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When is a job not worth the money?

By Naomi Mannino ·
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Posted: 5 pm ET

The expression "It takes money to make money" is true, whether you're self-employed, unemployed or work full time.

Office workers spend about $195 per week on expenses associated with commuting and purchases near their office buildings, according to a study released last week by the International Council of Shopping Centers. That's a big chunk of change, especially if you're working on a part-time basis.

We all do indeed spend money -- on items such as gasoline and lunch -- in order to make money. When my other half is not working, he definitely spends a lot less of our combined cash for his gas, building materials, tolls, food and impulse snack purchases. (Some of these work-related expenses can be used as itemized deductions on your tax return.)

The study also found that in markets with more retail offerings, total spending was about 2.5 times higher than markets with limited offerings. That's true for my family, too: My husband spends more eating at a nice restaurant or going to a movie if the possibility exists.

But when do the expenses of a job make it not worth the money? We've heard unemployment claims are dropping, but what if the jobs don't pay better than unemployment benefits? According to an article in The Detroit News last year, employers found prospective employees turning down jobs that paid the same or less than unemployment benefits they were  receiving.

So what's your take on this true scenario: Recently, a commercial renovation company offered a career opportunity to a skilled carpenter. He was to earn $15 per hour to drive his own truck around the state and use his own tools and gasoline with no reimbursement. He would stay in a hotel for and work an on-call, at-will schedule. For this type of work, the standard is for a company to provide a vehicle, gas reimbursement, credit card for expenses and hotel room. It's also standard to give workers a daily stipend for food and other expenses.

Given how much money he would be spending to work this job, do you think he should have accepted the offer? Does your opinion differ if he is or is not on unemployment or is or is not working?

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March 22, 2012 at 10:14 am

No kidding the high cost of living ,no wonder so many are on unemployment when u got terms like this...rediculous.

March 22, 2012 at 9:31 am

Likely the carpenter should have done two things:

1. Refused the offer
2. Contact the state Attorney General's office
3. Contact a local newspaper

Given the terms of employment, it's not unlikely that he could end up losing money. I don't know much about labor laws, but this sounds exploitative.

March 22, 2012 at 9:05 am

The carpenter should not accept the offer. The offer (in the abscense of a minimum number of hours and reimbursement for expenses) is ridiculous.

Childcare costs are often a strong consideration when evaluating a job offer. If a job offer is $30k per year and child care is $300 per week, you might want to pass on it.