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5 Workplace Financial Hacks You’re Doing Wrong

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This post was guest written by Tyler Thompson


If you read a lot of financial hack websites, you probably see the same five “how to save money at your job” tips over and over.

Pack your lunch. Ride your bike. Don’t drink lattes.

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Some of the tips, like riding your bike, are good — provided you don’t live in an area where you’re likely to be blown off the road by a crazy driver or 18-wheeler. Other tips, however, are just nuts.

Are you following any of these financial hacks? If so, you’re doing it wrong.

1. Packing your lunch every day

You know what happens when you eat your frugal little sack lunch at your desk? That’s right: nothing. Nothing changes about your life, your career prospects, your networking opportunities, or your friendships. All so you can save a few bucks.

Grab the book Never Eat Alone and then start following the tips. No, you don’t have to eat out at Ruth’s Chris every day. But you don’t want to be the cubicle lunch dude busy saving $3 as life passes him by.

2. Wearing obviously cheap clothing

This is a variation on the “pack your lunch” idea: the whole “who cares as long as you’re clothed, so pick the cheapest office-appropriate clothing you can find.”

Do you know who gets promoted? The best-looking people. And yes, there’s both science and good business sense behind this popularity contest. So if you think you can get by in worn-out shoes or last year’s dress shirt, think again. You’re potentially turning down thousands of dollars, not to mention new opportunities, by looking like you buy your clothes on the super-sale rack and only wear the same five outfits.

3. Choosing the life insurance that comes with your job

Just because Doris in Human Resources told you that this was the best life insurance plan doesn’t mean you should listen. I mean, she’s just telling you what her boss told her to say, and so on up the ladder.

You’re smart. Look up Best Life Quote and actually compare highly rated life insurance carriers. Don’t let your family’s future (or your future family’s future) be decided by Doris.

4. Skipping happy hour

See “Never Eat Alone,” above. When you skip happy hour, you’re telling your teammates you don’t want to be a part of the team. You’re also missing out on the after-work discussion, the literal “meeting after the meeting,” that helps determine who gets the best work and who gets what’s left over. Don’t skip happy hour. It’s okay to nurse a single beer the entire time, though.

5. Not taking advantage of all your benefits

I bet there’s at least one benefit you’re currently leaving on the table, whether it’s a discounted gym membership or an offer to pay for additional training. When your office offers you a discounted gym membership, they’re essentially saying that going to the gym and staying fit and healthy is now part of your job. Trust me — Human Resources keeps track of who’s taking advantage of their benefits and who’s ignoring them.

Here’s an example: I used to work in an office where they offered a free weekly 15-minute massage. The lady they hired had these gross, sweaty hands, but every week when Doris came around and asked if I wanted my massage, I said yes. Then when she asked if I liked the massage, I said yes. Why? The same reason you say you like your mom’s terrible meatloaf. It’s not about the massage, it’s about thanking someone for what is offered.

If you don’t take advantage of your benefits, your company is either going to think you’re ungrateful or that you don’t understand the value of getting that extra PMP or GAAP certification. Either way, it doesn’t make you look good. Pay the 50% of your gym membership costs, let the office pay the other 50%, and hit those weights.

What else did I miss? Any other workplace financial hacks that are completely misguided?

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Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.