Employees spend more than $3,000 a year just to go to work, survey shows

Childcare, clothing costs top the list

Posted June 21, 2016

The simple act of going to work — waking up, getting dressed, jumping in your car, dropping the kids off at daycare, grabbing coffee — takes a bite out of your paycheck. How much? According to a new CareerBuilder survey, the average amount of money people spend to go to work each month is $276, or around $3,300 per year. Similarly, when it comes to searching for a new job, beyond dedication and determination, for many finding a new position requires a financial investment. One in 5 workers (19 percent) said it cost them money just to find a job. Of these workers, (27 percent) said it cost them $200 or more.

The national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder between February 10 and March 17, 2016, and included a representative sample of 3,031 full time, U.S. workers in the private sector across industries and company sizes.

“The cost of work is often what the rest of your budget is centered around,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “Knowing how much it amounts to can help you trim costs and make different lifestyle choices if need be. You can vow to carry lunch to work every day, stop buying coffee out, look for cheaper business clothes. Managing those costs can help account for others, like commuting and childcare, which won’t subside.”

Breaking Down Everyday Expenses


The majority of workers (84 percent) typically commute to work by driving. Thirty-seven percent of these employees spend $25 or more a week on gas, while the majority (63 percent) spend less than $25 on gas a week:

Less than $10: 17 percent

$10 to less than $25: 47 percent

$25 to less than $50: 30 percent

$50 or more: 7 percent

Public Transportation

Of those that take public transportation (7 percent), nearly half (47 percent) spend $25 or more on fare per week:

Less than $10: 19 percent

$10 to less than $25: 34 percent

$25 to less than $50: 33 percent

$50 or more: 14 percent


While most workers (72 percent) say they bring their lunch to work, half of employees that buy their lunch (50 percent) spend $25 or more on it a week:

Less than $10: 19 percent

$10 to less than $25: 31 percent

$25 to less than $50: 37 percent

$50 or more 13 percent


Among working parents with children 18 years old and younger living at home with them, 29 percent say they spend money on daycare per month. Of these working parents who spend money on daycare, more than 1 in 3 (36 percent) spend $500 or more per month on daycare:

Less than $250: 31 percent

$250 to $499: 32 percent

$500 to less than $1,000: 26 percent

$1,000 or more: 10 percent

Pet Care

Fifty-eight percent of workers say they have a pet. Of these, more than half spend less than $10 per week on pet care:

Less than $10: 52 percent

$10 to less than $25: 33 percent

$25 to less than $50: 12 percent

$50 or more: 3 percent


Half of workers (49 percent) buy coffee during a typical work week. Of these workers, the spend is:

Less than $10: 71 percent

$10 to less than $25: 25 percent

$25 or more: 3 percent

Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories

When asked how much they spend on clothing, shoes, and accessories for work in a given year, nearly half (47 percent) spend $250 or more; nearly 1 in 4 (24 percent) spend $500 or more; and more than 1 in 10 employees (13 percent) spend $750 or more:

Less than $250: 53 percent

$250 to $499: 24 percent

$500 to $749: 11 percent

$750 to $999: 5 percent

$1,000 to $1,499: 4 percent

$1,500 to $1,999: 1 percent

$2,000 or more: 2 percent

Paying to Get Paid

Slightly more than 8 in 10 workers (81 percent) say they did not incur any costs the last time they looked for a new job; but, of those who did incur costs, many (27 percent) have had to spend $200 or more to purchase items, including:

Clothing: 68 percent

Transportation: 49 percent

Printing (resumes, cover letters, etc.): 44 percent

Travel: 40 percent

Networking events: 7 percent

Computer hardware/software: 6 percent

Recruiters: 5 percent

When asked what they spent the most money on during their job search, most employees who incurred costs said clothes, followed by transportation and travel:

Clothing: 39 percent

Transportation: 22 percent

Travel: 21 percent

Printing (resumes, cover letters, etc.): 7 percent

Recruiters: 1 percent

Computer hardware/software: 1 percent

Networking events: Less than 1 percent

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 3,031 workers ages 18 and over (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) between February 10 and March 17, 2016 (percentages for some questions are based on a subset, based on their responses to certain questions). With a pure probability sample of 3,031, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.78 percentage points. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.


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