The hidden financial benefits of working as a consultant
Aside from the fact that highly skilled consultants are generally well remunerated. Aside from their consulting salary there are a number of other passive financial factors.
Travel costs can contribute to a significant chunk of income. This is especially prevalent for individuals who choose to live in high cost metropolitan areas such as Greater London. An annual zone 1-4 Travel Card in 2018 costs £1960. For some people, the London weighting allowance they receive is almost completely consumed just on commuting costs alone. Those living further outside may gain the benefit of cheaper housing, but are hit with greater commuting costs. An annual season ticket in 2018 from Basingstoke to Central London costs £4464.
Due to the nature of consulting work, reasonable travel to and from client site can be charged as an expense. This effect is even greater when employees have a work from home arrangement with their firm. This essentially means that any business travel from your home can be reclaimed.
Travel costs can cover everything from train fairs, car mileage, car rental and even flights.
Some firms also endorse the use of fuel cards, for regular drivers. These allow fuel to be charged as a personal benefit, and the employee pays the tax on that benefit.
Firms policies vary greatly, but consultants are generally given a generous dinner allowance when away from home. This can extend to paid lunches and breakfasts depending on the company and their policies. Not only do consultants get to enjoy eating out at restaurants regularly, they also reap the reward of not being out of pocket for doing so.
There are a multitude of options to gain cashback online. Due to the increased amount of travel related spending, consultants can take the benefit of using these cashback sites when booking travel and hotels. Hotel booking can yield some of the highest cashback ranging from 1 to 12% on average, with travel expense providing much lower returns.
I recommend Quidco with Hotels.com if you are based in the UK. Generally the cashback amount can be between 4 to 12% based on the current promotions running. Also it is more effective than many other sites as tracking cashback, with a 100% tracking record to hotels.com.
There are many other cashback options out there if you look hard enough.
Almost all hotel chains offer some sort of loyalty program. Not only can this provide you with free upgrades, discounted food and drink and other perks. However websites like hotels.com offer a service where free hotel nights can be collected after a certain amount of bookings. If you stay regularly you are likely going to be able to be able to pay for entire holidays, if utilizing both free hotel nights and air miles.
The fact that travel and business expense are entwined with the consulting lifestyle, leads to greater spending on personal cards. If managed correctly and paid back on time, this inflated cash flow can help increase your credit rating. Be aware that some credit rating agencies may mark down individuals who are close to their credit limit.
If you are starting out in consulting and have a low credit limit, call your bank and request to speak directly to the credit team. You are much more likely to be approved for extra credit if you explain you travel frequently for work. Explain you only use the card for work related expenses and that your claims are paid regularly.
You can always tell who the consultants are at a restaurant by the pile of American Express cards on the bill. There are a number of credit card options that allow for the collection of air miles. More and more vendors are beginning to accept these cards over time. If you like flying for free (who doesn’t) get yourself a air miles credit card.
This is subjective to arranging a “work from home” contract with your employer. Geographic freedom can be a big driver for those considering a consulting job. The ability to position yourself across the country at your convenience can greatly reduce living costs. Being able to hack long distance travel and being away from home a few nights a week can be a small price to pay for getting to enjoy your time outside of work.
As an employee staying away from home on a client site you are entitled to an Incidental Allowance. This is equivalent to £5 per night in the UK and £10 per night outside the UK.
Incidental Allowances are meant for expenses that are too small to be worth accounting for. This includes things like newspaper, dry cleaning and other similar small incurred expenses. You do not need to provide a receipt for incidental allowances for a claim.
It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you are staying on site 4 nights a week (around 16 days per month) this can equate to £80 a month.
Work from Home Costs
It is possible to claim tax relief on home running costs that are attributed to your work. This can include telephone, internet, gas and electricity.
Find more information on this here.
Free Eye Tests
Free eye test are becoming more common, but are not always a given in an employment contract. Due to the large amount of time using a computer, employers are more concerned with keeping their consultants eyes healthy.
Aside from the consulting salary, passive additional financial perks of working in consultant can sweeten the deal. The change of lifestyle is something young consultants have to be aware of. Making sure you’re willing to compromise on the amount of time you spend at home is essential before committing to the career.
If you are a graduate looking for a career in consulting check out our graduate series here.
All the Best, C.