After the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, we’ve adjusted our lives to working from home during the pandemic. It greatly reduced the cost of commuting among other expenses. In fact, the economy remained surprisingly strong and bankruptcy filings fell to record low levels. 

Now many companies are issuing return-to-office mandates, requiring their employees to adopt a hybrid work schedule or come back completely. However, there is a lot of push back, resulting in high employee attrition. Employers should tread carefully since many people have redefined their priorities during the pandemic. People are opting for more flexible hours and a pay cut in exchange for being able to work from home permanently.

Why Does It Cost More to Go Back Into the Office?

In addition to the rising demand for work-life balance, the cost of returning to work has inflated. Let’s look at how these costs are busting budgets.

  • Clothing – No more machine washing outfits that you can wear during Zoom calls, it’s back to dry cleaned business attire
  • Commuting – Gas is $4/gallon, auto insurance is going up, parking isn’t getting any cheaper, and even the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has recently proposed to increase the subway and bus fare by $0.15
  • Child Care – According to the 2022 Cost of Care Survey, more than 58% of families plan on spending more than $10,000 on child care this year. This only goes up with more children and the type of care provided (nanny, care center, babysitter)
  • Personal Appearance – From growing out beards and taking fewer showers, it’s back to regular grooming and beauty and skin routines
  • Coffee – Whether it’s $5-10 for a cup of Starbucks or pooling in money for coffee every month at the office, we were more resourceful when it was brewed at home
  • “Lunchflation” – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food and grocery store prices were up by 9.4% and 10.8% in April 2023, respectively
  • Happy Hour – Meeting co-workers in-person is naturally going to warrant a happy hour event every now and then. Your company might be able to cover the drinks, but you might have to front the cost of food and parking

Easy Ways to Cut Commuting Costs

If returning to the office is imminent, here are some ways on how to save money commuting. 

  • Make Your Coffee at Home – Store your hot or cold brew in a YETI bottle
  • Brown-bag Your Lunch – Prepare your meals over the weekend, so that you know exactly what you’ll be eating 
  • Use Public Transportation – Hop on the bus or train through the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). There’s also Divvy, Chicago’s shared bike system
  • Carpool – Uber offers shared rides for a discounted rate. You can also hitch a ride with a friend or coworker
  • Keep Your Wardrobe Simple – Thin out your closet so that you’re only wearing outfits that you use. Also, opt for machine-washable clothes to cut down on your visits to the dry cleaners
  • Shop Consignment – You can shop for designer brands while still sticking to a budget
  • Drink Lighter – Order mocktails or sparkling water instead of signature cocktails during team happy hour
  • Exercise at Home – There are tons of free exercise apps and videos available on YouTube for at-home workouts. The same goes for meditation, yoga, and pilates

Should I Budget or File for Bankruptcy?

Post-COVID business expenses are colliding with increased minimum monthly payments on credit cards due to rapidly rising interest rates. Many younger workers are now facing the prospect of having to restart payments on their student loans, often at a higher interest rate than they paid before the pandemic.

One approach to managing your growing debts is budgeting. It’s more calculated, restrictive, and recommended for those who spend far less than they make. 

The other solution worth considering is bankruptcy – before your debts get out of control, before you get sued if you can foresee a potential lawsuit, before you’re unable to pay your rent or car payments, and before your wages start getting garnished. 

Contact Lakelaw, Your Financial Lifesaver

At Lakelaw, we want you to succeed financially. 

Our award-winning bankruptcy firm strives to help local individuals, families, and businesses to get the expert filing, mediation, professional defense representation, compassion, and respect they rightfully deserve. Corporate restructuring, student loans, debt consolidation, and more.

Serving the greater Chicago area for almost 50 years, contact us to schedule a free confidential consultation.