Budgeting

6 Ways to Waste Money When You’re at the Office

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Joanne Poh

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Ever get the feeling that no matter how hard you work, you seem to be getting even poorer? Why are you working so hard anyway, when you would have more money at the end of the month if you stayed home all day and helped your mum organise her Korean drama collection?

Well, one place where you could be leaking money is during work, yes that window from 9 to 6 when you’re supposed to be earning, not spending money. If you earn $200 a day (about $4,400 a month) but you spend $50 each day while you’re at work, your take-home pay is depleted by a quarter.

Here are six ways you might be spending money while you’re at work.

 

1. Your morning coffee

For some people, buying that Starbucks Frappuccino to wake themselves up every morning or after lunch is like a sacred ritual. Nothing like a massive dose of calories and refined sugar to start the day with.

But note that that fancy coffee can set you back quite a bit if you make it a habit. It might be only $5 a day, but do you really want to spend $100 a month on coffee that you drink at your desk?

 

2. Post-work drinks

If you’re one of those lucky folks who work with awesome people you consider friends, chances are you often head out together after work for a post-work drink, or five.

While it’s totally understandable if you need to drown your frustration with your horrible boss in half a litre of whisky every night, making this a regular habit can make you very poor, and fat.

 

3. Snacks at the office

Sitting in your lonely cubicle all day long can get boring, and the Arctic-temperature air-con blowing directly down at you makes you really cold and hungry all day long. Stocking your desk with snacks can be a very comforting way to deal.

When your boss is nagging, you just have to insert a stick of Pocky in your mouth and it’s all better. And there’s no harm in da baoing a few curry puffs back from lunch, or getting some of those cupcakes from the hipster cafe downstairs, right?

But unless there’s an office pantry budget, all these snacks are going to eat (pun intended!) into your own salary.

 

4. Lunchtime shopping

There are quite a few retail options in the CBD area, just waiting for unsuspecting office workers to wander in during lunchtime.

For starters, there’s a massive H&M outlet at the big square outside Raffles Place MRT. The MRT station at Raffles Place is full of clothing retailers selling Office Lady-ish outfits, and there are also random shops hawking smartphone covers and the like. Then there are the hip boutiques in Telok Ayer.

It can be tempting to just “pick up a few items” during lunchtime, but many people end up shopping compulsively on their lunch breaks.

 

5. Online shopping

Okay, let’s be honest, we’ve all bought things online during the work day. Why waste your personal time booking air tickets for your holiday (you can even print them out for free using the office printers!) or buying a gift for your friend’s birthday when you can do it during work?

But some people end up compulsively browsing online shopping sites all day long, quickly clicking on a work-related browser tab when they hear someone approaching from behind.

As you’re probably seated in front of the computer all day, you have all the time in the world to browse through every product on all your favourite sites, things you would never have bought or even seen on a non-working day. Try not to spend your entire salary even before leaving your cubicle!

 

6. Lunch at restaurants

Sometimes you just get so sick of always having to fight for seats at the food court and “chope” then with your tissue packets that you want to go to a restaurant. It just takes one person in your group of lunch kakis to suggest a restaurant and before you know it the whole gang is standing in the queue at the entrance.

This quickly gets expensive, as a restaurant meal usually costs at least $10 to $20 as opposed to the $5 a hawker centre or food court meal would, especially if you work in the CBD where prices are higher.

Worst of all, you don’t really get to enjoy your meal, unless you have flexible lunch hours and can eat when the restaurants don’t all resemble overcrowded fish markets, or your boss tolerates you disappearing for 2 hour lunches.

Do you regularly spend on any of the above while at work? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.