286 comments

The True Cost of Commuting

 It was a beautiful evening in my neighborhood, and I was enjoying one of my giant homebrews on a deck chair I had placed in the middle of the street, as part of a nearby block’s Annual Street Party.

I was talking to a couple I had just met, and the topic turned to the beauty of the neighborhood. “Wow, I didn’t even realize this area was here”, the guy said, “It’s beautiful and old and the trees are giant and all of the families hang out together outside as if it were still 1950!”. “Yeah”, said his wife, “We should really move here!”.

Then the discussion turned to the comparatively affordable housing, and the other benefits of living in my particular town.  By the end of it, these people were verbally working out the details of a potential move within just a few months.

Except their plan was absurd.

Because these two full-time professional workers currently happen to live and work in “Broomfield”, a city that is about 19 miles and 40 minutes of  high-traffic driving away from here. They brushed off the potential commute, saying “Oh, 40 minutes, that’s not too bad.”

Yes, actually it IS too bad! … But this misconception about what is a reasonable commute is probably the biggest thing that is keeping most people in the US and Canada poor.

Let’s take a typical day’s drive for this self-destructive couple. Adding 38 miles of round-trip driving at the IRS’s estimate of total driving cost of $0.51 per mile, there’s $19 per day of direct driving and car ownership costs. It is possible to drive for less, but these people happen to have fairly new cars, bought on credit, so they are wasting the full amount.

Next is the actual human time wasted. At 80 minutes per day, the self-imposed driving would be adding the equivalent of almost an entire work day to each work week – so they would now effectively be working 6 days per week.

After 10 years, multiplied across two cars since they have different work schedules, this decision would cost them about $125,000 in wealth (if they had for example chosen to put the $19/day into extra payments on their mortgage), and 1.3 working years worth of time, EACH, spent risking their lives daily behind the wheel*.

That’s EVERY ten years. And that’s with a commute that most Americans claim is “not too bad”.

You’ll note that most 30-year-old couples today, about 10 years into adulthood, don’t even have $125,000 in net worth. And they probably drive around quite a bit in expensive financed cars, mostly as part of a self-imposed commute. These facts are directly related!

The alternative I would have recommended to this couple, if they had asked my opinion, would be to make sure their house is within biking distance of both jobs, immediately sell both borrowed cars and replace them with a single ten-year-old manual transmission hatchback, and finally, let the good times roll. Setting aside $10k to keep the new car on the road, they will certainly enjoy their $115,000 of extra cash after ten short years, and if they combine this trick with a few of the other MMM classics, they’ll be able to move to historic old-town Longmont as EARLY RETIREES within ten years, instead of being broke wage slaves still commuting out of here every morning when the year 2021 rolls around.

Now, I will admit that it is possible to bring your cost per mile down somewhat. That’s one of my own specialties, which is why I still keep a car of my own around for affordable family roadtrips. If you buy the right car for $5,000, you might be able to squeeze 100,000 miles out of it with no major repairs. In this case the car depreciation is 5 cents per mile.

Gas, at $3.50 per 35 miles (assuming 35MPG), is 10 cents/mile
Tires, at $300 per 50,000 miles are 0.6 cents
Oil, at $25 per 5,000 miles is 0.5 cents
Miscellaneous things like wipers and occasional maintenance visits: $200 per 20,000 miles = 1 cent

So the ultimate cheap driving in a paid-off economy car still costs at least 17 cents per mile. Most people cannot drive this cheaply. And this is ignoring the cost of insurance since I’ll assume you’d have a car even if you didn’t commute to work. Most people aren’t willing to go completely car-free (although if you are, good for you!).

Besides the option of picking a home close to wherever your work happens to be, there may also be the option of picking a job that is close to your home in the town of your dreams. Get a new job! (There are apparently plenty of them here in my own city, many being worked by people who commute in from other places, even while an equal number of people commute OUT of my town to work somewhere else).

But despite the availability of both of these options, the idea of living close to work still seems to be completely alien to most people I’ve met. While I would personally consider it far more important than even the salary or the work performed, most people put commute distance below house price, perceived school quality, and neighborhood preference. With such a low threshold placed on commuting, most people don’t even put a reasonable effort into creating a nice local lifestyle for themselves. As you saw with the couple in my example above. They were willing to go from their existing negligible commute, to an Insane Asylum 80 minute round trip, just because they liked the scenic and neighborly vibe of my neighborhood.

“Schools” are often used as an excuse as well, but until you’ve reviewed every close-to-work school personally and interviewed the principal, you might be making quite a bad trade-off for your kids. What’s better – higher standardized test scores and more rich kids, or real-world diversity and an extra two hours to spend with Mom and Dad every day reading books? And how about an extra $300 grand or so towards the college fund, that you didn’t burn up in cars and gas during her school career?

To put things back on par, let’s whip up a couple of quick commuting equations. Let’s assume the average person’s marginal driving cost is halfway between the Ultra-Mustachian driver figure of 17 cents per mile, and Uncle Sam’s generous 51 cent allowance. So, 34 cents. Let’s also assume the value of a person’s time is $25 per hour, since this is close to a median wage for a suburban commuter. (If you don’t think you’d use your newfound leisure time that productively, you need to think more like an Early Retiree. I used mine for plenty of learning and domestic insourcing).

For each mile you drive across two times on your round trip to work daily, it multiplies to 500 miles per year, or a $170 annual fee
For each of these miles, you waste about 6 minutes in the round trip, adding to 25 hours per year ($625 of your time).

So each mile you live from work steals $795 per year from you in commuting costs.

$795 per year will pay the interest on $15,900 of house borrowed at a 5% interest rate.

In other words, a logical person should be willing to pay about $15,900 more for a house that is one mile closer to work, and $477,000 more for a house that is 30 miles closer to work. For a double-commuting couple, these numbers are $31,800 and $954,000.

Adapting the numbers for a $7.50 minimum wage earner, each mile of car commuting cuts $1.43 from your workday. If you drive 10 miles to go work a 5-hour shift at the Outback Steakhouse, your effective hourly wage is more like $5 per hour after subtracting car costs and adding drive time.

And these are all numbers for the United States, where cars and gasoline are much, much cheaper than they are in almost any other country. In Canada, you can add 30% to the gas prices and 50% to the car prices. In the UK, still more.

If these numbers sound ridiculous, it’s because they are. It is ridiculous to commute by car to work if you realize how expensive it is to drive, and if you value your time at anything close to what you get paid. I did these calculations long before getting my first job, and because of them I have never been willing to live anywhere that required me to drive myself to work**. It’s just too expensive, and there is always another option when choosing a job and a house if you make it a priority.

And making that easy choice is probably the biggest single boost that will get the average person from poverty to financial independence over a reasonable period of time. I would say that biking more and driving less was the trigger in my own life that started a chain reaction of savings and happy lifestyle changes that led my wife and I to retirement in our early 30s.

Now, all this doesn’t mean you have to set up a tent on your employer’s front lawn to avoid going broke. Public transit, although an afterthought in most of the US, is great if it’s available to you, because you get your brain and your hands back for the purpose of getting some of your day’s work done while enroute.

But if you can walk or bike to work, it will cost you virtually nothing. And it also doesn’t count as using up your personal time because it is adding something that nobody except Olympic athletes is doing enough of anyway – exercise. You can take your time spent riding your bike ride directly out of time you would have otherwise spent in the gym, or waiting in the doctor’s office for prescription medication.

So there’s my answer for this potential new set of neighbors. I’ll see you in ten years!

And now that the truth has at last been revealed about the foolishness of commuting, I’m looking forward to reading about the empty interstates and bicycle-filled streets tomorrow morning.

 

* Note that I wrote this whole rant without bringing up that whole pesky “destroying the entire Earth” issue, since that part is controversial in the United States.. so I figured it’s best just to focus on making you rich :-)

** For the Record, I grew up in the Great Lakes area, on the Canadian side about 1 hour Northwest of Buffalo, NY. Then I spent a few years in an area much colder – Ottawa, Canada, with a climate slightly worse than Minneapolis, MN. Biking year-round in these conditions was completely feasible (and even fun), and I’ll do a post on how to enjoy winter bike commuting later this fall!

*** Also for the record, my wife and I still bike year-round here in Colorado, including for grocery shopping and dropping our Kindergartener off at school – thanks to the magic of bike trailers. Do a search on your local Craigslist and change your biking life.

  • Brave New Life October 6, 2011, 6:48 am

    Man, you should visit my office. People think I’m looney because I bought a small house 3 miles from work and ride my bike every day. To me, it was one of the most logical and calculated decisions of my life, to them it’s crazy.

    I live and work in Colorado Springs. Here are some examples of real people in my office:

    Person 1: Drives an F250 from Castle Rock (38 miles each way) 5 days a week. The reason: because you can get a nice house at a reasonable price and because it’s halfway between the springs and Denver so if he gets laid off he has 2 markets to consider. Think he’s run the math? (He also spends $1000/month on groceries and lives paycheck to paycheck, despite having the same position as me)

    Person 2: Drives 75 miles each way, 5 days a week. He lives north of Denver. He gets to the office at 8am and leaves at 6pm to avoid traffic. But the commute is apparently not bad because “it’s mindless driving.” I stopped listening after this.

    Person 3: Strongly encouraged me to buy a house in Monument, about 12miles north of our office. The commute,he says, is easy and the houses are much bigger. “You can get a 3500 square foot house for just $400K” according to him. I told him I didn’t have a car and didn’t want a house that big,and he stared at me like I was crazy. That’s OK, he’s 60 and still works 60 hours per week in a cubicle, so I’m OK with him thinking I’m crazy.

    If only everyone read MMM. :)

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 9:51 am

      Wow, those are great illustrations, Brave. There are poor fools like that in every single office nationwide.

      I especially liked Person 3, because I seem to remember Colorado Springs having fairly affordable housing. I just checked Realtor.com, and searched for 3500 square foot houses under $400k. They are available all over the city! The only shortage he’d find would be in nice older areas, since we didn’t make houses that big back in the old days. But you more than make up for it, because even you get to spend more time walking outside (infinite square feet) instead of locked in your car (25 square feet).

      Reply
      • Scott October 20, 2014, 2:45 pm

        I agree with what you are saying about commuting. It eats the whole world one mile at a time. I think there is one item you are leaving out of the calculation though. Selling real estate. Change jobs every three years,and turn over your $200K house for one closer to work, and the real estate agent’s fees (6%) and mortgage fees (2% if you shop) will more than cover the cost of my expensive commute ($2500/yr, not counting lost time). I have sold a home by owner, and wouldn’t flinch at buying one, but its a seems a serious impediment to the average buyer. They think the agent somehow protects them from things going wrong, and are reluctant to go for a non-agent represented transaction. Since you have done many home transactions, any advice on marketing “by owner” sales?

        Finding a job already close to home is a great proposition, but tough to do once you get above a certain job and income level. After a six month search while employed, the offers I got near home were at 3/4 of my current salary rending out a $30K+ annual reduction in income. Also not a whine, just a great problem to have that there are few positions in any metro or surrounding area at my level and pay rate so the openings tended to be one or two steps down or just not close to where I already have a home.

        No complainy pants here! I do all my own home and auto service work. I don’t have cable, a tv, credit cards, or any cars or toys on credit. I have a good sized house that’s not well constructed, but have squeezed my energy costs without being uncomfortable winter or summer. Maybe I could just use a different perspective on choosing between a rock and another rock for my income level versus commute.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache October 20, 2014, 3:39 pm

          Hey Scott, that’s a pretty interesting dilemma. I think if I were in “high-powered mercenary” career mode (which I might define as switching jobs more often than every 5 years), I’d go for high quality rentals instead of owning homes. Of course, this only applies for the type of job where you have to show up in an office or jobsite every day – many of them let you work remotely these days, which is another thing to seek out.

