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Securing a good job is essential for every adult. This is the idea behind quality education for a brighter future. A huge part of our lives are anchored on the careers we take. And as it goes, a stable job ensures we’ll afford a comfortable and happy life.
Work provides everyone with income to support their families. How much you earn goes toward major life purchases, emergency savings, and your retirement fund. It’s key to acquiring basic necessities and building the life you want.
While working helps you afford life’s needs, doing your job entails hidden costs. Depending on the nature of your employment, expenses such as transportation, dress codes, and other requirements surrounding your job affects your earnings.
In this guide, we’ll talk about the different costs involved in doing work. We’ll also include advice on how you can reduce your work costs. Then, we provided a brief section on average tax costs.
There is a cost to all the hours of maintaining a job. We spend time and money to do many tasks related to work. And these things are not accounted for in an hourly wage. Nonetheless, they indirectly affect your take-home salary.
In 2016, Business News Daily reported that the average employee spends more than $3,300 per year to get ready for work. You might not feel it’s impact, but depending on your job, it takes its toll on your earnings.
Time has monetary value. That’s why it’s important to maximize your time. If something is not worth the hassle, you try to avoid it. When you do plenty of unproductive activities, it costs money you should have earned.
The Time Value of Money
The Time Value of Money
According to the Corporate Finance Institute, the time value of money concept states that money in the present time is more valuable than the same amount acquired in the future. This holds true because money you have right now can be invested to earn returns. It’s how your money grows larger in the future.
Weighing the Opportunity Cost
Money has higher value in the present because there’s an opportunity cost to waiting for it. This is the cost of losing the opportunity to choose something better. For example, let’s say you took a bad route and you got stuck in traffic for 30 minutes. That’s time you could have spent doing more important things like working out or learning a new skill. In relation to work, that’s extra 30 minutes you could have spent being productive in your job.
As workers, we give our jobs energy, time, and sometimes peace of mind. However we go about them, we devote a lot of effort to prepare outside our designated work hours. Below are several factors behind the hidden costs of work:
We spend a considerable amount of money to take public transport or drive a car to work. If you drive, it entails the cost of gas and parking. And if you take public transport, you need to prepare bus or train fare. People who commute to work can spend over $25 a week. If you’re driving, you can easily spend up to $50 or more on gas per week.
What’s the Average Annual Commute Cost?
Depending on where you live, commuting can cost between $2,000 to $5,000 per year. This data is according to a 2019 analysis by HowMuch.net, which compiled the average U.S. commuting costs based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In the report, the state with the most expensive commute per year is North Dakota at $5,059.11.
Meanwhile, West Virginia has the least expensive commute at around $2,003.81. Commute expenses are influenced by gas prices and the type of transportation people take. Travel time is also a major contributor to the annual commute cost.
In addition, the findings mention Washington D.C. had the largest number of workers who took eco-friendly transport options. However, they only ranked 33 in commute spending. This is likely because Washington D.C. has the second longest average commute time in the U.S. at 34.6 minutes. On the other hand, New York is shown to use eco-friendly transport options as well. However, it has the 3rd highest commute cost at $3,710.7, which may be due to the length of travel time. NYC has the longest average commute in the country at 36 minutes.
As for time, it costs money the longer you’re stalled in a commute. For instance, if it takes you at least an hour to go to work and back (5 days a week), that’s 10 hours of your time lost to traveling per week.
In a Bloomberg report, traffic congestion cost the U.S. around $305 billion in 2018. This is based on a study by INRIX, which surveyed 1,360 cities in 38 countries.
It’s no surprise large cities were most impacted by traffic congestion. Among them, Los Angeles hit the highest average time in traffic at 102 hours. This costs drivers around $2,828 per year, costing the city $19 billion annually.
However, money lost to traffic was higher in New York City, amounting to $33.7 billion per year. These figures account for lost productivity of workers stuck in traffic, wasted fuel, and the higher cost of transporting goods in congested roads.
Cutting Commute Costs
You can trim down commute costs by living closer to work. This is a strategic solution that you can plan in advance to make your commutes affordable and less stressful. If you do not have the option to move closer, consider taking public transportation now and then instead of a car. But of course, it helps if you live in a city with good public transportation routes. Driving a fuel efficient, eco-friendly car also helps cut down on gas expenses.
What you wear is another category of costs that impacts your take-home pay. Some companies require uniforms or specific business attire. Apart from clothes, it includes shoes, accessories, laundry, and dry cleaning costs.
Expenses that surround work attire vary per person. This is according to a CareerBuilder.com which surveyed 3,031 full time U.S. workers across industries.
Based on the survey, 53 percent of workers spend less than $250 a year on work clothes, shoes, and accessories. Around 35 percent spend between $250 to $749 on work clothes per year. Meanwhile, only 5 percent of workers spend around $1,000 to $2,000, while 2 percent spend over $2,000 on work attire annually.
