So, the path to reaching early financial independence must typically go through an employer of some sort. Well, at least for those of us who didn’t start our own company, receive a substantial inheritance, etc. Most good companies offer certain perks, in additional to a typical salary. Depending on the industry you are in, and how fierce the competition, these perks can be a rather substantial addition to your base compensation package. When negotiating a salary, it helpsto be well informed in what the company has to offer you: 401k matching, employee stock purchase plan (ESPP), profit sharing, relocation bonus, etc.
The following are most of the ones I’ve been taking advantage of. Some, or all will also be available to you. Through the use of the following, I have been able to save significant amounts of money each month that I further use for investing.
Cellphone + Data Plan
A typical smartphone data plan falls in the neighborhood of $30 to $50 a month. If you add unlimited text messaging, this can add on an additional $10. This equates to $600 a year in cellphone bills (using $40 monthly plan rate). Keep in mind that this $600 yearly payment is also made w/ post-tax dollars. By finding the right job / company that offers a smartphone + data plan, you can forfeit this bill completely. And if you are lucky enough, you may receive the latest and greatest (iphone 4s). This way you can keep up w/ the latest technology w/o having to fork over a single penny 😉
Gym membership pricing is highly variable and varies greatly from location to location. Another perk to look into is if the company has a decent enough gym to replace the one you are currently using. Unless you are an aspiring amateur bodybuilder or triathlon athlete, most company gyms should provide enough of the basics to give you what you need. Usually this would consist of: free weights, dumbbells, treadmill, ellipticals, etc. Remember, staying healthy is the most important thing in the quest to early financial independence. If you lose your health, you lose everything.
Also, on the topic of free gym access. If a company provides a gym, chances are that a shower is also provided. This is not something I have done yet, but I see a lot of older co-workers taking advantage of this. They typically workout + shower in the morning before work, of in the evening after work. By doing this, you can save additional money on your home water bill.
Other Physical Activities
If you work for a big company, they may even have an on-site swimming pool, basketball, or volleyball court. Participating in any of these free activities is another great way to stay in shape for free. Also, basketball or volleyball make for some great social activities. Find liked-minded individuals, and see if they follow a regular meet-up schedule. Doing so will keep you working out consistently, and who knows, you might even make some new friends w/ other co-workers you would normally never see.
Unless you are really fortunate to be working at a company that offers free meals, you will most likely have to settle for the next best thing – free drinks. It may seem like a trivial thing, but the cost of soda, juice, tea, and coffee really add up. A $3 latte every morning translates to $780 spent on just coffee in a year (also assuming the fact you don’t need /order one on weekends). Of course the healthiest thing to do would be to just drink water, but if you must have the alternative, at least let the company foot the bill.
From my own observations, companies are typically loaded in excess when it comes to simple office supplies: pencils, pens, paper, paper clips, binders, batteries, etc. I typically leave some of this stuff in my laptop bag, which I take home every night. Since the supplies are already there, should I ever need anything… Let’s just say it’s been awhile since I’ve had to browse the stationary isle at the local Target 😉
Printer, Fax, Scanner
On the topic of office supplies, you can also take advantage of the company printer, fax, and scanner. With the advent of the internet, and the push for eliminating paper waste, very few people still print out documents these days. But if you ever need to, this can help eliminate the need to purchase these devices for your own home. Save money and reduce clutter. Win, win!
The laptop. Probably the most essential piece of equipment you will receive on your first day at the new job. Unless your company is inexorably cheap, you should be able to land something half decent. Since the laptop is good enough for you to get your work done, why stop there? Why not take it home, and use it for personal use? I’ve been doing this for awhile, and watch youtube, Amazon Prime video’s, browse the web, etc. This way I can keep up w/ the latest technology (Intel I7 Processor, Windows 7), w/o actually having the purchase the hardware or software myself.