          The good news is that if you pursue financial independence quickly, this all becomes irrelevant within two or three job cycles, as once you have enough to retire, you can continue to take jobs you love, but be very selective about location and you won’t care about salary at all. I still do occasional carpentry work, for example, but nothing outside of wheelbarrow range from my house.. so I have a radius of about 4 blocks :-)

          Reply
        • jill February 25, 2015, 1:32 am

          I wish I had read this before I accepted a job 40 miles away 19 years ago. I am a school librarian. I had just finished my MLS degree at age 28 and had been working for a little over minimum wage at a all-girls Catholic High School closer to home. Even back then, positions were hard to find for someone lacking connections. I worked a year then took a year off with my son. Thanks to frugal living in a small condominium in a cheap city, I was able to work part-time for 5 years. Then we made the bad decision to build a 1,500 square foot house and I returned to work full-time. Looking back, I should never agreed to return and should have waited for a closer job. With the new house, my commute was a tiny bit further. I spent at least 10-12 hours each week in the car. Traffic has gotten worse over the years and there were horrific periods of construction. Seems like at least twice a week or more, there is some type of accident that causes delays. I almost been hit many times and have witnessed 2 SUVs flipping over due to driving at high speeds.

          Both my husband and my mother-in-law insist that commuting is “no big deal” and that I am “just sitting in the car”. My husband also said that he since my actual workday is a bit shorter than his, I am lucky anyhow. I work at least 8 hours a day. I leave at 6:30 and come home at 4:30 or 5:00.

          When I fist started my district had 15 media specialist but as our budgets have shrunk, there are 3 of us left. I figure I have at the most 4-5 years of this career before we are phased out completely. (Of course, Kent State is still telling people there are jobs but that would be for another post). I am 46 years old and love my job. Our libraries circulate 50,000 items/month – some kids come everyday! I love teaching literature lessons/tech. and I love helping the kids find good books. TPTB say now that we have ipads, we won’t need books.

          We do buy medium-sized cars usually a year or 2 old and drive them until they die. However, I know when this job ends, there is no way I am commuting more than 15-20 minutes from my house and I don’t ever want to be forced to take the highway. I feel extremely burned out. I have some health issues (autoimmune issues and back issues). Of course, the commuting has not helped.
          My husband and I live relatively frugal compared to our peers so if we are able to keep this up, I should be able to tutor or substitute teach when my job is phased out. My state just upped the teacher retirement age to 65 and we pay 14% of our salary towards it. The old-timers could retire with better benefits at age 52 and put in 5-6% towards retirement. So I see the handwriting on the wall and I am not going to count on what they promise.
          Thank you for providing this article – I am going to share it with my husband.
          We

          Reply
          • RetiredToWin Alex March 16, 2015, 6:44 pm

            Jill,

            In 2000, we moved clear cross country so my wife could accept a “big opportunity position” and a big raise. You guessed it, we ended up buying a house some 40 miles away — like you — from her job in order to be able to afford the house. Never mind the financial cost of the driving. It very quickly became an emotionally draining,, life sucking nightmare for my wife.

            On bad days, the 40 miles would take an hour and a half to do. In winter conditions, the stress was insane. Night after night, my wife would arrive at our house fit to be tied. And half the time she took it out on me. (!)

            Long story short, we ended up deciding to have her RENT AN APARTMENT near her job, where she stayed during the week and then came “home” for weekends. And there went a big chunk of her big pay raise. NUTS!!

            Thank goodness that’s all behind us now. We sold that house, she landed a telecommuting position in her professional field, and we moved to a rural small town where our new house cost us 40% less than the one we sold. And… the move helped change our finances enough to pull the trigger and FIRE.

            It’s all good now. But I’m here to echo your sentiments. Whatever one can do to avoid or get away from the commuting, must be done.

            Reply
            • renn May 5, 2015, 4:37 pm

              I commuted to a job 46 miles from my home for 15 years. The commute began as a 45 minute trip. Thanks to construction, more people moving to the area and an influx of jobs, that commute became an average of 90 minutes EACH WAY. I would arrive at work before 8 am and home around 6 pm. I was constantly exhausted and stressed out.

              I was downsized 6 weeks ago. Thanks to an excellent severance package, I have spent that time reading, resting and looking for a job in this area. While I don’t WANT to take a pay cut, I can feasibly make at least $6K less than I had been making. That’s about what I was paying out for gas (approx $100/week or more), tires at LEAST every year, oil changes every 5 weeks, insurance and general wear and tear on the vehicle. I own the car free and clear, so there’s no car payment. We also own our house and don’t plan to move at this time.

              Reply
      • JM November 9, 2014, 10:02 am

        Great blog post! 3 years ago I moved from a large home that was “only” 15 miles (which is half the distance of what most of my coworkers drive ) from the downtown core to a fixer upper home half the size and 1.1 miles away from the core. My entire life has improved exponentially; it was by far the best financial decision I ever made. Not only has appreciation been stronger in my new home, but shaving 70 minutes off my daily rush hour commute has given me back nearly 300 hours of free time annually. That’s equivalent to 37 full work days a year. That’s nearly 2 months at the office. Insane!!!

        There is another great analysis done on the Fatwallet forums here – http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/1384544/?start=0 I like it because it separates the cost of car ownership from costs related to driving only. I don’t ever plan on giving up my car so it was more applicable to me. Thanks again for the great post!

        Reply
    • Mankhool October 10, 2011, 6:07 pm

      I’m so happy to learn that I’m not the only person who thinks this way, and who also thinks that everyone else is crazy. My mantra has always been, “Live close to where you work or work close to where you live”. It’s that simple. Even if you have children it’s that simple. The cost of operating a vehicle is one part of the equation. The other part of the equation is that YOUR time is valuable. Calculate the number of hours per week that you spend commuting and multiply by your hourly rate to find out how much more your commute is costing you, in addition to the vehicle. In a few years time I will be able to buy a condo on the same city block where I work. My commute time will be measured in SECONDS. Thank you MMM I’ve just discovered you blog via Hacker News.

      Reply
      • chubblywubbly February 19, 2013, 4:58 pm

        I never understood the importance of living close to work until my husband and I lived abroad for a year.

        We found a place that was 10 minutes from our elevator bank to his workplace elevator bank.

        There were times when I would bring him a home cooked meal or we would meet up to try a new restaurant. And many times he would come home for afternoon naps as he was working 90+ hours a week…no exaggeration.

        The only con is that usually living close to work would usually cost double what you would pay in housing especially if one lives in a major city.

        Reply
    • Gary November 9, 2014, 9:51 pm

      In my previous job, I rode my bike 4 miles each way to work. It was fun, even in the winter. As a result, I ended up losing about 15 to 20 pounds in just my first year. Now I live only a mile away from my current job, and I walk to work each day. I find walking and riding to work a great way to relax burn off the stress of the day, and I think the key to making this walk/ride into work a routine is having good rain gear and water proof shoes.

      Reply
  • GardenGal October 6, 2011, 7:02 am

    Hey MMM,

    Nice post! Since I work from home, I can’t even seeing showering and dressing for work, much less spending the money to drive to work, so I absolutely understand other time/energy costs of commuting.

    Are there naked people on bikes in the one photo that goes with your blogpost or are my eyes seeing something that is not there?

    Reply
  • Dwight October 6, 2011, 7:07 am

    I once read an article that calculated the average speed of a car. Add up the time spent in your car and time spent working to pay for automotive expenses. Divide this number into the number of miles driven. You get seven miles per hour in a car. That’s slower than a bicycle.

    Reply
  • zero3blur October 6, 2011, 7:30 am

    Great article, as usual. :-)

    I was wondering if you factored in the cost of speeding? I know too many people who bought fuel-efficient cars and routinely:
    1. drive 10-15 mph faster than the speed limit*
    2. complain that they’re not getting the mileage promised

    (* 55mph – 65mph, highway, in my state)

    Reply
  • Weston October 6, 2011, 7:31 am

    We tried to do this. We really did. We rented a house very near my work several years ago. It wasn’t biking distance but it was a commute of only 10 minutes as opposed to the 25 minutes I have now and the 50 minute commute I had before we moved to the rental.

    We tried to buy a house in that neighborhood. There were probably half a dozen reasons why we couldn’t. Part of it was price. Part of it was anticipated repairs. Part of it was the increased cost of real estate taxes and property insurance. But the real deal breaker for us was education.

    We had 4 kids at home at that time. Even the real estate agents who were trying to sell us homes in that area acknowledged that the nearby public schools were below par (and in some opinions unsafe).

    My wife (who is herself a public school teacher) pored over the statistics and we really could not come to any conclusion other than to move to a suburban area with far superior schools.

    We do not like the stress and expense of my commute (and my wife’s former commute) but we could not justify putting our children’s education (and possibly safety) at risk.

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 9:08 am

      An easy bike commute can cover over 8 miles each way. If you place your workplace at the center of a circle with an 8 mile radius, you have an area of 201 square miles, or about 128 THOUSAND ACRES in which to find a reasonable house and school. And that’s just one potential employer.

      If you live in a city where there isn’t a single suitable job with a single non-gang-ridden-shoot-em-up school within the surrounding 128,000 acre region, you need to find a new city.

      Am I suggesting that we carefully choose our jobs, schools, and even our city of residence, just to avoid car commuting? Yes I am.

      Reply
      • Weston October 6, 2011, 10:13 am

        MMM

        Well considering that the area in question was a quarter mile from the Atlantic, about half of the 8 mile radius you describe would leave us mighty soggy.

        We tried to find a different city. Because of licensing restrictions both my wife and I had to remain in the state unless we wanted to go through substantial effort and expense to be relicensed elsewhere. The few job offers we got elsewhere in the state were at substantially reduced salaries. Factoring in moving expenses, plus the time and money that we would have to spend visiting close family members who also lived in this area ,we just didn’t get job offers that made financial sense even though it would result in reduced commuter time and expenses.

        Funny thing is that 9 years later my eldest daughter bought a small house in the same general area we had rented in. She has a five minute commute but she and her husband are going broke from house repairs, house payments, property taxes, property insurance and private school tuition to make sure that their kids get a good education. I can’t say I’ve run the numbers but I imagine she would have to bike for many, many miles in order to make up the difference.

        We all make sacrifices to one extent or the other. I hate my commute but I would much rather put up with the 25 minute commute in order to avoid the crushing debt load that would have occurred if I wanted to live in a safe area in my city, with decent schools and a reasonable bike ride to my office (where I would also have to join a health club in order to shower and change into my suit after biking to work)

        Reply
        • MMM October 6, 2011, 10:37 am

          I still like your example, Weston, because it shows you put some pretty solid effort into avoiding a long commute – but just couldn’t make it work in the end.

          If all of today’s commuters put their decisions up to a similarly high threshold, we could surely cut down annual miles driven in this country by at least half.

          On the positive side, since your job is fancy enough to involve suits and licenses, it is probably high-paying enough to allow you to retire decades before most people, bringing your average commute back down as you age.

          Also as a note for other business workers – a fit person does not need to shower between biking a few miles and working, just as you don’t need to shower from the effort expended by walking from your car into your office. Riding a bike is not an insane physical trial where you come out dripping with sweat and smelling like a hog. It’s about as hard as walking, but you have more wind to cool you down as you go.

          I’ve even ridden a bike in a suit and tie (to a wedding, since there aren’t many formalwear jobs in high-tech). With a velcro strap to hold the floppy pant legs out of the chain, it’s perfectly comfortable.. and you tend to get a few whistles from the ladies as well – every girl’s crazy for a Sharp Dressed Man…

          Reply
          • Rich Schmidt October 6, 2011, 10:59 am

            MMM, I’d say this depends heavily on what part of the country you live in, average temperatures, etc. Oh, and don’t forget to factor in how hilly the ride is. I don’t know anyone who can bike uphill for 8 miles without breaking a sweat… especially in humid, 80-degree weather.