As for the cost of laundry, it depends whether you do your own laundry or take them to the laundromat. In an article by Fiscal Tiger, a single load of laundry at home costs $1.37. Meanwhile, it costs $5.21 per load if you take it to the laundromat (this factors in the cost of transportation). For instance, if you average 2 loads per week, you spend $10.96 a month. But if you prefer the laundromat, it will cost you around $41.68 a month. You save roughly around $30 by doing laundry at home.
It’s obviously cheaper to do laundry at home. But if you have plenty of clothes, this chore can take more time and energy on weekends. Some people prefer to the laundromat so they can focus on other important errands. Or simply enjoy quality time with family.
Cutting Wardrobe Costs
Invest in quality work wardrobe. It pays to invest in clothing and shoes you can use for several years. This will help you avoid outfits that end up as clutter the following year. Take your time in selecting garments. If you’re up for it, trade clothes with family or friends clearing their wardrobe. Finally, set a budget and make sure to stick to it.
People need to budget for lunch, drinks, and other meals when they’re at work. For many, coffee is a necessity. There are offices that come with free water, coffee, and tea. But other workplaces may not offer these.
Some people prepare their own lunch and bring food to work. Others buy food near their work place. If you work long hours, you’re likely to buy take-out on your way home. Long work hours mean you have limited time to cook your own meals.
Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that Americans spend more than $7,700 per year on groceries and going out. A significant portion of this expense likely goes to food you eat at work.
Based on the CareerBuilder.com survey, 72 percent of workers prefer to bring their own lunch to work. For the workers who buy lunch, half spend $25 or more in a week. Overall, less than 19 percent spend $10 a week, 31 percent spend between $10 to $25 per week, and 37 percent spend between $25 to $50 per week. Only 13 percent of workers spend $50 or more a week on meals.
How about coffee? When it comes to caffeine, 49 percent of workers buy coffee during work days. Around 71 percent spend less than $10 a week, while $25 percent spend between $10 to $25 per week. A small 3 percent of workers indulged in coffee at over $25 per week.
For example, let’s say you spend $30 per week on office meals. As for coffee, it costs you around $25 per week. If we calculate your meals and coffee expenses for the year, it will be around $2,640. Certainly, you can make room to reduce costs.
Decreasing your food budget is a challenge, especially if you’re always on the go. But eating out or buying take-out all the time can really hurt your finances. That said, one of the best ways to save money is to prepare your own food.
Cutting Down Food Costs
Make time to do groceries and prep weekly meals. Learn to cook delicious and satisfying food. Even if you can’t do this daily, bringing your own food to work will help save money. When you really need to purchase food, keep to your budget. And instead of buying coffee, make your own at home. Bring your coffee in a tumbler to the office.
Going to work means you can’t look after family yourself. While you’re away, there’s a cost to paying other people to care for your loved ones. Workers with children must budget expenses for child care. If you’re looking after senior parents, you need to spend for elderly care services. For people with pets, many spend between $10 to $50 per week on pet care.
Daycare is another work cost that can really get expensive. CareerBuilder.com’s survey notes that among working parents, 32 percent spend between $250 to $499 per month on daycare services. Around 31 percent spend less than $250 per month, while 26 percent pay between $500 to $1,000 on daycare. At least 1 percent say they spend more than $1,000 for child care.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states that child care is considered affordable if it costs families no more than 7 percent of their income. However, on average, child services spent usually take more than that. Based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation in May 2019, working parents with children under age 5 pay nearly 10 percent of the average family income on child care.
As for elderly care services, Aging.com states that the national average for senior care costs around $4,000 per month. This is another pricey expense you must account for while you’re working. The cost of elderly care depends on the number of hours a worker spends with a senior. Some of the most expensive states include North Dakota ($27/hour), Alaska ($26/hour), and Hawaii ($25). The least costly states are Louisiana ($16/hour), Alabama ($17/hour), and Georgia ($18/hour).
Reducing Care Service Costs
One way to lessen child care and elderly care is to have family members who are willing to help look after your loved ones. And if you must really spend on elderly or child care, look for quality services that fit your budget. However, if you do not have this option, you can take it off your taxes.
Another way to pay for child care or senior care is to take it from your taxes. You can use pretax savings if your employer offers a flexible savings account. And if the cost of caring for family members is over $5,000 a year, you’re eligible for a child and dependent care tax credit.
There are 24 states that provide additional dependent care credits on state income taxes. Be sure to check your eligibility. Families must submit Form 2441 to claim this credit.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?
To reduce child care costs, another option is the Family and Medical Leave Act. This allows you to use 12 weeks of unpaid leave. It protects you from job loss for a duration of 12 months. Apart from giving birth, qualifying reasons include adoption as well as caring for a child with a grave illness. However, you must check if you’re qualified to make this claim. For instance, your employer must have at least 50 employees and meet other requirements. To check your eligibility, visit the Department of Labor page.
