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Real Earnings Analysis for my PRN Job

Sometimes when I’m coming home from my job at the hospital, I find myself musing on what Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin said about real earnings in Your Money or Your Life. They suggest that you look at how much it costs you to work and then consider your earnings based on that.

I’m PRN, which means that I work as much as I’m needed on the days I’m scheduled. If no babies have been born, then I might find myself turning around and coming right back (though normally I can find something to do for an hour, or work in the NICU). Other days, I come in and find 10 new babies plus NICU work which means I’ve got plenty to do.

I decided to do an analysis of travel costs, just to see how the numbers stacked up. On every day I metro to work, Micah also has work at the university, which means that we do the driving part together.

The metro station is about 2 miles of city driving from our house. Given that our car gets about 22-25mpg city, we’ll say that comes out to $0.50 in gas and wear/tear (gas has plummeted sharply, however, so this figure will go down).

Then I pay the $1.95 rush hour fare to metro to work. But because I’m only there a half-day or so, I don’t have to pay rush hour prices when I ride back around lunchtime. So that trip costs $1.35. Then there’s the cost of driving back home. We’ll say another $0.50.

When Micah finishes work, he takes the bus back for $1.25 (using his SmarTrip card because it’s $1.35 without one).

So for every day we commute together, we pay $5.55 total. Micah’s commute costs about $1.50 of that, half of the drive there and then bus fare (though he’d only cost $1.00 if he simply drove without me and then drove back). For me, it costs $4.05.

On Saturdays I drive because I don’t trust the metro not to be under construction. This actually costs less than $4.05, but the free parking I use costs $10-25 during the week, depending on how many hours I stay.

Unfortunately, I can’t break these down by how much it costs per hour, since I’m PRN and don’t have set hours. Some days it eats significantly into my earnings and others it’s not a problem.

Then there’s the consideration of time/stress. My whole trip including metro and then a shuttle bus takes me about 45 minutes each way. That could be considered wasted time except that early on I set it aside as my novel reading time. So it actually makes me happy to spend the time. Otherwise if I were following the book’s model, I would add that in to hours worked and divide my real earnings by the total hours.

Sometimes I get stressed out about a test who isn’t going well or having to work with parents who are incredibly nervous about the result. And telling a parent their child needs a follow-up hearing test rarely goes well.

All in all, is that job worth keeping? Some weeks, it doesn’t make huge financial sense. If I only get in an hour of work on a day, then I’m making a few bucks after commuting costs. On the other hand, I have to work on those days to keep my job for the days when I get in plenty of work.

If there weren’t free parking near the metro on weekdays and then near the hospital on weekends, if I bought my lunches, if there were other costs associated with work (I don’t count clothes, since I wear the same ones to the library), the job would quickly lose its worth. As it is, I think the biggest reason I keep it is so that I can count on (sort of) a certain income every month. Somehow the short days and long days always manage to balance out to something that’s fairly consistent.

What about you, have you ever considered giving up a job because the cost lowered your real earnings too much?

{ 3 trackbacks }

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Stacey October 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Yes! I was holding on to a part-time job from college for “security” as I started freelance writing… until I sat down and realized that it was costing me $10 to get there and earn $45 after taxes. The gas and TurnPike tolls were killing our budget.

I first tried to transfer to a store closer to my home (no openings), and then tried to work longer shifts (wouldn’t allow me to). When that didn’t work out I gave my two-week’s notice.

I’m fortunate that we have my husband’s full-time paycheck, which made the transition to freelancing much easier. I do feel sorry for the people who have no choice to keep their commuting jobs – but encourage them to do the math and explore their options. It’s ironic, but I now have more “take home” pay with a lower paying job based at home.

deepali October 21, 2008 at 2:32 pm

If I worked anywhere not on a metro or not walking distance, I was definitely reconsider. But luckily, I can walk when I’m not feeling lazy. 🙂

Laurie October 21, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Even people with high paying jobs should perform this check.

It makes me CRAZY how many mothers are working “because they have to.” It has been proven time and again that it actually costs many of them money TO work – especially if they are making minimum wage while paying childcare. The general rule is that a mother with 2 small children needs to make mid $40k to even consider working (unless free childcare is in the works).

I quit my $75k a year career after having my 2nd child. By the time you figured taxes (my income was highly taxed as hubby makes a good income), commute, clothes, eating out more, childcare, increased dry cleaning and convenience foods I was making $8 per hour.

While that would have been fine in a low responsibility low travel, short commute, I was in a high stress, high travel, long commute job. Totally not worth being away from my kids most of them time when I was only really bringing home about $1280 a month.

It was hard for about 6 months to stick to our budget (this was 4 years ago) but by years end, we didn’t even miss the money.

I’m lucky that my husband makes a good salary and I could consider this – but it also would never have been possible had we carried car notes or credit card debt or student loans.

What is funny is that my old co-workers think my husband makes more than their husbands (he didn’t, until very recently) and that is why I get to stay home. UM NO! It is called a budget and not having new cars!

Dominique October 21, 2008 at 10:53 pm

I am presently trying working from home and find that it really makes more sense then working outside and having to pay hefty childcare fees + transportation. Hope to get more freelance jobs and get back the pay to when I was working full time minus all the related stress 🙂

Trixie October 22, 2008 at 9:31 am


Very interesting post! Thank you for sharing.

I have a tax business and run into situations like this with my clients all the time.

Laurie is so right about a mom of 2 small kids needing to earn in the mid 40’s to justify working. Even in that range you would still be working for peanuts. Is $2-$5 an hour really worth it??

Most of my mom clients could quit and be better off for it.

Take Care,


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