Updated on 03.24.09

The Hidden Costs of Your Job

Trent Hamm

One of the most interesting aspects of working from home is how it altered my spending in countless little ways.

Before I made the switch, I commuted to work every day – about twelve miles each way. That would burn about a gallon and a half of gas each and every day, costing me $3 a day (based on $2 a gallon gas). This doesn’t even include oil changes (work caused an oil change every six months or so) or other maintenance expenses.

I had to dress reasonably well for work, which meant that I had to keep a minimally updated wardrobe. I would usually just hit thrift stores (looking for huge bargains) and do a bit of additional shopping during Iowa’s tax free holiday. In total, I’d spend roughly $250 a year on clothes – $5 a week or so.

On my way to work, I’d often stop at a coffee shop for a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich. For a long time, this was a daily occurrence, but even when I cut back to doing it just twice a week or so, it was still eating $15 a week.

While at work, I would eat leftovers for lunch roughly three days a week. During the other days, I’d usually eat lunch out with coworkers, fulfilling social obligations. This would set me back, say, $15 a week.

I’d usually eat a morning and an afternoon snack. Most of the time, I’d remember to bring bananas or something like that from home, but probably three times a week, I’d hit the vending machine. $2.50 a week, gone.

Roughly once a week after work, I’d go out with coworkers for a beer. And usually some appetizers. That would cost $5 a week.

Because I was in town, I’d usually stop at the grocery store twice a week after work to pick up a few items – and I’d often wind up with two or three items I hadn’t intended to buy when I walked in the door. This added $10 a week.

I also went on regular trips for work, three or four times a year. These trips were always loaded with little expenses, not all of which were reimbursed. I’d probably spend an extra $100 on each trip, adding up to about $8 on average per week.

The end result of all of this? I would spend $75 a week on little things that just seemed to be the normal course of my work week. I’m not even including other expenses: buying an item when a coworker’s kid is selling something, contributing to flowers and other gifts for special occasions, three or four unexpected evening dinners at expensive restaurants, and so on.

These little expenses ate up $4,000 a year in after-tax income. Ten percent of my income simply evaporated in the eyes of the extra little expenses that my job brings.

When I quit to begin working at home, I knew I would be taking a salary dip, but I also knew that there were a lot of little expenses that would change, too. All of the expenses listed above vanished, for one. I also found that, since my commute had vanished, I had more time to prepare homemade dinners from scratch for my family, which reduced our food costs in another way.

In the end, the change in jobs didn’t cause the huge impact that we expected in terms of our ability to save for the future. Our expenses dropped precipitously, so the amount we had available to save for retirement and other big expenses didn’t change much at all.

Flash forward to today. My wife has been considering a job much closer to home. She currently has a forty minute commute each way. She can potentially get a job that would reduce her commute to five minutes each way, but there would be a 15% drop in salary. Is it worth it?

My answer? Absolutely.

First, reducing the commute to five minutes would greatly reduce the cost of transportation – less gas usage, less maintenance, and less chance for major repairs.

Second, the change would save an hour in commute time each day. That time could easily be utilized in other activities that can save money or improve quality of life.

Third, the $4,000 salary loss is not actually a $4,000 drop in household income – it’s actually far closer to $3,000, depending on our exact tax rate. This is much closer to the amount saved by the commute reduction.

Sure, she might be moving to a lower salary job – but that’s not the full picture. In the end, we would actually be in better financial shape because of that change.

What’s the take-home message? Don’t judge your job opportunities solely by salary and financial benefits. Quite often, there are a lot of hidden costs involved with the job that completely change the equation.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Joey says:

    Good entry. The closer you live to where you work, the more options you have for getting to work, and the cheaper your transportation costs become as a result.

  2. I don’t think those expenses apply to everyone. Gas/car and clothes are my only work related expenses. I eat breakfast at home, I have the free coffee at work, I take leftovers for lunch, I don’t go out with coworkers or make extra trips to the grocery store after work, and we don’t have vending machines.

  3. rich lykyu says:

    A point you idnt address is the affect you job has on your quality of life. If you are in a job you dislike, work with people who agitate you, or a high stress environment this carries over into your personal life and affects your happiness outside of work.

  4. Jimbo says:

    What about the social capital you build by eating lunch with your co-workers or by grabbing a beer occasionally with them after – there is more to life than pinching pennies. People don’t understand that saving money is NOT the end, it’s a MEANS to the end – these expenditures may add up but they improve your quality of life too, don’t forget.