No matter what job you have, work-related stress can bog you down. Prolonged stress from work can cause poor health. Stress levels vary in professional fields. But some jobs are definitely more high stress than others.
A report by the Corporate Wellness Magazine shows that women, younger workers, and people in low-skilled jobs have the most risk for work-induced stress and attendant complications. Casual full-time workers also experience high stress because of extreme job demands and low workplace control.
What Causes Work-Related Stress?
According to the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, job stress occurs when your work requirements do not match your needs, resources, and capabilities. It causes negative physical and emotional responses, which leads to bad health and even injuries.
The Mayo Clinic states that stress can manifest physically as headaches, muscle tension, and chest pain. You may even experience fatigue, sleep problems, and stomach issues. Stressed workers often feel anxious or restless, depressed, and unmotivated. Apart from low productivity, highly stressed workers run the risk of developing anxiety disorders, cardiovascular disease, and substance abuse.
How much does it cost to treat work-related health problems? Medical costs vary widely depending on other health issues. But a study published by the American Journal of Managed Care states that patients with cardiovascular disease spend around $18,953 per year.
As for anxiety disorders, a study from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center estimates that a patient spends nearly $1,700 per year on treatment. This includes prescription medication, inpatient visits, and visits to a physician.
For substance abuse patients, costs vary depending on the rehabilitation program. According to AddictionCenter.com, mild to moderate outpatient programs that run for 3 months cost around $5,000. More expensive programs such those offered by Hazelden Betty Ford run up to $10,000. Detox program usually range from $1,000 to $1,500. The cost depends on how often a patient visits the facility. These figures also do not include medication expenses.
Of course, it’s hard to quantify the cost of grave psychological and emotional stress. But it can clearly be detrimental to one’s abilities. It doesn’t help that healthcare is getting more expensive while workers bear most of the health insurance cost. Thus, it’s important to prioritize health and wellness, whether you’re in or out of the workplace.
Reducing Healthcare Costs
Make an effort to maintain a healthier lifestyle to prevent expensive medical costs. Get enough exercise and watch your diet. Reducing work-related stress (all stress in general) is imperative to your health. Your employer should provide ample break times and reasonable deadlines for tasks. In some cases, there are designated nap areas for employees. Increased resources to help workers perform well will also help. If you have any issues at work, talk to your HR department for assistance.
Diagnosed with a serious disease? Read our guide on how to keep your home through a debilitating illness.
Finally, as a responsible working citizen, it is your duty to pay all your taxes. Taxable wage income is taken at marginal tax rates. This means that as your your individual income grows, your tax rate also increases.
As of 2020, tax brackets range between 10 percent to 37 percent, according to the IRS. Based on this information, the average tax rate might be around 24 percent of a person’s annual income.
However, the 24 percent tax bracket is not exactly representative of most household incomes. It only includes people with annual incomes from $89,325 to $167,100, for single tax payers. For married tax payers, the 24 percent bracket includes annual incomes between $182,950 to $338,500.
Thus, a better indicator would be the median. This falls somewhere in the middle when we evaluate worker incomes. With this indicator, half of American tax payers would pay less than the median amount, while the other half pays more.
Based on 2016 data by the Tax Foundation, around 50 percent of top tax payers paid off 96.96 percent of their taxes. The 2016 federal income tax data is considered one of the most complete vetted statistics released by the IRS. Tax Foundation notes that the average tax rate for the top 50 percent of taxpayers is 15.57 percent. Meanwhile, the bottom 50 of tax payers paid an average of 14.20 percent tax rate.
What is a Tax Wedge?
A tax wedge is the ratio between your gross income and your after tax income. Technically, this is the sum of personal income tax and employee tax. It also includes the employer’s social security contributions with any pay roll tax less cash transfers. It is indicated as a percentage of labor costs.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states that higher tax wedges make it difficult for tax payers to appreciate the benefits of a regular job. The OECD reviews economic policies and estimates annual tax wedges for 36 countries including the U.S.
As of May 2019, Tax Foundation states that the U.S. tax wedge was 29.6 percent in 2018. According to the OECD, this means that the average worker contributed roughly around $17,596 of their annual income. The annual income for single tax payers in 2018 was estimated at $59,485.
Securing a stable job is essential for affording a comfortable life. While it helps you build savings, it also entails costs. Paying taxes reduces your take-home salary. Moreover, you deal with work factors that add to your expenses.
Work-related costs include commuting, meals, and clothing. While you’re at work, you’ll likely spend for child care or elderly care services. These expenses are inevitable, but you can certainly reduce these costs to maximize your take-home pay.
On top of these factors, you also need to manage work-related stress. Prolonged stress may cause poor health, which leads to costly health conditions. To avoid expensive medical costs, it’s important to take care of your health.
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