Several months ago I helped a friend gain control of her finances.  Working full-time was talking a toll on her homemaking and her finances so I offered some help and she took me up on it.

After sorting through financial papers and receipts, she confessed that she hadn’t balanced the checkbook in years.  She was honestly afraid of what the facts would tell her if she did.  I offered to get her started using the Quicken software that was already on her computer.  She agreed, so while she went through other paperwork, I set out to put all of her debit card expenses from the past month into Quicken.

After 45 minutes of data entry that included assigning a category to each expense, the month was complete.  I could tell that eating out was a budget buster for her just by the number of receipts I entered.  I suggested to her that when she was ready to face the facts, she should run a report on the category of eating out just so she could be aware of what she was spending. 

She took a deep breath and said, “Run the report, Jill. I need to know.”  I pushed a couple of buttons and the truth was right in front of both of us.  That month she had spent $1500 on restaurant food–sometimes eating at the restaurant and sometimes getting take out to bring home!  I thought I was going to have to use smelling salts to revive her as she nearly passed out from the reality staring her in the face!

Her next statement was the killer though.  “Jill, that’s almost twice what I bring home from my job as a teacher’s assistant!  We’re eating out because I’m so tired from being gone all day.  Therefore my job is not bringing in income.  It’s actually costing us about $700/month!  There’s something very wrong with this picture.”

Yes, indeed there was.

Her husband had reluctantly agreed that she could quit her job several weeks before our “get organized” day.  It was wearing on her emotionally and she longed for more margin in her life so she could better take care of her home and family. 

She now had the financial proof that she really hadn’t been adding anything to the family income…in fact, she was taking away from it!  We printed out the report so she could share it with her husband that night. 

Every double income family should do an evaluation of “the cost of work.”  Certainly, this particular mom was not in a high paying job and that greatly affected the numbers.  But this situation is not rare at all.  Her full-time job was leaving her too tired to manage the house, manage the meals, and manage the money.  All of that lack of management was costing their family money.

I recently caught up with this friend after four months of being at home.  This is what she said, “I’ve almost got my house back under control after months of decluttering.  We’re definitely eating at home more often, but not as often as I’d like.  I’m managing my spending better than I have for the eleven years I worked.  I feel like I’m on my way to reclaiming my life and my sanity!”

What about you?  Have you ever considered how much work costs you?  Have you ever made any financial discoveries like this that have opened your eyes to the reality of your spending habits?

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