Today I’m going to spill the tea on how to save money at work. It’s fairly easy and it’s probably not considered a side hustle, but it’s a great way to get to the money! You are missing out if you’re eligible to do this, but aren’t taking advantage! If you aren’t eligible, don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. I’ll point you in the right direction.
Please note that I am not a financial adviser! Please reach out to your HR/Benefits specialist for more information and be sure to do your own research. I can only speak on my own experiences.
One thing that every eligible working person should do is:
Take advantage of pre-tax accounts
If your job offers pre-tax accounts, please do yourself a favor and contribute to them. Okay? Ok. I missed out on money at my last job and it left me kicking myself in the ass.
In this scenario, pre- tax means that the funds will be contributed to their respective tax advantage account from your paycheck before you are taxed on your income resulting in a lower taxable income. I think I can simplify it for you. Merriam – Webster defines pretax as,
“Before taxes are deducted.”
Note that I said pre-tax and not tax free. These are not tax free accounts, you will have to pay taxes at some point.
I currently contribute to 3 accounts and I only regret one of them! The one I regret could be the one that benefits you the most, you never know. Everyone’s situation is different.
Your take home pay will decreases when you contribute to these, but to me it’s worth it and I think your older self with thank you!
I urge you to look into the type of accounts your job offers in your benefit package. If you are a new hire, ask questions to make sure you fully understand the details. If you missed the deadline to enroll then you may have to wait until open enrollment. Please note that some of these accounts have maximum contributions per year.
Now to the good stuff. As I mentioned, I currently contribute to three accounts, a 401K, a Limited Purpose FSA, and a Dependent Care FSA. Last year I contributed to a HSA account but I decided not to this year. I’ll tell you why later.
What is it?
A 401K is a retirement savings account that is provided by an employer. The maximum amount you can contribute in 2019 is $19,000. And if you’re over 50 years old you can catch up with a maximum contribution of $6,000. Many people who are working towards financial independence use retirement accounts to reach their retirement goals.
Free money anyone? If your employer matches your contribution, then you’re basically getting free money. Check with your employer to see what their maximum match percentage is. For some employers it may be as high as 7% of your income.
An alternative to a 401K
If you are not eligible for a 401K, your job doesn’t offer one, or you’re self employed, don’t fret, you can open an IRA (Individual Retirement Account – Roth or Traditional) at your bank. (The difference between a traditional and Roth IRA is the timing of when you’re taxed). Who wants to work until their 70 and worry about having enough money for retirement? Me! – said no one EVER!
Limited Purpose FSA
What is it?
A FSA is a Flexible Spending Account for health care expenses. The maximum contribution amount for 2019 for a FSA is $2,700.
I funded my limited purpose FSA with an amount that I believed would cover my vision and dental expenses for the calendar year. I estimated how much I thought I would need to spend this year, and then equal amounts are deducted from each check and essentially add up to the amount that I have in my FSA account.
Estimating the costs
Items that I estimated were the cost of my eye exams, dentist visits, the cost of glasses ( excluding my frame allowance through my insurance) and the cost of contacts.
Here’s an example just in case you didn’t quite understand. Let’s say you think you will need $500 for the year. In a perfect world about $19 would be deducted from each check (pre- tax) ($500/26=19.23) 26 came from the amount of pay periods in a year if you’re paid biweekly. Then you would receive the full $500 in your FSA account upfront. (I have a card attached to my account which makes the funds easier to access).
Use or lose
At the end of the calendar year or you may lose the unused funds. Be mindful and make sure you know all the details. You also have up until a certain time to submit claims for reimbursements. So hold on to receipts or submit them along with your claims as your go.
What is it?
A HSA is a health savings account that usually accompanies a high deductible health plan. The maximum contribution for 2019 is $3,500 for individuals and $7,000 for families. The catch up maximum is 1,000 if you’re over 55.
FSA vs. HSA
Like a FSA, a HSA is also for health care expenses, and since I have an HSA, I have a limited purpose FSA. One of the differences I have found between a FSA and HSA is the availability of funds. I have access to my FSA funds upfront but it’s not the same for a HSA. As I contribute, the funds are deposited into my HSA account. For example, if I were to contribute $25 a pay period then I would have $50 after two pay periods have passed.
Another difference is that you do not lose the funds…ever. You can use them, penalty free, on anything after you’ve reached the age 65. Yesssss to the free money! If you use them on non-medical expenses before then, it will be taxable though, so be careful. Many people max out their HSA amounts so that they will have a nice amount saved for them to use once they retire.
Why I’m not contributing this year
I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that contributes funds to employee HSA accounts based on your family size, whether you contribute or not. More free money! I’m very grateful because it will be harder for me to reach my deductible this year since it’s higher now that I have a family on my plan. I also still have medical bills that need to be paid from giving birth. For this reason I decided not to immediately contribute to my HSA. But, I may change my mind later.