  5. Take that one step further and imagine that you have to figure child care expenses into the mix (I’m thinking about a family considering having a parent stay home). With child care, the expenses of a second parent working are insanely high. My last child will be entering kindergarten next year. We have decided that I will still remain home (I’m opening a home based travel agency). The cost of before and after school care for my three kids is 330 per week…much more for vacation periods. Don’t forget about time off for their sick days. Factor in some of the work expenses Trent mentioned (not all…I still east out with friends for lunch occasionally) and my out of the house work expenses would just about equal my take home pay. It’s amazing how expensive it is to work these days.

  6. Susu says:

    I think your analysis of job expenses is pretty realistic for the average office worker, from my experience. However, I think your wife also has to consider if the change in job would mean any other changes (positive or negative)- maybe she would have to buy some nicer clothes for certain work events, or maybe she would have more take-home work, or maybe there’s less room for advancement in position or salary, or maybe she would be working under a less great boss, or maybe the medical insurance doesn’t cover as much, etc. Since the reduced salary is pretty much offset by the reduced commute, I would definitely have to consider all of these other types of factors before I would change jobs. In general, I would never take a job based on one incentive alone.

  7. devil says:

    Did I read that correctly? $4000.00 is 15% of your wife’s current salary?

    As long as there’s enough of a cash cushion, then working closer to home is always a good idea.

  8. leslie says:

    as to Jimbo’s comment, I will eat lunch with my coworkers about once a month when they suggest to go to this very good sushi place I like. There are times I will be invited to other food places but I honestly cannot justify spending $10 on food I don’t like just to be social with coworkers.

    We talk and socialize at the office enough, so I do not feel like I am being anti-social by not attending every lunch I am invited to.

  9. Johanna says:

    Good article. But I bet your new stay-at-home job has hidden costs too. For example: Your house used to be vacant during the day, and now there’s somebody in it all the time, using electricity, heat, water, etc. Have your utility bills gone up much?

  10. Tina says:

    I would also warn that most companies base pay raises on your current salary. Taking a pay cut now can effect every raise she has for the rest of her career. This can more than be made up for in quality of life and if she likes her new job more, but it should be considered.

  11. I experienced the same thing when I started working from home–my expenses dropped significantly.

    For me, however, I hadn’t really expected it. It was just a pleasant surprise!

  12. Paul says:

    Hey Trent,
    I thought this was a great post. The DW and I had this discussion about 2 months ago and it has resulted in my now being a stay-at-home dad. Yes, we still spend money. However, we now spend a lot less than before.

    I am in total agreement with comment #3. For me, working with people who made a 10 hour shift seem like a ten day shift at a highly stressful job was just not doing it for me. I felt my health was suffering and the money/headaches just were not worth it, so I quit to stay home with my son. My health is slowly improving, and there is no longer the temptation to run out and grab some fast food. Thanks for this post.

  13. wanzman says:

    If you wife cuts a long commute way down, that will significantly impact the financial viability of your choice to finance a brand new toyota prius.

    Money saved on gas will be very minimal in that case, making the prius choice look not so great.

    It seems like you must have known about the new job opportunity for your wife this weekend when you bought the car…or perhaps you didn’t.

    If you did know about it, and there is a good possibility that your wife will switch jobs, I will have to say that buying the new prius looks much more like a want than a need.

    Not that there is anything wrong with that….you just might have to delete the post where you justify the purchase essentially with gas savings due to your wife’s long commute.

  14. aura says:

    I think working closer to will add up to more time with loved ones and less time on the road, which can = stress, which is costly in terms of health. I think you mentioned those as increases in quality of life. As a note, I used to commute an hour to and hour and 15 minutes to and from work, I feel that my quality of life has been greatly increased by working now at a job that is within 15 minutes from my home.

  15. Marcia says:

    Good post Trent. I was a bit worried when I went on maternity leave that we’d eat into our savings, since disability only covered about 55% of my salary.

    We never did have to. I was surprised that our expenses went down so far, especially since I had already been carrying lunch and snacks to work daily. I did walk to the grocery store every day on leave, but only bought what I could carry with a baby on my chest.

    Our water bill did go up though. As someone else noted – my being home meant I was drinking our water, not the office water, and I was flushing at home.

