Returning to the office? It’s more expensive than when you left

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After more than two years of working remotely, many employees now find themselves returning to the long-lost office where they once spent their workdays. Whether you have to reluctantly drag yourself back or you’re eager to socialize face-to-face with coworkers again, one thing is certain: You’ll definitely feel the pinch of rising inflation and higher monthly costs.

 

So, when you make up your monthly budget, factor in these five pricey office worker costs.

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1. Gas

One of the first things most people noticed when they started working remotely was how much less they spent on gas because they didn’t have to commute. Maybe they filled up only once every two or three weeks instead of every week, for example.

 

Now when you drive to work, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much more you must spend each month on gas. The national average gas price is $4.88 as of June 28, according to AAA. That’s nearly $2 a gallon higher han gasoline cost in June 2021.

 

To save money when commuting to the office, download a gas app like GasBuddy to find the lowest prices on gas near you. Do any coworkers live nearby? Maybe you can carpool, alternating drivers each week. Check out public transportation options, too.

 

Being squeezed into a bus or train with strangers is no fun. But public transportation may become more appealing when you see how much you save on gas each month.

 

Find out: These 4 Gas Apps can Help You Save Money at the Pump

2. Lunch costs

When you worked from home, you may have prepared your own lunches much of the time to save money. Even when you worked in the office before, you probably found at least a few lunch specials that were a great bargain. Today, however, lunch prices are a different story.

 

You can thank “lunchflation,” the term for increasing restaurant prices, according to a report from Square, a business and commerce software company. According to Square, dining out food prices are rising faster than those loaves of bread ready to go into the oven at your favorite restaurant. And all those price increases add up fast.

 

Here’s how much more you can expect to pay for popular lunch items, according to Square:

  • Wraps: 13 to 18 percent
  • Sandwiches: 14 to 15 percent
  • Tacos: 12 percent to 19 percent
  • Salads: 9 to 11 percent
  • Burgers: 8 to 9 percent
  • Soup: up to 28 percent

To cut lunch costs, bring your lunch from home most days. Maybe with all the money you save, you can still go out to lunch every Friday so you don’t feel totally deprived.

 

Find out: 11 Easy Foods You Can Take to Work to Save Money on Lunch

3. Childcare

If you have kids, you’ve paid your pandemic dues being stuck in the house with little ones while you tried your best to work from home. Now you’ll pay again, this time for childcare costs, if your children are too young to attend school or they’re out of school for the summer.

 

The average annual cost of childcare has risen more than 40 percent in some states, according to a 2022 Lending Tree report. Here’s the average annual price increase breakdown (from 2018 to 2020) by the child’s age:

  • Infants: 5 percent (from $11,786 to $12,411)
  • Toddlers: 5 percent (from $10,849 to $11,379)
  • Four-year-olds: 7 percent (from $9,349 to $10,008)

Michigan residents pay the most in the country — an increase of 26 percent to 34 percent. Meanwhile, Arkansas saw the biggest increase for childcare for four-year-olds: 46 percent.

 

Find out: The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money on Child Care

4. Clothing

You may have gotten used to throwing a nice shirt on while you wore yoga pants or shorts on a Zoom call. If you go back to the office, however, you can kiss that casual apparel goodbye. You’ll need office attire, and clothing costs can eat up your paycheck fast.

 

Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of good clothing bargains if you take time to look. Search online for sale and clearance clothing items. Check out the clothing resale shop down the street for nice clothes. If you enjoy the hunt and don’t mind weeding through some shoddy items, you can often find gently worn (or never worn) clothing at the thrift store.

 

Using these methods, you’ll save a bundle on clothing, and no one at work will be the wiser.

 

Find out: How to Save Money on Clothing Without Giving up Your Style

5. Office Gifts

No matter how high inflation climbs, there’s always that one person in the office insisting on a Secret Santa holiday gift exchange. And you can usually count on the office schmoozer asking everyone to pitch in on a birthday gift for your passive-aggressive boss.

 

Meanwhile, you can’t even buy three tacos and seven pinto beans from the food truck for lunch without spending $15 to $20.

 

Unless you want to be known as the office misanthrope, you’ll need to cough up money here and there for gifts you’d rather not spend hard-earned cash on. But there are at least a couple of ways to make this office obligation more affordable.

 

If you have to purchase a gift for coworkers, shop online for sale and clearance items. Set aside as little as $10 from every paycheck to stash in a coffee can. That way, you can grab what you need for cash-sucking office celebrations.

 

Related:

This article originally appeared on Debt.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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8 big budgeting mistakes to avoid in 2022

 

Are you unable to stick to a monthly budget but unsure what’s holding you back? Or maybe you’re ready to get your finances on track in 2022 but aren’t sure how to create a budget that works. Either way, your monthly budget this year could be just what you need to help pay off debt, make payments on time and save for emergencies or large purchases.

 

If you want to put together a 2022 budget that works, make sure you avoid these eight common budgeting mistakes.

 

SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

 

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One of the biggest budgeting mistakes you can make is not having a budget at all. If you’ve been winging it every month by keeping track of bills and due dates in your head and pulling out your credit card for most purchases, that’s a recipe for overspending.

 

To get started on creating a budget, download a budgeting app like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB). If you’re more comfortable with a hardcopy budget, you’ll find plenty of budgeting advice and templates online.

 

Find out: How to Create and Stick to a Monthly Budget

 

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You may have to go by rough estimates on a few budget items for the first month or two. However, once your budget gets rolling, you should have a good idea of how much to allocate for rent, mortgage, car payments, insurance and everyday expenses. Pay attention to how much you spend and then adjust accordingly.

 

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Once you have a budget, track your spending to make sure you’re staying on budget. Knowing how much you spend each month or week can help you see whether the budget you have is working or needs to be tweaked next month.

 

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It may seem to make sense to allocate most of one biweekly paycheck to the mortgage or rent and the other check that month to car payments, health insurance or another hefty expense. However, it’s better to allocate an amount from every paycheck to large recurring expenses. That way, if you have an unexpected car repair, appliance breakdown or other emergency expense, you may still have enough to pay the big monthly bills.

 

Find out: 6 Cures for Living Paycheck to Paycheck 

 

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Few things are more discouraging than getting excited about sticking to your new budget and then realizing you often exceed allocated amounts in several categories. Budgeting on the low side for certain items may feel good when you put the budget together, but if it’s not realistic, you could get discouraged and end up ditching the whole budget.

 

Instead of giving up, make adjustments, raising allocations where necessary and learning from those early budget attempts. Soon you’ll be back on track with a more realistic monthly budget.

 

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No matter how well your monthly budget seems to be working, if you don’t allocate a portion each month toward annual recurring expenses, you could be in a financial pinch later. Don’t forget to allocate money for savings designated for annual expenses like property and income taxes, as well as auto, homeowner’s and renter’s insurance, too.

 

Damir Khabirov / iStock

 

If you’re depositing into your emergency savings account only when you have some money left over, you probably don’t make a deposit from every paycheck. It’s just too easy to spend the money on something else. Make sure you budget at least a small amount each month toward emergency savings. That way, when there is an expensive emergency, you’ll have enough savings to cover it so you don’t have to make late payments on other bills.

 

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Your budget may look good on paper, but if you deprive yourself of all pleasures when preparing the monthly plan, you could resent the budget that took away too many things that you love. For example, if you love to work out, budget for your gym membership and cut back by finding ways to save on groceries or other expenses. Leave room in your budget for small luxuries like dining out occasionally or a new clothing item here and there.

 

This article originally appeared on Debt.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

 

 

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