Many U.S. workers have been forced to work at home during the coronavirus pandemic. And a new CreditCards.com survey shows more than a third would like to continue doing so full-time once the crisis is over, despite higher everyday expenses.
But more than a third of those working from home (35%) would like to continue doing so full-time after state and federal restrictions are lifted, according to a CreditCards.com poll.
This is despite the fact that on average, it costs $108 more per month to do so, the new survey reveals.
Of those forced to work from home, more than three-quarters (82%) said they’d like to continue it at least two days per week, including those who would like to do so full-time (35%), most of the time (21%) and some of the time (26%).
Only 7% said they’d like to continue working from home once a week, 6% responded they wanted to do it less often than once a week and 4% said they never want to work from home again.
“Surprisingly, average expenses have gone up for people working from home, but it’s a trade-off most are very happy with,” Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com, said in a news release.
“Most workers seem content to skip the commute and potentially work in their pajamas, even if it means spending more on food and utilities,” he added.
Credit card debt poll: key findings
Here are some other noteworthy results from our credit card debt poll:
- Expenses have changed: Work-from-home employees reported they are spending an average of $182 more on groceries and $121 more on utilities per month, but also saving a bit on child care ($34), gas and public transit ($33), restaurants and takeout ($27) and clothes and dry cleaning ($4). In total, those forced to work from home due to COVID-19 are spending an average of $108 more per month on food and utilities.
- Average spending changes differ among groups: Generation, parent status and income bracket have all affected changes in net spending. Millennials spent the most ($208 more) compared with Gen-Xers and baby boomers, who spent $2 less and $24 less, respectively. Parents with children under 18 spent $173 more per month and non-parents spent $103 more. And households that make $40,000 annually spent $151 more per month, those that earn between $40,000-$80,000 annually spent $147 more and households with incomes over $80,000 annually spent $60 more.
- How those who saved will spend that money: Among those who saved in at least one category, 38% plan to save or invest most of it, 29% will spend it on everyday expenses and 28% will pay down debt. Only 2% said they will splurge on luxury items.
- Working from home differs with geography: Northeasterners and Westerners are significantly more likely to be working – or have worked – from home (37% and 34%, respectively) compared with Southerners and Midwesterners (26% and 25%, respectively).
The survey of 2,768 U.S. adults (including 822 who are working or have worked from home during the COVID-19 outbreak) was conducted online between May 21-22, 2020. See survey methodology.
This expert is surprised people aren’t banking big savings
Rossman said it makes sense that grocery and utility spending are significantly higher, but he’s shocked that spending on clothes, transportation and restaurant food are only slightly lower than before the pandemic.
“I would have thought most people fortunate enough to work from home would be banking significant savings,” he said.
Rossman also acknowledged that remaining employed and working from home are luxuries during the pandemic and unfortunately, many people aren’t able to do so.
But for those who can, he said, the silver linings of this experience are more time with family members and less time commuting.
“I would have thought lower costs would be on that list, too, but apparently not for many households,” Rossman said.
For some, the pandemic has brought about new financial habits
Consumers have shown increased awareness and thoughtfulness about how they are spending their money during the pandemic, said Maureen Kelley, a certified financial therapist practicing in Denver.
Reflecting on the new habits her clients have formed during the last two months of sheltering in place, Kelley said the highest-growing spending category has been food.
Many families said that while they are not eating out (a black hole of spontaneous spending), they are shopping less frequently, spending more in the grocery store and cooking at home.
“This has led to more time around the table as a family, and they are thankful for this lifestyle shift,” Kelley added.
One millennial couple Kelley consults said they have made significant changes in what they consider to be their compulsive materialism – they have become more thoughtful in their consumer behavior.
There are no random trips to the mall, and they are weeding out closets filled with useless items. They are looking for more meaningful pursuits, which includes making it a priority to watch movies together.
But Kelly noted the couple also wonders if their consumer wheels will start spinning again once society fully opens up.
Kelley has also witnessed noticeable differences with baby boomer women.
“One woman in her early 60s is thrilled that her monthly credit card bill is significantly less – and she has no desire to buy more things that will only fill her closet,” Kelley said.
However, Kelley mentioned, the woman strongly recognizes her need to spend money on things the support her self-esteem – such as self-care and skin care products.
She is also reading more books and has restarted her daily meditation and yoga practice in the comfort of her home.
She believes that she has pushed a reset button on her life and her values, Kelley said, and she’s asking herself the question, “How do I want to live?”
Working from home makes some expenses tough to cut
The fact that people are spending more while working at home doesn’t surprise Holly Johnson, frugal living expert and founder of the website Club Thrifty.
Johnson has been working at home full-time for nearly a decade now, and her husband has worked at home with her full-time for more than five years.
“During that time, we’ve noticed our utility bills go up in a big way, and we definitely go through a lot more groceries with everyone at home all day,” Johnson said.
The pandemic has made some spending categories harder to master.
Groceries are an excellent example of a category that can be difficult to cut, and this is especially true right now as food prices surge.
In fact, food prices for at-home meals were 4.1% higher in April 2020 compared to April 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there have been dramatic price increases not seen in decades for food staples.
“These increases couldn’t come at a worse time, considering the high rates of unemployment we’re seeing today,” Johnson said.
Create a meal plan to cut your food bill
If you want to continue working at home without breaking the bank, your food bill is a good place to start, Johnson advised.
Start by creating a meal plan that ensures all the ingredients you buy each month are put to good use. Shop sales and build your meal plans around the best food deals of the week at your favorite store, she suggested
Finally, try to limit takeout and dining out as much as you can.
A lot of people think of “fine” fast food like Chipotle or Panera Bread as a standard part of their budget and not as “bad” as dining out at a traditional sit-down restaurant, Johnson said, but they really they could save more if they cooked more meals at home.
See related: Best credit cards for grocery shopping
CreditCards.com commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,768 adults (including 822 who are working or have worked from home during the COVID-19 outbreak). The survey was conducted online from May 21-22, 2020.