Helped by the Man: Letting pre-tax deductions work for you


As I might have mentioned once or twice, I tend to be a pretty basic type of guy when it comes to saving money. Essentially, I save money by not spending it. Having worked in academia for the past decade or so, I've found this approach to be pretty successful. To put it bluntly, I haven't made a lot of money, so I've tried to avoid spending a lot of money.

Unfortunately, there are obvious limits to this technique. Basically, things like food, transportation, health care, child care, and so forth tend to be deal-breakers. You can only skimp on them for so long before you find yourself walking ten miles to work, wearing rags, your kid slung under one arm, a thermos of ramen under the other, doubled over from a nasty, racking cough that used to be a cold but seems well on its way to becoming bubonic plague. As you trudge the miles to the office, it may occur to you (if you are a thinking sort of guy) that certain expenses are non-negotiable.

When that realization occurs, you might try taking a walk down to the Human Resources department in your company. Once you get there, ask the nice people about pre-tax deductions. Essentially, it works like this: you ask your employer to deduct some of your basic expenses before they pay you. Depending on your employer, these programs can include deductions for child care, transportation, health insurance, dental work, and optical care.