By Althea Atherton – @alymaybe
It happened: You get a job offer! Finally, your money woes are out of the way! However, a few months later, your bank account doesn’t look as glamorous as you pictured it would. If the pay itself is reasonable and you haven’t been doing any extravagant spending, the hidden costs of holding your job may be starting to add up. Here are some warning signs to look out for.
Keeping Up Appearances
Does your work have strong personal appearance standards? Do you have to pay for a uniform or wear expensive brand-name clothes? Are manicures or special hairstyles expected of you? Do you have to provide your own safety equipment? We often forget to budget costs like this, which can make a part-time job not worth your time.
Possible Solution: Shop at stores that provide brand names at discounted prices. Practice doing your own nails. Watch hair and makeup tutorials on Pinterest or YouTube to help you achieve that salon-fresh look for cheap.
How much do you spend a week on parking or public transit? This can end up costing you hundreds of dollars over the course of a week or a month.
Possible Solution: Don’t just automatically take the first Google Maps solution or call an Uber – look for transportation alternatives. Ask if your office provides transportation reimbursement or if there is a work carpool. Look for a train or bus station that involves less line-changing or transfers. Can you park nearby for less than at your office, or maybe bike or skateboard there? Finding a cheap method of getting to work, or splitting the cost of gas with others, can help pad your wallet.
Accidental Cost of Living Increases
Your cost of living can reflect where you work if a job is located in a high-end mall or rich neighborhood. If you are too rushed to pack a meal, how much are you paying for your meal breaks? If you run errands near work, are you going to stores you consider affordable? If you relocated for a job, is there a big disparity in the cost of milk between your new location and your last?
Possible Solution: Look for restaurants and shops off the beaten path. Maybe there is a secret Nordstrom Rack, Marshall’s or TJ Maxx nearby! Or, it may be more affordable to buy clothes online. Pack your own lunch or stock up on cheap snacks you can keep in your purse or cubicle in lieu of that afternoon smoothie you get at the overpriced food court.
Making your Day Bearable
Sometimes we splurge on things to make the day go by a little faster, and they end up costing us a lot of money. Do you need to buy headphones, a space heater, microwave or other appliance for your work space? Do you pay a lot for music, books or audiobooks to make that commute bearable?
Possible Solution: Take it from a librarian-in-training – libraries are your friend. And these days, you can often borrow content from the internet like e-books, audiobooks and music right from your desk. It also may be more affordable to pay for a streaming service like Apple Music or Audible rather than paying for new albums or audiobooks. Plus, you can always listen to free Podcasts on your commute.
That Extra Cup of Coffee
I know this is the advice everyone gives about saving money at work, but it really does add up. Is your work’s coffee supply so subpar that you have to pay for your own coffee?
Possible Solution: Don’t worry – I’m not going to tell you to drink subpar work coffee. But you can make good coffee at home and bring it to work. Find recipes to make your own Pumpkin Spice Latte online, or your workplace may offer a special coffee club where you can buy into a program to get a higher quality coffee.
But, the reason you’re always finding yourself in line for a PSL may not be a caffeine addiction after all. Some people go to get coffee because they need a change of scenery when they are having trouble focusing. Substitute that coffee run for a walk around the block. Go to the gym or run errands when you hit a brick wall. Keep some Sudoku puzzles at the office to get your mind back on track.
Pressure to Spend Money
Sometimes, your co-workers have lavish spending habits and accidentally pressure you to join them. Other times, your employer may sell an expensive product marketed towards your demographic and you feel pressure to buy something you may not have otherwise. Or maybe you teamed up on a new corporate partnership and the new professional contacts are trying to sell you their products.
Possible Solution: Explain that you are happy with your current systems, or you have too many projects right now to try something new. Not sure what to say? Here are some lines that are casual enough you can stay honest and politely refuse while not getting into details about your financial status.
- “I’m happy with my car right now, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
- “It’s a cool product, but there’s no way it would fit into my apartment.”
- “I’m really investing a lot of my time in Roller Derby these days.”
- “We have some big travel plans coming up – maybe when things settle!”