Money·4 min read

Returning to the Office? Here’s How to Adjust Your Budget Accordingly

A woman commuting to the office on public transit looking at her phone
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Getty Images
March 11, 2022

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: a return to some sense of normalcy. For some, that includes a return to the office. Which means it might be time to revisit your budget to plan for the costs of in-person work.

What does your commute look like?

  • If you’re getting behind the wheel, be prepared to pay at the pump. Also, don’t forget to add car maintenance (hi, oil changes) costs back into your expenses.

  • If you have reliable public transit in your area, you could save on your commute. Even if that means you’re catching a bus or train just a few times a week. But you’ll still need to factor in costs for passes.

  • See if your workplace offers any commuter benefits that can cover the costs of parking or trains or buses. Carpooling with coworkers can help, too.

Have loved ones to care for at home? 

  • If you’ve been doing double (or triple) duty caring for children or pets while working from home, you’ll need to adjust your budget to outsource help when you return to the office.

  • Look for ways you can lower these expenses by leaning on friends, family members, or cooperatives in your area.

  • Ask your boss for help, too. See if you can work your schedule around caregiving responsibilities. And tap any employee benefits that might help. Think: dependent care accounts, discounts or assistance with certain care providers, and paid family leave.

Planning to eat out?

  • Returning to the office means back to deciding between packing your lunch or ordering out. Meal prepping can be cost-efficient and make it easier to grab food and go in the morning. But there’s no shame in picking up a salad from that local deli or a latte from the coffee shop down the street. Some purchases can be good for small businesses (and the larger economy, too). 

Need to upgrade your work wardrobe?

  • If the sweatpants you spent most of the past two years in aren’t going to cut it for the office, find ways to save on re-stocking your closet. Thrifting or using an online retailer like thredUp can be a good way to reduce clothing waste as well as costs. Selling some things online could also help fund your closet refresh.

Still working from home?

  • If you’re working from home, paying for heat, air conditioning, and electricity can eat into your budget. Turn down the heat or air conditioning to save on utility bills when possible. (Psst… If you’re self-employed, there could be some potential tax breaks to offset those costs.)

  • According to some research, people who work from home tend to get fewer raises and promotions. Consider how you can WFH without sacrificing your career. A few ideas: Be vocal when you need help, put an emphasis on communicating with your boss and team, and make regular one-on-one Zoom meetings with your boss to get some facetime and be heard.

Wondering what “return to office” means for the economy? 

  • Returning to the office can mean a boost for office real estate. One study says working from home just one and a half days per week slashes corporate landlord’s profits by 15% and 30% for three days per week.

  • It could also help small businesses near offices, which struggled to stay open with less foot traffic during lockdowns. See above: Buy the latte.

  • Downside: Commuting isn’t great for the environment. And climate change isn’t great for the economy or your wallet


Heading back to the office won’t come without some expenses. If you’re commuting to the office, find ways to save on everyday, routine expenses. If you’re working from home, go the extra mile to make sure that you don’t fall behind on your career and earning potential.

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