Your REAL Take Home Pay--Weighing the costs of working versus staying at home
The house payment is due, you finally got carpeting in the basement last month, and the car needs a new radiator. You're both working 9 to 5, and Friday's pay day — thank goodness! You might dream about staying at home with your children, but you just can't imagine how your family could make it without two incomes.
It might seem impossible through today's glasses. But what if you looked at tomorrow through a different set of glasses? A new way of looking at your family's finances, with an honest assessment of how much working outside the home is really costing you, might give you a totally different view. The often surprising truth is, you may not be getting any further ahead than you would if you stayed at home. Why? Keep reading.
This Info Guide will help you take a look at how much you're spending to work. We'll uncover some of the most obvious costs and some not-so-obvious ones. You'll probably think of others as we go along. Be sure to write them down. They'll be important in evaluating your own family's situation.
At the very least, we hope to stimulate your thinking and tickle your dream a bit. If you can dream it, you can create it. And by doing your homework, you just might find that staying at home with your children really is financially possible for your family.
We think about our work in terms of a salary or hourly wage. Some of us even remember to subtract out taxes before planning on how to spend our next paycheck. But how often do we think about our tax bracket? The U.S. government breaks our society down into segments of wage earners — those earning more pay a higher percentage of their income to Uncle Sam, those earning less pay a lesser percentage. By knowing which tax bracket your family's total yearly income falls in, you can calculate the tax "cost" of working.
Here's an example: Let's say your spouse earns $38,000 per year. Within this lower tax bracket, the federal income tax due on his salary is about $3,600. Now let's add your salary at, for example, $30,000 per year. Your combined income of $68,000 jumps your family into the next tax bracket with a total federal income tax burden of around $10,000. Your $30,000 salary is effectively cut by $6,400 instantly just because your added income increased your combined tax bracket.
Remember, tax laws change frequently, and nothing can substitute for the advice of a good tax advisor. Yet, it isn't hard to see that you might actually be farther behind at tax time by making more money.
3. Direct Work Related Expenses
There are some obvious places where we spend money to make money. Working requires an output of not only our time and talents but a portion of our paychecks as well. Some expenses are easy to see, some are more obscure but nonetheless a cost of working. And some cost us in intangibles, like time away from family. Below is a listing of some direct work-related expenses. Think about your own situation and write down how much you might be spending on these things per month or year. Add in any others that affect you. How valuable are the intangibles? Consider those as well.
Paying for the care of our children while we work takes a large chunk out of most mothers' paychecks. It can be an even bigger bite when we consider costs like the ones that are listed below.
|more childhood illnesses due to child's exposure in childcare:
add extra medical costs for child and other family members who get sick
|expenses associated with childcare provided by family and friends||$________________|
|add lost time/pay at work for spouse||$________________|
Eating out is the American way of life. With our busy schedules, taking time to prepare a meal often loses out to the convenience of fast food probably no more than a block away. Besides, who's got the energy, right? Our modern day conveniences can cost us a bundle, however. How much might it be costing you?
|lunches out and snacks at work||$_________|
|more frequent family meals out||$_________|
|expensive convenience foods||$_________|
Although the intangible costs of eating out are up for debate, some may say there's a cost to your health. Convenience foods may have less nutritional value than those prepared fresh. And with schedules that cut mealtimes short, families may be losing out on the opportunity mealtime provides to share and communicate with each other.
We're all keenly aware that driving a vehicle and maintaining it costs us money. These costs rise if two vehicles are on the road regularly. And, depending on your driving habits, you may be at risk for other costs as well, like more frequent parking and traffic tickets. To the right are just some of the ways you may be spending your hard earned dollars to commute.
There's some intangible costs of commuting as well. The time you spend going to and from work is time that could be spent with your family. Also, the stress and frustration of driving in traffic takes its toll on your nerves, which may leave you tired or short-tempered when you get home. Commuting probably creates other intangible costs in your life. Consider them all.
|2nd car payment||$_________|
|gas & oil||$_________|
|car wear & tear
(estimate 20-25 cents per mile depending on age of car)
Most work environments have some kind of dress code. Depending on your type of work, it may range from casual, like a pair of nice jeans and a pressed shirt, to executive suits and ties, to required dress such as white clothing in the medical profession.
|more frequent trips to the salon||$__________|
|additional shoes for work||$__________|
|additional clothes for work||$__________|
|hair & nail products||$__________|
Whatever your situation, working requires a wardrobe beyond what you might wear around the house. Besides your clothes, remember to think about the little things that go into preparing you for your job.
One intangible cost of maintaining a "look" for work is the time you spend shopping for these items — it's time you could be spending with your family. It might even be time you could use for yourself, like reading a good book or taking a hot bath, so you not only look good on the outside but feel good on the inside as well.
If because you are working, your husband has taken on more parenting responsibilities such as: staying home with a sick child; taking children to doctor’s, dentist’s appointments; meetings at school; staying home with children due to "snow days" or other daycare or school "shutdowns", he may take a loss in income, bonuses or promotions due to this additional time off. Don’t forget to consider extra costs to your husband’s, and therefore your overall income, due to commitments to your job.
4. Indirect or Hidden Expenses
We can't hide what taxes are costing us — the IRS sees to that. And the expenses resulting directly from our work are usually easy to spot. But just how many costs of working are still lurking behind our two-income blinders? The answer might surprise you. Below is a listing of seemingly subtle sacrifices we make in order to work, but that can actually have a significant impact on our financial picture.
