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How to Budget for the Hidden Costs of Returning to an Office

Image for article titled How to Budget for the Hidden Costs of Returning to an Office

Photo: Song_about_summer (Shutterstock)

For many of us, working from home has been a budget-friendly adjustment to our professional lives. Minus any initial home office setup—especially if your employer didn’t provide financial support for it—you likely haven’t had many of the usual expenses associated with getting dressed, commuting, and socializing. But if a return to the office is imminent, you may want to plan ahead for some of the hidden costs of in-person work. Here are a few items to include in your budget.

Plan to budget for new commuting costs

Unless you can walk to work, you likely incur some type of commuting cost: public transit, gas, parking, ride sharing, or possibly a combination of a few. You’ll want to consider what’s feasible, convenient, and most affordable for your situation now, as well as whether your employer offers any commuter benefits that could help defray the total cost.

Plan for budgeting pet and child care

Our dogs are among the biggest losers in the return to in-office life. After a year and a half of having us at home all day, every day, they once again have to get used to spending time alone. This also means potentially rehiring dog walkers, taking your pet to daycare, or sneaking out midday to let them out (adding to the cost of your commute).

Of course, you’ll also need childcare for kids who aren’t in school—potentially a significant expense if you’ve been doing double duty with working and parenting during the day.

Budget for new work clothes, especially if your body changed

If the comfy clothes you’ve been working in from your couch don’t fit your office dress code, you may need to refresh your closet with appropriate attire. There’s no reason to do so if you still have (and like) your pre-pandemic wardrobe, but if you’ve changed jobs, updated your style, or significantly changed in weight since the start of the pandemic, this could cost you some money. Don’t forget to account for laundry service or dry cleaning if needed.

Plan for added meals and social events

A drink at a bar with your coworkers is more expensive than that beer from your fridge during a Zoom happy hour, so if you plan to start socializing in person, make sure you budget for it. The same goes for coffee, lunches, and other meals not prepared at home and after-hours events.

And, of course, budget for other odds and ends

Office amenities and supplies that don’t come standard fall in this category, whether that’s items to make your desk more comfortable or a new insulated to-go coffee mug.

While several of these in-person work expenses don’t necessarily have to blow your budget if you don’t want them to, commuting and childcare may be required. In any event, this is all getting more expensive, so we might want to ease back into socializing and keep our wardrobes simple to keep costs down for a while.