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Americans spend over $3,600 a year just to work — How you can save

We work to earn money, but a new survey finds that working actually costs us money.

That’s right, turns out that the cash you throw down for daily lunches, transportation and uniforms is really adding up. In fact, Schwinn, the bike company, says the average American spends $176,979.67 in their lifetime or $3,611 a year just to work.

Schwinn conducted a survey of 2,000 employees in various industries throughout the US, and found the biggest expense is typically transportation. According to the poll the average worker spends about $1,667 a year on gas, cab fare and public transportation. In comparison, AAA says the average American spends about $1,267 on gas alone. This is down about $414 or 25% compared to the previous year.

If you factor in the cost of owning and operating a car (which you need to get to work), that number quickly increases. AAA predicts the annual cost of maintaining a standard sedan is $8,558 per year.

An infographic showing the cost of working. (Photo: SWNS Media)

Other than transportation, food is definitely the next thing costing American workers. Your daily coffee habit, snack purchases, and take-out ordering costs you about $1,532 a year. That might make you think twice the next time you head to the vending machine.

And lastly, American workers spend about $300 a year on work attire or uniforms, and $106 on other work-related purchases.

While some of these expenses are unavoidable, here are some ways to save:

1. Tax deductions

Some of your expenses might be eligible for deductions on your tax return. For instance, commuter expenses (the cost of getting to and from work) are not eligible for a tax deduction. However, if your job requires you to drive to and from client meetings during the work day, the money you spend on gas, tolls and parking are work-related and therefore deductible.

The cost of uniforms and supplies can also be deducted as long as your company does not reimburse you for those costs.

2. Use credit cards to buy gas

Since buying gas is unavoidable, why not fill up with a credit card that provides some perks? Some cards, like the Chase Freedom or Discover will give you 5% cash back on gas station purchases during the first quarter of the year. Sure, it’s just 5%, but cash back is cash back.

3. Change your coffee routine

Unfortunately there isn’t a quick fix for saving money on food, but there are a few things you can do to keep from overspending. While office coffee is rarely as flavorful, drinking it is one of the easiest ways to cut down on expenses. After all, that $3 latte you buy from Starbucks every day costs you nearly $60 a month. If breaking your morning coffee routine is out of the question, consider using these Starbucks hacks to save yourself some moolah.

4. Buy a discounted lunch

According to Time, workers spend about $1,500 on lunch a year if they eat out three days a week. Naturally, the easiest way to spend less is to bring in your lunch from home, but sometimes the burden of prepping your meals doesn’t feel worth the savings.

If you’re looking for a compromise, consider using one of the new lunch apps popping up across the US. MealPal is a lunchtime subscription that allows you to order meals from local restaurants at half the cost. The subscription is $119 a month, and after ordering from a participating restaurant through the app, you simply pick up your meal when it’s ready.

The company says that at the end of the month, the cost of lunch averages about $6 a day. Considering many people spend $10-$20 a day for lunch, this app could could be a great way to eat out while saving money. MealPal is currently available in New York, San Francisco, Miami and Washington D.C.

A great way to cut back on snack spending is to buy in bulk at a store like Costco. Get variety packs of snacks and fill up a drawer in your desk. This way when cravings hit, you can snack without spending $2 on a tiny candy bar from the vending machine.

Brittany is a writer at Yahoo Finance.

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