How Much It Costs to Work: $21k a Year??


As I’m sure you already know, working isn’t free, and there are costs to work, hiding behind your paychecks. Today, I’d like to unveil some of those costs, and then show you some cool ways to cut them as much as possible.

Cost To Work #1 Food

On your way to work every morning, you stop for either breakfast sandwich and black coffee, or a specialty frappachino with a blueberry muffin. Regardless of your choice, you spend around $4.50 each morning.

At lunch, you buy a sub sandwich, chinese takeout, or the all american combo of a burger, fries, and a drink. Your total is somewhere around $9. Doing this a mere 5 days a week (even though you probably work 6 or 7 days!) means that you’ve already subtracted a minimum of $67.50 from your weekly paycheck!

Over the course of a year, assuming you work five days a week, for 49 weeks, you’ll be paying $3,307 annually for take-out food. 

Cost to Work #2 Commuting / Your Car

This “costs to work” estimate varies much more vastly than food depending on your commute, but the average American’s commute distance is approximately 15 miles each way. The average price of gas in the US, as of 2/19/2018 is $2.50 a gallon, and the average American car gets 25 miles a gallon. That’s $3 per day, every day just to get to work.

If you have to pay for parking, that’s additional expenses, as well as the wear and tear on your vehicle for driving to and from work every day.  If you work 5 days a week, you’re spending $15 every single week, just to get to your job- and that doesn’t include any parking costs, maintenance, or car repairs.

Over the course of the year, assuming you work 5 days a week for 49 weeks, you can expect to pay $735 in fuel alone. 

Read this:  The 1 Year No Spend Challenge: Saving $20k of a $32k annual income

Cost to Work #3 Socializing with Coworkers / Networking

What’s an office without an annual Christmas party? Coworker birthday celebrations? Networking Dinners? Social Lunches? Brainstorming Brunches? Drinks with your coworkers or superiors on the occasional Friday night? It gets expensive quickly!

If you buy 5 coworkers gifts ($35 each) over the course of the year, and bring a dish ($10) to your Christmas party, and pitch in $10 twice for flowers for coworkers’ familys’ funerals, and go out for drinks ($20) once every two months, and attend 1 restaurant outing ($30) with your coworkers every month, you’ll have spent $685 every year. 

Cost to Work #4 Child and Pet Care

Childcare can easily be one of your greatest costs to work. If you have small children, or you work hours that exceed those that your child is in school, you’ll need childcare of some sort. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, an average monthly cost of childcare (in the US, as an average) is $972 per child. Since the average american household has approximately 2.5 children, it would be safe to assume that at least one of those children is young enough to require childcare.

If you have cats, caged animals (such as hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, mice, etc), or aquarium critters, you won’t need to hire a caregiver. If however, you work long hours, and don’t have a doggy door, you’ll need to pay for someone to care for your dog. According to Angie’s List, that’s about $395 per month.

If you have just one child and one pet requiring care, you’ll be spending an average of $16,404 per year. 

Cost to Work #5 Time

Beyond the obvious time spent at your work, you have to consider the time spent commuting, and those mandatory social events outside of work. The average person commutes 25 minutes each way, every day for a total of 204 hours every year.

Read this:  6 Totally Painless Ways that I Save Money (and 2 places that I love to splurge)

Even if you only attend one office party (3 hours), have drinks once every two months (2 hours), and go out to eat with your coworkers once a month (1 hour), that’s about 27 hours on social events.

I’m not even going into your time spent at home working on projects for work…

Combine 27 hours of social events with 204 hours of commuting, and you’ve spent you a total of 231 hours, or 9.6 days, for work, and that’s unpaid. 

Total time and money spent?

My estimate is roughly $21,131 spent, and 9.5 days worth of unpaid time. Spendy!

Of course, this is just me pulling in lots of national averages- perhaps the cost is higher or lower. The Penny Hoarder estimates that the average job ‘only’ costs $3,300 annually.

Now that you know what to look for, you too can calculate your costs to work.

How to Lower your Costs to Work

  1. Work from Home, by becoming a freelancer (like me!) and cutting almost all (if not all) of the above costs.
  2. Take your lunch to work, and bring your coffee or tea in a thermos.
  3. Move closer to work, so you can cut down on commute time and even fuel costs. Yes, the added costs of moving are worth it! Check out what Mr. Money Mustache has to say about that.
  4. Get a babysitter rather than daycare, and split the costs with a neighbor. What if for 3 days a week, you pay for a sitter to watch your child, plus your neighbor’s child(ren), and the other 3 days a week (I’m assuming you’re working 6 days a week here), your neighbor pays for a sitter for her child(ren) plus yours. The sitter may charge a dollar or two more per child, but overall, your costs to work is lower. Plus, having a sitter means you won’t need to pay for a dog walker or doggy daycare.
  5. Bike to work! Save on wear, tear, fuel, and parking! Need your trunk space? This is specifically made for that.
Read this:  All of My Expenses as a $50/hr Freelance Writer

Let’s Talk!

  • Would you ever consider moving houses, biking to work, or even working from home to cut costs?
  • How are your costs to work?
  • Email subscribers, how did you like your free planner? Let me know if there’s any tweaks you’d like to see, or if there’s any new gifts you’d like to receive!

Like this post?

If this is something that inspires, helps, or just plain entertains you, please don’t hesitate to share it! The goal of Diamonds N’ Denim is to reach as many people as possible, so be sure to talk about it to your friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors, share it on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter, or pin it on Pinterest- I even made a pretty pin for you below! Just click the image once, in the upper left corner there will be a red P, click that, and get to pinning! 🙂

As always, thank you for stopping by!

4 thoughts on “How Much It Costs to Work: $21k a Year??”

  1. You really struck a cord here with this post. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. I recently did a similar post about the true cost of “shared office space” and the biggest hidden factor with that was commute time and travel cost. If you’re making under a certain threshold per year, it simply does NOT make sense. Really excellent and enlightening piece. Thanks!

    1. Oh how awesome!!! Thank you so much for reading this piece and taking the time to chat! Commuting is such a huge expense that so many simply accept without really looking at its true cost. I’m heading over now to check out your post on shared office space, thanks again!!

  2. $17,000 a year?! I couldn’t imagine even attempting to live off of that because –as you say– the cost to work can be astronomical. For instance, where I live gas can get upwards of $4 a gallon, which can really put a strain on my wallet — I couldn’t imagine trying to get by on just $17,000 a year!

    Amazing research you did here! x


    1. Hey Michelle, thank you for commenting! This isn’t the amount of money you make from your job, that’s the amount that your job could COST if you live 25 minutes away from work, eat out five days a week, and have to provide care for 1 child and 1 pet. Since my estimate was off the national average for fuel prices (about $2.50), your job may cost even more than $17k! ??

Comments are closed.