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Your Real Salary: The True Cost of Your Job

Most people know how much they make. It is written on paystubs, deposited in your bank account, and on your job offer paperwork. But, not everyone knows what their job costs, and it does have a cost. In fact, you can’t understand your real salary without understanding the expenses associated with your job.

To help you learn this somewhat hidden number, here are the costs you need to consider.


Commuting costs are a fairly obvious work expense. The cost of petrol or public transportation is easy to attribute to your daily treks to and from work. But there can be more costs involved. Wear and tear on your vehicle and regular maintenance also need to be counted. For example, tyres need replacing regularly. While you would have to replace them even if you don’t drive to work, you have to replace them faster because you do. That means some of that cost is tied directly to your employment.


If your job has a dress code, then the costs of clothing for work also must be counted. And, if you have to have them sent out for cleaning, those are also connected to your employment. To take it further, if you go out of your way to get them cleaned, those transportation costs are also related.

Essentially, if it is related to your work attire, and is an expense you wouldn’t otherwise have, then your job is costing you that sum. To be fair, you would need to account for the price of the clothing you would wear if you didn’t have to follow a dress code and only attribute the difference to your job. But, it can still be a substantial sum depending on your work.

Food and Drink

Any food and beverage purchases that would not occur without your job are also included. Whether that means a lunch out with co-workers, a dinner meeting with clients, or a pint after work to de-stress, if you wouldn’t have spent the money if it weren’t for your job, then consider it. However, anything you bring from home that you would have eaten whether you had your job or not doesn’t need to be included.

Why This Matters

Different jobs come with varying expenses. Commute lengths and methods, dress code requirements, and food and drink purchases often change if you accept a new job. And this information is critical for accurately assessing whether a new job is a smart move.

For example, if a new job comes with a higher salary, but increased commute and clothing expenses, you might not actually bring home any more money than you do now for paying bills and discretionary spending. And, if that job comes with longer hours, you are losing time and making the pay increase less valuable.

When evaluating a new opportunity, don’t just examine the salary written on the piece of paper. Consider all of the costs before making a commitment. Now, it is possible that the job offers benefits that make a stagnant take home salary worth it, but it can also come with negatives that make it worse. Look at the whole picture first, and make sure you understand what your job today, and any offers tomorrow, actually cost before you get excited about a pay bump on paper.

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