Office workers spend 1K a year at work - from baristas to birthdays

9 January 2017

  • Brits spend £1,003 at work each year, including coffee, nights out and birthdays
  • Many feel pressured into spending money in order to keep their colleagues happy
  • Across 40-year career average worker would spend £40,128 on office life

The cost of working in an office - from charity donations to work nights out - leaves the average Brit £1,000 out of pocket each year, according to a new poll1 from Nationwide Current Accounts.

Despite Christmas being out of the way for another year, going back to work is unlikely to mean to the end of people’s spending. The poll reveals the average office worker is likely to spend £1,003.20 a year due to office life – and that’s not including breakfast, lunch or travel.

Across a working lifetime of four decades2, this would equate to £40,128 – equivalent to around two years’ salary after tax for the average British worker3.

Item / reason Average amount spent per year
 Clothes and bags  £119.16
 Drinks / nights out (e.g. after work) with colleagues  £102.24
 Christmas parties / lunch / dinner  £96.48
 Birthdays (cards / presents)  £66.60
 Coffee / tea  £66.36
 Sweets / treats  £64.32
 Technology (e.g. tablet, phone, mouse, calculator)  £58.32
 Colleague leaving present / card
 Comfort items (e.g. tissues, tablets, anti-bac)  £49.68
 Weddings  £47.04
 Charity / Sponsorship requests
 Births  £43.92
 Secret Santa  £41.88
 Stationery  £41.04
 Other equipment (e.g. pens, highlighters)  £38.04
 Retirements  £39.24
 Bereavements  £33.96
 TOTAL  £1,003.20

Wallet watchers:

While most people go with the flow at work and happily part with their pennies and pounds, two in five are unhappy about shelling out for coffees and teas (41%). Unsurprisingly, the majority of people are unhappy to pay for any stationery (70%). A not very festive four in ten (40%) dislike buying secret Santa presents.

And when it comes to the obligatory office charity or fundraising effort, more than a third (36%) don’t like to contribute. But with nearly a third (32%) stating they felt pressured into contributing, common courtesy may override actual feelings.

On the bright side, nearly three quarters of the nation’s office workers say they are happy to put money in for a colleague’s leaving card and present (72%) or for an office birthday (72%). However, more than a quarter say they feel pressured when it comes towards birthday and leaving gifts (28% and 27% respectively).

The poll also shows that while men are unhappier at spending money at work, it’s women who are more likely to feel pressured into shelling out for work-related items.

Working nine to five – but no more:

One in ten (10%) people spend time with their colleagues outside of working hours on a weekly basis, according to the survey. But more than a third (35%) of the nation’s office workers claim to not like going out after work, with two in five (40%) saying they don’t do it more than once every two to three months.

Fun times:

Predictably, Christmas is the period of the year when office workers spend the most, with the research showing that the average Brit forks out £138.36 on celebrations and secret Santa presents. This compares with an average of £102.24 spent on nights out with colleagues across the rest of the year on average. Brits also spend more on sweets, treats, coffees and teas in the workplace (£130.68) compared to what they spend socialising with colleagues after work.

Alan Oliver, Nationwide’s Head of External Affairs, said: “Working in an office can be an expensive business, especially in big teams. While most people value the camaraderie of working in a team, birthdays, retirements and charity fundraisers can take their toll on our wallets and purses. We would recommend putting in only what you can afford. Developing a regular savings habit can also help in meeting many of life’s financial challenges.”

1. The poll of 2,000 UK office workers was carried out by online market researchers,, and took place between 19 and 23 December 2016.
2. Based on a working life of 40 years (20 – 60) 
3. Based on average UK salary of £26,500 (take home of £21,187 after tax and National Insurance contributions):

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