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Top budgeting tips for returning to the office

  • 5-min read

Going back to the office is stressful. Here are Smart MNE’s top budgeting tips for returning to the office in 2022.

It’s inevitable. Working from home had a good run. And maybe management teams will be more likely to create remote jobs or allow employees to work remotely for set periods in the future, but many employers think that company cultures require at least part-time work from the office. 

For some people, working from the office is no big deal (like me—I worked from home for a big fat three weeks total in June 2020), but for others, it will be a pretty big transition, especially if you started working during the pandemic and haven’t even spent that sweet, sweet sign-on bonus, yet. Here’s what you need to know. 

Are we all going back to the office?

You can find numbers to support any argument you make. 50% of employers want employees in the office five days per week, but only 4% are actually doing it. Another source says 34% of workers are already returning to work and, apparently, the rest of the world is staying home at a higher rate.  

It’s unlikely returning to the office will be a surprise. Many people working in jobs like computer programming or customer service may already know their job will always be remote. But people doing customer-facing or meeting-heavy jobs will eventually come back to the office.

1. Update your existing routine

Getting ready, for real

It was nice to roll out of bed seven minutes before you logged on, but going into work is a whole different game. You have to spend time to look presentable. 

For some, that might still mean only seven minutes, but for most, it’s an ordeal to pick out the required business clothes and groom. Figure out how long it takes, and adjust your time budget. 

Transportation times

Transportation is another pain in the ass you need to plan for. If you’ve never commuted to work, go a few steps further than just putting your route into Waze. Actually, do it a few times. If you use public transportation, do it and figure out what the best times are. If you drive, make sure you know the best route and all routine maintenance is done on your vehicle. 

Secure accommodations for children and pets

My best advice for this section is to stick to cats. We have two dogs and a human, and it probably doubles our time budget (triples our dollar budget?). We have to get the human to daycare, get the dogs out twice each morning to avoid carpet devastation during the day and then run back home during lunch to let the dogs out again. The cats probably don’t even realize that we left—as long as the food bowl is full. 

Take the time to plan all daycares ahead of time, pet and human alike. Most of the good ones have waiting lists so it may be worth setting up even if you have no plans to go back to the office.   

2. Revisit your budget

Transportation costs

You don’t just have to budget for transportation time, you have to work on a budget for transportation costs as well. Gas prices are down a little, but they’re still incredibly high. Most urban business centers don’t have free parking. Even public transportation has some type of cost.

Food and drink expenses

If you’re a better person than me, you may have taken advantage of the pandemic to buy all fresh food and cook each meal, saving a ton of money in the process. Now you’ll be hitting Starbucks for coffee, going out for lunch (and probably dinner), and don’t forget about happy hour

If you’re lucky, some or maybe even all of these costs are covered by your employer, but any new costs should be budgeted for. 

Clothing budget

You can get sweats to wear all day from Wal-Mart, but most employers wouldn’t be happy with you wearing that to the office. Start building your wardrobe now.

3. Stay balanced to stay happy

Don’t be surprised when you get home after your first day in the office (even if it’s only until 5 o’clock) and are utterly exhausted. Working in an office is just a different type of energy suck than working from home.

If you can, start slow by working a few days each week in the office and keeping a strong work/life balance. If that’s not an option, move mountains to get as much sleep as possible each night, or you’ll burn out faster than Morbius’s second box office stint.

Man with dark hair and beard transforming into a monster
Sony / Giphy

If you’re WFH but feeling the FOMO … 

Used to working in the office but have no end to WFH in sight? You’re not alone. I was actually happy to be back in the office after my short stint away. For me, it’s about having actual human interactions. 

If you’re missing those, plan video call meetings just for fun, go to the gym without headphones (the horror!), go out on the weekends, call old friends you haven’t hung out with for a while. Don’t let yourself evolve into a bigger and bigger hermit until TLC calls to get a show going. 

Make a plan

Going back to the office will certainly be stressful, but remember that people have been doing this for 75,000 years (estimated that stat). Ever since Grog left the cave to bully a group of buffalo into running off a cliff, people have been working at work. It will take some time to get your best process, but for now, make a plan, and you won’t worry as much.