            Reply
            • MMM October 6, 2011, 11:29 am

              Well, you know one now! Just this past Tuesday, I rode 13 miles uphill (and then another 13 miles back out of the foothills to return to my house), and I wasn’t even sweaty enough to need a shower aftewards. I just checked the weather history for that day – the high was 84 degrees F! And I’m not an unusually fit person compared to most road bikers.

              It’s true that adding in humidity will make you sweat more, but meh, wear some good deodorant, then change your T-shirt when you get to the nice air-conditioned office. Showering at work is good for reducing your own hot water bills, but not necessary for most people who bike to work.

              Reply
              • Joe Average November 17, 2014, 11:20 am

                Gave this a shot a while back and I was unfit to be at work after my bike ride. Its hot, hilly and humid here (TN) in the summer. One alternative that I explored but did not spent any money on yet was a powered bicycle that has the effect of flattening the hills out. Still have to pedal.

                Our solution is a 7.5 mile commute in a 15 year old, nearly 300K mile Honda CR-V five speed. My wife and I carpool every day. Took a long time to find employment so near each other.

                Our big city friends are a little confused by our attachment to this small town but it works for us. Short distances. Safe. Nice schools. The only challenege (and an easy one) is entertaing ourselves on the weekends. This has been improving for a long time with free park concerts (local bands), local plays, hiking, walking, cookouts, etc. Look for small cities and large towns. Not a place where six figure incomes are common though.

          • Weston October 6, 2011, 12:22 pm

            “Riding a bike is not an insane physical trial where you come out dripping with sweat and smelling like a hog.”

            Probably true for most, and I certainly wish it was true for me. No matter how fit I may be at that particular period all it takes is the slightest exertion and I start sweating like a pig.

            Think it is a genetic thing. I recall my father being the same way, and one of my daughters also sweats profusely with minimal exertion.

            Reply
            • Uncephalized June 11, 2012, 12:22 pm

              Same here. I sweat like a horse during even moderate exercise, and even when it is cold outside. I blame it on being brought up in Arizona where you NEED overactive sweat glands to avoid heat stroke. :-)

              Reply
          • Josh September 16, 2014, 6:41 am

            Just for the record: In my area, a good number of the higher-paying tech jobs require, at minimum, a long-sleeve shirt and tie. A smaller, but still significant, number require a suit. This is for most IT jobs paying over $50,000 around here.

            Reply
          • Rick September 16, 2014, 9:50 am

            I bike commute 3 miles each way to my suit-and-tie job. I sweat a ton, due to a combination of a humid climate, active sweat glands, and enjoying a fast ride. I usually shower when I get home at night. My solution for arriving at work sweaty? Wear biking clothes, clean up with baby wipes, then change into work clothes.

            Reply
  • J.D. Pohlman October 6, 2011, 7:43 am

    I agree with most of your topics, but I have to disagree with you on this post, at least for my situation. I would hate living in a major city (too much traffic, no yard, no garage, etc.), but I have a job that is difficult to find in a surrounding city. If I do find one, it’s about $10k less than what I’m currently getting paid. I drive 60 miles per day (30 miles each way). I figured up my annual expenses, using the formula you have (but tweaked for my specific situation), and it costs me $1866.75 per year for driving expenses. I would rather pay the $1867/year to live where I do instead of right in the middle of the city. It would also cost me more to live in that area, which I wouldn’t enjoy.

    For me, it’s well worth the $1867/year to live in an area that I enjoy as opposed to the city. Once I retire, I’ll have a much more enjoyable life, without having to incur the costs of moving either.

    For the record, I drive a 14 year old manual transmission Honda Civic with 191K miles on it, and I average 37 mpg. I plan on keeping it as long as it stays reliable for me (I’m hoping another 100K miles).

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 8:57 am

      Hmm.. I dunno J.D. Your $1867 cost is assuming 12.7 cents per mile for your INSANE 15,000 mile per year commuting habit. If I put this even to my own minimum of 17 cents per mile (which is still improbably optimistic and assumes you will never have any sort of car accident or ticket in your life), the annual figure is $2550. You’re doing this to get a $10k increase in your paycheck, which is perhaps $8000 at your marginal tax rate. That leaves $5450 of net “profit” which you earn for about 500 hours per year of driving. You’re earning $10.90 an hour for missing out what could be the most productive time of your life – time spent not working.

      Even more importantly, if you start with the premise that a car commute is NOT an option, as I’m advocating, you will find that new avenues for a happy local life magically appear to your newly opened mind. You’ll find the nice neighborhood close to your job, or the nice job close to your house, or the nice city where work and homes are close together (see “the joy of moving to a better place”).

      Look at Brave New World’s comment above. Because his coworkers did not start with this premise, they quickly brushed off his idea of living close to work, and set themselves up with ridiculous commutes. This mindset has made them poor, while he and Mr. Money Mustache became millionaires.

      Reply
      • Joe Average February 13, 2015, 12:12 pm

        Yeah but if living in the city leads to spending more money to find rest and relaxation (b/c there is no personal outside space for gardens or building something) then you are spending money for entertainment.

        Reply
  • Kevin October 6, 2011, 8:32 am

    Don’t forget folks who (like me) walk to the train station, take the train into a big city, and then walk to my office. No cars involved. The only cost of the commute is in my time, which – you’re right – is substantial. But my job provides me with an iPhone hotspot, so I can get online and work from the train.

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 10:11 am

      Working on the train is pretty useful – you can get that whole morning email catch-up session done undisturbed! A seasoned worker will even be able to count this as part of their 8-hour workday (I get on the train at 8, which means my workday ends at 4, which means I leave the office at 3:30).

      Reply
      • DJ October 11, 2011, 7:18 am

        I LOVE taking the train into town every day. It’s so relaxing! I can listen to music and watch the world go by, daydreaming, or I can read a book or do my readings for school (although sometimes that makes be a bit dizzy). I would much rather commute on the train and relax then stress out on the freeway. Especially in the winter. Plus, our commuter trains are fairly clean and have some decent bathrooms just in case.

        Reply
    • DJ October 11, 2011, 7:16 am

      “The only cost of the commute is in my time…” Uh, do you get to use the train for free?

      I don’t drive, never had my license, in my early 30s. I have no real intention of getting my license, despite everyone bugging me to do so. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t own a car and probably never will, unless I moved out to the boonies (very unlikely). I’m not in the city, either, I live in the suburbs and commute downtown (by bus, train, then subway). It’s actually extremely expensive (probably about $400/month for non-students, roughly $300/month for me as a Grad student) but it’s still cheaper than owning and maintaining a car, not to mention parking that would cost as much or more than my commute costs. I figure eventually I’ll move into the city when I’m back in the workforce (I hope) upon graduation, anyways. And trust me, there is no sane reason to be driving in downtown Toronto.

      Reply
      • Kira August 11, 2014, 5:43 pm

        Some employers pay up to a designated amount of public transportation costs, but I’ve found that it’s not always well communicated. Anyone working for a large company should at least find out what kind of incentives the company offers. In my current scenario, public transportation would take longer and I would incur more childcare costs that would negate the transportation savings (not to mention cutting into family bonding time).

        Reply
        • Jenny September 7, 2014, 5:17 am

          Even if your employer doesn’t pay for transit per say you may have a transit FSA where you can pay for your bus/train pass pre-tax which reduces the total cost. In my city a rush hour transit pass cost $96 but because of a discount when I order it through my transit FSA it is only $76 after tax it cost about 50 per month. Since I don’t have a car I use it frequently outside of work as well.

          Reply
  • Stashette October 6, 2011, 8:52 am

    I’m crying a bit inside because you just described my commute–20 miles and 40 minutes. It’s especially bad in winter weather when I am essentially working a 12+ hour day when you factor in my commute. Even though some people would consider this reasonable, it has really gotten old.

    I agree that something needs to change, because I hate throwing money away on gas and car expenses.

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 10:24 am

      I’m glad to hear it! The point of this article was to shake at least a few people out of their complacency.

      Obviously I’m not going to convince everyone, but I figured by pointing out the Emperor’s-New-Clothes nature of the insanely low threshold MOST people have before signing themselves up for a commute, we could at least save a few from Suckerhood.

      Reply
      • Stashette October 6, 2011, 1:11 pm

        I just calculated the cost for my specific situation and the cost comes to about $5000 a year plus the obscene amount of time wasted when you use my hourly wage ($10,000 using $25/hr)! Crazy!

        What’s even crazier is trying to find time for a bike ride AFTER I get home from my long commute.

        You talked about paying more for a house closer to your work, but it seems the opposite would be true as well–settling for a lower salary for a job closer to your house. The Mister already has a job close to home.

        Reply
  • jforest October 6, 2011, 8:56 am

    I have no car, and live riiight at the end of the subway lines. My rent is 1100 a month (big city of boston after all) for about 800sq feet of space.

    My subway pass is subsidized by work, so i only pay $29.50 a month (PRE TAX TOO!) The big problem is, it’s about 7 miles from my house to work, through the busy city center, and it takes about an hour for me to take the subway. So biking might be better, but I live in the northeast, so winter will quickly crush that attempt. (plus 7 miles throught a big city with no bike lanes doesn’t sound fun)

    Finding an apartment near to work is something I’m working on, but rents shoot up dramatically. There are some very bad areas south of work, so I need to be careful where I look. I would love to save the 2 hours a day of my life to dedicate to my family, but at this point, doubling rent costs to save 10 hours a week (40 a month) is tough to swallow, and will push my retirement off many many years.

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 9:24 am

      Nice dilemma! Why don’t you send us your approximate start and end destinations (nearby cross-streets) and we can see if we can find a reasonable bike route? Boston has a strong bike community, which usually means there are good roads and paths hidden in amongst the bad.

      7 miles could take you less than 30 minutes on a bike (I used to average 26 mins for my 8-mile bike commute back in the day). And Boston has balmy summery winters compared to where I grew up and rode year-round. Even if you rule out the snowy and rainy days, you can still do well over half of your commuting by bike.

      Alternatively, 40 hours of subway commuting per month in order to save $1100 per month could still be a reasonable trade because you’re earning over $25/hour after tax for the subway slavery. But it depends on how much you are getting paid, and how much you would love to have time with your family. Continuing to shop around for apartments, as well as jobs and even home cities in the long run, seems like a good plan.

      Reply
      • jforest October 6, 2011, 9:44 am

        Well here is the google maps version, says 10.1 miles :) That’s a pretty hefty commute to start biking.

        http://g.co/maps/2j8rt

        I may have to give it a test run or two, just to try it out, but I’m not in any sort of “GOOD” shape right now… upside, it would fix that, and quick!

        What do people think of a 10 mile bike commute, is that pretty standard?

        Reply
        • MMM October 6, 2011, 10:05 am

          Cool! What a nice bike ride, you get to cross Harvard/MIT, a couple of bridges, and a load of Boston parks.

          Note that Google Bike directions will often disregard perfectly bikeable roads and give you an unnecessarily long route. I’d start by experimenting with more direct routes (when I drag around on your map I can get it down to about 8.5 miles). And adjust as needed. There are nearly infinite possibilities by bike with a commute like that.

          You could start with 1 day a week, or even going 1 way and carrying the bike onto the subway for the ride home if that is allowed. If you are not already in good shape, then the extra fitness you gain from even cracking into this bike ride will change your entire life for the better. Seriously – bike riding is like the fountain of youth.

          Reply
          • jforest October 6, 2011, 12:49 pm

            Well, I just joined the gym at work a few weeks ago (very non-mustachian) it’s only 40 bucks a month…. So at least there is a shower for me to use when I get to work if I need it.

