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Pastiche Family Portal HomeCan You Afford to Work?

Would you send your children to childcare for 45 hours per week so that you could work 40 hours per week to make a measly $3.80 per hour? Of course not, you say.

But how do you know you aren't doing just that? I certainly never thought as a professional social worker that I would be making only $3.80 per hour. But that is exactly what I was doing.

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When I worked as a social worker, I made about $28,000 per year. Not a great salary but, combined with my husband's, was a decent income. So why was I always broke? Why did we have a good income but couldn't afford to go on vacation?

Worse, I couldn't afford to take the full 12 weeks allotted for maternity leave when my second child was born. The reason was that I had no clue how much I spent to work outside the home.

Here is what I paid each year so that I could work

$3,000 for Federal and State government income tax, Social Security payments and Medicare tax
$6,000 for childcare
$2,400 extra for car payments, car insurance, and personal property tax for a newer car
$1,700 for commuting 10 miles a day
$1,000 for clothes, dry cleaning and other items and services related to my professional appearance
$1,000 for lunches
$2,600 for convenience foods and dining out because I was too tired to cook
$2,400 for I-deserve-this-because-I-work-so-hard items and guilt treats (toys, special outings) for my kids
Total cost of work: $20,100!

I spent $20,100 to work! That equaled an income of $7,900
per year, $152 per week... a full $3.80 per hour!

Use the list below to calculate how much you pay to work.

Yearly Salary:
Work-related Expenses
(listed below):
Federal Taxes:
State Taxes:
Local Taxes:
Social Security:
Medicare Tax:
Child Care:
(toll, parking, 2nd car):
Gasoline and mileage:
Car insurance
(extra car, nicer car):
Clothing expenses
(cleaning, new):
Gifts, special friends etc at work:
Convenience food for meals:
Eating Out:
Housekeeping help:
Grooming needs
(hair, nails etc):
Guilt items for kids and family:
Extra cost related to lack of time to research cheaper prices:
Extra cost related to hiring help instead of making repairs yourself:
Total Expenses
related to work:
Actual contribution to family income
- Total Work Expenses

Family Contribution:


What did you discover? Is one-third, one-half or more of your income going to pay expenses just so you can work? It can be pretty depressing to learn you work hard but reap little reward for it. However, if working outside the home is costing you a lot of money, working at home may be the answer.

Before you quit your job, you need to determine how much your family needs to survive.

This requires making a family budget with covering every nickel and dime. Once you have your budget, you can calculate how much money, if any, you would need to earn from home if you quit your job. Take your Total Expenses and subtract the amount of money that comes into your home without your income.

For example, if your monthly expenses are $2,500 and your spouse earns $1,900, you would need to earn a net amount of $600 ($2,500 - $1,900 = $600). Or would you? While $600 isn't that much to earn it isn't that much to save either.

Look over your budget again and see if there are areas that you can save money. Can you survive with one car or a cheaper car? Can you cut your grocery bill? Can you use the library to borrow books and videos for free instead of paying for them? Once you stay home, you will have more time to bargain shop for clothes, repair services, and other needs cutting costs on those items.

After doing the exercises above I discovered I could work outside the home 40 hours per week to take home less than half my salary or I could work from home part-time, be with my kids, and earn about the same amount of take home pay. It wasn't too hard of a decision to make.

Copyright 2003 Leslie Truex

About the Author

Work-At-Home Success, Jobs At Home. Leslie Truex has telecommuted for online companies as well as offline in the areas of education and social work. She is the author of Jobs At Home: A Complete Guide to Finding or Creating a Work-At-Home Job which provided step-by-step details for finding and obtaining a work-at-home job including over 150 telecommuting job resources.

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