  16. No doubt there are hidden costs… and not even all of these are money – you hint at that with your wife’s opportunity. 60 less commute is great! How often we ponder what we could do with an extra hour each day – I hope you keep us posted as to how she is able to invest that hour.

  17. Troy says:


    Funny, that is the first thing that I thought of too. The primary reason for the Prius might just go out the window. Oops.

    That being said Trent, I think the closer job is 100% the correct move. Saving the hour plus commute alone is worth it. And as you said, the diminished costs will likely wash out the reduction in salary.

    It is amazing how much less expensive life is when you don’t have to leave home every day, and your post illustrates the fact that many of us could make much less, be much happier, have much more control if we made the hard decisions you did.

  18. Erin says:

    I went from having a 45 minute commute each way to having a 0 minute commute (working from home), and I’m quite sure I could never go back.

    One thing you may want to consider with the salary drop: would that also have an impact on 401(k) contributions or the like? Often an employer will contribute up to a certain percentage of an employee’s salary, and that number will go down, obviously, if her salary does. As long as the other perks and benefits stay roughly the same, though, I agree that having a shorter commute is worth a lot in dollars.

  19. What you’ve outlined here reminds me of one of my favorite sections from Your Money Or Your Life. Calculating your real hourly wage of deducting all the random expenses you’ve outlined gives you a much better comparison when job hunting or thinking about working from home.

  20. Laura in Seattle says:

    @wanzman & @Troy:

    Funny, my first thought was “if his wife is going to be 5 minutes away, then they may not need to worry about getting a new second car when the truck dies.” Being that close is a BIG difference from being over an hour away. Trent could probably drop his wife off at work and bring the car home in case he needed it during the day. And even if she took the car, if there was an emergency with the kids she would be near enough to be there fast. Which would mean the money being saved for the second car could go to pay off that Prius loan after all.
    Which hopefully would mean people would quit commenting about it.

  21. SJ says:

    Don’t forget about the time on your commute! Such a hassle at times >_<

    Also, don’t forget the hidden benefits of your job; When I worked at Nvidia in the Bay they had subsidized lunch/dinner which was GREAT! Saved me a decent bunch while being social =)

    That and I can stock up on pencil/lead at internships for the school year =)

  22. Andrea says:

    I agree with Trent to a point but I am currently a public service employee with great benefits and a pension. In my case, I think it would make more sense to me to sell my house and move closer to work if the price of the houses were very similar. I currently have a 40 minute commute each way and would eventually love to have a 5 minute one. This also depends on my husband and his location. For the future, if we buy another house, I would move closer to work.

  23. Tea says:

    Considering how expensive a car is (registration, parking, insurance, repairs, price of actual car) you can save a ton of money by not having a car. Right now my car costs a full 15% of my take-home salary. *Ugh*.

  24. Cathy says:

    I agree. I work from home 2 days a week. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it sure adds up over a course of the year. It saves me fuel, lunches, time and a lot of driving stress. Not only can I eat my lunches prepared at home, I usually make a great home cooked dinner. I just wander away from my work desk at ‘closing time’ and fire up the pan. I also time shift my work a little too. If I need something done during the day, like a dentist appointment, it’s a breeze to catch up on my work later in the evening.

  25. Empress Juju says:

    If the new job is a 5-minute commute by car, is it possible to walk to work?

    When gas prices spiked last year, I made a decision to move to somewhere that’s an easy bike commute to work. Which I’ve done… now I just need a bicycle!

  26. Dave says:

    Going to the vending machine, stopping for coffee, and going out for a beer, are not costs for working at an office. Those were decisions you made.

  27. Lisa says:

    I have worked at home as a medical transcriptionist for almost 12 years. I can’t imagine how much money this has saved me in child care for my 3 kids, not to mention clothing and all of the things you mentioned. It does get kind of boring/lonely at times, but is still very much worth it!

  28. Dana says:

    A lot of hidden expenses goes towards working, much more than people realize. It’s interesting what happens when you add all of them up.

