It costs money to work. There are no two ways about it.

Having a job, particularly since the start of the pandemic shutdowns, is a true privilege and we must recognize that. However, we must also recognize how jobs can cost us money – thus lowering our actual take-home wage.

Buying clothes or uniforms, wear and tear on our car if you commute (not to mention gas), and childcare…it’s a lot more expensive than you think.

Some industries can cause you to spend even more in surprising and subtle ways. I have worked in the nonprofit sector for much of my adult life and the times I spent money on things because “we’re on a tight budget and my boss isn’t going to buy me this thing I need to do my job” is bonkers.

And don’t get me started on how much money came out of my own pocket during my short stint as a teacher!

When planning your budget or considering a new job, you must factor in how much your job costs you:

  • Clothing – Is there a dress code? Unless your employer provides you with a uniform, it is likely you need to buy clothes and shoes that are workplace-appropriate.
  • Transportation – Will you be using public transportation, a personal vehicle, or ride-sharing for your job? Consider gas, vehicle maintenance, time spent commuting, and insurance.
  • Technology and Utilities – When things shut down during the pandemic and my employer moved us to nearly 100% work from home, suddenly I was using my personal cell phone to receive work calls. The internet and electricity my husband and I personally pay for became critical to my ability to do my job.
  • Food – Eating lunch out every day was part of the culture for my first job. And it drained my paycheck. Even if you plan to bring lunch every day, your costs for a packed lunch can be substantially more than if you were eating at home.
  • Opportunity Cost – Everything you say “yes” to means you are saying “no” to something else. The hours I spend at my day job mean fewer hours to work on my business. The time I spend in my car commuting to work can not be used for doing something healthy, like working out. It is up to you to decide if the trade-off is worth it.
  • Physical/Mental Costs – Do you sit at a desk all day? Doing physical labor? Face safety hazards? Your day job can be costing your physical health. And if your job is particularly stressful, costs associated with your mental wellbeing can add up.
  • Childcare/Pet Sitting – Ok, some of you are going to laugh that I lumped these together. But I do have friends that spend a considerable amount of money on childcare for their kiddos that are too young to go to public school. And I have friends that spend nearly as much having a pet sitter or using doggy daycare. If they did not have a job to go to every day, would they really be using these services?

The point of this post isn’t to bash traditional employment (seriously, ask your self-employed friend how much their job costs). Being employed by someone else and having a J-O-B can be a great way to achieve your other financial goals. Thanks to my day job, I was able to put money into my business, save for retirement, and have extra to live a really good life. Plus, I got really great employer-sponsored healthcare and other benefits.

The moral of this story is:

You must weigh the cost of your job to its benefits.

There is a reason people say things like “negotiate for more”, and “don’t take the first job that is offered to you”.

If you factor in all the costs, you might realize that the job opportunity in front of you is not worth it and hold out for something better (if you have the privilege of doing so). Or you may look at the current job you are in and decide it would be worth exploiting new opportunities.

You might even realize the job you have now is far better than you initially thought.

What does your job cost you?