Family Finances

5 Hidden Costs of Working Outside the Home


My friend Angie showed me the math one day, and I couldn’t believe it. When she deducts daycare and other work-related expenses from her take-home pay, she’s left with just a couple of hundred bucks each month from her teaching job. In Angie’s case, she keeps working because her family needs the health insurance. But I wondered how many other women are working hard away from home for such a small net financial gain?

When we calculate the financial impact of a second career on the family budget, we tend to evaluate things based upon the potential salary versus the lost time in the home. Determining the true value of your outside job requires a more thorough analysis of the costs—yes, costs—of working, some of which may be just under the radar. Take a look at these five costs of working that may chip away at the financial gain you expect:

1. Taxes.  Not only will you be leaving a significant portion of your paycheck in the tax man’s hands on pay day, but it may be taxed at a higher rate than you expect. If your current total income puts you, as a married couple filing jointly, near the top of your tax bracket, your additional income may go over the line and be taxed at an even higher rate. Talk with your accountant to see what the tax consequences might be for your family, and factor that into your decision-making.

2. Commuting Expenses.  Taking two cars to and from work each day isn’t cheap. The added gasoline and mileage, plus parking or tolls can add up in a hurry. You might also find yourself forced to make another car purchase sooner with the extra wear and tear on your car.

3. Meals Out.  Most stay-at-home moms probably eat lunch at home on a typical day. But working women tend to have lunches out with colleagues, if for no other reason than convenience. A precious few have the self-discipline to brown-bag it, but only you can honestly say if that would be you. Also, working moms who are just coming home at dinner time are more likely to pick up pricier prepared foods for their families on occasion.

4. Work Wardrobe.  Your favorite yoga pants and college t-shirt are great when you’re hanging out at home or taking the kids to the park, but a professional environment will require a more put-together wardrobe. Depending on your personal tastes, this can range from mildly costly to “have-mercy-my-Nordstrom-card-just-burst-into-flames.”

5. Household Help.  Lots of working moms discover that spending 40+ hours a week at the office makes keeping things tidy at home truly difficult. Eventually, many hire housekeeping help on a regular basis, further eating away at the bottom line.

If you’d like an easy way to crunch the numbers on the costs and benefits of working, try using this online One Income Calculator from Crown Financial Ministries.

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