The World Health Organisation has declared that the Covid-19 pandemic is no longer a ‘global emergency’, and employers are ushering employees back to the office. Hey, we love a bit of office banter as much as the next person. But the commute? Not so much.
What started as a measure for public safety, working from home brought with it a raft of financial concessions for employees. The most significant of which was the savings pocketed by skipping public transport costs, toll roads, and petrol. Now, the dreaded ‘back to the office’ email is hitting inboxes across the world right in the middle of a cost of living crisis. Not cool.
If you’ve been told it’s time to retire your sweatpants and get back to the office, here are a few ways to save money on your work travel expenses.
We know, we know, sitting through the morning commute while Derek from accounts tells you about his kid’s last bout of gastro isn’t exactly ideal. But what if it slashed your work travel expenses in half?
As you return to the office, consider putting the feelers out for colleagues that live in your local area who might be interested in carpooling to work. In some cases, it could even be faster or cheaper than public transport, so be sure to crunch the numbers even if you don’t currently drive in.
Some states, territories, or countries offer rebates on toll roads or travel expenses — seriously. In New South Wales, drivers who spend more than AUD$375 on eligible tolls each year can claim quarterly rebates of up to 40%.
Do a quick Google search to make sure you’re not missing out on an applicable offer in your region.
If you drive to work, you’re probably facing the rising costs of petrol. Make sure you’re utilizing fuel comparison apps in your region to get the cheapest price and pounce on cheaper petrol days for big fill-ups. In Australia, you can lock in low fuel prices with the 7-Eleven app or compare real-time prices with PetrolSpy and Simples.
Depending on how often you’re going back to the office, you might be able to score tasty savings by buying a weekly, monthly, or annual travel pass. Yes, it’s more to pay upfront, but you can shave down your weekly commute costs significantly.
Plus: If you buy a pass and find yourself unable to use it, check if you’re eligible for a refund. Under some conditions, you can claim a refund for the unused portion of your pass.
Sitting on a train for a couple of hours a day? Put your time to good use by taking part in market research surveys or taking on easy remote freelance jobs like editing, designing, or writing. If you can monetize that dead time, you might be able to balance out the extra costs and earn a little extra cash on the side.
Alternatively, use your commute time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts that develop your job skills and expertise.
If you’re finding that the costs of returning to the office are causing significant financial problems for you, try having a conversation with your employer or your HR department. There may be a way to negotiate other benefits or cost-cutting arrangements to help you make the transition. We know it can feel futile — but if nobody says anything, change doesn’t happen.
Not all workplaces are returning to a full-time in-office model, so it’s important to bear the cost of commuting in mind when you’re negotiating new roles and salaries. Make sure you’re clear on the medium-term expectations around working from home and the office, and consider the financial implications. A new job might offer more money, but if you’re going to double or triple your commute costs and/or travel time, you need to make sure you’re aware of how that affects the net benefit to you.
Keep on top of your commute costs and savings using category rules in the PocketSmith transactions dashboard.
Emma Edwards is a finance copywriter and blogger, on a mission to humanize the financial services industry by creating meaningful content that’s accessible and empowering. You’ll find her penning money tips at her blog, The Broke Generation, sharing financial insights on Instagram, or injecting life into content for her business clients.