            I think I’ll pick a nice sunny looking day next week to try it out, I can do one way, and then just take the T back home, but you can’t bring full sized bikes on the T during rush hour, so I’ll skew my shift a bit that day. Maybe if I feel fiesty I’ll ride back home too. First things first, I gotta give my bike a once over. Any good basic bike mechanic website/howto you guys can point me to?

            Reply
            • Ryan April 22, 2012, 9:43 pm

              I’ve got to say, I’m a bike commuter in Boston (5 mi each way) and that commute from Malden to the Fenway area would be a real bear. In Boston it’s easy to go along the spokes of the wheel (in/out of the city) but much harder to travel N/S. If you don’t take busy roads like rte 16 (unbikeable) then you end up going back and forth on a lot of side streets with lots of turns and lights. And Somerville is full of one-way N/S streets in order to make it inconvenient for cars to cut through neighborhoods. My very very straight 5 mi. East/West commute to Cambridge still takes 25 minutes, so I highly doubt MMM could do 8 mi in 25 minutes in Boston. But there are probably affordable places to rent closer to your office which are bikeable, if you keep looking.

              Reply
        • J.D. Pohlman October 6, 2011, 11:08 am

          A 10 mile bike ride isn’t that bad. Once you get used to doing it every day, it’ll be second nature. Maybe ride on the weekends for a bit and see how far you can ride until you can make it work for you if you’re out of shape. For me, the 15-20 mile range gets a little far.

          Reply
          • Mike October 6, 2011, 11:40 am

            While I can’t argue with the math, I will argue that a 10 mile bike ride in winter in MN (which can last ~5 months) can be bad if not irrational…..

            Reply
            • Fig Newton January 20, 2013, 8:38 pm

              My 25km (15.5 mile) commute takes about an hour each way (depending on wind). It’s a pretty hilly ride at 150m elevation gain (492 feet) and poops me out by the end of the week. 10 miles would take 40-50 minutes at a leisurely pace and could be done in 30 minutes at 20mph (doable once you’re in shape). As far as winter riding goes, there are no bad riding days, just bad equipment. I live/work near Toronto and it gets cold and nasty, so I got a winter-beater mtb with knobby tires that have a good centre line for rolling resistance. My clothing stops the wind with some insulation layers for warmth. Take care of the feet and hands and you’re good.

              The local news even did a story about me when I did a season of commuting on my penny farthing (for fun, charity, and cost savings) http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/living/2011/06/03/dnt.commuting.big.wheel.CHCH

              Reply
              • Mr. Money Mustache January 21, 2013, 8:43 am

                Wow, Fig! A 25km year-round commute in my homeland of Ontario is VERY badass – congratulations!

              • Bullseye January 21, 2013, 9:25 am

                Sounds like you’re on or near my commute route! I’m in Burlington as well. I ride from Appleby/Dundas to Trafalgar/Lakeshore (15km), along Rebecca st. Seen a few other guys out there in the morning who are obviously commuters, maybe you are one of them!

              • Fig Newton January 21, 2013, 9:24 pm

                Bullseye, here’s my winter route: http://app.strava.com/activities/38283792

                I start at 7-ish in the morning and start home at 3pm. It’s entirely possible I run into you as I ride Rebecca St from Burloak to Dorval. I’m usually wearing a yellow safety vest and have my GPS, light, and music system blasting from my home made “Gear Tree.”

              • Bullseye January 22, 2013, 11:26 am

                Actually, your route overlaps mine from Burloak and Sutton, and times are the same-ish, I work 7-3, usually.

                Was that you I saw this morning on Burloak at 7:15, as I passed by in my car? lol I’ve been riding all winter, but today I chickened out and took the car. Although I’m MTB biking this afternoon!

                I’ll keep an eye out for you! I ride 4 different bikes depending on certain things, but always wearing a white helmet and a beige windbreaker.

        • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple October 6, 2011, 9:26 pm

          That’s my bike commute. 9.75 miles. It used to be longer, but I got a job 2 miles closer to home.

          However…I don’t do it every day, and I don’t go both ways anymore.

          In the old days, I would bike 1-2 days a week. Now post-kid, I still do 1-2 days/week, but I only bike TO work, and I drive HOME from work (spouse drives TO work and bikes home).

          Reply
        • Thomas October 8, 2011, 3:54 am

          My ride to work just about each day during teaching semesters, and that is 15.5 miles and takes 53 +/- 4 min. each way. I used to drive a car there but it was expensive and took *longer* on average. Also, and sometimes more importantly, I had to leave 1-2 hours early, just to take into consideration that the mornings queues might be especially bad or that an accident made the whole traffic stop for an hour or two. Now, I still leave early, about 30min., just in case I get a rare puncture, but get there in very predictable and dependeable time. Also, it’s a real pleasure every morning to have that workout, and to zip past all the cars standing still on the highway, rememmbering all the stress that I used to have driving the car (oh, yeah, and finding a parking spot; forgot to mention that).
          In the beginning, I had a nice electric bike and it made the commute easy but now I just use a normal road bike ($450 second hand plus shoes and good tires on bargain = $600) and it’s a bit faster than on the electric one. I push myself a bit but try to avoid making it unpleasant. Except for the middle of winter (here in Sydney), I end up pretty sweaty but just wear some light sport shorts and a singlet (bare chest would be more sensible but I’m a bit selfconscious… maybe should do it anyway) so that there isn’t much clothing to get sweaty or wet if it rains, and then just quickly sink-wash my face and neck and arms when I get to work, change into work clothes in my office, letting the commute clothes dry.
          I also get to work happy and relaxed and full of energy, and I haven’t been sick a single day for years now, and I’d actually just do the bike ride for the sake of these factors alone.
          Anyway, go for it! Don’t worry if it takes you a bit long to get to work in the beginning; you quickly get faster and more confident!

          Reply
          • MMM October 8, 2011, 7:22 am

            Wow, Excellent story Thomas! I would have thought 15.5 miles was too far for practical bike commuting every day but you have proven me wrong! Doing that much cycling would be Awesome for you health.

            Reply
          • JB May 10, 2014, 9:07 am

            So out of curiosity, I have rode my bike to work several times. About 8.5 miles, mostly on a bike path. I have to go to my gym first to take a shower, then walk a mile to my office since I lock my bike at the gym. I sweat a ton after I cool down and I don’t think I smell. I am going to experiment with the body wipes and just wipe down once I go directly to the office and see if anyone notices or cares. In a low humidity town, it wouldn’t be a problem, but it is always humid here. Any other ideas?

            Reply
        • Marianna October 10, 2011, 5:28 pm

          What about biking to Harvard Square and taking the M2?

          Reply
        • Ingrid October 13, 2011, 5:26 pm

          Hi and you may have already tried your first ride to work by now. If not, I would suggest trying it on a Sunday or Saturday when there is significantly less traffic and it doesn;t matter how long it takes or how sweaty you are when you get there.

          We often ride around Sydney on Sunday mornings when we are able to go most of the roads without fear of traffic.

          All the best and at least you are thinking about it

          regards

          Reply
        • Nat Pearre June 4, 2012, 1:49 pm

          As a fellow Maldiner (Maldite?) I would suggest getting a good folding bike, and taking the Orange line (I’m pretty certain you can bring folded bikes in bags on the T, even at rush hour). It looks like you could bike to Malden station in just a couple of minutes, fold up your bike, sit through the 24 minute ride, jump off at Ruggles and bike the remaining mile or so in another few minutes. Even waiting for a train I would think you’d be door to door in less than 40 min, 20 or more of which you could spend reading.

          Reply
        • Craig From Az November 19, 2014, 1:25 pm

          You get used to the mileage very quickly. I started bicycle commuting in 1997 (already an experienced road cyclist at the time – certainly made it easier) with a 14 mile (each way commute). My employer moved me all over the east side of the Phoenix metro area, and my commute ranged from 14 to 21 miles each way. Note that the 21 miles only took me about 15 minutes longer on a bike than by car, for which I received 1.25 hours of exercise.

          People at work thought I was insane for commuting during the summer (hottest day I rode – 117 degrees). But to be honest the “cold” winter mornings (in the 30s) were worse for me. I guess if you ride in the cold all the time and have all the gear it’s probably not so bad.

          Reply
          • Heath November 20, 2014, 1:39 pm

            I too ride in Phoenix (Tempe, specifically), and I also have a much harder time with the ‘cold’ days. Just this morning it was like 45 degrees outside, and it was MUCH harder to ride than on the 110+ days. I get that I’m complaining about a fucking reasonable temperature, but note that I’m still riding my bike daily :-)

            I don’t like that when I sweat under my jacket, it just makes me uncomfortable and then smelly later. I guess I should be wearing less clothing, but then I’m freaking cold when I start. The standard advice appears to be: wear many thinner layers and then take them off as you warm up. Do people actually stop, take off layers and then stow them in the middle of a commute? Seems like a pain. I’ll just continue to wear my thick jackets/pants, and wash my armpits when I get to work :-P

            Reply
      • Liz June 4, 2012, 9:04 am

        I Absolutely love this post because I have been gearing up to tackle my morning commute to work. I, like jforest, live a little over 7 miles from work. Luckily for me, it is nothing but bike routes the entire ride. The only problem I see are the dramatic changes in elevation along the route. I don’t want to get all sweaty before I go to work! My work place doesn’t have a locker or shower room so I would have to get ready at a nearby gym. Maybe I’m just being a drama queen about it. I should just pack the stuff needed to freshen up and just do it! I bike an average10-20 miles on the weekends and I workout regularly so I know fitness wouldn’t be a problem. My commute is from Queens,NY to Union Square in Manhattan.

        Reply
        • Marieta May 3, 2014, 4:35 pm

          Honestly, all you need for a quick freshen up is some baby wipes/hand sanitizer, and a stick of deodorant. Bike, got to the bathroom to wipe yourself down, re-deodorize, and go to work! It’s quick and easy. (Hand sanitizer, with it’s alcohol content, will kill odour-causing bacteria but is a bit a bit messier than baby wipes).

          Reply
    • Miami Al November 13, 2014, 3:09 pm

      Even the end of the Green Line to downtown Boston should be < 10 miles… the city ain't that big…

      I liked City living for a bit. Moved to Miami Suburbs. Did that for 10 years and enjoying it. Not sure where the future will take me. I do miss being able to just walk around to stuff. Kids have lots of activities everywhere. We're pretty happy with our life, but reading your site got us to whack our expenses dramatically, and focused on FI instead of just getting through the month has been a big life change.

      Reply
      • Joe Average February 13, 2015, 8:52 am

        I did the city living thing and the military version of the same (barracks) for several years but found that I was spending alot of money to get away from the congested city to more rural settings – fishing, camping, hiking, etc. I guess it just depends on what your personal method for unwinding is.

        We visit a trendy part of the next city down the highway that has alot of amenities and yes it would be nice to walk down the neighborhood street and take a left – and have dozens of places to eat and drink and buy books. The problem for me is though that it involves living “inside” the rest of the time. Was like this when I lived in Italy. Fortunately I eventually moved to the fringes of the city there and had a yard, driveway, etc.

        Some folks relax mingling with others in bars and cafes. I like that but what really makes me the happiest is knocking around my shop, my yard or my house. The side effects of being an introvert. ;) Time out and about can be nice but mental recharging really happens at home.

        Can’t really weld and grind or run my table saw on a regular basis when the houses are 15 ft apart. Also there are the problems with kids and dogs – both of which we have. Dog can’t be off a leash – which isn’t a problem with a toy dog, but is a big problem when you have a sporting dog (Irish Setter) that lives to wander and run and play.

