A fifth of our wages now spent at work – in commuting, lunches and expenses

by 72point

The average worker now spends almost one fifth of their wages on commuting, lunches and office whip-rounds, a study has revealed. Researchers found fuel, train fares, lunches, caffeine and contributions to colleagues’ birthdays and leaving gifts mean workers will plough more than 17% of their monthly wages back into their job.

Work clothes, sponsorship for colleagues and expenses which are denied – or forgotten about – also add to the monthly cost of around £263, a total of almost £3,158 a year.

But with the average adult taking home £1,543, after tax and national insurance contributions, almost a fifth of that cash is put back towards work-related costs.

It also emerged that nearly a quarter have had to quit a job because they couldn’t afford the cost to commute and work there.

Andy Oldham, Managing Director at the UK’s biggest cashback site Quidco, which commissioned the research, said:

”Considering we primarily go to work to earn money, it’s frustrating to realise how much of our earnings are ploughed back into our job one way or another.

”When considering a new job, most people will consider a commute cost, but fail to factor in items such as clothing, lunch, teas and coffees and the odd whip round. All of these soon add up”.

The study of 2,000 workers found that in an average month, the biggest chunk of our wages is spent on commuting into work with fuel, train fares and parking fees totalling around £161 every month.

Another £58 is spent on buying lunch and snacks from nearby shops, while almost £14 goes on providing your own tea, coffee and milk.

Contributions to colleagues’ leaving and birthday gifts account for another £6 each month – or £72 annually.

Each year, a further £185 is spent on buying clothes and shoes to wear in the office and more than £25 goes on sponsoring colleagues for charity events.

Forgetting to claim back expenses, or being told you can’t get back certain costs, adds another £82 to the total.

Article Continues Below

Researchers also found that a third of Brits have had to turn down a job because they would need to spend too much commuting, while 23% have had to ask for a pay rise to cover their costs.

However, more than three quarters of the UK’s workforce have said they would be prepared to plough a bigger chunk of their wages back into their job, if it was their dream role.

It also emerged that almost half worry about the amount of their wages that gets eaten up by work-related expenses, with 45% trying to cut back on the amount they have to part with.

More than four in ten have taken in leftovers or packed lunches to save money, while 30% have avoided buying new clothes to add to their work wardrobe.

Lift-sharing with a colleague, walking or cycling to work and putting less – or even no money – towards birthday or leaving collections are other ways the UK workforce try to cut back on work spend.

Quidco‘s Andy Oldham added:

”Those that shop for train tickets, groceries and clothing via our site will be able to offset these costs.

”This will see them securing money back on an incredible spend.

”With the average shopper earning £280 a year, this will see savvy shoppers seeing 10%of the work related spend returned back to their hard working pocket.”


Fuel, train fare, parking fees     £161.04
Lunch and snacks        £58.04
Tea/coffee/milk        £13.60
Birthday/leaving contributions    £6.07
Work wardrobe        £15.45
Sponsorship for colleagues    £2.10
Forgotten or denied expenses      £6.86

Total per month        £263.16
Total per year        £3157.92


1.    Taking leftovers/packed lunches instead of buying lunch
2.    Made do with clothes I already had instead of buying new ones
3.    Lift-shared with a colleague
4.    Walked instead of driving/getting the train
5.    Put less into a colleagues birthday or leaving collections
6.    Stop buying tea/coffee
7.    Parked in a different place and walked the extra distance to cut parking costs
8.    Only bought new work clothes with a discount voucher
9.    Only bought lunch using a discount voucher
10.    Persuaded my boss to let me work from home


Follow IWB on Facebook and Twitter