’s worth of frozen dinners on Monday and other times I bring leftovers from last night’s dinner. This is a great time saver as well because there are no travel costs or waiting in line, except maybe at the microwave. You could also bring salads or sandwiches to create an endless number of options.
I shared several tips in my transportation expenses post that could all be used to reduce commuting expenses. I do not have to pay tolls on my local highway. If I did, I would seek out savings through paying in advance or automated payments. I have also worked a shortened work week with a flexible schedule. You could also save with carpooling, public transportation using a monthly pass, ride matching, or other commuter benefits at work.
Although I do not currently pay for parking, I would ask my company to pay for my parking pass, buy a monthly pass, or park of the street.
I work at an advertising agency, so we have many magazine subscriptions and trade publications. I would suggest that you ask your employer to pay for them, read company copies, use the library, share a subscription with a co-worker, or cut out any you can. In the past, I have volunteered for the organization to get free or reduced membership or admission fees to events. You could also take advantage of discounts (through associations, group rates, etc.).
As I mentioned in the last post, I don’t have any childcare expenses this year. Part of that reason is that I have arranged my work schedule around the hours my kids are in school. In the past, I have leaned on family, utilized an in home child care provider, skipped an after school program (when age appropriate), and made a part day childcare program work with my work schedule.
Other ideas the author gave include working a shorter work week (four 10-hour shifts), working in a closer office, and eliminating the need to go into the office (by working from home one, two, or all five workdays). Since childcare is often one of the most expensive work expenses, it is important to shop around and take advantage of the IRS’ dependent care credit.
To control costs, work an opposite schedule of your spouse (example: 1 day and 1 night); consider your quality of life (i.e. working just to pay childcare or 11-12 hour days including commute); apply childcare scholarships (which are not always need-based), ask about the sliding scale, use a company discount, or enroll in a state funded preschool program.
Other tips the author gave: always have a plan B. Account for school breaks ( spring and summer), holidays, teacher work days, and sick days, stay on task at work (it limits the number of childcare hours needed, prevents late pickups, and eliminates the need for taking work home), and if you are focused, you can end your work day at the office and take an hour or two’s work home to complete.
Tools, professional education requirements, educational training, associations
The most obvious way to save on these expenses it to use company issued supplies. If there is something that you are required to have that belongs to you alone (i.e. a certification), I would ask my employer to pay for it, take advantage of tax breaks (if the costs are 2% or more of AGI), ask for discounts (through associations, group rates, etc.), or volunteer for the organization to get free or reduced rates. If you can’t afford it, cut out any you can.
Remember that everything is relative. Review your expenses to see where you can make cutbacks based on your goals and level of comfort.
Come back in a few weeks to see if I was able to trim $100 from my monthly personal spending. I’m really excited about this category, as it tends to include lots of discretionary items, which can be cut.
Here is the entire $1000 Challenge series from the beginning:
- The $1000 Challenge
- The $1000 Challenge: Utilities
- The $1000 Challenge: Transportation
- The $1000 Challenge: Kids Costs