How Much Does It Cost to Work?

Your Job May Cost More Than You Think

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How much money does it cost you to go to work? The simple act of going to work — waking up, getting dressed, jumping in your car, dropping the kids off, grabbing a coffee, running errands on your lunch break — takes a huge bite out of your paycheck. In this article, we'll look at some of the direct and indirect costs of holding down a job.

Once you know how much you spend on working, you'll have a better idea of your "real" take-home pay. This will help you figure out the financial implications of staying at home with your child vs. staying in the workforce.

(There are non-financial considerations as well, such as job satisfaction and socialization. This article's intent is to only focus on the financial aspects of that decision.)

What Are the Direct Costs?

When you go to work, you'll definitely need to pay for:

You'll probably also be paying for:

  • Coffee
  • Lunch

Even if you brew coffee at home and pack your own lunch, chances are that you'll buy coffee or grab food at least one day a week, or once every other week.

Depending on the type of job you have, you might also pay for:

  • Dry cleaning
  • Maintaining a nice-looking vehicle
  • Car washes

Not all professions will incur these costs. If you sit at a computer all day and don't interact with clients often, you probably won't feel the pressure to have a well-groomed appearance and a nice-looking car. But if you're in a job like sales, you might feel like some of the items on that list are expected.

What Are Indirect Costs?

In addition, you'll be more crunched for time when you're balancing work and home. There's a chance you'll pay more for:

  • Ordering take-out or delivery food at home
  • Buying more pre-chopped, frozen or pre-packaged foods
  • Not comparison-shopping or coupon-clipping as often
  • Buying from stores that are the most convenient, rather than the cheapest

Add up the cost of all of these items. Childcare, of course, will be the biggest expense on the list, but the other items can add up to more than you think. Buying a $6 lunch once a week adds up to $300 per year. Buying a $3 coffee once per week tacks an extra $150 to the total.

Once you calculate the cost of working, you'll be able to make a more informed decision about whether it's worth your time — financially speaking — to be a working parent or to stay at home.

If the "cost of working" totals $20,000 per year and you bring home $25,000 after taxes, then it might not be worthwhile to work. Your "real take-home" is only $5,000, which comes to about $2.50 per hour if you work full-time (2,000 hours per year).

On the other hand, if you're determined to be a working parent, discovering your "real take-home" pay can be the motivation you need to ask for that raise or apply for those higher-paying positions.