  29. Mary says:

    I just started a work placement (office setting) a couple of weeks ago, and since I’m not actually getting paid, I’ve really had to watch out for costs. First, I bring a lunch. Its a big office, maybe 30 people, and some people do go out for lunch, however, I’ve yet to be on my own in the kitchen for lunch. Second, the clothe costs are pretty bad, especially going from student’s jeans, t-shirts, and old shoes to business attire. I had to drop almost $400 to go to build a very modest wardrobe. (one pair of shoes, one purse, two pants and tho blouses from the second hand store, two new pants, and 4 new tops). Obviously, these clothes will last a while, and by visiting the second hand store every month or so I should be able to make some nice additions. That’s the only difference I have seen from going from student to worker so far. I still need a bus pass, and stopped on my way home from school just as often as I do now.

  30. michael says:

    Imagine living in a big city, where $100/month is required to travel via subways/buses!

  31. getagrip says:

    What wasn’t considered was that the employer was also likely funding all or a portion of health care, may have funded additional career training or courses leading to advanced degrees, possibly supporting costs for maintenance or attainment of professional certifications, included possible additions to the 401K, etc. The training/support costs are now squarely on your shoulders with the health care costs likely now on your spouse’s employer. This was not considered by your current analysis and taking advantage of just a few of the above could easily offset the $4000 hidden “costs” (that others have correctly pointed out are mostly in the vein of choices) you are claiming are associated with yearly employment.

  32. Beth says:

    My husband was able to change jobs two years ago, allowing him to work from home three (and often more) days per week and make a one-hour commute the other days.

    One benefit we were thrilled about was the decreased stress involved with less travel. Sometimes fighting traffic, or even just driving long distances, is stressful in itself.

    Good luck with this decision.

  33. I’m pretty sure this post is recycled.

    I walk to work. I dress better and in more expensive clothes when I’m not at work than when I am (at least on weekends). I eat a lunch which is marginally more expensive than what I would prepare at home. Hmm, happy hour? Sometimes, but that is purely recreational, and if it weren’t with co-workers, it would be with other people. No office gifts, fundraisers, pools, etc.

    How about all of the free food / coffee / etc. which is given away for free at the office?

    How about being occupied for ~8 hours a day instead of having to pay for your own entertainment / pastimes? What will you do all day if you weren’t working, and how will you pay for it?

    How about all of the energy / water / real estate, etc. which you consume at the office (which you would have to pay for if you stayed at home)?


  34. Rangzy says:

    Doesn’t most of these spending get converted as someone else’s earnings? If we all save as much as we can, many of us wont have jobs at all (the jobs that solely depend on people’s spending)
    Isn’t such an idea poorly-timed at this state of economy?

  35. Ranga says:

    @FrugalBachelor: rightly said. there was a ditto post on TSD in March-2008: “How Quitting My Job Saves Me $8000 a Year”.

    MAN!, today, one should be thankful to Almighty that “Thanks! I still have a job, while so many of my friends are being fired.”

  36. Lis says:

    @ Frugal Bachelor: Where is this office full of free food? Granted, we occasionally get something free, but it’s usually junk – cheap donuts or a bag of candy. Whoop-dee-do. Please share how you avoid getting dunned for b-day, retirement, wedding, baby, graduation, etc. This annoys me to no end and is ridiculously expensive.

    It is really nice that you can walk to work, I’m envious, but that’s just not reality for most people. :)

    I walk to work. I dress better and in more expensive clothes when I’m not at work than when I am (at least on weekends). I eat a lunch which is marginally more expensive than what I would prepare at home. Hmm, happy hour? Sometimes, but that is purely recreational, and if it weren’t with co-workers, it would be with other people. No office gifts, fundraisers, pools, etc.

    How about all of the free food / coffee / etc. which is given away for free at the office?

    How about being occupied for ~8 hours a day instead of having to pay for your own entertainment / pastimes? What will you do all day if you weren’t working, and how will you pay for it?

    How about all of the energy / water / real estate, etc. which you consume at the office (which you would have to pay for if you stayed at home)?


  37. JR Moreau says:

    Just for the reduced commute alone I’d say this is 100% worth it. The money is a bonus! I’d happily take a pay cut if I could live cheaply and work locally or even from home.

    I plan on making this transition in June :-) Can’t wait.

  38. Deborah says:

    You only change your oil every 6 months?! Aren’t you concerned about sludge build-up and the life of your engine? This might be why your cars are wearing out…

  39. Ariel says:

    @ 32: Deborah,
    I think he meant that he would be able to eliminate two oil changes each year if the commute was reduced, he probably changes the oil at least twice that often. I get mine changed when the miles get up to the suggested number on my sticker, which is usually much later than the date on the sticker.