Dependent Care FSA
What is it?
A Dependent Care FSA (flexible spending account) is an account that you can use to pay for certain expenses related to your dependents. Your dependents doesn’t necessarily have to be your child.
Since I gave birth last year I thought it would be wise to get a Dependent Care FSA to save money (taxes) on daycare expenses. It is pre-tax, and there’s a maximum contribution of $5,000 a year. If you and your spouse file taxes separately (married filing separately) the maximum amount each of you can contribute is $2,500 each.
Why this account isn’t for me
I made the mistake of not researching this account. I assumed it was just like my limited purpose FSA. I was very wrong! There isn’t a card associated with the account. So I can’t swipe a FSA card to pay for daycare every week. In my situation, there are only two ways to pay for daycare via the dependent care FSA. 1) Pay out of pocket and get reimbursed or 2) have the company pay the daycare directly via check with the funds in your dependent care FSA account. There are also stipulations to this account. You can’t expect to be reimbursed for childcare expenses if you didn’t work.
As you know, equal amounts of money are deducted out of my paycheck to go into my Dependent Care FSA account. Then I have to use my money left over in my paycheck to pay for daycare and wait to be reimbursed by the funds that were deducted from my paycheck. I can only be reimbursed up to the amount that’s in the Dependent Care FSA account. So it’s like I’m losing money at first but getting it back. It’s inconvenient for my situation. I don’t like waiting to be reimbursed by my OWN money.
For example, say you contribute the maximum of $5,000. You should have around $192 going to your Dependent Care FSA account every pay period if your are paid bi-weekly ($5000/26 weeks =$192.31). So this deduction reduced your take home pay by $192. Then you pay out of pocket. Let’s say you pay $200 a week for daycare. Not only did your take home pay decrease by $192 but you had to pay an additional $200 that week for daycare. Now you can submit a claim to get reimbursed for the $200 but, if your FSA balance only has $192 then you’ll only get reimbursed the $192. The remaining $8 may be reimbursed once there’s money to do so. On the week that you don’t get paid you have to of course pay for day care, but you may not have the funds in your Dependent Care FSA to cover the reimbursement.
I feel like I would benefit more from just paying the daycare myself with my money from my paycheck. I’m only saving about $1,500 in taxes and I will be discontinuing my contribution. This account IS beneficial but I just don’t like the timing. I wish I would have read up on it before opening it. That way I could have planned better.
We have an amazing food court downstairs and a bomb employee dining facility which is great! I’m always tempted to stop at Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts in the food court or go to our employee diner for French toast, scrambled eggs and hash browns. I try to avoid this by making coffee at home and drinking it on my way to work. Or going to my break room on the floor that I work and getting free coffee or green tea. I also try to make my breakfast and bring it will me to work.
Bringing my lunch also helps when I want to get food from Chick-fil-a. I also bring snacks so that I’m not tempted to go downstairs for anything that I wasn’t prepared to buy. I’m not perfect and sometimes I just spend the money even when I know better. However, I’m trying to be more mindful and stick to my budget this year.
It’s way too easy to blow 15 dollars at Starbucks and Chick-fil-a in ONE day!! Imagine if you ate breakfast or lunch and had coffee everyday you went to work. $15 X 5 (days) =$75 a week. $75 X 4 (weeks in a month) =300. $300 X 12 months = UNACCEPTABLE! BRING YOUR OWN FOOD AND COFFEE!! The mathematical answer is $3,600 though.
That amount could go to your savings, your retirement, your debt, your investments, etc. This year the goal is to be more mindful of our spending if not, our money will do whatever it wants, including making us look crazy when our accounts have less than what we expected it to have.
Although most people have the luxury of parking for free, some people have to pay to park at their jobs. It’s very common in my downtown area. My last job didn’t have free parking and it was a pain in the ass! There were many days when I wanted to stay home so I could save money on gas and parking – I commute a hour to work (one way) with traffic. On days when I was running late it was possible to miss out on the lower priced parking lots…which would suck even worse.
Other ways to save
Here are some other options you can use to save money at work. Work from home if your job allows you to log on remotely. My current job allows this and it’s great, but believe it or not I prefer to be at work lol.
Another option is to use ride share if your job offers it. If your job doesn’t offer it, then see if you can ride with a coworker and take turns driving every other day and split gas and parking costs.
Finally, you can purchase a monthly parking pass or use the public transit system. I actually enjoyed riding the bus because who wants to sit in traffic for an hour or two?? I can sleep, listen to music or a podcast, read. The options are almost endless! The only downfall is waiting for the bus or train in uncomfortable conditions such as rain, snow, cold weather or hot weather. But you could save mileage, gas and your sanity.
I hope I was able to help you save money at work. You can go to the IRS websites below for more information. Click below for helpful resources. If this was helpful let me know in the comments below.
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