What working from home could mean for your wallet

Many workers find savings in some areas and added costs in others
Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 7:52 PM EDT
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GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - It was a change at work Amy Ford could not have imagined a year ago.

“It was something I didn’t really want to do,” she said.

The longtime Team One Credit Union employee in Saginaw had to adjust to a remote schedule back in March. Ford said at the beginning, it had been challenging.

“You got everything at work that you need, right? Your printer, your scanner, all of these things. Then you go home and you’ve got a laptop," Ford said.

It was a transition more and more Americans could be making during the pandemic. Researchers with Global Workforce Analytics said more than half of all full or part-time U.S jobs could be done from home.

Elena Molar-Younger of Fenton remembered setting up her office at home when she started remote working in 2013.

“I didn’t necessarily have the support of an office. So you don’t necessarily have the printer, the printer ink, the things that you might not think about when you’re working in an office," Molnar-Younger said. "Even something as silly as toilet paper, those types of supplies, or water at the water cooler.”

It was not just office supplies that could factor into the costs of working from home. A study from showed people who were forced to work from home in the pandemic were spending an average of $108 more per month on food and utilities.

The study also found overall savings averaged $34 on child care, $33 on gas and public transit, $27 on restaurants and takeout and $4 on clothes and dry cleaning. In total, it was a savings of $98 per month.

Ford said the remote working schedule had helped her budget. She was saving on gas and oil changes, as she no longer has a 35-minute work commute each day.

“Groceries stayed the same, because I’m pretty much doing the same thing I was at work -- eating my lunch from home," she said.

Her electricity bills almost remained steady from year to year. She paid $122.49 for June 2019 and $117.26 for June 2020 -- a drop of $5.23. Ford found she didn’t need the full office setup she had.

“You just find you don’t need a printer. You don’t really need a scanner," she said. "There are a lot of things we think we need.”

For jobs require tools or supplies workers don’t have at home, one option would be to communicate with employers.

“Having a conversation with colleagues or your boss to say, ‘Hey, I’m taking on the costs of printer ink, printer paper.’ It’s possible they may reimburse you for it,” said Molar-Younger.

There was also the business side of more people working from home and questions about how it could impact office space.

Flint Township said it is not seeing companies close offices. But there were concerns about struggling retail stores at places like Genesee Valley Center mall.

“The changing landscape of retail has caused us to lose some of our national chains," Economic Enhancement Director Tracey Tucker said. "So we’re still worried about where we’re going to be at the end of the shutdowns.”

The township said its master plan for attracting businesses and jobs included targeting more mixed-used spaces with a retail look. It included the logistics company Northgate’s plan to expand into the former Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Corunna Road.

“We have worked diligently to get reinvestment in the area. We’ve courted site developers, we’ve contacted realtors, developers to keep them interested,” said Tucker.

Looking ahead, many believed the business world had been forever changed in the pandemic. For companies with employees already working at home, the genie was out of the bottle.

Researchers said 5 million Americans were currently working half or full time from home. Some predicted it would grow to 25 to 30 million within the next two years.

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