How Much Does It Cost?

How much does your job cost?

I love my job.  Hands down.  I love it because I know the work we do is important and changes peoples’ lives– it bends the arc of history a little more toward justice, and I’m proud of what we are able to accomplish.

But one thing I don’t like so much about my job is that it costs me a lot of money every month. I put hundreds of miles on my car every month traveling around southern California. Coffee, bagels, the occasional group dinner– all important parts of what I do because sometimes you have to break bread with people to move them toward a shared vision. Since we don’t have an office, I also have to meet the folks I supervise at coffee shops or restaurants where it’s convenient for them, and that costs money too.

Because I’ve been taking a closer look at my spending this month, I wanted to hash out exactly how much money I spend on having my job every month.  Here it is, based on estimating averages from my expense vouchers:

Spending Category
Expense
Car Loan*
246.48
Car Insurance*
135.76
Gas*
240.00
Mileage
432.00 (Based on 2016 IRS reimbursement rate)
Coffee and Food for Meetings
100.00
Parking
100.00
Other work supplies
60.00
Other travel expenses
30.00
Total
1,344.24
*Non-Reimbursable Costs
722.00
Total Reimbursable Costs
622.24
Some thoughts on these numbers…
  • Based on these figures, I spend about a third of my take-home income on my job. Some of those costs are reimbursable, but an even bigger chunk isn’t. I think our gut response to these numbers is to suggest giving up my car, but that’s not an option for me because I have to travel from Ventura to San Diego for work. My car insurance is already at rock-bottom levels for what’s legally required of me, so I don’t know how much I’d be able to shave off there either.
  • What happened to the era of company cars and the gas credit cards to go along with them? Though I’m not a teacher, I work with them and I know that teachers shell out hundreds of their own dollars every year for supplies.  I can’t help but think about folks who are trying to make a living in the so-called “shared economy,” shelling out non-reimbursable money for big ticket items like cars or homes so they can work for companies like Uber and Air BnB. It seems like the more American wages stagnate— or even drop–, the more money we have to spend on actually holding down a job.
  • What should we make of this phenomenon?  Is it fair to place the burden of work expenses on workers?

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