The Cost of Working Full Time

Until she added them up, working full time and living in the suburbs carried much higher costs than the author realized.

| September/October 1981

  • 071 working full time - nasir1164 - Fotolia
    Working full time to maintain a suburban lifestyle imposes costs you probably aren't aware of.

  • 071 working full time - nasir1164 - Fotolia

My husband and I had long dreamed of the day when we could afford to forsake our suburban home and live a simpler back-to-the-land existence. Then one night—armed with pen and paper—I decided to actually analyze the economics of the job that I'd hoped (vainly, it seemed) would help us someday reach our goal. When my computations were finished, I stared at the hard, cold facts and made a startling discovery: I couldn't afford to keep on working full time!

As a teacher, you see, I made $9,000 a year. Yet my actual spendable income (consisting of net wages minus work-related expenses) came to only $2,530 annually. I was truly amazed to learn how much it was costing me to work! Here's how my income was being distributed:

Salary                             $9,000
State and federal taxes   $1,500
Car payment ($135/month)   1,620
Gasoline                   1,920
Auto repair, tolls, misc     480
Vehicle insurance            350
Working wardrobe             600
Total work expenses:      $6,470
Net spendable income:              $2,530

Well, I decided if that was all the further my nine-to-five routine was getting me, it was time to let go of it. So with little hesitation I did just that! From then on I managed to augment my husband's salary by cashing in on my love of horses. My years of training in riding, combined with my teaching experience, blended to produce a career instructing young horsemen and -women that not only gave me an income but provided me with lots of outdoor activity as well. My new "job" also afforded me more leisure time to develop home and garden skills that helped to stretch what money I did bring home.

What's more, my new occupation eliminated our need for a second family vehicle, so I was able to barter my car for two acres of remote New Hampshire land. Of course, once we acquired that property, we immediately wanted to relocate to it ...and upon closer examination of my husband's earnings, we realized that the idea of simply packing up and trying to make do in a rural setting wasn't too farfetched at all!

The following list demonstrates how much of his income was being used each year to do no more than maintain our (unloved!) lifestyle:

Salary                            $16,550
State and federal taxes  $1,800
Mortgage ($235/mo)        2,820
Property taxes            1,200
Electricity ($75/mo)        900
Telephone ($40/mo)          480
Oil heat                  1,000
Truck payment ($107/mo)   1,284
Gasoline                  1,200
Truck repair, misc          360
Vehicle insurance           350
Food ($250/mo)            3,000
Dining, local travel      1,200
Clothing                    480
Total work expenses:    $16,074
Net spendable income:               $476

Faced with those facts, we made the decision to abandon our suburban way of life, so we sold our house and moved onto the two wholly owned country acres on which we built a small, mortgage-free camp. I now cook with bottled gas for a mere $6.00 a month. Our light is produced by economical kerosene lanterns. A small barrel stove has taken the place of a costly oil furnace. Wood obtained through barter provides all our heat. A brook on our property supplies all the water we need.

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