SOCIAL EVENTS AT WORK
There are all sorts of things at work we participate in that have nothing to do with our jobs. They're typically fun, like a co-worker's baby shower or boss' birthday party, and might be a nice diversion from our work responsibilities. But they also cost us out-of-pocket.
|chipping in for gift/food||$_______|
Depending on how much socializing your job requires, you may spend your off-hours, like evenings or weekends, at company functions. This might cut into your family time. Too many social events could cut into time you need to get your work done as well, causing undue overtime and added stress. What are these intangibles worth to you?
The cost of working may include some out-of-pocket-expenses for tools of our trade, such as briefcases, computers, and other equipment with which we get our work done. And to keep up our knowledge and skills, we may also pay for classes or other education that isn't reimbursed by our employer.
|cost of continuing education||$________|
|tools/equipment not reimbursed by the company||$________|
|trade magazines & other publications||$________|
Your job may also require travel that takes you away from your family. Depending on how often or for how long you travel for work, there may be a level of stress and expense that grows proportionately. The intangible cost may be higher than you imagined.
There's no getting around it — the hours have to be put in at home in order to keep it maintained and livable. Someone has to do it. The question is often "who?". Whatever choices we make about who's going to keep the house up, it costs us.
|hired cleaning help||$______|
|hired repair help||$______|
|hire baby-siter so you can do it yourself||$______|
An intangible cost of maintaining the household yourself is that you may find your evenings and weekends filled with chores rather than spending that time with your family. This may have an effect on your own level of stress and energy. Think about all the ways maintaining your household costs you and your family.
When all is said and done — when you have considered both the hard cash and significant intangibles your family expends to maintain a two-income household — you may be surprised to find that working costs you more than you realized. Rather than getting ahead, some families actually find themselves farther behind!!
Saving Money by Staying at Home
We've taken a look at several ways working is costing you time and money. You've probably come up with a list of your own where dollars and time are slipping through your fingers.
Now let's look at how staying at home can actually save you money. You might call it smart household management. Think about how much you might be able to save if you had the time to do these things. Again, the options are as large as your imagination and motivation. Keep taking notes on your own as you paint your own family's picture.
For many two-income families finding little time for careful shopping and rushed and impulsive buying can take a big chunk out of their paychecks. The cost of convenience — and convenience products — can be high.
Smart shopping can save your family more money than you may think. It's not just about clipping coupons — it's about taking the time to wisely plan and execute a spending strategy that consistently saves you money. Although this section might take a little more forethought, you can begin to estimate how much you might be able to save versus what you are spending now. Here's your opportunity to get creative. There's limitless ways to save a little here and there — and realize substantial savings over time.
|budgeting for: groceries||$________|
|budgeting for: toiletries||$________|
|budgeting for: clothes||$________|
|budgeting for: other||$________|
|planning low-cost nutritious meals||$________|
|buying in bulk at wholesalers or coops||$________|
|watching for sales||$________|
SMART HOUSEHOLD BUSINESS
Just like smart shopping, having a plan on how money is spent to run your household can save your family in the long run. And like shopping, the areas where you can find savings is great. Below are just a few to spark your imagination.
|monitoring bills for errors||$________|
|preparing your own taxes vs. paying an accountant||$________|
|telephone usage budget||$________|
|reducing heating/cooling costs||$________|
|reducing electrical bills||$________|
HOUSEHOLD MAINTENANCE / DO-IT-YOURSELF
There are again countless ways in which you can save money by doing more things around the house yourself. It may mean learning some new skills, some of which may be fun and give you a real sense of accomplishment. Whether you find your calling or not in home repair and maintenance, at the very least you will be contributing to the financial well-being of your family.
|carpet & upholstery cleaning||$_______|
|sewing vs buying||$_______|
|simple house repairs||$_______|
And don't take for granted your little helpers around the house. Kids can do a lot with proper supervision. In fact, it's a great teaching opportunity to have them working by your side
The Emotional Savings of Being at Home
For some families, there's an emotional benefit to having a parent at home more.
First, if staying home to care for their family's needs is something a parent has always dreamed of, imagine the sense of joy in finally living that dream. And a joyful attitude can be catchy!
Secondly, working less can free up more time for their children. As the opportunities for doing things together grows, so do the possibilities for a stronger parent-child relationship.
Thirdly, some parents find their relationship with each other benefits as well. With one partner having more time for household and family matters, the other partner can relax more. There's less places for stress to pop up, making more room for harmony and fun in the relationship.
Although it may not be easy to pinpoint how your family might benefit emotionally by you being at home more, it's certainly worth considering as part of your total evaluation.
7. A New Perspective
So, how much, or how little, do you really need to work? Add up your figures — what is it costing you to work and how much could you actually save by being at home more?
You may have discovered that the financial sacrifice you thought you would have to make by quitting your job, now looks less like an impassable mountain and more like a road — by mapping out your strategy and keeping your eyes focused ahead, you can get there.
And it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. If you can't stay at home full time, even a few hours extra a week with your family is valuable. Consider flexible work options in your current job, like permanent part-time, flex time, job sharing, or a compressed work week. Maybe an at-home business is feasible for you.
Also, joining the temporary workforce can give you the flexibility of setting your own schedule.
Whatever you decide, set realistic goals for yourself. Unless you have special superhuman abilities, most of us need to take change like this one step at a time. Remember, you're on a journey that's taking you're family in a new direction — keep a pace that's comfortable for everyone — and enjoy the ride.