Thinking of Changing Jobs? Consider These Hidden Costs First

costs of switching jobs

Joanne Poh



For many people, the choice of whether to leave one job for another is a no-brainer. Like a gold-digger deciding on his or her next victim, weighing up the pros and cons is just a matter of simple math, comparing one salary to another, right? Well, consider these hidden costs of your potential new job and you just might be surprised.

1. Commuting

The costs of commuting are often overlooked, especially in a small country like Singapore. But consider the fact that the average person spends more than an hour commuting to work each day. That’s more than 20 hours a month.

If you drive to work, you probably already pay a significant amount for season parking. While working in suburban areas can often get you a month’s worth of parking for under $100, if you work in the CBD this number can escalate to over $350 a month. If you earn $4,500 a month, that’s a whopping 10% of your take-home salary after CPF deductions, even before factoring in the cost of petrol and ERP charges.

Calculate the amount you’ll be paying in ERP, the cost of fuel and the time taken to travel to the new job you’re considering. Of course, if you are working in the one place in Singapore that is not completely clogged with traffic during rush hour, that might be reason enough to take the job….

If you rely on public transport to get to work, you probably won’t be as affected in terms of upfront costs, especially if you have one of the EZ-Link season passes, but you might want to consider any additional time you will have to spend commuting.

2. Insurance and Other Benefits

Unless your employer was a total schmuck, you were probably eligible for some benefits such as health insurance, use of a company doctor, reimbursement for some medical costs or other allowances, including phone and transport.

Most people don’t ask for a rundown of the benefits they’ll be entitled to during an interview, and unless you have special concerns, such as transport home after working the night shift, you probably didn’t, either.

Once you receive an official offer, however, it’s completely acceptable to ask HR about the benefits you’ll be getting without seeming presumptuous. You’ll also want to find out if you’ll be eligible for any portable medical benefits when you finally do leave, which give you a bit more security if you’re jobless after leaving the job by letting you extend your insurance policy or beefing up your Medisave account.

3. Professional Clothes

Your new job might have you fantasising about becoming a corporate high flyer, but if your wardrobe consists mainly of tshirts valued more for their cheeky slogans than their thread count, get ready to make an investment.

If you’ll be working in a big corporate organisation with people who use terms like  “core competency” and “due diligence”, then it’s probably wise to factor in the cost of new office clothes that don’t make you look like a secondary school student at your first internship.

Dressing up for work also extends to your hairstyle and accessories such as watches and wallets. I once used a Ziploc bag as a wallet, which probably did not go down well with the company.

4. Lunchtime Options

The location of your office will have an impact on how much you spend on lunch each day. While you can easily have a filing meal for under $3 in a Toa Payoh HDB estate, if you work at Raffles Place you’ll discover that many of your colleagues spend more than $10 each day at lunch.

Work in a far-flung area like Tuas or Changi and you can expect your lunchtime options to be limited.

Some workplaces might even have their own staff canteens, which are typically much cheaper to eat at.

If you don’t have the discipline to pack your own lunch or go it alone, you’ll have to consider the cost of eating lunch with your colleagues each day. This means that just because you are happy eating $2 fish porridge at the market doesn’t mean they will be.

5. Time

Time is money, and this has never been truer than in the present day, where technology allows the average person to run any number of side businesses after office hours.

Focusing only on your new and improved salary may mean you’ll get a rude shock when you discover that working till midnight is the norm in your new company, or that your commute takes two hours each way.

If you agree to work an extra 4 hours each day in order to earn an extra $800 per month, you’re actually earning only $10 per additional hour you work.

Consider also if you have other streams of income you might have to give up in a more demanding job.

I used to choose less demanding positions and make up the difference in salary by freelancing or tutoring kids in the night, which was much less taxing overall than a more demanding position that would have required me to put in an extra 4 to 8 hours at work each day.

That’s not for everyone, but it’s important to know exactly what you’re giving up in terms of time, or else you risk becoming another one of Singapore’s angry employees.

What are the factors you consider when you get a job offer? Let us know in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.