First Person: My $50,000 Salary Felt Like Minimum Wage

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I used to think I was making a lot of money until I sat down and calculated how much I was really getting paid.

Several years ago, I made the decision to leave my work-at-home writing career to work full-time at an office. When I crunched the numbers, I discovered I was not making as much as I thought due to hidden career costs. Just because I made $50,000 a year or $1,000 a week and worked 40 hours, did not mean I was making $25 an hour. It seemed to me I was practically paying to have the job, instead of the job paying me.

Calculating the commute

I figured out I was commuting about 75 miles a day from my home to my office. I was also driving for my work. I was reimbursed mileage during the workday, but had to eat my commuting costs. The daily driving took its toll on my vehicle, which required a lot of maintenance and repairs. The total travel costs came to $100 a week.

Adding up the childcare expenses

Prior to having an office job, I took care of my children at home while I worked on the computer. In many cases, I could take them with me since I was an independent contractor. With my office job, I ended up having to arrange childcare and after-school care that totaled $300 a week.

Taking into account the worn-out factor

Because I was worn out from all the commuting, I turned into the takeout queen. My food expenses skyrocketed as I no longer had the energy or the time to cook at home. My budget showed a jump under the food category. I was spending $150 more a week on food.

Spending more to keep up an image

Instead of wearing my old jeans around the house while I worked, I had to buy a new work wardrobe. I started coloring my hair and doing my nails on a regular basis. I also spent more money on things like office parties. I was spending $40 more a week on clothes.

Combating work stress by paying others

I rarely took vacations when I was working at home because I did not have a lot of stress. With a stressful job, I needed to take expensive vacations just to unwind. I started getting weekly massages. With less time and more to juggle, I paid for someone to mow my lawn and clean my house. I was spending $100 more a week due to job stress.

When I looked at my records, I could trace a grand total of $700 a week that I was spending because of my employment. That left me with a net of $300 a week or $7.50 an hour. My high paying job equaled minimum wage.