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When Work Doesn’t Pay

In the modern family, most households are surviving on two incomes.  Many of us believe that both incomes are absolutely essential if we’re going to make it.  Unfortunately, the hard truth is that for many Americans, working just doesn’t pay.  Some 50 percent of us are making less than $26,000 per year, and it’s just not enough.

Basically, by the time you add up all the costs associated with working, your paycheck isn’t covering your costs.  This can be a challenging moment, since we are all conditioned that the only way to get ahead is by working.  However, if you step back from the hustle and bustle to take the long view, you may find that having one member of your family work team quit their job actually leaves you ahead financially.

Commuting Costs

The daily grind of working requires you to get to and from work each workday.  This means you need to cover your commuting costs.  While many budgeters think only in terms of gas costs ($3.45/gallon on average) you also have to think of the costs of keeping a car.  It’s especially important to consider these costs when having one person stay home would let you give up a second car entirely.

The average annual cost of car insurance is $1566, almost equal to one month’s average take home pay after taxes.  Monthly maintenance costs are $100 – $300, while monthly parking fees are $155.22 nationwide according to USA Today.  Using the low end of the maintenance scale, that second car for work is costing you over $4600 annually before you factor in gas and the price of your time sitting in traffic.  Finding the money to stay home instead of working can start right there.

Childcare Costs

Many parents dream of being able to stay home with their children or provide homeschooling but don’t think they can afford it.  Instead, they work and pay someone else to look after their kids!  Unfortunately, the annual costs of childcare for one child are now almost equal to the costs of a year at a public university, clocking in at between $12,755 and $19,000 annually according to a 2010 report by ABC News.

Yikes!  Families with multiple children pay even more, making parents feel like they have to go to work to keep up with all their other expenses.  Yet if you really think about it, by not working, you wouldn’t have to shell out all that dough for childcare.  If one spouse is willing to give up their career, the financial impact could be negligible … and it might even be positive if there are multiple children in daycare.

Business Image Costs

A final factor to consider is how much it costs to look good at work.  Uniforms, suits, high heels, a decent haircut … all these things cost money to buy and money to care for over time.  You need to look clean, presentable, and professional – the jeans, sweats, beards, and ponytails you can wear at home just aren’t going to cut it.

Even with careful stain monitoring and hand washing, the average employee is looking at a minimum of $500 in annual dry cleaning costs according to CBS News.  Men’s disposable razor blades generate an average cost of $15 per month, while working women spend $200 per year on cosmetics.  It’s money that generates no real benefit for you or your family, and yet you have to spend it.  Throw in money spent on lunches, office pools, and chipping in for work expenses, and just showing up to the office is a pricey pursuit.

Concluding Thoughts

Now, the point of this article isn’t to convince the world to quit their jobs.  It’s merely to remind you that working is a strategic choice.  We’ve been conditioned to think that dual-earner households are essential, but the truth of the matter is that being a one-income family can actually be a smart financial move.  It costs money to go to work and many times, work just doesn’t pay enough to offset the costs of having a job.

©2011 Off the Grid News

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