Transitioning from college to work is always difficult (I remember being exhausted in meetings at my first job and struggling to stay awake). Aside from paying for rent, insurance, and student loans for the first time, work related expenses add up quickly. Here are some tips to help you save money on costs associated with having a job that your employer won’t cover.
Bring Your Own Beverage
Water – A bottled water or soda typically costs $1. If you buy one bottled drink per day you work, it ends up totaling about $250 each year. Cut this cost by buying a reusable water bottle. I got one on Amazon for $12 and it ended up encouraging me to drink more water throughout the day, too.
Added Benefit: Recycling containers are not always easily available. Only about 30% of plastic bottles are recycled, so by bringing your own water bottle, you reduce the amount of waste out there.
Coffee – There are many jokes about how expensive it is to buy coffee at Starbucks. However, online calculators can help compare the costs of making it at home versus purchasing from Starbucks. According to USA Today’s calculator, one cup of coffee a day from Starbucks will end up costing you $766.50 a year compared to just $29.20 if you make your cup of coffee at home. The cost of coffee isn’t astronomical, but if you’re looking to save, this is a great place to start.
Driving a car is a necessity in most of America. There are several ways to reduce your gas costs:
- Research before you buy a car – When you go to buy a car, check to make sure it does not need Premium gas and that the car you buy gets decent gas mileage.
- Gas saving apps – You no longer need to drive around (and waste gas) searching for a good deal. Apps like GasBuddy help you find the lowest gas prices in your area. If it’s not out of the way, it’s definitely worth it.
- Gas Rewards Programs – Some credit cards offer cash back on gas purchases. Check for grocery stores that also sell gas in your area as they often have discounts.
This one is the most controversial. You might wonder how much you save when you add in the time it takes to prepare a lunch. There is also the social aspect of lunch (i.e. developing relationships with co-workers and managers) so this isn’t always exclusively a financial decision.
You can realize savings from taking your lunch to work (brown bagging). If you spend $3 on the lunch you bring vs. $9 on a take out meal (which is about the norm where I am), you would save an average of $130 per month. You also save time and gas money because you are not driving to and from restaurants. Even if you allow yourself to go out with coworkers once a week, you can still pocket about $100 a month in savings by packing yourself a lunch each day.
Added Benefit: You will probably eat healthier if you bring your own lunch.
Freeing Up Money
Your place of employment is where you should be raking in the dough, not spending it. While some work related expenses are unavoidable, you can limit the financial impact they’ll have on you. When you save money on costs like gas, food, and drinks, you free up your money for other priorities, like saving in a Roth IRA. Temptations like restaurant meals and nice outfits can suck money out of your bank account at the age when it’s easiest to save money. Try visualizing yourself attaining a financial goal (like a student loan balance of zero) to develop and maintain good money saving habits.