What’s the Cost of Living via the Gig Economy? An Imagined Gig Life.

I consider myself to be fairly economical. I cringe to order a car when my train pass is in perfectly working condition. I’ll put on snow boots and walk to the local pizza place in freezing weather if it means avoiding a delivery fee.

Our growing dependence on the gig economy—the labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs—gives a cheapskate like me the chills. Do I hate grocery shopping? Yes. Do I want to pay the upcharge to have green peppers and kettle corn delivered to my door? Unlikely.

In this blog, I’ll be imagining the weekly budget of someone who relies solely on the gig economy to accomplish menial tasks and favors; laundry, groceries, workday commute, ordering out. Prices are estimates that would be subject to change according to the user’s location, the time of day and the specific service provider utilized.

Transportation

I have a 26- to 30-minute driving commute when traffic is decent, which is close to the average among U.S. cities. According to a 2014 Chicago Tribune article, Chicago is fortunate to be one of the cheapest cities for UberX, costing anywhere from $14 to $19 for the eight-mile trip. To take an UberX to and from the office would cost me $140-190 every week, and we’ll consider the average, $165, to be my total.

Factoring in rides to and from weekend plans would cost an extra $28 to $40. I calculated this number by figuring that I hang out at distances that are half as far from my home as work is, meaning the standard price of a ride would be half as expensive. (This would vary depending on surge times and type of ride.) Again, we’ll consider the average of those two numbers: $34.

Transportation costs for work and play come out to $199, and this is assuming the fictional version of me does nothing on the weeknights.

Groceries

I purchase groceries on a weekly basis, typically opting for some fresh fruit, frozen vegetables, meat, dairy, breakfast items and a few snacks. I created a cart on Peapod featuring items that would stand as a typical grocery trip for me. The total came out to $91.75, which includes the $7.95 delivery fee and the $1.58 tax.

It’s difficult to know exactly how these online prices compare to their in-store counterparts. Instacart has been known to upcharge, while Peapod claims to price groceries according to your area’s average. It appears as though the priciest item on the list is convenience.

Eating Out

As I said, I try to limit the portion of my income I consider to be expendable. Especially with the aforementioned $91/week grocery bill, it’s unlikely I’d frequent restaurants outside of my kitchen.

For the sake of this article, we’ll pretend I order food from Grubhub three nights a week, accruing charges for delivery, tax and tip. A cheeseburger, fries and a drink from a local restaurant adds up to $10.48, with a $5.00 delivery fee.

With tax and tip, I’m paying around $19.58 per meal. To fulfill my three-meal-a-week goal, I’d have to spend $58.74, assuming I ordered the same cheeseburger every night. To be fair, I wouldn’t, but I’d rather not bore you with a rundown of my dietary choices.

Favors and Tasks

 The last portion of this rundown is dependent on user-specific needs.

DRYV, the dry cleaning and delivery service, charges $17.50 for the first 10 pounds of laundry done.

Favor apps such as TaskRabbit pair those in need of various errands with “Taskers” who can accomplish them. To have my two-bedroom apartment cleaned for one hour would cost me $40.50.

The dog-walking app Wag will walk my dog for an hour for $40.

To get Dolly to send two helpers to move a couch to a friend’s place four miles away, I will have to pay $83.

For this admittedly busy week of favors and tasks, I’d pay $181.

The numbers are:
  • Transportation — $199
  • Groceries — $91.75
  • Eating Out — $58.74
  • Favors and Tasks — $181

Grand total — $530.49

For a week of doing absolutely no menial tasks by myself, I’d have to pay $530.49. For the sake of personal pride, I won’t tell you what portion this is of my income. I will say this budget would keep me from making rent.

It’s attractive — the thought of laundry pickup and a personal chauffeur. The gig economy has made us believe these things aren’t luxuries. One $8 ride home on a Friday night certainly shouldn’t break the bank, and all our friends are doing it. But when all things are considered in tandem, it’s really not a reasonable lifestyle for those who lack significant expendable income.

Perhaps this life is attractive and, more importantly, attainable for some. I know my limitations, and these habits exceed them. In conclusion, I’ll stick to walking a mile with bags of vegetables on both arms. I’ll pay for my laundry in quarters. And I will always walk to pick up my pizza.


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