Inflation’s impact is the first coworker you’ll greet when you head through the office door.

4 minute read

After more than two years of working remotely, many employees now find themselves returning to the long-lost office where they once spent their workdays. Whether you have to reluctantly drag yourself back or you’re eager to socialize face-to-face with coworkers again, one thing is certain: You’ll definitely feel the pinch of rising inflation and higher monthly costs.

So, when you make up your monthly budget, factor in these five pricey office worker costs.

1. Gas

One of the first things most people noticed when they started working remotely was how much less they spent on gas because they didn’t have to commute. Maybe they filled up only once every two or three weeks instead of every week, for example.

Now when you drive to work, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much more you must spend each month on gas. The national average gas price is $4.88 as of June 28, according to AAA. That’s nearly $2 a gallon higher han gasoline cost in June 2021.

To save money when commuting to the office, download a gas app like GasBuddy to find the lowest prices on gas near you. Do any coworkers live nearby? Maybe you can carpool, alternating drivers each week. Check out public transportation options, too.

Being squeezed into a bus or train with strangers is no fun. But public transportation may become more appealing when you see how much you save on gas each month.

Find out: These 4 Gas Apps can Help You Save Money at the Pump

2. Lunch costs

When you worked from home, you may have prepared your own lunches much of the time to save money. Even when you worked in the office before, you probably found at least a few lunch specials that were a great bargain. Today, however, lunch prices are a different story.

You can thank “lunchflation,” the term for increasing restaurant prices, according to a report from Square, a business and commerce software company. According to Square, dining out food prices are rising faster than those loaves of bread ready to go into the oven at your favorite restaurant. And all those price increases add up fast.

Here’s how much more you can expect to pay for popular lunch items, according to Square:

  • Wraps: 13 to 18 percent
  • Sandwiches: 14 to 15 percent
  • Tacos: 12 percent to 19 percent
  • Salads: 9 to 11 percent
  • Burgers: 8 to 9 percent
  • Soup: up to 28 percent

To cut lunch costs, bring your lunch from home most days. Maybe with all the money you save, you can still go out to lunch every Friday so you don’t feel totally deprived.

Find out: 11 Easy Foods You Can Take to Work to Save Money on Lunch

3. Childcare

If you have kids, you’ve paid your pandemic dues being stuck in the house with little ones while you tried your best to work from home. Now you’ll pay again, this time for childcare costs, if your children are too young to attend school or they’re out of school for the summer.

The average annual cost of childcare has risen more than 40 percent in some states, according to a 2022 Lending Tree report. Here’s the average annual price increase breakdown (from 2018 to 2020) by the child’s age:

  • Infants: 5 percent (from $11,786 to $12,411)
  • Toddlers: 5 percent (from $10,849 to $11,379)
  • Four-year-olds: 7 percent (from $9,349 to $10,008)

Michigan residents pay the most in the country — an increase of 26 percent to 34 percent. Meanwhile, Arkansas saw the biggest increase for childcare for four-year-olds: 46 percent.

Find out: The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money on Child Care

4. Clothing

You may have gotten used to throwing a nice shirt on while you wore yoga pants or shorts on a Zoom call. If you go back to the office, however, you can kiss that casual apparel goodbye. You’ll need office attire, and clothing costs can eat up your paycheck fast.

Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of good clothing bargains if you take time to look. Search online for sale and clearance clothing items. Check out the clothing resale shop down the street for nice clothes. If you enjoy the hunt and don’t mind weeding through some shoddy items, you can often find gently worn (or never worn) clothing at the thrift store.

Using these methods, you’ll save a bundle on clothing, and no one at work will be the wiser.

Find out: How to Save Money on Clothing Without Giving up Your Style

5. Office Gifts

No matter how high inflation climbs, there’s always that one person in the office insisting on a Secret Santa holiday gift exchange. And you can usually count on the office schmoozer asking everyone to pitch in on a birthday gift for your passive-aggressive boss.

Meanwhile, you can’t even buy three tacos and seven pinto beans from the food truck for lunch without spending $15 to $20.

Unless you want to be known as the office misanthrope, you’ll need to cough up money here and there for gifts you’d rather not spend hard-earned cash on. But there are at least a couple of ways to make this office obligation more affordable.

If you have to purchase a gift for coworkers, shop online for sale and clearance items. Set aside as little as $10 from every paycheck to stash in a coffee can. That way, you can grab what you need for cash-sucking office celebrations.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC