Budgeting / Credit Cards and Debt / Personal Finance

Fix Your Finances in 30 Days

Day 5: How Much Did You Work Last Year?

Yesterday, we calculated the actual cost of our employment over a given year – and were surprised to discover how little it actually is. Once you remove all of the work-related expenses, such as the commute, the wardrobe, the extra meals, and the child care, the actual income you get from your job is ominously low.

Today, we’re going to look at our work from a different angle: time. We need to get an accurate picture of how much time you spend in a year chasing the money you make. At first glance, this seems almost automatic, but let’s look at it a bit more closely.

As usual, take out a sheet of paper. Along the top, make a list of each of your employments and, along the far right, write how many hours you actually spend at work (include your lunch break) in a given year. Don’t include vacation time. If you work overtime some of the time, just estimate what an average day looks like, then calculate how many days you work in a year (total days minus holidays and vacation), then multiply the two numbers together.

Now, underneath your time spent at work, list every other activity you do in relation to your work. The list you made yesterday might help, but give the question some thought. List everything that you do that you wouldn’t otherwise do if it wasn’t for your job. For example, if you travel, you can list almost all of your nonworking waking hours. You can list the time it takes to travel to and from work. You can list the time you have to deal with child care. You can list the time you spend shopping for work clothes, or time you spend going out for business dinners, or time you spend doing “optional” training.

For example, here’s my list:
Child care
Working outside the office
Business travel
Business dinners / parties

If you haven’t already, for each of these activities, list the number of hours you spend on them in a year. Put these in next to each item, but over on the right hand side of the page under the time you spend at work in a year. I find that for many of these items, it’s easier to figure out how much you invest in these things each day (like the commute or the child care connection), then multiply it out by the number of days you work in a year.

Now, total all of the numbers on the right. That’s how many hours you actually spend working in a year. Divide it by 52 to get your weekly total, or by 365 to get your daily total (realize that this daily total does include weekends; if you want to exclude them, divide it by 260 to get only weekdays, or by 250 to exclude ten holidays – you may also want to subtract your vacation days from that total, too). For me, this number was a real eye-opener, as I began to realize how much of my time really is taken up by my chase for more money.

Spend some time thinking about this exercise and what it means. You spend all of this time working your tail off and yet you still find yourself in financial trouble. I spend an average of 70 hours a week working just to keep my job. What things could I do if I didn’t have this time investment? What sort of things could I do if I did a low-wage job just down the block? I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions, but it is a question worth thinking about.

Tomorrow, we’re going to see how much your time is worth – and what that really means.

Today’s Assignment

Document the number of hours you estimate you spend at work each day (including lunch and other breaks) and then multiply by the number of days you work a year. Write down all of the activities you do related to work. Account for all of the hours you do to take care of these work related extraneous items. Total all of the numbers to determine how many hours you spend related to work each week.

Ready? Let’s continue on to the next day.