        Not sure I’d endure a 75 minute commute each way if I didn’t HAVE to do it. Nor do I think I’d enjoy raising a family downtown either.

        Our solution has been a small town with a university where we can afford to live, where decent jobs can be had (not Wall Street jobs, but a good solid life/work balance), and where are opportunities to enjoy good food, a concert, a play, etc. Our commute lasts ~15 minutes more or less. Great neighborhood schools, easy to run around town to soccer, Scouts, and school events. Nice affordable homes too.

        Reply
  • Val October 6, 2011, 9:47 am

    MMM… what if you have kids you need to take to daycare near work? In theory, one or two kids coulg go in a bike trailer, but I don’t think that’s safe. I certainly wouldn’t feel good driving a bike for 7 miles with a kid on a trailer. I’m trying to think creatively here but it seems that I’m stuck with the car for a while…

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 9:58 am

      Yeah, good question. Kids change things a bit for me too. I am much more selective about the roads I tow my son along with the bike trailer – it has to be either the dead-quiet streets of my immediate neighborhood, or the off-street bike paths that cover the rest of town. And 7 miles one way would be a distance I would probably rarely pull him even with a bike trailer – mainly because I don’t want to waste his valuable time by strapping him into a seat for 20+ minutes at a stretch on a regular basis. We’d rather be out learning and playing.

      If an anti-commuter like me was in your situation, I would look for a daycare close to home (drop off kids, then leave trailer behind for the bike ride to work), or a home closer to daycare/work, or a job in a location convenient to both.

      On the positive side, however, a 7-mile commute with no extra daycare driving is far below the average.. and kids do grow up eventually, so it’s only a temporary situation.

      Reply
      • Rachel April 25, 2012, 10:35 am

        I figured out a creative way to cut back on the commute with biking and drop my son off at his bus stop. He gets on the bus at 6:45 AM to go to middle school (his school is about 15 miles away). The bus stop is downtown, a few blocks from my office. Our house is 2 miles away.

        2 miles is nothing to commute on a bike, but I didn’t want to start my work day at 7 AM, and couldn’t justify forcing my already very sleepy son to bike to the bus stop at 6:15 AM. Not to mention, I wouldn’t be able to get his bike back with me. So, how to get my son to the bus stop, and still be able to bike to work?

        The solution was pretty simple once I thought it through – in the morning, I drive my son to the bus stop, with my bike attached to the back of the car (2 miles). I then park my car at my office and bike home. Get ready for work, etc., bike back to work, and then drive my car home at the end of the day (2 miles).

        So I cut a commuting routine that would have been 8 miles of ridiculous back-and-forth driving to 4 miles driving, 4 miles biking. Still better!

        Reply
        • Nat Pearre June 4, 2012, 1:53 pm

          Tandem bike? (if he’s old/big enough) or cargo bike?

          Reply
    • Phil October 11, 2011, 3:00 am

      Val, I took my kids to daycare in a bicycle trailer for years. I used to put a radio in tuned to Radio3 (a national classical music station here in the UK) to give them something to listen to and remember one evening when ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ kicked in just as a massive thunderstorm broke over us as I was riding across the meadows here in Oxford: very atmospheric!

      On the safety side, I did a spot of research before I bought the trailer (a Chariot Cougar) and the only tests I could find were done by a German road safety lab who determined that kids were actually safer in a trailer than on the back of a bike or tag-a-long. There’s also nothing like a honking great trailer (with flag poking out the top!) to make drivers far, far more cautious! I think it’s the rarity value: anything unusual captures people’s attention.

      So these things can be done, but it does take a bit more commitment when you have children I’ll admit. So far I’ve spent twenty years not commuting by car!

      Reply
  • Dancedancekj October 6, 2011, 11:39 am

    What if you have two work locations that you spend an equal number of days at? I suppose the answer is to have one close to your home location (which I do, and is easily walkable/bikeable) I will be of course, trying to negotiate so I can work more hours at the office location closer to me, but for now I’m stuck.

    Reply
    • Marieta May 3, 2014, 4:46 pm

      I had the same dilemma when I started my new job last month. I work 3 days a week at one site, and 2 days at another in a city full of angry/mindless commuters. Since I had to move for the job anyway, I ultimately decided to live 3 km away from the first work site, then car commute via back roads to the other. Soon I will look into finding a safe route to cyclocommute the 20 km to my second work site.

      Reply
  • Chris October 6, 2011, 11:39 am

    MMM-

    I’ve read your articles on the pro’s of bike riding and also plenty from Jacob’s website. Honestly, I used to think that people who ride bikes are geeks. This is retarded. It’s all in a mindset. I can’t believe I never saw it before. It’s the millionaire next door in a nut shell. I’ve given a lot of thought to the benefits of bike riding (both health-wise and monetary) and it’s a brilliant concept.

    I move around every three years or so in the military and can’t wait to sculpt my next living situation into a more cost effective/healthier scenario. I currently commute 23 miles each way and have a gas guzzler that gets 16 mpg. I’m thinking seriously about trading in for an economy car to save cash and continue to build the stash! It doesn’t seem like a huge expenditure on a yearly basis, but, when you look at the 10 year expenditure, it’s huge. It’s another example of those invisible bars that enslave us. They’re the easiest to break, but the hardest to see!

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 2:00 pm

      Wow, that’s a nice transformation you made there Chris!

      First of all, where I came from, “Geek” usually meant “Person who is smarter than me”, which is a compliment even if it doesn’t feel like it when you’re in high school.

      Secondly, it’s amazing that society doesn’t look at bike riders vs. car drivers more like we look at military personnel vs. civilians. Who is more badass – the person who rides around in a 4-wheeled Lazy Boy recliner with a climate controlled glass bubble around it, or the person who moves himself around with HIS OWN FUCKING LEG MUSCLES?!? … Secondly, who is doing a greater service to his country – the one using up all the oil and paving asphalt highways and parking lots over all the natural areas and farms, or the one using a vehicle that is 99% lighter and uses no fuel at all? Bicyclists should really be considered another branch of our TROOPS!

      You should definitely get a real car.. 16 miles per gallon is reasonable if you’re driving a cement mixer or a school bus.. but to carry just your own ass? Think 35 as a bare minimum. My car has 5 comfortable seats and gets 42MPG on average. My construction van carries a table saw, miter saw, large compressor, and about 500 other smaller tools plus lumber. or 7 full-sized passengers, and has averaged 27MPG combined so far.

      Sometimes just adding a cheap 100MPG scooter or a motorbike is a money-saver. Then you can keep your truck for heavy hauling and the odd snow/rain day, but still cut your gas cost down by more than 60%.

      Reply
      • Chris October 6, 2011, 2:50 pm

        LMAO!

        I wish I flew around in a LazyBoy recliner in a comfy climate controlled cockpit. Unfortunately Hollywood doesn’t always paint an accurate picture here. My last flying gig had me in me in a full pressure suit (much like Astronauts wear), in a metal ejection seat (no recline btw) and terrible climate control, considering the outside temp was routinely
        -60 C at 70,000ft. My own breath exhaling out of a valve consistently caused ice to form on the insides of my windows-sound comfy? Also, my back felt money after doing this for ten hours straight with little ability to stretch and move. Similar to being stuck in a phone booth (I’m 6’3″) with a bulky pressure suit on top of Mt Everest with a cabin altitude of 29,000ft.

        It was a blast to fly though when I wasn’t scaring the shit out of myself!:)

        Great Article Brotha, keep ’em coming!

        Reply
        • MMM October 6, 2011, 3:12 pm

          Oops, I didn’t mean to suggest that the Lazy Boy rider was a PILOT.. no, I was just saying that CAR DRIVERS are effectively sitting in reclining sofa seats in a climate controlled bubble. I fixed my comment to make it a bit more clear.

          Fighter jet pilots are still more badass than bicycle riders.

          Reply
      • Slash2012 April 30, 2012, 9:49 am

        LMAO at your comment about driving a cement mixer that gets 16 MPG! I am in a commuting quandry myself. I may just rent an apartment for 6 months which is 22 miles from work, which would take 32 minutes with traffic each way. However, the martial arts class I go to 3 times a week is right down the street from the apartment complex that I’ve been looking at, and that would save me time from commuting back home (0.3 miles from the complex).
        However, for the long term, I would like to work closer to work so I can bike. I have a touring bike (road bikes irritate the bulging disk in my neck) which I love riding.
        And I drive a car that has a 3.2L engine that requires Premium fuel. So you can imagine my need to shorten the commute (or dump the Acura…).
        What would you suggest?

        Reply
  • Liz October 6, 2011, 11:55 am

    I see some commenters have brought up the public transport commute. What is your take on this MMM?

    I work in central London, England, and those who drive to work are rare. I think the average commute is around an hour door to door, and travelling 50 miles to work (by train) is not unusual.

    OK so it’s not free, but compared to driving a car, there’s potentially more walking (i.e. exercise), and the opportunity to use the time on the train/bus/subway productively (read, return/write emails, think, plan etc).

    Any thoughts on this MMM?

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 1:29 pm

      It’s certainly better than a car commute, but it sounds like a soul-sucking amount of time to me – unless the total time you spend commuting and working still adds to only an amount you are comfortable with – this was 8 hours for me.

      Not everyone has the same options available to them, but I am writing this article to suggest to most that there IS a better world for workers if you make the choice for yourself. A 5-30-minute walk or bike ride, to get to a job that is fun and lets you have free time outside of work. They do exist! If anyone wants this lifestyle, they should continue to fight for it.

      Reply
    • ermine October 6, 2011, 5:14 pm

      @liz , I used to do that in the 1980s. You are batshit crazy. Move out of the city, dude. It was my worst commute, ever, 1.5 hours for 15 miles. I got to hate my fellow man so bad, changing from surface rail to tibe to tube.l Even moving to Ealing and biking from White City was better, till I move out of the Smoke :) Don’t even talk about the cost of public transport in the UK :(

      Reply
      • Liz October 7, 2011, 3:30 am

        Hi Ermine,

        I did do a 15 mile / 1.5hr commute into London for a little while but decided that it wasn’t for me. Despite the fact that I had a ‘nice’ commute (seat both ways, no changes), and I could read etc, I didn’t like getting up extra early or not having an evening beyond eat-bed.

        I moved back into the city, about 5 miles from work, so now I cycle or sometimes run – best thing ever. I was just wondering what others have put more eloquently – if you make use of the time, is it so bad?

        I agree, there are some crazy commutes out there, your old one sounds pretty bad. As soon as you have to change trains/tubes it’s a whole different ball game…

        Reply
    • JB May 10, 2014, 9:42 am

      London is expensive to operate a car and they have a higher population density than most American cities. It is a mindset to walk 15-20 minutes to a train or bus to get to work. Most around here won’t do it. I was paying $75 a month to park for work and it has become free in the last month. I live 8.5 miles from the office and only have to traverse a couple of major streets. It would be more of a health benefit than a time benefit for me since it takes 45 minutes to ride a bike vs 25 minutes by car. There are times I have meetings after work and I need to drive my car to work. I am going to try and do it more.

      Reply
  • B October 6, 2011, 12:00 pm

    Great article. We moved to south Longmont earlier this year. Its about 1.3miles from my work. The commute is wonderful. A short ride is a wonderful way to start a day. Plus I get the benefit of smelling Oskar Blues in the morning.
    My wife on the other hand still commutes 12miles to Lafayette. I guess half of us commuting is still better than both.

    On the same note as Brave New World. I work in a company of 11 people. We are right off of Ken Pratt kind of by Safeway. That means you could live in south Longmont, Old town Longmont, West Longmont or East Longmont. all of which have good neighborhoods and keep you commute to about 8 miles. About Half of the people decided they were going to work here and then bought a house in Boulder or Johnstown. Crazy just crazy!

