Breaking Down The True Cost of Being Employed

For many of us, employment is our main source of income. However, there are also significant costs that come with it. Being employed comes with a cost and expense that you’d not necessarily have if you’re a freelancer or if you’re working remotely.

Let’s take a look at what an employee typically spends to be employed. As the saying goes, “it takes money, to make money”.

Daily meals

Food is the basic necessity of life. So, of course, it would cost you. The cost of buying breakfast, lunch and dinner every day can easily add up and cost you a lot. Do you eat your breakfast at home, pack your own lunch and prepare dinner at home after work?

If you do, then you are saving a portion of your salary. But many of us have little to no time to prepare all this. Instead, we’ll grab a morning coffee to start our day and go out for lunch with our colleagues. Some say that the time to cook is a luxury. I guess it’s true. You may be too tired to cook dinner after getting off work. So, there’s a high chance you’ll opt for a take-out or eat out on your way back home. You’ll find yourself paying more when you try to maintain a work-life balance since you’re exhausted and pressed for time.

Commuting to work

Commuting is not just stressful but could cost a great deal too. You are blessed if you’re living a few steps away from your workplace. But those who drive or highly dependent on public transport spend a substantial amount of time and money to go back and forth for work.

The cost of commuting can add up pretty fast. If you drive to work, you will have to consider the cost of petrol, toll, parking and time spent in rush hour traffic. And not to mention car maintenance. Your car mileage will affect the cost of maintenance and servicing. Of course, you can consider taking public transport to work. However, public transport may be inconvenient and time-consuming for some people. It does cost you less compared to driving. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to be staying near a public transport hub. Certain areas in the Klang Valley and most parts of Malaysia do not have sufficient public transportation infrastructure to support commuting for passengers. Till today, we are very much still a private transport-dependent country.

Professional outfit

Office wear is another cost that would take up a portion of your salary. Depending on the industry and line of work you’re in, the cost of buying clothes, suits, shoes, and accessories can add up quickly. You won’t feel the pressure to improve your wardrobe if your job requires you to sit behind the desk and work on a computer. However, you will feel the need to be well-groomed if you’re in the front line or sales department as you’re representing the image of the company.


As a parent, juggling between full-time work and caring for your children is no easy feat. Working parents require someone to help out with their kids while they are at work. Hiring nannies or enrolling the kids at daycare can be a huge cost for working parents.

Most working parents find themselves paying more for childcare than they typically spend on food, housing or bills. Finding an affordable quality daycare is not an easy task especially if you’re living in an urban area. Besides, it is rare for a company to provide childcare facilities for their staff.


Most working adults will start groaning when it’s time to file income tax. A percentage of the money you make will be taken out of your paycheck. Taxes are undoubtedly an added cost of working. You are responsible for paying taxes once you received your paycheck. How much you earn each year will determine the amount of tax you will need to pay. The income that comes from being employed is taxed at a much higher rate compared to passive income. That’s why taxes are considered a personal expense that one has to bear. After all, taxes are there for the betterment of society. That’s also why you need to maximise your tax refund to get as much back.

Final Thoughts

Bear in mind that not all professions will incur these costs. Some might spend more while some might spend less. After all, it comes down to your lifestyle and industry. Knowing the cost of being employed will give you an insight into how much your real net wages are. Calculating these working costs will also give you a better idea of how to budget your paycheck.

If you find yourself having high workplace expenditure, you may try to opt for different lifestyle choices to save some money in the long run. Every job has hidden costs. While money is important, don’t forget to prioritise your job satisfaction too.

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