Hacks to cut the cost of your back-to-work commute
Many employees heading back to the office face a financial shock to the system, but there are ways to shrink the extra costs of commuting.
The end of coronavirus restrictions has coincided with a cost of living crisis affecting everything from commuting and smart clothes to work lunches.
Check out our top tips to slash your work-related bills and hang onto more of your monthly pay packet.
Rail fares in England and Wales shot up by 3.8% in March, and by an even higher 4.8% in London
Fill up for less
Fuel prices have rocketed to record levels, driving the cost of commuting sky high.
Focus on ways to cut the amount you drive and the amount of fuel you use.
Shrink mileage by, for example, walking wherever possible, finding a car share or reviewing your route.
Then focus on maxing out your miles per gallon. Check your tyre pressure is correct, clear out clutter to remove weight, avoid using the aircon and aim to drive smoothly without excessive braking or acceleration.
Pocket cheaper train tickets
Commuters face higher prices for season tickets and off-peak travel after regulated rail fares in England and Wales shot up by 3.8% in March, and by an even higher 4.8% in London.
If your boss is more willing to consider flexible working since the pandemic, see if you could save with a new Flexi Season ticket.
These offer eight days of travel within 28 days between two named stations and can be used at any time; great for those who only commute two or three days a week.
Otherwise, if you can tweak your working day to avoid peak hours, try a railcard.
The Network Railcard, for example, costs £30 for a year, but saves a third off rail fares in London and South East, provided you don’t travel before 10am on Mondays through Fridays.
When travelling elsewhere, check out alternatives depending on your age such as the 16-25 Railcard, 26-30 Railcard and Senior Railcard.
Cut parking costs
If you don’t have a handy parking space at your workplace, the cost of car parks or station parking can really add up over the working week.
Check out the cheapest car parks nearby using a site such as Parkopedia to compare prices.
Then see if you can save cash by booking someone’s driveway or garage, via apps such as JustPark or YourParkingSpace.
Bag a new bike
Commuting on two wheels? Ask if your employer offers some form of bike to work scheme as an employee benefit.
This allows you to save between 25% and 39% on a new bike and accessories, because the payments are taken directly from your salary before income tax and National Insurance are calculated.
Claim money towards childcare
Snap up free money from the Government towards childcare for children aged 11 and under.
You can claim up to £500 every three months (up to £2,000 a year) per child, rising to £1,000 every three months (and up to £4,000 a year) if your child is disabled.
You’ll need to set up an online childcare account. Then for every £8 you pay into this account, the government will add another £2.
The money can be used to pay for ‘approved childcare’, where providers are signed up to the schemes. This can include childminders, nurseries and nannies, as well as after-school clubs and play schemes that are life savers in school holidays.
To qualify, you need to earn at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average, while you and your partner both need to earn less than £100,000 a year in ‘adjusted net income’.
Save on work clothes
Sadly, pyjamas and slippers are unlikely to cut it back in the office, however comfortable while working from home.
First, review your wardrobe to see if you actually need any new clothes, or can wear what you already own.
Dry cleaning and mending can work wonders.
If you need to fill gaps, check out supermarkets for basics or consider second-hand options and do your bit for the environment at the same time.
Charity shops can be great sources of smart suits, shirts, dresses and coats, especially if you scope out branches in richer areas, or try sites such as eBay, Depop and Vinted.
Save when shopping for new clothes online by nabbing discounts: click through from a cashback site, google 'voucher codes' and see if you can get money off by signing up to company newsletters.
When shopping on a site where you're registered, try loading up your online shopping basket, then leaving without buying anything, to see if the retailer will send a code a few days later to tempt you back.
Nab tax relief on uniforms
If you wear a uniform for work, and you have to wash, repair or replace it, make sure you claim tax relief.
The standard flat-rate allowance for uniform maintenance is £60, so the tax relief works out as £12 for basic rate taxpayers or £24 if you pay higher rate tax.
Plus, you can backdate your claim for up to the previous four years.
Some specific occupations such as pilots, mechanics and ambulance staff have higher allowances – check out the full list.
Pay less for lunches
The extra cost of nipping out of work to grab a sandwich has been nicknamed the ‘Prêt tax’.
Time to crack open the Tupperware.
Making your own packed lunches could easily save £1,000 a year, whether you slap together your own sandwiches or batch cook big dinners and then take leftovers into the office.
With Compare the Market, you can also side-step the expense of takeaway coffee on the way to work, with 25% off handcrafted coffee and freshly baked pastries, 7 days a week only at Caffè Nero. Using your Meerkat app, you can save on all barista-made drinks not once but twice a day.
To claim this reward, you’ll need to take out a qualifying product via Compare the Market. Terms and conditions apply.
3 things to do right now...
Check out cheaper ways to get to work, whether you change your route to use less fuel, compare the cost of train tickets or use a cycle to work scheme to bag money off a bike.
Don’t knock second-hand to cut the cost of work clothes and claim tax relief if you’re required to wear a uniform.
Plan for packed lunches, to avoid the extra expense of buying sandwiches or eating out
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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.
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