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 1:17 pm

      Wow, that is a happy story! I have never even heard of “Johnstown” despite having lived in this area for 12 years. The things people will do when they aren’t MMM readers.

      Reply
  • Bullseye October 6, 2011, 12:14 pm

    MMM, you have to be the best blogger out there right now, and I read a lot of blogs. Every article is quality, keep up the excellent writing! I thought I’d seen every money saving theory and idea out there to achieve early financial freedom, but you keep bringing more!

    My commute is exactly 10 miles, and I bike it occasionally, but usually drive. I can’t see doing it on a regular basis, just a bit too far, and uphill most of the way home. I’m in pretty good shape, too! Maybe the problem is that I’m riding a mountain bike?? I actually trail ride with it, so it’s pretty heavy and has knobby tires. Would a road bike make a big difference? Or do I just need to suck it up and stop complaining?

    The other problem is that I’m a fellow Canuck, in southern Ontario. Snow and cold would make this commute impossible for a few months a year, meaning I’d need a second car either way for that part.

    Ultimately, my goal is to retire early (at 45, 35 now) from rat race jobs, and then do casual/seasonal/part time work or self-employment that requires no vehicle commuting. Trying to talk wife into moving to cheaper area, becoming instantly mortgage free, and implementing this plan sooner!

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 1:15 pm

      Wow, thanks Bullseye.

      You might be surprised if you switch to a city/road type of bike. I used to scoff at the idea, because I thought all I’d save is about 10 pounds over the old mountain bike I was riding – a tiny percentage of the 200+ I was already moving including me, bike, backpack with laptop, etc. Then I got a nice aerodynamic city bike with thinner tires, and I noticed my speed went up significantly (from about 24 km/hr to 30 km/hr average). Definitely worthwhile! When I did some calculations on the wind resistance of the fatter tires, plus the different riding position, it made more sense (although still didn’t explain a 25% jump in riding speed!). Regardless of the physics, I am happy, because biking fast is fun.

      However, you DO also need to suck it up and stop complaining :-)

      Reply
    • Tracy October 8, 2011, 9:47 am

      I used to ride a hybrid bike for a 10-mile commute (uphill), then decided to splurge on a road bike… and it makes a huge difference! That’s even considering all the weight I’ve added with commuting equipment (panniers, heavy-duty lights, fenders). If you have room for it, I’d vote to get a road bike.

      Reply
    • John October 10, 2011, 1:35 pm

      I just bought my first mountain bike in years after having a road bike for a while. The mountain bike is awesome on the trails, but feels like I’m dragging a wagon full of lead on the roads compared to my budget Fuji Newest 2.0 road bike. Massive difference! You won’t appreciate it until you really try it.

      I spent the last year walking 2 mile every day to work. I rode the bike occasionally but honestly it was too quick for my taste. I enjoyed the time out in the weather to walk and think (~45 minutes each way). I would love to be about 10 miles out for a good bike commute. Unfortunately we recently moved 17 miles away (renting a farm) and with the road conditions and distance I haven’t biked it at all yet.

      We love being out on this farm, but I’m not sure it’s been worth the trade-off for me.

      Reply
    • Nat Pearre June 4, 2012, 2:07 pm

      For the budget minded, I would suggest buying a 2nd set of wheels and putting 1″ or 1.5″ slicks on them. Changing out wheels takes all of 2 minutes (just watch those guys on the TdF), and a good used wheelset will cost you $100 instead of the $400-ish you’d want to spend on a used road bike.

      Reply
  • Bullseye October 6, 2011, 12:30 pm

    PS – transit is not even an option for winter, it’s 1.5 hours each way!

    Reply
  • Erin October 6, 2011, 12:51 pm

    Hey MMM,

    I commute 40 miles each way in LA, which leaves me with about 2 and a half hours of driving time DAILY. It kills me, but I commute home to my parents’ house where I live rent free. Lately I’ve been wondering about the pros/cons of moving out, especially financially. Even though I’m spending about $400 per month on gas, isn’t that better than paying $800 to rent a room in an apartment/house that’s not nearly as nice as my parents’? I have a great job in an extremely competitive field and it pays me well, so I’m not looking to quit anytime soon, but I was wondering — do you think there are ever situations where commuting makes sense? It seems like the best option for me, but the time and money lost is still frustrating.

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 1:23 pm

      Erin, you are CRAZY!!!

      First of all, the total cost of driving is at least double the cost of gas, so you’re NOT saving any money by avoiding the $800 apartment. Secondly, you’re spending 55 hours in a car per month for nothing! Even if you were saving $2,000 per month this would be a foolish endeavor!

      Move close to work, and I mean now, like this weekend! Send us pictures of your new pad and your lovely walk or bike ride to work.

      By the way, I checked out your stuff on the Internet – you do have a cool job!

      Reply
      • Erin October 6, 2011, 5:39 pm

        Thanks for the reply, MMM! You’re right. The soul-crushing commuting will come to an end! I have a few friends nearby who have been looking to change living situations and you’ve motivated me to get us in gear and apartment-hunting. Sharing space with more people should cut costs and maybe now I’ll actually have time to actually enjoy my life. Thanks for the (as always) sound advice!

        Reply
        • MMM October 6, 2011, 9:01 pm

          Wow, really? That is fantastic news to hear that this blog has killed an 80 mile LA commute.

          Erin, YOU WIN THE MOST MUSTACHIAN COMMENT AWARD FOR TODAY’S ARTICLE!!!!

          Reply
          • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple October 7, 2011, 8:30 am

            I agree. And that LA commute is just AWFUL! One of my engineers drives 70 miles each way, 4 days per week. He fills his gas tank every 2 days, I fill mine every 2 weeks.

            Reply
  • Physics girl October 6, 2011, 1:34 pm

    I commute about 2 miles on a bike in West Chester, PA. It is fairly hilly, but a pleasant ride. I have had many many comments about safety – do you feel safe? – aren’t you worried about being hit? I generally answer that I feel comfortable that I have taken precautions such as lights and reflectors and that I bike safely. I don’t generally say it, but i think about the death rate due to obesity vs. the death rate due to being hit by a car.

    Reply
  • Dee October 6, 2011, 5:24 pm

    The one flaw I see in this argument is that it contains an assumption that won’t bear out in every case — the assumption that one doesn’t enjoy one’s time commuting. In my case, I take a bus and while it isn’t completely peachy-keen, as it takes me a good 45 mins. each way and I only live about 11km from work, for the portion of the ride where the bus moves along quickly, stopping infrequently, and I’m sitting with my face buried in a book that I’m completely absorbed in, it ranks as one of the best parts of my day. The bus is pretty much my favourite reading location. That being said, right now I would gladly reduce my commuting time because I’d really like to get a dog. As things stand, with my commute, I’m away from home for about 10hrs on workdays, which I think means I need to get a dog-walker along with a dog.

    Reply
  • m741 October 6, 2011, 6:39 pm

    There are some people who are totally batshit insane about commuting. In the financial industry in NYC, there are people who commute from Princeton, NJ and Greenwich, CT. Their daily commute is 2 hours EACH WAY. They drive to the train station, take the train into NYC, take the subway to near the office, and then walk into the office. Some of them take a ferry, which is even more expensive.

    Keep in mind, these are people who spend on average 11 hours each day AT WORK. So they are away from home for about 15 hours per day. The justification? So their kids can go to a nice school! I don’t have kids, but if I did, I’d value spending 2-3 hours per day with them over sending them to a nice school.

    I spent a year living 1 hour 40 minutes away from where I worked, because I wasn’t familiar with the area when I moved there. I was working 10 hours/day. It was a total nightmare. I was away from home for about 13 hours every weekday and it left me exhausted.

    Now my commute is 30 minutes each way, and costs $3/day. I guess I could do better but I like having some separation from work.

    Reply
    • MMM October 6, 2011, 6:52 pm

      Damn good point about the schools, Wolf!

      My own son goes to a school in our ‘hood that sometimes gets passed over by the local high-income parents. They like to go to the private and charter schools further away from home. Perhaps they don’t like the fact that not all the lessons in my school are taught in English.

      Meanwhile, Junior ‘Stash has the advantage of all the parent teaching he can handle. At age 5, we’ve already had time to read through about 50 full-size novels with him, he reads and writes and likes documentaries on evolution and the solar system much more than things like cars or mickey mouse. While you can never fully separate nature vs. nurture with kids, I’d still bet that spending your life in what is basically a non-stop library-science-lab-funhouse with engaged parents, and going to a regular school, is educationally better than having parents who both work 40+ hours a week and going to a fancier school.

      Reply
      • Adrienne October 7, 2011, 8:50 am

        Yes! I know people who are spending $30k for Kindergarten! That’s $30,000 for 5yr olds… I think some people get hung up on test scores and the like but forget that most standardized testing is biased toward certain classes and races. I love our local school which is very diverse (both in $ and race) despite its lower end scores. I believe (especially when they’re young) that I am my kids best teacher. They learn a lot at home from me and their dad (both part-timers). What they get at school is more socialization and learning to work together.

        Reply
  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple October 6, 2011, 9:51 pm

    Ah commuting sucks for sure. Some of my family members commute 45 minutes in the country, which isn’t so bad.

    But at work? Our town is very expensive. So, people who work here…many come from the towns nearby. But it’s not one long suburb. You’ve got Santa Barbara and Goleta. Then a long stretch of highway. Then Lompoc, Buellton, and Santa Maria to the Northwest.

    To the south is Carpinteria (30-40 mins), then Ventura, Oxnard, and Camarillo (45 mins to an hour). These other towns are cheaper, but you will have at least a 30-45 minute commute each way. The expectation is to have a bigger house, I think. That, and the average starter house in SB/Goleta is about half a million.

    While some people can’t believe I’d live in a tiny 2BR house with no garage and only one bathroom, the guy who has been commuting for an hour each way for 8 years thinks maybe I was smart. I’d really like to be closer than 10 miles to work, but when we bought the house, we were looking for a house mid-point between our two jobs. We were closer to spouse’s job, and he biked to work 3x a week (5 miles each way). Now we both work in the same area, so it would be nice to be closer.

    I understand the desire to get into a better school, but in this town that house is $200k more than mine, and you can get a good private school education for that (we still go to public school).

    I lived in the DC area out of college, and my commute ranged from 45 mins by walking/subway, to 25 min driving (same start/end points as the subway), and a 1-mile walk (my final commute when I was living there…I kept moving closer!)

    The whole work/commute thing is so personal, and each person’s idea is so different. I leave work early every day to pick up my son from school. People know this. You wouldn’t believe the ways people try and get me to work longer hours. “What if we had onsite daycare?” No. (These are never people who have the power to make this happen – in fact they aren’t parents.) But even one of my parent-friends made a comment about how hard it is to work and go home and parent when you are tired, and he said “and nannies would be great but they are so expensive!” Really? Really? After working a full day, I’d rather just hire a nanny to pick up my kid, help him with homework, cook my dinner, and hear about his day, so I can just come home and brush his teeth and put him to bed. All so I can work longer hours!!

    Um…don’t think so.

    Reply
  • Bullseye October 7, 2011, 6:05 am

    My co-worker in NY lives in Stony Point, and our office is at Grand Central. He drives 15 minutes, takes a ferry across the river, then the MTA train into the city, 1 hr 45 mins each way (48 miles). That’s if everything goes well, and the river is not frozen over.

    When I do my quarterly visit to that office, I sometimes park at his house and do the commute with him…holy crap! I’d rather work at the McDonald’s down the street from him than do that every day. He’s gone every day from 6am till 7-8pm, and he has three kids.

