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You go to work to make money. Money to keep a roof over your head and pay all your bills. Your job creates your income. But have you ever stopped to think the ways in which your job costs you money?
It’s something that I started considering when moving jobs a few years ago. Since making that realisation, I always try to factor in additional costs when I’ve been job hunting – a salary can seem great on the surface but if you’re expected to be suited and booted, travel a long way and pay for parking each day, those costs can suddenly eat into that great salary and you can be left with a pretty average wage.
Here are the ways your job costs you money, and what you can do to offset those expenses.
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This is probably the biggest expense of the lot depending on where you work.
Commuting can be a massive cost for a lot of us. Fuel costs, toll charges, parking fees – not to mention the time wasted and frustration of sitting in idling traffic at rush hour.
Once upon a time I worked for a company 80 miles away from my home. Not only was I losing a huge amount of my day to the drive, the petrol was costing me a fortune, the mileage was rapidly accumulating on my car and I had to pay a £6 bridge toll every day.
Needless to say, I didn’t keep this up for very long and soon found employment closer to home. But if that isn’t an option for you, consider whether you can reduce the costs in any of the following ways.
If a colleague lives near you and works the same hours, why not consider car sharing? You could take turns to drive, or offer them petrol money.
If you don’t have a colleague you could share the commute with, check out a website like LiftShare. You can create an advert with where you’re commuting from/to and what times/days.
People are then able to contact you to car share or you can contact someone with a listing that works for you. You can also set up alerts for when a similar journey is added.
It might seem odd advertising to share car journeys with strangers, but it can be greatly beneficial if you have a particularly long commute. And it has a positive environmental impact too.
Could you get a train or bus to work instead and save on parking and petrol? Weekly bus passes or railcards can be a great way to save money on your fares.
If you don’t live close enough to a bus route or train station, could you drive to one and find a free car park?
If you can’t use public transport, could you find a cheaper or free car park slightly further away from work to save a little money? Think of all the extra steps you could get in – losing lbs but saving £’s.
A great way of reducing the cost of commuting is ditching the car altogether. If you have a bike, why not cycle to work?
My husband has recently started doing this on his one working day, and although it takes him twice as long he is able to improve his fitness, train for a triathlon and save money all at the same time.
Some companies offer Cycle to Work schemes where you can claim tax efficient vouchers towards buying a bike if you don’t already have one – it’s worth checking if yours do this.
If none of the above are suitable options for you, make sure that you’re saving as much as possible on fuel.
• Look out for supermarket offers – some shops occasionally give vouchers for a few pence per litre off fuel, when you spend a certain amount
• Utilise loyalty points – fill up at a station where you can claim loyalty points i.e. supermarkets. Don’t forget you can join Shells own rewards programme to claim points at their stations and you can collect Clubcard points at Esso garages
• Use PetrolPrices to find the cheapest fuel in your area
I wrote a detailed post about saving money on fuel which you can read here: How to Save Money on Fuel
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Another big work related expense is food. If you’re not lucky enough to have a staff canteen with free meals (boy, I miss those days) then the chances are you are spending some money on lunch. You might have a canteen on site or you might have to venture out each day – but even those £3 meal deals quickly add up and don’t seem like such a deal anymore.
Then you hit that mid-afternoon slump. The vending machine down the corridor is so tempting with it’s chocolate bars and crisps winking at you every time you go to the toilet. So you treat yourself. Every day. It might only be 60p a time, but again – it soon adds up.
And what about tea and coffee? We’re lucky enough to have free hot beverages at my current work, but in the past I’ve had to pay into a kitty or buy from a vending machine. It might be cheaper than Starbucks but again, it quickly adds up.
If you were to be totally honest with yourself, how much money do you think you spend each week on food and drink?
I practice what I preach and take my own lunch each day. Usually we batch cook on a Sunday which covers us for lunches for at least the first three days of the week (which is great because I only work Monday-Wednesday) but if we haven’t prepped lunch in advance, I’ll usually take leftovers from the night before’s dinner.
Taking your own food can save an absolute fortune. Depending on what you usually you buy when you go out for lunch, you could be spending £5 a day (if not more) – thats £25 a week – how much food would that buy you in your normal grocery shop? It’s a no brainer, take a packed lunch!
Likewise if you’re spending a lot of money on coffee – take your own! Luke has a large flask he fills with black coffee and a travel mug he tops up during the day. Even the cheapest places you’re looking at £1.50+ a drink. So the savings quickly mount up. We both also take refillable water bottles to avoid the temptation of buying cans.
Of course, it’s impossible to always be organised. And sometimes you’ll just have one of those days where you leave your lunch bag at home or you altogether forget about lunch. Instead of heading out to buy something, create an emergency stash for those desperate times.
In my desk drawer at work I have a tin of soup. It’s not the most exciting lunch, granted. But my workplace also provides bread and butter – so if I was to forget my lunch, I have something on hand to see me through the day.
It might also be a good idea to keep a stash of snacks for when you’re feeling tempted by the vending machine – then again, if you’re anything like me that might not be a good idea (I have zero self control when it comes to snacks).
And the simplest yet most effective way of not spending money on lunch – leave your cash at home.
I work on an industrial estate and we don’t have a canteen as such (more a staff room with a toaster and tea making facilities) so if I was to buy lunch I’d have to venture to the nearest Asda or to the retail park – both of which provides the temptation to spend more money.
It’s easier to just leave the card at home and not go to the shops at lunch.
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Job dependent, clothing may or may not be a work related expense for you. You might be provided a uniform – if so terrific, see the last point of this section.
If not though, you might be required to adhere to a dress code. If you work in an office, it’s likely you’ll have a wardrobe of suitable office wear – shirts/blouses, smart skirts and trousers – all of which you’ll have purchased out of your own pocket. And lets be honest, clothing isn’t cheap – not if you buy from a lot of high street shops anyway.
So how do you go about reducing your work-wear spend?
It’s so good see that as a society we’re starting to embrace shopping secondhand. A lot more people are thinking carefully about the impact of fast fashion and their contribution to that industry and as a result, charity shopping is much less frowned upon than it used to be. In fact, you could even say it’s becoming fashionable.
You can pick up some great deals in charity shops and on ebay. Top tip – if you’re after high quality work wear check out a charity shop in a slightly more upmarket town or city. My local charity shop tends to only stock bobbled primark but I see lots of Instagrammers sharing their bargain high end finds.
If you need to constantly update your wardrobe and secondhand shopping isn’t for you, then perhaps you could consider participating in a recycling scheme.
If you take a bag of clothes to H&M (any brand, any condition!), you can swap it for a £5 voucher to spend instore or online which you can put towards your next purchase.
M&S have a similar initiative. If you take an item of clothing to their store (any brand) you can ‘Shwop’ it – they will recycle it and you will receive 50 points on your sparks card. In addition, if you donate a M&S branded item to Oxfam, they’ll give you a £5 voucher to spend at M&S
I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but in case you haven’t heard of it – here it is again. If you wear a uniform you can claim up to 5 years of expenses. This applies whether you wear a full uniform or just a tshirt with a logo. You might even be able to claim if you wear clothes which are specifically for work but not necessarily a uniform – it’s worth a try anyway!
There are lots of claims firms out there offering to get tax back for you but it’s so easy to claim it yourself. MoneySavingExpert have an excellent guide explaining how to do it. You could claim hundreds back and have your tax code adjusted so you get a little more tax free allowance too.
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I started Katie Saves while on Maternity Leave to document our adjustment to living on less. Now back in work - I blog about all things money with a little life organisation thrown in for good measure. Join me!