We think of employment as money coming-in, but what if we told you employment also means money going-out? We explore the hidden costs of employment. 

Most of us associate employment with the paychecks we receive at the end of every month. However, we fail to consider the amount we spend in the course of carrying out our jobs. The truth is, that there are significant costs that come with employment. Employees have bills and expenses that they would not necessarily have, if they were not in full time employment or if they worked in a freelance capacity from home. Below are some of the hidden costs, you may not have considered when taking up employment, and the ways you are paying to work.

1. Lunch, Dinner, Takeout, and Coffee

How many of us working Malaysians eat out for lunch? We could spend RM 20 per day for lunch, without blinking an eye. We may even spend an additional RM 10 on coffee, if we are feeling groggy at work.

And after a long day at work, we are just too tired to cook our own dinner. Instead, we may order takeout from GrabFood or FoodPanda. If we have slightly more energy, we may go out for dinner.

However, the cost of buying these meals on a daily basis, can add up, and eats into a large chunk of our salary. Lets put it this way, if you were to prepare all those meals, yourself at home, you’d save a significant amount in expenses.

2. Commuting To And From Work

If you live within walking distance from your office, you are lucky. Unfortunately, most of us staying in the Klang Valley spend a significant amount of time and money commuting to work.

I spend about RM 220 a month, on parking and approximately RM 200 a month on petrol from my travels to work. On top of all that I spend about 1 hour and 30 minutes travelling to work, largely due to the rush hour traffic jam.

There are also many indirect expenses that I incur. The stop-start driving in traffic jams has led to an increased cost of repairs to my vehicle.

There is the option of using the LRT or MRT especially with the RM 100 pass offered for unlimited travel in the Klang Valley. However, using public transport may be inconvenient and time consuming, especially if you have to lug heavy items to and from work or if you do not live near an LRT or MRT station.

3. Professional Wear

Let’s face it, working Malaysians have to spend on office wear. Our bosses expect us to look presentable at work. So we spend, to improve our wardrobes, with suits, shirts, and shoes. Unfortunately, most employers do not pay a wardrobe allowance and therefore employees have to fork out their own money to look presentable for their bosses.

4. Medical Conditions Down The Line

A job can be stressful. Some of us work grueling hours. You may be sleep deprived, you may neglect your exercise routines and you may binge eat due to your commitment to work. Over time, this may lead to serious medical conditions such as depression and heart disease.

Let’s face it, healthcare in Malaysia (especially in the private sector) is incredibly expensive. While you won’t see the effects immediately, you may end up spending all your money paying for medical bills.

5. Services That Make Our Lives Easier

The less time you have, the more likely you’ll pay for services that make your life easier. You may send your clothes for dry cleaning, or you may hire a maid, or you may buy your groceries from the most convenient grocery store, instead of buying at the one that offers the best value for money.

6. Retirements, Farewells, Birthdays And Office Events

Workmate events, and workplace events are never ending in any large corporation. There is always either a retirement party, or a farewell party, or a birthday party, or an office event where you have to fork out your money either directly, or indirectly.

Think about it. How many times have you been asked to contribute to somebody’s retirement gift? Or how many times have you paid for a Grab to attend an office party? Of course, I’m happy to contribute for all these events for my friends, co-workers and bosses in the office. But ultimately, these expenses add up to a sizable amount of money.

7. Taxes

Taxes are for the benefit of society, and it is a personal expense everyone has to bear. Whether you are rich or poor, you pay taxes, either directly or indirectly.

However, employees should realize that income derived from employment is taxed at a much higher rate than many forms of passive income. Think about it. You do not pay any personal tax on the dividends you earn from stocks, but you are taxed a significant amount on your earned income. Although for the greater good of society, the fact remains that taxes are still an added cost of working.


All these expenses combined, add up to a significant amount of money. Employees, are in a sense paying to work. I’ve set out an example of the monthly workplace expenditure, of an average Malaysian millennial in the Klang Valley below. Of course, some expenses are intangible and cannot be calculated, such as future health conditions, so I will exclude it from my example.

Crazy right? Unfortunately, unless, you can find other ways to earn a living without physically going to work, you will still have to bear most of these work-related expenses. Therefore, the best you can do, is to minimise your workplace expenditure.

Cut out your RM 10 coffee, and instead, make your own instant coffee in the office. Instead of spending RM 20 on lunch every day, spend RM 10. Instead of ordering takeout for dinner, bulk cook your weekday dinners over the weekend.


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What other costs of being employed have we missed out? Let us know in the comments below.