    Reply
    • Joe Average February 13, 2015, 1:45 pm

      And the kids are the most fun when they are young. Don’t get my wrong – I enjoy our teenager alot too but I wanted to be home as much as possible when they were really little but unfortunately due to college classes (started college and family at age thirty) and work (sometimes multiple little jobs) I was gone more than I wanted to. Not as much as these mega-commuters though. Retirement is nice but I value some time in my younger years to enjoy the simple things too like playing with our kids, dog, and little family excursions to the park or grocery store.

      Reply
  • poko October 7, 2011, 7:07 am

    I can definitely say I’m pumped to start my new job later this month: 1.5 miles from my house!

    Unfortunately, my husband’s job is moving out of downtown and likely into the suburbs somewhere, so he will have to start driving more unless he finds another job :(

    Reply
  • Yabusame October 7, 2011, 7:20 am

    Until 2 years ago, I had a 2 mile commute on my bike. I even used to cycle home for lunch, so I didn’t have to spend money in the work canteen (I didn’t like to pack lunches either). So, I’d cycle home for lunch, cook something yummy (or just something quick) and then cycle back to work in the afternoon. So, I had 4 trips of 2 miles each day on my mountain bike. Some steep hills in between too, but when I switched my knobbly mountain tyres to road tyres things were a lot easier.

    2 years ago, GF, stepson & I moved in together in a new home. Handy for GF to get to work on the bus (4 mile commute) as she can’t ride a bike. Handy for stepson to walk to school, less than 1 mile. Unfortunately, that left me with an 11 mile commute. I used to do it in the car and it would take about 45 minutes each way. I sold the car and now use a motorbike that takes 25 minutes instead (plus its time I consider to be fun!).

    I sometimes take the bus to work, but because it has to go via the bus station in the city it means two buses and 1 hour to get to work. I don’t mind that though as I consider it time for me to spend reading a good book.

    I have cycled to work, but the safe cycle distance is closer to 13 miles and my bicycle was suffering on that (so was I). Unfortunately, the bicycle isn’t well at the moment (snapped the chain), and I’d probably buy a proper road bike if I wanted to do that commute regularly but I enjoy the motorbike & bus commute so I’m happy. (I finish working there at christmas so I’m not worried about the commute any more).

    To be honest, I’m a little smug that I don’t own a car anymore. I know my bank account is healthier for it too.

    Reply
  • C40 October 7, 2011, 8:58 am

    This spring, I moved closer to work.

    Before – 33 mile commute. I live in the far north and on bad winter days it took 1 hour each way.

    After – Less than a mile. 5 minute walk. With nice scenery along the way. Yay!!

    By my calculations, I save about $700 per month. (This includes transportation costs plus other savings like lower rent, cheaper internet service, etc.). This increases my savings rate by something like 10%, which will help me reach FI significantly earlier than I would’ve otherwise.

    When I calculate my real hourly work rate, ala YMOYL (which also accounts for commute time), the move got me a huge hourly raise. Something like 20%.

    Reply
  • David Baillieul October 7, 2011, 9:51 am

    We lived in a rural burb for 14 years with 2 cars going full time running kids to activities, etc. 3 years ago we moved much closer to work/town. Recently dumped 1 vehicle and do a mix of public transport/biking when necessary. Interestingly, we had a family member take offense to going one car, thought we were cheap and nuts. So now, we also get the satisfaction of frustrating her with our one car choice. Priceless!

    Reply
    • Joe Average February 13, 2015, 1:50 pm

      Are we related to the same people? ;) Fun watching the rest of the social circle observe and slowly “get it” why we make the choices we do. Not like many (any?) will make the same choices but perhaps their own choices might weigh on them a little heavier thus motivating them to someday change. Who knows? Who cares? Live and let live.

      What will happen (its happened before) suddenly someone in that group will make a similar choice to one we made ages ago and they’ll suggest that this is revolutionary. Nobody has ever thought of this like they have…

      Again live and let live. Just hard not to say something when they make the rounds and wave it in your face like nobody has had a great idea like their’s. Happened this Christmas with drawing names instead of shopping for everyone. We’ve been suggesting this for years but someone else suggested it this year and so it was a far better idea than when we suggested it. ;)

      Reply
  • Ealasaid Haas October 7, 2011, 11:17 am

    This is a great article. I was unemployed for a while this summer and jumped at the first job offer I got — which has a 32-mile commute each way. It’s about an hour in the morning and an hour in the half in the evening unless a local coworker rides with me (which she does about half the time). Even that only trims about 10-20 minutes off the drive.

    I told my recruiter/agent to find me something closer to my current apartment after this contract is up. Aside from the money, the MENTAL toll it’s taking on me to have the commute is a killer. This is the first time in six years I’ve lived more than 7 miles from work. NEVER AGAIN.

    Reply
  • Tracy October 8, 2011, 10:17 am

    Both my partner and I work in the suburbs opposite Seattle. As a favor to a friend, we rented his house (he couldn’t sell it) in the city and carpooled, 45 minutes each way. Ugh, it was horrible.

    Finally after a year we moved back to the suburbs, now we can carpool if it’s raining (10 min), but usually I bike the 4 miles each way. I used to hate biking, but have gotten a lot better and now actually enjoy it. Sadly, my partner’s office just relocated five miles further away, so I can’t convince him to ride 9 miles…

    I convinced my boss to participate in the Bike Commuter Tax Reimbursement (an alternative transportation fringe benefit that reimburses bike commuters $20/month for bike-related expenses) – http://www.bikeleague.org/news/100708faq.php. So now I get paid to ride my bike! Well, at least it makes it free to ride. If anyone’s employer offers other transportation fringe benefits (e.g. bus passes), see if you can talk them into adding the bike reimbursement.

    I had hoped that some of my coworkers would start riding with the extra benefit, but so far it’s just me and my rockstar coworker who rides 20 miles each way. Other people have admired my ride, but no one’s taken the plunge (one coworker lives just a mile up the road from me, but there’s no bike lane and the road is nasty). Ironically, a new toll is starting on a bridge to the city that all the commuters are freaking out about (admittedly it is pricey, $4 each way), but still no one will consider biking.

    Reply
    • Aleks December 1, 2012, 3:57 am

      Your experience is an interesting contrast with mine. I also work in the Seattle suburbs, but have made a point of living in the city (Capitol Hill and Ballard).

      For me, I look at it this way. I can live close to where I work, and be far away from everything else. Or I can live close to everything else, and be far away from work. I make exactly 10 one-way trips to/from work, and my out-of-pocket cost is $0, since my employer provides a free shuttle service. (Plus, if I work from home 1-2 days a week, I can reduce that to 6-8 trips.) But by living in the city, I can walk or bus pretty much everywhere, and have no need for a car.

      Admittedly, a big part of this is my own strong preference for dense, urban living. But also, I think that buying a house in a place I didn’t really want to live, just because it was close to my job, would be a very short-sighted move. There are dozens of reasons that I might end up getting a new job, and virtually every other employer in my industry is in the city. So buying a house in the suburbs would additionally be making a gamble that I would continue working at the same company for the rest of my career.

      All that said, if I had to *drive* each way, I probably wouldn’t have taken the job in the first place. The free shuttle bus means that the only cost is my time, and I actually enjoy my trip — it’s a nice chance to nap or listen to music.

      Reply
  • Mike Lew Lamar October 10, 2011, 1:17 pm

    That was an interesting read. I’ve always lived close enough to ride my bike to work. My last real job was about 10 miles away, which took about 45 minutes to ride, or about 20 to drive. I always felt good after a ride, and they had a shower at work, so it was no problem. If it was rainy too many days in a row, I would feel out of sorts. I went back there to visit after not working there for years, and people knew of me as that guy who rode is bike from so far.

    Now I work as a freelancer, mostly at home. I was going to Silicon Valley for one day a week, but I would not drive unless I had to. I could take a bus and train and then I got a scooter for grown-ups to go the last mile from the train to work. At least I still was getting out and getting exercise, which doesn’t happen if you’re driving all the time, and driving is so much more stressful. On the bus/train I can work on my computer, read, or just listen to music.

    Reply
  • Adam October 10, 2011, 1:33 pm

    Thanks Mr. MM! The commute is just one in five trips a household makes- you can find out how much households spend on all their transportation at abogo.cnt.org. We here at CNT have been crunching the numbers on combined housing and transportation affordability- defiantly an important way people can save money!

    Reply
  • Shashi October 10, 2011, 1:42 pm

    Interesting read. Another point while doing the calculations would be overall health benefits of cycling, which could probably lead to lower healthcare costs when one turns older. I mean it is difficult for some people like me to find time to exercise or go to a gym. I started cycling to work daily as the commute time remains the same yet I am able to burn some calories as well. So my exercise time and commute time overlap and thus I have more time to spend on other things.

    Reply
  • John Fiala October 10, 2011, 4:27 pm

    I’m behind your ideas 100% there, although in my case I’m commuting via the bus and not a bike. The bus passes near my home, winds through the area, and drops me off a few blocks from work, allowing me a few blocks of walking every morning and evening. I get to relax and enjoy some reading, listening, or naval-gazing, and I’m soon going to be paying for the passes with pre-tax dollars as well.

    In the past I’ve worked in Boulder (1 hour bus ride) and Golden (20 minute car ride), and Downtown with driving, and other than the minor inconvenience of adjusting my schedule to fit RTD’s, I’m loving this commute the most.

    Reply
  • Rachel October 10, 2011, 4:45 pm

    I think I have the best commute – down the stairs to my home office!

    Reply
  • Venkatesh October 10, 2011, 4:53 pm

    Excellent line of thinking!

    Also, if you do similar calculations of the true costs of food items, I am sure you will see how economical it is to have seasonal, local grown food as opposed to the food that travels miles and miles from the place of farming, there by demanding commuting, preservations and freezing, among other costs. And, a similar line of thinking can be applied to ruthless meat and other animal food eating. Now, imagine an individual’s clothing needs, against the backdrop of advertisements and fashion houses like us to believe

    If you are wondering where all this is leading up to, it is we should take charge of the logistics of our living ourselves instead of depending on corporations. It will not only reduce daily expenses, but will give more time to interact with others in a communal manner, reduce the incidents of lifestyle diseases, and so on.

    Reply
  • Chad October 10, 2011, 7:02 pm

    Very timely article, as I am currently talking to a prospective employer in South Denver. My commute would increase a little over 30 miles each way. I was trying to put a cost to the increase in miles and time, but I was definitely missing some variables. I think I may just stick with my short commute and flexibility for working from home.

    Reply
  • Mel October 10, 2011, 8:52 pm

    What do you recommend for cities like Cleveland and Buffalo, who get 2-3 feet of lake effect snow for4 or 5 months out of the year?

    Reply
    • MMM October 11, 2011, 11:50 pm

      That’s right near where I grew up! My recommendation: biking or walking! (and in the longer term, moving ;-))

      Reply
    • GC January 13, 2015, 1:13 am

      I lived in Cleveland Heights (Cedar Fairmount area) without a car (or a bike either) for five years while attending school at Case. I either took the RTA (student pass) or walked everywhere. If you have the right gear (good boots, parka), walking or riding a bike around Cleveland and the nearby surrounding suburbs is definitely possible, even in the winter. In the mornings while I was out waiting at the bus stop, I used to see this one couple riding their bikes down Cedar Road even in the dead of winter. Considering how long and steep that hill heading into Cleveland from Cedar-Fairmount is, biking it takes some real guts on an icy road!

      Reply
      • Roy June 29, 2015, 2:16 pm

        Funny enough, I also live in Cleveland Heights, and I walked a mile to the RTA stop at Shaker and Lee the past two winters despite that pesky “polar vortex” thingy. Good boots and double socks did the trick. I work downtown, and I saw some serious bad-asses biking on some very thick tires all winter long. Whenever I felt like complaining about the weather, I’d immediately see someone bike past my office, forcing me to sit down and sip my hot chocolate in my nicely heated office.

