The Cost of Working

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The benefits of having a job are obvious.

It gives us an income so that we can receive and retain some form on independence, and gives us options and flexibility in all sorts of ways.

But there are costs to working (some obvious; others less so) that chip away at our pay packets and well-being, and could have quite the detrimental effect on our physical and mental health.

It’s one of the big reasons people follow and adopt of the principles of the FIRE movement; to mitigate or avoid completely the below in order discover freedom and independence without feeling the effects of the cost of working


The costs of childcare are astronomical.

According to Money Saving Expert (MSE), sending a child under the age of 2 to nursery, full-time costs on average, £242 a week. That’s a huge chunk of most people’s wages just to plonk your little one to one side for a few hours while you earn your slither of cheddar.

This means anyone paying this amount, on the average wage, is spending 1/3 – 1/2 their working days (while the child is that age) just paying for childcare, and this is before commuting, living and housing costs come into consideration.

Of course, hopefully parents will be able to receive some sort of childcare benefits or vouchers through the various government schemes, or the other spouse will be earning well enough so that the other can quit work or drop down to part-time, but many aren’t lucky enough to have those options.

If you’re in this position, check our MSE’s article here to find out how you can save on childcare, or even get it for free.


This one is probably still being helped by many of us working from home, or at least partially if your employers are being stubborn and trying to get everyone back in full-time for some reason.

Petrol and/or public transport costs can be astronomical for many of us having to do a regular jaunt to a work location that’s too far from home to walk or cycle.

It was only last week that National Rail began offering a flexi-season ticket. But after probably getting a little excited about being able to save money on bulk travel, while not having to buy the full month or year passes, many commuters found the savings to be negligible; a further testament to the state of our country’s railway networks.

Things don’t get much better for drivers either.

According to a survey commissioned by EDF Energy, the average commuter will spend £56k on petrol over their lifetime.

Obviously this doesn’t just include petrol to get to and from work, but when the average person spends around 3,507 days working across the same period, huge amounts of that sum will be spent on the ‘privilege’ of just getting to and from the workplace.


Your mental and physical health should be considered another cost of working.

You’d probably immediately think of physically demanding jobs as being the biggest risks to a person’s physical health. But sat in a chair for 8 hours a day, for 40 years of your life, can have hugely negative effects on your physical well-being.

Sitting too much can literally lead you to an early grave…(which, in turn, just leads to just more lying down).

Increased risks of arthritis, obesity, heart disease, muscular-skeletal disorders, and all manner of physical ailments that you might not realise until it’s too late.

And this is before we take into consideration the dangerous, overtly physically demanding jobs out there where workers face many dangers day in, day out.

It’s not just your body that this could take a toll on either.

Working can take a massive toll on your mental health. Whether due to the monotony of doing similar things each and every day, or due to stresses put on you by external forces (managers, customers, wider economic pressures, time constraints etc.).

Working so relentlessly is just not good for us.


We’re in an environmental crisis seen at no other point in human history.

A record number of humans means a record number of people travelling to and from work on a daily basis, and spending and destroying finite resources in order to produce goods for their respective companies.

This is having a catastrophic effect on air quality, local and global environments, as well as habitat and wildlife numbers.

As habitats make way for housing, and forestry makes way for factories, our ceaseless pursuit of a material utopia rests for no living thing; this even goes for other unfortunate human beings who are displaced for new Amazon warehouses, or having their local rural area overrun by big grey buildings (the Amazon one is happening right next to me at this very moment).


And finally, the one that underpins it all…our freedom.

Aptly personified in The Escape Artist’s site name and overarching theme, we’re spending more time on the hamster wheel than we do with the people we most care about.

In this perverse twist of the knife, not only does work keep you beholden to the necessity of a monthly wage, but because you’re expected to turn up work at these seemingly arbitrary hours, you’re actually having to get permission from a complete random just to spend a week away with your spouse and kids.

If none of the above points peruaded you to read up more about FIRE, then this point surely does.

I suppose I’m bringing this all up as I just don’t think it’s healthy for human beings to be working as much and as relentlessly as we do.

Some companies are even trialling 4-day working weeks, which gives a glimmer of hope to a very dreary looking future of further austerity, and wages that don’t keep up with living costs.

Working is obviously a necessity. But life just seems like it must be more than this incessant drive for constant economic growth and the accumulation of material goods without an end goal in mind, and without a care for its wider social and environmental impact.

Yes, there’s been a huge awareness drive on certain socio-environmental issues over the last few decades, but it just isn’t enough. Without a change in mindset, or complete overhaul in what we view as the life worth living, things just won’t change.

Maybe I’ve been listening to too much of Brian Cox’s Infinite Monkey Cage podcast, but I just feel like our life goals are widely misplaced with the infinite possibilities to better ourselves are a one human race than constantly wishing for that next brand new car.

This is too much of a nuanced and involved subject to properly go into in one sappy conclusion, but when I see people driven purely by the material comparison of them vs their peers, I just feel a little bit sad.

If we could dedicate more time to each other, and bettering ourselves, or furthering human knowledge and wonder (without destroying the earth), we could spend less time on paying to make someone else more money.

Meh. I don’t know. It’s just an idea.

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