  40. Sara says:

    I agree with everything you are saying! After two miscarriages three years ago, I decided to quit working full time and work part time from home to accommodate the bedrest I obviously needed to make it through a pregnancy. (I have an amazing little boy now). My husband and I knew we were wasting a lot of money when we both were working full time on exactly the things you mentioned. I eventually phased out the part time work completely. Our money is better managed and we are saving more now than we were when I was working due to taking time to be frugal and regularly manage our income.

  41. Sierra says:

    Back in the day, my husband and I had a big house in the suburbs and each drove an hour (in opposite directions) to get to work. Now we live four blocks from his office and I work at home.

    We definitely save a lot of money (about $500/month on gas alone). We were able to get rid of one car, we eat out much less, I only need to have one wardrobe instead of two.

    However, working at home has its own costs. I no longer pay for lunches out or vending machine snacks, but our grocery bills have gone up since everyone eats three meals a day at home. I have to keep the house comfortable for me and my young children 24/7, instead of letting the heat drop while we’re all out during the day. I use up little things like lightbulbs and pens and trash bags faster, because I’m home using all that stuff.

    A lot of the costs of working don’t go away, they just move into new categories. Yes, buying groceries to cook lunch is cheaper than eating out, but there’s still no free lunch.

    That said, our quality of life since we made the change has improved beyond measure. My husband is able to come home for lunch almost every day and tuck our baby in for her nap. Biking to work lets him exercise every day. Working at home gives me the freedom to set my own hours and homeschool my kids. It has absolutely been a win for us.

  42. Yana says:

    Not into paying for social capital at work, although my work is home-based. There was a time at my husband’s job where the employees took turns buying their few co-workers a Coke. He opted out of that after a short while, because the point of work is to bring in money. We’re big on working where we live and keeping the cost of work to a minimum. Not having an expensive job means being able to live better with less stress, even while earning less. Making work pay instead of paying a high price to work is the most fun kind of frugality.

  43. Gail says:

    A couple of years ago, when I was commuting an hour each way to work, I saw a job for my exact specialty advertised as being in my town – the salary on the ad was rubbish: 15% below the job I was in – but I applied anyway, and negotiated as much as I could when they offered me the job …

    In the end I took a £1000 pay cut, but saved at least £3000/year post-tax income in commuting expenses, I now have a 25 min walk to work, which is healthier and gives me an extra hour a day at home.

  44. greg says:

    I think my cost of coming to work is actually negative. It’s a brisk 25 minute walk (half of it through a park) each way, so that saves me an hour in the gym. While I walk I listen to Spanish programmes downloaded from Radio Nacional, so that saves me an hour in a Spanish class. And while I’m at work I don’t need to heat or light my home, not even flush my own toilet ;-)
    So I guess I save around 10 to 15 $ each day just by going to work.

  45. Denise says:

    I drive my car, to see clients, for my job. I am considering a job change that would be less per hour but enable me to take the bus. Besides gas and oil changes, how would you calculate wear and tear on an older car?

  46. Excellent post– these are the unseen costs of working and some of the many reasons for telecommuting . . .

  47. Pat says:

    Two years ago my daughter and I would share our 1 car. She would drop me off at work and then drive to campus for the day. I would walk home (8-1/2 miles which took slightly over 1 hour each day). I loved it! Now she is away at school and doesn’t need the car I am again driving back and forth and I miss my daily walk very, very much. Perhaps in time your wife will also want to walk and save all the gas, oil, hassle of parking. I felt much more relaxed and happy after my daily walking commute. I am hoping to retire to a larger city and not need a car on a daily basis.

  48. J says:

    @Pat —

    You could always walk one way each day, and leave the car at your workplace overnight.

  49. money market trader says:

    great post. i would expand the post to include other hidden costs for your chosen profession. eg tax rates to include federal, state and local; barriers to entry and exit. in other words, how difficult is it to land a job in your profession and hard easily you can be fired and replaced; cost of education to be in your position. is advanced degree required or is bachelors sufficient? do you need to go to expensive prestigious school or is a less expensive state school enough?; what are the costs of living in your chosen locale? a good house in SF may cost $900k but the same one in midwest could be 400k.

    in other words, you cannot judge a job by the headline salry. that would be akin to judging a company by sales alone. no. you need to look at net income after all taxes and expenses have been accounted for. ie what can i actually purchase after taxes, commuting, education, housing & risk premium. …you may find that a high salary in NYC leaves you to taking the subway whereas a so called middle class occupation in the heartland allows you to have a bmw in your driveway.

