For a couple of years, it was known that my employer would be closing my office. Last July, I began working from home full time. What has the experience been like?
Gas / auto – I reduced my daily driving by 46 miles. There are 260 work days in a year. After accounting for vacation days and holidays, that leaves about 230 days. 230 days X 46 miles is a savings 0f 10,580 miles per year. I would get about 32 mpg and the current cost of gas here (Iowa) is about $2.099 per gallon. (10,580/32) * $2.099 = $693.98 in fuel savings.
However, there’s also much less wear and tear on the car. The car is a 2007 Hyundai Elantra with 138,000 miles on the odometer. I’m (hopefully) extending the life of the car a few years by driving it less – allowing me to push back the purchase of a new(er) car by a few years. Lazy Man wrote about the cheapest cars to own a few months back. The very cheapest cars to own cost about 40 cents per mile. 40 cents per mile X 10,580 miles = $4,232. That’s the equivalent of getting a raise of about $7,000 (since the automobile cost savings is a direct cash-in-pocket savings). (Are you wondering if it’s possible for us to get rid of one of the cars and cut that expense entirely? Good idea, but just not feasible with kids and schedules.)
Food – When I worked out of the office, I ate out a lot. I’m often up until 1:00 AM or so (for work) and was getting up at 6 AM. Getting the kids (8 and 5) into the car was enough of a struggle without worrying about packing my own lunch. I didn’t eat at extravagant places, but even at fast food places, it’s not hard to spend $7 on a meal. I’d often end up buying a snack (or two) from the Goodie Box at the office.
When working from home, it’s easy to make a sandwich or some other quick meal that utilizes ingredients in the house. When I began working from home, I also planned to walk around the block during my breaks and eat healthier – ham sandwiches and the occasional salad instead of so much fried food.
Sleep – I can sleep until almost 6:30 and still have plenty of time to get ready, corral the kids, drop them off, and get back home in time to start the work day. That’s a net gain of about 25 minutes of sleep per day – for both me and the kids.
No driving – I hate driving. I’m not subject to big traffic jams, but I simply don’t like driving. Cutting the drive time out of the day makes me happier.
Flexibility – I’m always home if a repairman needs to drop by. I’m always there when a package gets delivered. I can throw a load of clothes into the washer every once in a while. I can pick up the kids and have them working on homework by the time my wife gets home. It’s much easier to make it to after-work appointments. It’s been a big win not just for me, but for the family.
Utilities – I’ll use more water, gas, and electricity since I’ll be home more. We have a pretty energy efficient home, which keeps heating costs reasonable in the winter. I don’t run the A/C much during the day (I prefer it a little warm), so that’s not a big factor. My two laptops use electricity, but that’s a much smaller impact that you may think – computers actually don’t use much electricity.
Social interaction – I live in a neighborhood that’s solidly middle class. Almost every family has both spouses working. It’s a young neighborhood that has only existed for about a decade, so there aren’t many retired people (by my count, there are exactly two). The net effect is that it’s dead quiet during the day, and there’s no face to face contact unless I run to Amoco for a bowl of chili.
This would bother some people, but I’m a bit of a loner, so it’s fine with me. Also, I’m in a lot of conference calls, so I do have a lot of mouth to ear contact. Additionally, I’m often listening to podcasts while I work, so there are plenty of voices in my head. Some of them even intentional.
How is it going?
OK, I’m nine months into the arrangement. How do I like it so far? I absolutely love it.
I’ve driven the Elantra about 3600 miles in those nine months. I’m spending a lot less money on meals and snacks. I defrayed the increase in utilities by taking a few minutes one day to replace about 20 light bulbs with LED bulbs. (We have a lot of bulbs in the house – we have a combined 2700 square feet).
I’m able to get a lot of household tasks done. I can throw in a load of clothes in the morning and fold during lunch time. It’s much easier to get to appointments. I’ve been able to volunteer at school several times. Explaining my job to second graders was a fascinating experiences – I was peppered with questions, very few of which related to the specifics of my job.
Has everything gone perfectly? Not exactly. Remember the plan to eat healthy and walk around the block during my breaks? That lasted about three days. I have a lot of difficulty pulling myself away from work during the day. I’ve found that I strongly prefer something hot for lunch. For $4.50, I can get a bowl of delicious chili and a 44 oz Pepsi from the local Amoco (a country store type of place that sells everything from fried chicken to minnows and power tools). Sometimes I do throw a Hungry Man meal ($2.50) or a Totino’s pizza ($1.25) into the oven. Sometimes I actually do have a ham sandwich or a salad. Last week, I made Stove Top and threw in a can of chicken, a bunch of shredded cheese, and some A-1. Not the healthiest meal in the world, but pretty tasty. Overall, I’m probably eating slightly healthier than I was before.
And I’m famous. The employees at Amoco all know me as the guy who likes the chili.