        Reply
  • Peonsafari October 11, 2011, 2:22 am

    I had a job up to a year ago which required me driving all over town. I was paid 58 cents per mile, but the wear and tear and time was still a losing proposition.

    In the last year, I have gotten out of my car loan, bought a car outright (cash, no credit, no loan), it’s a stick shift, 25 year old BMW 325 ES, small tank, very efficient, and changed jobs. I now live 1.5 miles from the office. Here in southern California, that’s unheard of. I sometimes walk but 1 mile of it is a rather big hill…fine in the mornings, exhausting in the afternoons. When I drive I put it in neutral for that mile and coast down the hill. I fill my car up about once every 5 weeks. I do use it for shopping and other trips sometimes..if I didn’t I think I could go two months on a single tank, 3 miles a day. For the first time in my adult life, I have gone a year without needing some sort of car repair save for some basic maintenance (changed the oil once this year)

    The money saved is amazing, but the time is even more noticeable. I leave for work at 825 to be there at 830, and my route is a residential street with 1 traffic light. I leave at 5, I am home at 5:05. I wake up an hour before I am due at the office.

    Reply
  • DJ October 11, 2011, 6:46 am

    We went car free last Spring and this will be our first winter as such. Just my two kids and I. Triplet (bicycle built for three), Tandem (for two). my Velomobile and bus passes when needed. My job is basically raising my two autistic kids. Giving up the car even though we only drove perhaps 1,500 miles a year has given us a boost in useable funds and with a mortgage of just over $800 a month on a 1,700 sq ft passive solar house, we are doing pretty good. Our utilities are pretty low and this is a good place to live and raise children.

    Reply
  • Ian Wright October 11, 2011, 10:39 am

    As I an Ottawa native I am very impressed you manged to bike year round there. It is brave man who can get up in the morning and face -25C weather on a bike.

    I really enjoyed this post. I’m in my late 20s and have never owned a car. Of course I have always chosen to live close to downtown of any city I live in. I have tried explaining my view to many of my friends, some get it others really want the suburban lifestyle.

    Fortunately, I married someone who agrees with me 100% on this issue. It makes such a huge difference.

    I now live in central London and the number of people willing to sacrifice time (most people don’t drive as other have mentioned above) to live in a bigger place further out is really quite amazing. I would sacrifice size over location any day of the week to avoid a 1 hour commute each way like some people I know.

    Reply
  • Kathy P. October 11, 2011, 11:03 am

    Just for fun, I checked the Google bicycle map. My commute in the car is 7.7 miles (one way). Takes me about 20 minutes (Mapquest says 14 minutes but I would have to catch every light green), 25 if the roads are bad. The Google bicycle map gives me an alternate route (the car route includes a 4-lane, limited access highway, no bikes allowed) that’s 7.8 miles but would take 43 minutes of hair-raising sharing the roadway with crazy people who are late for work. I teach at a community college so many of my fellow road warriors as I get closer to school are 18 year olds who have only been driving a couple years and think they’re hot stuff as they lane hop and speed. (Yet another reason that I’m one of the chickens that wants bike lanes, not a bumpy, narrow, glass filled shoulder before I’ll take to the road on a bike. If I even still remember how to ride.) Plus my car has heated seats, a nice sound system, all that. Yeah, yeah, I know – it does cost me money. But out where I live I have a big yard to grow a substantial amount of food, which saves me money. Anyway, I like reading these exchanges, because I find folks’ differing situations interesting.

    Reply
  • Michelle October 11, 2011, 12:08 pm

    I appreciate your article and the message it spreads but I think in hard economic times like these the job market just isn’t what it used to be and the question of commuting becomes increasingly difficult for young families with little experience. My fiance and I were laid off over two years ago and since had to rely on unemployment and part-time jobs. Within the last 6 months we have finally found the jobs we were waiting for. The problem? They are 50 miles apart. We’ve been living together for almost 3 years and aren’t about to split up over it. But in our situation the only realistic move puts us each 25 miles away from our job and leaves us in a terrible neighborhood. What is the solution?

    Reply
    • Nat Pearre June 4, 2012, 2:43 pm

      If you really are both committed to your jobs, then that is a bit of a bind. My suggestion (though be warned, I don’t currently have a mustache), would be to look at both job locations and the bike routes and neighborhoods around both, and move to one of them, then get rid of the extra car. While the per-mile costs are very real, the fixed costs of car ownership are also very real, maybe $1200/yr for insurance, $40 for registration, a significant fraction of depreciation is also time rather than mileage, etc.. Then get a good cargo bike for the short-commute person and join the community.

      (EDIT: Sorry, I didn’t notice the next comment was a reply to this comment with much the same advice, though not assuming jobs as important.)

      Reply
  • Mrs. Money Mustache October 11, 2011, 12:38 pm

    Hi Michelle,

    This is Mrs. MM and I will attempt to take a stab at your comment because I find it to be an interesting (and most likely common) problem. First of all, congrats on finding jobs! And, it sounds like you might be willing to move, which is also great. Here are the questions I’d ask myself in your situation:

    – does one of you have the opportunity to work from home sometimes?
    – does one of the jobs allow more flexibility (arriving later to avoid traffic, etc.)?
    – which job is in an area you would like to live in? is the area affordable?
    – which job is more stable and/or makes more money?
    – which area has more employment opportunities?
    – does one area have better public transit?
    – I would look at other things that might affect you, like schools, bike paths, community, and who prefers biking and who doesn’t mind driving

    Given all this information, I would move to the town that was within biking distance of ONE of the jobs and had more opportunities for employment for the other spouse. Then, the other spouse can start looking for another job in that town asap, as a 50-mile commute would suck!! But, if one person is biking and the other is driving, then there are opportunities for savings as you might only need one car instead of 2. If the person working further away also has the opportunity to work from home once or twice a week, that would make things even better…

    Having said all this, honestly, if it was me I would not do a 50-mile commute. So, I would accept the better job (based on criteria above) and have the other person work part time until they could find a job nearby (if 2 incomes are needed after saving all that money from biking to work!). :)

    Thanks for the question and good luck!

    Reply
  • Steve October 11, 2011, 2:52 pm

    This all reminds me of an essay by Ivan Illich – “Energy and Equity”

    For most of my adult working life as a software geek I always lived within walking or cycling distance from work. I then took the analysis a step further and realized the job itself was the problem.

    So now I drive from job to job in a van filled with chainsaws and climbing equipment in order to prune and remove trees. Exercise is built in to the job and I work when I want, one day a week or 5 days.

    Of course I’ll have to return to the computer screen when my almost 40 year old body starts complaining too much.

    Reply
    • Joe Average February 23, 2015, 3:22 pm

      So now you drive a van full of chainsaws…

      Nah, not creepy at all!!! ;)

      Reply
  • RD October 11, 2011, 3:39 pm

    I’ve got a four+ mile bike commute that I indulge in daily (other than January .and February, that is… Albany NY’s street plowing skills are dubious at best), and I bought the house precisely because of the reasons mentioned above. But I’d also suggest that amenities in one’s surrounding neighborhood should factor in, too. For example, I’ve got a public library, post office, sushi joint, Asian and Italian groceries, a handful of good restaurants and an indie movie theater within less than a quarter mile radius. All this results in even *less* driving.

    Reply
  • english bloke October 12, 2011, 12:58 pm

    I live in the UK, work in London 65 miles away and have a 2.5 hour approx commute each way everyday and mine is by no means considered excessive. I have 2 train changes to make on my journey and have never once yet been late for work. I get up at 0500, get on the train at 0601 and get to work around 0830, I leave at 1630 and get home just before 1900. Today my first station was closed, fatality on the track in the station so I had to jump on the tube and cross 1/4 of London with luckily only 1 change then grab a train from Victoria which as luck would have it got me home only 25 mins late!

    In my office I would say about 1/3 or people have at least a 1.5 hour commute as living in London is quite frankly difficult to the point of self punishment due to the crime, house prices (at least double where I live in London generally, in the area where I work triple at least) and the general filth of the place. Most of us live on the coast, where I live I am 1 min from the beach and 30 mins walking from the hills and woods of the South Downs so the commute is worth it for the better standard of living. Plus I get to read 3-5 books a week, expensive but a joy to have that much time a day to read.

    Reply
  • Brodiemac October 12, 2011, 2:58 pm

    Man do I miss living in Longmont. I miss Colorado in general. :-/

    Reply
  • Jesse October 12, 2011, 3:22 pm

    I think it’s usually a bit more complicated than your hypothetical suggests. First, if you work in an urban area, for every 5-10 miles closer to the city you pay a magnitude greater per square foot for housing, easily surpassing the costs of commuting. Second, there are all sorts of other relevant variables besides being able to bike to work. For example, if you live within walking distance to a bus/metro line that takes you straight to work, you can live farther out without having to drive and thus shelling out the extra cash. Yes, it takes longer, but see point number one. Also, it’s cliche to complain about commuting but try living in too small of a space with kids – THAT’s an insane asylum. Finally, you apparently haven’t been let in on the secret that if you wake up before other people, your commute time is much less. Plus you feel like a boss turning on the lights in a dark office in the morning. If people are too lazy to get up early enough to cut down on their commuting time, they don’t deserve the extra cash.

    Reply
    • Gerard June 12, 2012, 7:16 pm

      But that’s what MMM IS saying… the cash/time benefits of the more expensive close-to-town place outweigh the “cheaper” farther-out place that eats up hours of your time and/or makes you get up at 5 am.
      wrt a too-small space with kids, hmmm, most of the world seems to manage it… how did our kids get so awful that being near them is an insane asylum?

      Reply
  • afuzzyllama October 12, 2011, 4:01 pm

    I am curious if you could comment on hybrid cars. I really would like to buy a scooter, but where I live (Florida) riding a scooter to work on the roads I have to take is basically a death wish.

    Do you think that cost of a hybird (or the upcoming Prius plug in) is reasonable when it comes to trying to save money on commuting? The base cost of ~35k is pretty steep, but (when thinking about the plugin) I could commute to work without using a drop of gas (though the cost of charging would have to be taken into consideration).

    I am very interested in your thoughts on this.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • MMM October 12, 2011, 8:34 pm

      Go for the scooter! http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/19/guest-posting-get-rich-with-scooters/
      There’s nothing inherently dangerous about scooters (vs. motorcycles, for example) on any particular road if you pick a model that can keep up with traffic.

      You’ll never save money buying a NEW hybrid. In the new car field, I’d currently pick a Toyota Yaris. But if you can get a 2004 Prius with reasonably low miles for a little under its blue-book value of $9,000, that could save money over even an economy car, if your commuting has a big city component to it (since the Prius really kicks ass in city mileage).

      Reply
      • afuzzyllama October 12, 2011, 8:49 pm

        My love of scooter was reignited by that post of yours (which prompted me to write the previous comment)! I do agree, if you buy a beefy scooter you can keep up with traffic, but driving a car in Florida is scary enough. If my commute was on the back roads, I’d be all about it, but on the 45/55 roads I’d be 6 feet under with my first accident.

        I used to drive a Yaris in Japan and the gas mileage was sick! I’m still in love with that car, but with all the talk of electrics/etc I was wondering if there is any value in that yet…. time will tell I guess, but my wallet cannot be a laboratory for big ticket items like that!

        Thanks for the input!

        Reply
  • Bob October 12, 2011, 4:29 pm

    Just read a book or work stuff on your commute (assuming you take public transport). My commute is about 1hr each way, even though I only live a few miles from work (inner city and all).

    Reply
  • Crissa October 12, 2011, 4:36 pm

    But the bank won’t let us pay $954,000 more for a closer house!

    …So instead we cut the commute to once a week and work at home the rest of the time.

    Reply

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