  50. Anna says:

    @Pat #38: >1 hour to walk 8 1/2 miles? That’s roughly 7 minutes per mile — very impressive. What is your secret?

  51. SteveJ says:

    Maybe I haven’t had enough coffee yet. Could you break down how that works?

  52. SteveJ says:

    Nevermind, pencil and paper to the rescue.

  53. Carmen says:

    I just wish more companies as well as the government would embrace telecommuting more! It would have all these positive impacts.

  54. Johanna says:

    @Lis: The main reason why walking to work is not the reality for most people is because they choose not to make it the reality. Most workplaces, I think, have houses within walking distance of them – a few do not, but most do.

  55. guinness416 says:

    The new commute sounds great, but one caution: when I lived a five minute walk from my office it was very easy to justify “dropping in” on a saturday or sunday morning to finish things up, and to stay ever later. Now I’m a twenty minute subway ride away, I’m less inclined to do that.

    Some of the things my work pays for are breakfasts a couple of times a week (yes, healthy ones!), many many hot cups of tea and expensive professional development courses. And the odd personal fax and pen/pencil/notebook use :)

  56. plonkee says:

    @greg (#45):
    I think I’m with you. I also walk to work, which is my only exercise (to be fair it’s 50 mins each way). The cost of heating my draughty hundred year old house all day is not negligible, and my food costs are largely the same.

    If I wasn’t in the office all day, I’d probably spend more on socialising – I live alone, and there’s only so much time by yourself that one human can take.

  57. Quinton says:

    For those who are concerned about the new car, the real issue is that the Prius will NOT warm up to really get good mileage.

    For any IC engine, you need 10 minutes to warm up to best efficiency. Prius still has a gas engine.

    People who buy a hybrid with less than 10 minutes to work will not see much benefit than a regular IC engine. (unless you are stopped at lights for 7 of those 10 minutes.)

    You might as well buy a Yaris. $13,305 brand new.

    Prius is $22,010. A difference of $8,700.

    And you can just pay cash and get a bigger discount Trent!

  58. GeorgiaS says:

    To whomever said imagine living in a big city and spending $100+ on public transportation–I do exactly that. Here in NYC, public transportation is only $81 for a month-long unlimited pass–the price will soon rise to $103. I’m not happy about the rise in price, but it’s much cheaper than paying for gas, insurance, repairs, etc. (And I get to read during my commute, which I couldn’t do if I drove!)

    @Lis, I don’t think it’s that realistic to expect people to walk to work, honestly. If you live in the suburbs or the country, it’s probably a very long walk. If you live in a city (as I do) an apartment near a business district usually costs significantly more than one farther out. (For me to live near my workplace, I would have to pay about 3x my current rent.)

  59. Bette says:


    Good thought processes here that each individual can tailor to their own situation.

    After having a child (who is now 10) I went from full-time to part-time work for 2 years, and then to being a full-time SAHM. I can tell you from this journey that there are so many surprising benefits to having one parent home full time it is mind boggling! This includes the financial aspect, but also the amazing increase in quality of life for all of our family.

    The efficiency of our home and financial management soared because I now have the time and motivation to really take charge of it and give it the attention it needs. We no longer just get by, we plan and manage very purposefully. We’ve prospered in ways we never would have when we both worked.

    Now, there is time to meal plan, grocery shop/stock the pantry and cook great meals at home, to garden in a big way and eat and preserve our own organic produce, to spend the time to shop around for the best rates on home and auto insurance clothes and household items, to manage our finances in an efficient manner, and to home school our child who has thrived in this lifestyle. Raising children and home management are rewarding careers that far exceed any rewards I ever attained in my corporate career, and to me, are a full-time job, plus! Quality of life and strength of family have been huge blessings of our choices.

    Best regards.

  60. littlepitcher says:

    Age also is a consideration here. A person within 10 or so years of retirement age may need the Social Security income credits as much as, or more than, the reduced expenses, especially if that person has had a lifetime of lower-wage jobs or has been out of the workplace for parenting, as many women have.

    Otherwise, it sounds great. Workers get no tax credits or deductions whatever for keeping up with the corporate-culture Joneses.

