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The Cost of Working

Nov 3, 2007
My sister has a very interesting dilemma.

She is a professional nanny, unmarried, living in central Florida. She was just offered a job watching three children for $13 an hour. For a nanny, that is pretty good money.

On the verge of accepting this position, a neighbor has offered her $11 an hour to watch her two children.

My sister is very interested in the $11 an hour job, as she would not need to drive to work at all, as opposed to the $13 an hour job which is a 45 minute commute.

So where is the dilemma?

I have cautioned my sister that she would be very foolish to accept the closer, $11 an hour job. Why?
This really has nothing to do with the $2 an hour difference, and everything to do with the Cost of Working. You see, the neighbor who wants to hire my sister has decided that she "needs a break" from being a full-time stay-at-home-mom. She plans to get a job to ease the stresses in her life, and to provide a diversion.

There is nothing wrong with that, except she will probably have to pay for the opportunity to work.

What's that? Paying to work instead of getting paid to work?

Yes. Many mothers do indeed pay for the opportunity to work each day, instead of getting paid to work.


They have not factored in the cost of working.

There are many hidden costs and expenses we must pay in order to have a job outside the home. Many are taken for granted, like transportation and work clothing expenses. Once we sit down and examine how much we are spending to be able to go to work, we sometimes will find that it is just not worth it.

Work Related Expenses
--Car Payment
--Car Maintenance and Repair
--Child Care
--Dining Out: Lunch
--Dining Out: Convenience Dinner Foods
--Miscellaneous: Fundraisers and Gifts for Coworkers, Occasional Office Supplies, etc

What are you paying for the privilege of working?

Could your transportation expenses be reduced or eliminated if you were a stay at home mom? Could you condense down to one vehicle, or purchase an older model as your second car? How much are you really spending to get to work each day?

100% of Child Care expenses fall on the second working parent. Why? Because if Mom is a stay at home mom, there are no child care expenses. This expense cannot be divided between two working parents when examining the cost of working.

Many two income households fall into a high income tax bracket. Some households would benefit greatly by reducing their income, pushing them into a much lower bracket. When calculating your cost of working, if your income pushes you into a higher tax bracket, you need to factor the entire increase (not just your percentage) into your income. If you were not working, you would not have this expense.

Clothing, dining out, and miscellaneous expenses are a constant source of frustration for working mothers. Pantyhose rip, getting up a half hour earlier to pack a lunch is not an option, and saying no to your coworker's child's gift wrap fundraiser is out of the question. Five dollars here and ten dollars there can eat a hole in your income faster than you can blink.

My sister's neighbor never factored the cost of working into to her situation. She was getting a retail position, paying $15 an hour. Based on taxes and child care expenses alone, the neighbor would probably be going into debt to afford her job. She rationalizes it with the fact that her husband works, and is incorrectly putting half of the child care expenses burden on his plate.

My guess is that her job will not last past a month or two, when the reality of more expenses and less income truly hits home. Then my sister will be out of a job.

There is nothing wrong with choosing to work outside the home, if you can financially afford it. Many mothers earn significant income and can easily cover these expenses. Many mothers have older children who do not need child care.

But many mothers think that they are working because they have to, when in reality, if they examined their cost of working, they might find that it would be less expensive to stay home.
About the Author
Rayven Perkins is an expert at saving money at home. She has spent 7 years finding and implementing unique cost-cutting tips that allow her family to live comfortably as a one-income family. Her site http://www.stay-a-stay-at-home-mom.com examines resources and tips on Reducing Expenses, Stretching Your Dollar, and Supplementing Income in order to stay a SAHM
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