Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Evaluating a Developer Job Offer Part 5: Extra Perks

Few decisions can have a larger impact on your financial life as a software developer than accepting (or not accepting) a new job. Today we'll examine a few of the extra perks and other incentives a new job might include. This is part five of an essay on the financial considerations when evaluating a software developer job offer. Just tuning in now? You can jump to the beginning to learn the risks of taking a new job.

Besides the benefits you expect, many businesses offer perks above and beyond mere vacation time. By factoring in these benefits, you can get a clearer idea of how much aspects of your new job will cost and whether or not these benefits actually benefit you.

Lunch and Snacks

When I worked at AMD a long time ago, my department decided to make our vending machines free. Like the other buildings, we had a coke machine and one of those snack machines with the spirals that sometime would leave your bag of Hot Fries dangling instead of pushing it into the tray. Unlike the other buildings, money wasn’t required to dispense anything. We all thought it was an amazing benefit, and I put on six pounds eating too many bags of Cheetos.
Ribeye paired with @Blacktoothbrew and @pineyriverbrew @greatamericanbeerfestival #gabf
It was so cool that folks in other departments would risk getting chewed out by our director to get free diet cokes.

When I later moved to Freescale, I was shocked to discover that they didn’t even offer free coffee. A few enterprising engineers banded together to form coffee co-ops, but the non-members had to either scrounge up their own materials or visit the on-site Seattle’s Best Coffee.

Today, it’s becoming more common for software firms to offer free catered lunches, fresh fruit, and gourmet snacks to their employees. I think this is a pretty good benefit for both employees and the employer, but the value to you may depend on your lunch habits. If you like to bring your own lunch and eat at your desk, it might have no value to you. If you enjoy eating with your coworkers, and don’t want to pack your own lunch, it could save you lots of time and maybe a couple thousand dollars a year.

The calculation is pretty easy, just take into account your vacation and holidays and any cost of living differences. For example:

46 weeks * 5 days * $10 per lunch = $2,300

Transportation and Parking

It is fairly common for businesses in the San Francisco area to have private busses that drive you to and from your home. They often feature free coffee and wifi. But don’t assume that they are a cure for a long commute! I’ve heard that some companies only run the busses twice a day: once to work and once from work. Some companies arrange the schedule so that riders have to put in nearly twelve hour days. Be sure to ask questions so that you don't become a bus slave.

Some companies also will pay for passes to use public transportation. If taking public transportation makes sense for you, that could be a nice benefit.
Storm on the Mississippi
Another benefit (which might reflect a cost of living expense too), is parking. If an employer is in an urban area a free parking lot isn’t a given. Some employers have contracts with parking garages to offer their employees free or low-cost parking. If you’re planning to drive to work, parking can be a significant expense. If you’re planning to live near work, free parking might make owning a car more practical.

These benefits are nice, but probably don’t provide a huge value unless they help you go carless.


If you’re moving from one city to another to take a job, you may be offered relocation. This is generally offered as a choice of lump sum, or a package covered by the employer. The package usually means that the company hires movers for you, although sometimes they will also pay for other expenses: travel costs to visit the area before moving, closing costs to sell your house, corporate housing for a few weeks in the new city.

Relocation is really about breaking even on the move, so it is more of a concern when it doesn’t exist, or if it is inadequate to your needs.

Another important subject to consider is equity, which is the topic of the next segment... 

So you can get your offer down to the bare numbers, I've created a spreadsheet that will guide you through the process of comparing the financial details of your current job to a new offer. Fill out your email below to see how you offer compares to your current job. Don't worry, I won't sell or share your email.

Is your job offer a real improvement?

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