  61. Michelle says:

    I literally just made the decision to switch careers two days ago.

    It means a significant, significant dip in wages, but so many other benefits.

    I currently work about 25 miles away from home, a trip I must take using back roads. I work as a journalist, which means long, strange, stressful hours which often result in not knowing when or if I will be home to cook dinner. This means quite a bit of takeout or restaurant food for me and processed, frozen crap for my husband because he can’t cook. The stress leads to health problems such as TMJ and lack of sleep, as well as lots and lots of caffeinated beverages.

    I soon will be switching to working in a small-town library about 9 miles away from my home. I still have to take back country roads, but the commute is significantly shorter and the portion of road I have to travel is much better maintained. I will be forced to always take my lunch to work because there aren’t any restaurants in the town where I’ll work, and no coffee shops, either. My hours will be set so I will know when I’ll be home to cook dinner. Stress level will be much lower, so the health problems hopefully will go away or get better.

    Some people thought I was crazy for taking such a significant pay cut, but I say it’s all relative.

    Plus, as an added bonus, my hours will allow me to have regular time for exercise, something I’ve been longing to have for awhile.

  62. I’ve never gotten away with spending just $5 for beer and appetizers. Then again, this is Long Island, and my pals at work are gluttons. A few times a year, I join a group of coworkers for golf after work. This gets pricey, too. I consider this a “networking” expense, and it’s a necessary evil.

  63. Esther says:

    The biggest benefit your wife will have is being able to spend more time with the kids. As they say, no says on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office,” Kids grow up so fast, we have only a relatively short time with them. She will love it!

  64. Anna says:

    Michelle #49 — Way to go! Your new job sounds wonderful.

  65. J says:

    While I do agree that working from home can have benefits, I’ll add that several of the points made above for saving money are definitely lifestyle choices and would still have a cost working at home. For example:

    – You will still have SOME gas expenses. You will lose your commute, sure, but unless you sell the car, you are still going to run errands and use the car somewhat.
    – SOME clothing expenses. Unless you are sitting around the house naked (in which case you are likely wasting money on heat), you still need something to wear. Sure, you can get away with t-shirts and jeans, but you still have to wear something. And if you were already thrift-store shopping, it’s likely there isn’t much room to go down anymore on this item.
    – The coffee shop expense — I believe Trent has mentioned that he still goes out to the coffee shop. If I worked from home, I’d likely see an increase in coffee-shop spending, just to get away from the house.
    – For food, you still are paying for it. You might be eating at home more often, but I’m guessing that in the name of sanity you might head out once a week to grab a sandwich or meet a friend for lunch, so this expense hasn’t really gone away entirely, either.
    – As for the grocery store, I don’t understand how working from home will make you any more disciplined at shopping from a list.

    So I’m willing to concede SOME savings here, although I can’t really believe that ALL the expenses went to zero.

    I would love to be able to walk to my own office, myself — however, the cost of housing around my workplace is two times more (for the same house). Spending the same money would mean trying to cram a four person family into a two bedroom house with half the living space we have now!

    My employer is very anti-telecommuting as a regular thing. They provide access for occasional use, but senior management has made it clear they consider people being present in the office an important thing.

  66. Mule Skinner says:

    I object to those work situations that provide lunch or free coffee. If I don’t consume it, I have lost part of my income. If I do consume it, I have agreed to take part of my income in kind rather than in dollars. And someone else has decided what should be on the limited menu. On those days I have to be elsewhere, I lose a part of my income. So, even though this kind of income may be tax free, I prefer actual money.

  67. Tyler says:

    I disagree with the job change, unless a) it is based purely on obtaining a job that she 100% enjoys or b) there is opportunity for advancement, so that in the foreseeable future she will have the shorter commute with the same or a greater salary than now. The goal should almost always be “make more money”, because more income means more money to save and more money to invest.

  68. Diane says:

    Working closer to home, reducing the commute time and having more time to spend with the family is worth A LOT to me.

    I also work from home now, and have reduced travel expense, anxiety & frustration over traffic, clothing expense, eating out, so many things that really add up…

    It probably adds a bit to the electricity use, since we’re home all day, but not that much. Since I have animals in the house I always had to keep some temperature adjustment for them anyway. And I’ve replaced all the light bulbs with CFLs. The electric bill actually went down.

