6 Costs of Working and How To Save on Those Expenses

Most of us work in order to make money so that we can afford our basic needs and some of our wants. We do the job we do for that paycheck.

However, your job has expenses:

  • Child care. 
  • Transportation. 
  • Wardrobe. 
  • Food. 
  • Travel. 
  • De-stressing. 

All of those are expenses that we face simply by working a job for money. Those expenses eat away at how much of our pay we actually get to keep.

If your job has a very steep cost of working, it might be worth considering a different job, one that pays less but has a much lower cost of working. Even if your job’s cost of working is reasonable, there are ways to cut those costs down to size and keep more of your paycheck.

In this article

    The cost (or expenses) of working

    Child care costs

    If you have children, you already know that being a parent is a huge financial responsibility, and child care is one big part of that. Your job likely requires you to provide some sort of care for your child while at work. Public schools can cover some of that gap for older children, but for parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, the cost of child care can be immense. For some, this cost alone is enough to have one parent exit the workforce for a few years.

    How to cut child care costs:

    • Consider doing a child care exchange with a friend a day or two a week. On a day you have off, you watch their children, and on a day they have off, they watch your children. This reduces the number of days you have to pay for child care.
    • Ask a grandparent or relative for help. They may be willing to watch the child sometimes for a very reasonable fee, or even for free.
    • Discuss different schedules with your employer. Can you switch to a schedule where the amount of time that at least one parent is at home increases, thus decreasing the amount of child care needed?

    Transportation costs

    If your commute requires a car, your work expense includes depreciation on your car, part of the cost of insurance, fuel costs, part of the costs of maintenance on your car and part of the cost of registration. For many families, the reason for owning a second (or third) car is simply commuting for work.

    How to cut transportation costs:

    • Use mass transit. Take the bus, the train or the subway to work.
    • Carpool. Find coworkers, or others who work near where you do, that also happen to live close to you, and take turns driving to work. This can drastically reduce commuting costs.
    • Use a bike, or walk. If you live close to your workplace, a bicycle or even a walk can get you there instead of using a car. (It’s good exercise, too.)
    • Ask your employer about remote work options. Yes, many people all over the world did this during COVID and either loved or hated it. However, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Consider remote work two or three days a week.

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      Wardrobe costs

      Many workplaces have a dress code, so part of the cost of work is investing in clothes that match that dress code. If you work at a restaurant, for example, you may have to invest in white dress shirts. If you work in an office, you may need suits. 

      How to cut wardrobe costs:

      • Work remotely. The dress code at home or at the coffee shop is often much more relaxed than at the office.
      • Buy clothing that mixes and matches well. This enables you to buy fewer pieces of clothing because, by mixing and matching, you can create the appearance of more outfits.
      • Buy sturdy, well-made clothes. Know how to identify well-made clothes. For example, well-made clothes have very neat seams.

      Food costs

      For most jobs, the time at work overlaps at least one meal. If your workplace has a culture  that involves eating together, this can actually create a sizable expense. There’s also an ongoing expense if you tend to stop for a snack on the way to work or the way home from work.

      How to cut food costs:

      • Take leftovers or your own “brown bag” lunch to work, and encourage others to do so. Try to start a culture of eating together in or near your workplace rather than going out.
      • Take advantage of food provided by your company in the kitchen. Bring your own items as well to mix things up.
      • Have snacks in your car or work bag. Keep a few granola bars or other items in your car or in your work bag. That can keep the hunger at bay so you’re not tempted to stop for something much more expensive during your commute.
      • Work remotely. It makes eating quite cheap if you can just eat at home.

      Travel costs

      Some jobs require travel. While workplaces do tend to reimburse some travel costs, there are still usually extra costs involved for things you didn’t plan for. This can eat away at your finances.

      How to cut travel costs:

      • Know the reimbursement rules. Know exactly what you can and can’t get reimbursed for, and stay carefully within your reimbursement limits.
      • Be selective with travel. Look for alternatives to travel for less important trips. Can these meetings be done virtually?
      • Use a good travel packing checklist to make sure you don’t overlook things you need. Here’s a great travel packing checklist to get you started.

      De-stressing costs

      Many jobs are stressful, and that stress seeps into your daily life. People leave work mentally and/or physically exhausted and need something to help them unwind and relax. Often, those de-stressing activities are expensive. They don’t have to be.

      How to cut destressing costs:

      • Try different approaches to de-stressing that don’t involve spending money. For example, try an after-work walk or a meditation session.
      • Take care of your health. Get a good night of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and get more fruits and vegetables on your plate. Get some exercise. Even low-intensity stuff like walking is great. These moves will help you handle stress better.
      • Consider what specific elements of your job cause the most stress and attempt to address them head-on. Talk to your supervisor about those elements and see if there’s something you can come up with together to permanently fix it.

      We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

      Trent Hamm

      Founder & Columnist

      Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.