    Less mileage on my car, especially in start & stop traffic is great too!

    I might make more money in a different job, but my LIFE is worth so much more than the difference in pay!

  69. TStrump says:

    For me, I always look at the ‘hidden’ cost of commuting.
    If a job pays really well, but requires me to buy a car, it’s not much of a raise.
    That’s why I only take jobs within a quick bus commute from where I live and skip the jobs that ar too far, even though the money is good.

  70. Ian Edwards says:

    Cutting down on the commute can be way of also cutting your expenses. However using the car when the journey is too short can also be expensive as I pointed out in my book ‘The Wizards Way To Wealth’

    Tip: Never buy a car that has only been used for short trips (i.e. to the shops/work etc) since the lubrication and cooling systems have had no time to work, resulting in the engine sizing solid shortly after starting off on your first long journey. Car rescue associations see a lot of this, especially in the spring when cars have only been used for short trips all winter leading to the same situation

  71. Angie says:

    I had always thought working at my daughter’s school would be a great opportunity if it ever came up. Last fall, a position opened and I seriously considered applying. Considering all things, loss of benefits (from some to none), a modest paycut, even determining daycare/car/etc savings, I decided it would not be a good choice. My employer is fairly flexible and family-oriented, I have job security, and I enjoy my line of work (this would have been a career change). Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision, but then I got a substantial raise at work so I’m glad I choose to stay or I would be missing out. Plus my commute is only 12 minutes one way, which is enough time for me to reflect and be alone – the rest of the day I’m running around at work or with my family. I need the downtime which I wouldn’t otherwise get (easily).

  72. Johanna says:

    @J: What if you took your current housing costs PLUS your current commuting costs, and use them to pay for housing within walking distance of your workplace? (Don’t just count gas money – if walking to work means you could get by with one fewer car, include all the costs of the car: insurance, maintenance, repairs, depreciation, etc.) How much house could you then afford?

  73. J says:


    I live in the Boston metro area. My house cost approximately $370K when I bought it. To live within walking distance of my office, the cost for a similar house would very easily be $600K. Some houses in the town I work in can hit $1M. When available, $370K houses in the town I work in would be two bedrooms, maybe three, 1000 square feet, no garage, lead paint, 50-60 years old, etc. The house we live in has three bedrooms, a two car garage, 1700 square feet and was built in the 70’s, so no asbestos, lead paint or formaldehyde insulation. Also the electric and plumbing systems are reasonably modern.

    My car is paid for, and has been for years. I carpool with three other people, so I typically drive to work once or twice a week, spending about $10 on gas for the commute, probably $2/week on tolls. Repairs I do myself, so they are a few hundred dollars a year for maintenance. I plan on keeping the car another 6 or so years. The car has been extremely trouble-free, requiring only $400 in repairs outside of maintenance in 100K miles.

    We’ve discussed moving in closer many times, but the numbers never work.

  74. jdb says:

    Another transportation choice to consider is biking to work. It saves fuel/maintenance/parking costs, but gets you there much faster than walking. Depending on where you live, it can actually be faster than driving!

  75. john says:

    My works provides free coffee,free breakfast every friday,free jackets,the people I supervise offer me treats on a daily basis.I get invited to lunch very often.I get to use the computer,phone and office in general.in addition I getto go to conferences, training like Covey,others,free publications,cable tv,assigned parking,use of company truck to visit satelite facilities.I dress nice,but I like to dress nice anyway.I have many casual friends,I get free health insurance,my job is great.my job helps me with self discipline due to having to be at work by 5 am,but I get to go home and be with my children as they come from school.

  76. Todd says:

    I love the diversity of readers on this site. So many different perspectives. I actually love my commute now, 25 miles of open freeway. Rather than quitting my job, I was allowed to change my work hours to avoid rush hour times. Those 25 miles used to take me at least 45 minutes each way. Now I drive 25 miles in 25 minutes. Just by adjusting my work schedule from 8-5 to 9:30-6:30, I spend almost an hour less in the car each day. (And the songs on the radio are much better than listening to all the commercials during rush hour!)

  77. ann says:

    Now that I work at home, I am saving a fortune on panty hose ! And shoes! My old job as a manager involved a lot of walking and I tore through shoes. Now I only have a couple of nice outfits for seeing clients ( and I can wear them to church too) Lots of savings on wardrobe alone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *