353 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.

  • Katie October 12, 2011, 4:42 pm

    I hate commuting, and hope to find a job someday where both my husband and I can avoid long commutes*, but I think it’s a mistake to consider time spent in the car as a total waste. One year when I was stuck commuting 25 miles (40 minutes) each way**, I re-learned Spanish, “read” a ton of books (of the audio variety), and caught up with family and friends (using a headset, of course). So, for me, it wasn’t wasted time at all.

    *This may be more difficult than it sounds, as both my husband and I have very specialized jobs that only allow us so many locations to work in. We currently live 600 miles apart because it’s the closest together we could find our respective jobs.

    **I was in the middle of my PhD, so there was no switching jobs for me, and the only job my husband could find was 40 minutes away from my grad school city. Since he’s a vet, with on-call time, we had to live close to his work – hence my long commute.

    Reply
  • Andrew Schwartzmeyer October 12, 2011, 9:04 pm

    After taking a summer job 22 miles away (about 30 minutes each trip), I can certainly agree with this. That commute was probably the worst thing about the job. However, in my particular case I would say it was worth it for the following reasons:

    1. At age 18, going into my sophomore year in college, I was living with my parents = free room and board. Moving any where would have been much pricier than zero.

    2. Rather than take a local minimum wage job in my small town in Idaho (realistically the pay would have been between $7 and $9 an hour) doing a job that had nothing to do with my future career, I instead made $10 an hour working with a small IT management company. I got amazing first-hand experience, flushed out my resume more than anyone else I’ve met my age, and did this before even finishing my B.S. in computer science.

    For practically any other situation, commuting is not worth it. As far as my summer experience went though, the expense I believe was worth working at JLComputers, plus I was putting more miles under my belt as a relatively inexperienced driver, while driving on rather safe streets as far as most cities go.

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  • Rachel October 12, 2011, 9:39 pm

    I would love to get rid of my commute. My profession involves traveling from house to house to provide in-home behavioral therapy, and my company has a rule that we must have our own transportation. This area is very rural, so while I get reimbursed for any time and mileage between clients, my drive to my first client and from my last (anywhere from 10-60 minutes) isn’t fully reimbursed.

    On the plus side, my willingness to commute has played a role in me getting an offer for a promotion as well as more hours. I’ll be transferring within the company to a larger city in several months, and while I’ll still have to own my own car, frankly I’m just looking forward to no more days of leaving home at 8, getting home at 7:30, and only being paid for 6-9 hours.

    All that to say, I’d be very happy to be able to give up my car completely, but I don’t know how to get there. I didn’t even know this job existed 9 months ago, so I’m hoping that there’s another similar profession out there that doesn’t require as much commute. While the money is compelling, since I majored in education I never expected to earn much; mostly commuting just drains me, and I’m stuck thinking of all the things I could be doing while I’m stuck in traffic. Any suggestions?

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  • Mike October 12, 2011, 10:02 pm

    I may be the exception, my wife and I moved away from work to get into a larger home and better schools. I still try and [bike] commute 3 times a week and work from home when I can. My commute went from 3 miles to 15, but I love the extra miles. We moved from a tower near wash park to Littleton. Another thing to consider is open space and activities, Denver has a great parks system, but there are buffalo literally a few miles from where I live and huge open space. The burbs aren’t all bad.

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  • Spiff October 13, 2011, 3:04 am

    Good text but it does not mention one of the major aspects: Commuting is in itself an activity that makes no sense at all in some cases, no matter where you are.

    I work in IT and for 10 years I’ve spent time in traffic. During those, I could have been at home at least 50% of the time, wasting a lot less money (food out, driving, car, even office expenses). I understand that many works cannot be performed this way, but many do and employers have to realize that sometimes it’s ok to work from home (for a few days a week at least). If your processes are mature you can still measure productivity and performance, plus the waste is much less.

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  • Loz October 13, 2011, 5:27 am

    Certainly one should factor in the cost of the commute (as a time cost as well as a $/gallon cost).

    BUT (and it’s a big but) – what if the commute is to a job that pays hugely more? I live in a regional Australian city. I take the train almost 3 hours, twice a week, to get to work in our biggest city (net cost each way – $7.80, read it and weep drivers!).

    But my job there pays almost twice what I could hope to get here. and the cost of living in the city I work in is ENORMOUSLY higher than where I live – our rent here is half what it was before we moved last year.

    Which means that that doing commute means I can work 3 days a week instead of 5, and my husband can stay at home with the kids. Which means we can spend much more time with my family.

    To me, that’s totally worth it. And frankly I imagine most people commuting long distances are doing that because of similar maths. Naturally we should all do the calculations, but don’t assume everyone who can’t walk to their workplace ipso facto doesn’t know what they are doing!

    also, the nice stories above about buying houses within a few miles of work to save commuter milesare lovely, but boy must they be geographically specific. I could do that where I live now, if I worked here and didn’t mind a half salary paycut. But where I work, I work in the CBD, and no house within 10km of there comes in under a cool million (usually well over) and they don’t make flats to fit families of 5 there. we paid $500/WEEK RENT for a house 12km out of the city! again, it really isn’t a general proposition that everyone can live near their workplace for a reasonable sum, but of course I don’t dispute that the calculations should at least be done.

    Reply
    • Jane May 9, 2012, 11:11 pm

      I presume you’re talking about Sydney?! I live there and right now my husband and I are paying $700 rent per week for a house in Maroubra. Sydney is insanely expensive. I commute by bike to the CBD, 7 miles each way – 40 mins morning, 1 hour and 15 mins evening. I love my commute – the ride home can be slightly stressful sometimes but the ride into work is lovely. When we decide to buy a house we won’t be able to afford to buy in Sydney that’s for sure : (

      Reply
  • Jaclyn October 13, 2011, 8:11 am

    Wow, there’s a lot of comments on this blog entry! I apologize if someone has already said this, but I believe the IRS bumped it up to $0.55 in June. That’s what I am currently being reimbursed at and my work follows the IRS numbers.

    I travel a lot for work and I get reimbursed for my mileage to and from the airport. When I first started working here I thought I was making a steal with my reimbursement check! I didn’t realize just how much the maintence of my vehicle broke out for each mile.

    My husband and I are currently looking at houses. I would LOVE to be able to bike to work. Traffic in the Boston area is absolutely insane. People seem to prefer to drive over using public transportation. Unfortunately I don’t work in the safest town, so I’m not sure if the biking (or finding a house) will work out. We did find a house about 4.5 miles away from my office, but it was built in 1780 and needs A LOT of work. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things work out!

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  • Minnesota October 13, 2011, 12:51 pm

    You’re speaking to the choir for me. Of course, I didn’t have much of a choice on the commute. I do 75 miles each way, 5 days a week (in eastern North Dakota, so it’s all Interstate highway) to a job I took after being laid off from the previous. I’m fortunate to have a 3-person carpool, but the time out of my day (2.5 hours) is a killer. I refuse to move to where the job is as my life is where I’m living now. However, it’s only been a few months and I’m getting some opportunities back in my town which will hopefully pan out. It’s good to note that this commute has opened my eyes, gotten me into a cheaper car from my pickup, and has the potential to improve my financial understanding of the costs of driving.

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  • Mohammad October 14, 2011, 12:06 pm

    I like your calculations – I did a few of my own commute calculations a few years ago – http://www.forouzani.com/the-cost-of-commuting.html

    Which is why I now own a motorcycle and ride to work every day ;)

    Reply
    • Joe Average February 13, 2015, 3:03 pm

      How many miles do you get out of your motorycle tires?

      Reply
  • Mike Roberts October 15, 2011, 12:19 am

    Please do get around to your winter bike commuting post soon! I bike commute in nice weather but not in the winter. Perhaps your post would give me the courage to do it!

    Thanks for your blog!

    Reply
  • Baughman May 30, 2012, 12:11 pm

    Stumbled across this article today: “Long Commutes: Bad for the Heart”
    http://www.freakonomics.com/2012/05/30/long-commutes-bad-for-the-heart/

    Made me think of the relevance of this blog post.

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  • MK June 1, 2012, 10:29 am

    While I understand the points of your post, my thoughts include…

    I don’t want to live in the city – I want to work in the city. Therefore, to retain my sanity, I’m willing to consider driving to my new job as far as 30 minutes each way, live in a nicer area with more housing options that are larger, cheaper, safer, and quieter.

    Will there be days where I wish I didn’t drive an hour or so per day? Sure. But for me the quality of my life is more important than the $ calculations.

    If it is a cost measure, I could agree, but in my circumstance it isn’t.

    Still, I give you kudos for so much thought and passion regarding the subject.

    Reply
  • Nat Pearre June 4, 2012, 5:14 pm

    Some thoughts:

    There are dull, interchangeable, automaton jobs in the world, and many people do them. But then there are exciting, challenging and even important jobs, that you feel privileged to do. Where you and your spouse are both lucky enough to have jobs of the later kind, and those two jobs are further than a couple miles apart, then there may be less room to optimize.

    I feel it is disingenuous to price time commuting at the rate you get paid. The purely economic analysis would suggest that the value of your time is LESS than what you get paid, otherwise you wouldn’t go to work at all. Furthermore, that analysis could be applied to other things as well: If the time I spend watching TV is costing me $25/hr, I would not watch TV (which probably wouldn’t be a bad thing). If the time I spend gardening is, I’m not going to garden. If the time I spend cooking is, I’m going to order in all of my food. I can only conclude that the actual value of that time is far less than the pay rate.

    So while I’ll happily grant you the ~$5000/year in variable costs of driving 38 miles each day, and add to that a non-trivial amount of fixed costs such as insurance, registration, time-based depreciation etc., I’m not sure I can quite buy the $125,000 over 10 years.

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    • Ryan June 4, 2012, 5:25 pm

      From the article: “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.”

      I can’t say that in an extra hour at home I’m earning my hourly wage. However, it’s hard to undervalue extra time in your day. If you sleep & work 8 hours each, that leaves 8 hours for commuting and living life. An extra hour each day is a huge proportional increase (say, 7 hrs vs 6). That extra time can reduce stress, increase time to spend with friends, or enable you to cook, garden, fix the house, etc. Some of those things directly correlate to money saved. Others are priceless.

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 4, 2012, 6:02 pm

      Hey Nat,

      You’re taking an exception (two people who can’t find high-skill jobs within say 15 miles of each other, an easy bike ride for each if you live in the center), and using it to try to disprove my rule (try your darndest not to sign yourself up for a car commute).

      There will always be exceptions to the rule. But my point is, most people don’t try hard enough to avoid a commute. Like the couple described in this article, voluntarily signing up for a 19-miler just because they like my neighborhood. Easily 90% of the commutes I have analyzed myself could be eliminated with very minor lifestyle changes.

      Regarding valuing your leisure time: I feel the opposite way: I my time is worth even MORE than what I was getting paid at work. So obviously I’d would not waste it by watching TV every night. I would, however, invest it in things that don’t have an immediate payoff, like exercise, learning to renovate my house, reading books that teach me new skills, and even stress-relieving activities like gardening.

      Seriously: your time is worth much more than $25 per hour. If you start treating it that way, you’ll be much more likely to become financially independent and not stuck in the silly situation of having to shuttle your body back and forth daily to a job. That’s not the goal of everyone in the world, but it’s the theme of this blog.

      It’s true that I think of these things differently than most people. In fact, that’s the whole point – I’m Mr. Fuckin’ Money Mustache! You NEED to think of things differently, if you want to get different results.

      Reply
      • gubmints October 21, 2012, 9:58 am

        MMM –

        There are some serious exceptions to this rule if you live on the West Coast.

        I live in North San Diego. My first job in 2000 was 3 stoplights away, and the commute was pure bliss- on some days (where I did not have a meeting in my employer’s second building) I walked in to work!
        Roll the clock forward 4 years. I was laid off and took employment 39 miles away. The job pays much more, but the commute is a real ButtBurner. A few days/month I break up the monotony by biking to train station, riding train for 45 minutes, then biking the rest to the office (1.5 hrs each way).
        Even before reading your blog, shortening my commute has been the first thought I have when waking up every work morning, and the last thought I have when I go to bed on a work night.
        But here’s the math. We spend $450/month in fuel, $2,200 in mortgage, taxes, and HOA (total of $2650 in housing+commuting). If I had the cash to move- just to cut my commute in HALF to 20 miles each way- the identical tract-home mortgage and taxes would add up to $3850/month, plus gas of $225/month (total of $4075 in monthly housing+commuting !)
        For this difference of $1425/month I could afford to stay in my present house, LEASE a high-end BMW or Lexus every 3 years, then drive it in to the ocean at the end of each lease term.
        Again- I totally agree with the lost hours costs, but in some states the math of moving to within walk/biking distance simply does not pencil out.
        And thanks in advance for not calling me a sissy, panty-wearing wussboy.

        Reply
  • Bullseye June 4, 2012, 7:19 pm

    Just wanted to update on my results since I started biking to work regularly since my earlier post here. What I found with my 9 mile each way ride is that at first when I started,I thought it was a crazy distance to bike, and it gave me some sore legs the next day. I’ve now done it at least 100 times, and of course it’s become easier physically (or at least faster, from 45 to 30 minutes), but more surprisingly, I’ve gotten over the mental hump of it. What used to seem like an extreme thing to be doing,even for a reasonably fit guy, now seems totally normal. I used to have to psyche myself up for it, and sometimes I’d talk myself out of it in the morning for some various reason. Now I don’t even think about it, it’s no different than when I commute by car (which I still need to do sometimes for various reasons). I just hop on the bike and go, without even thinking about it.

    So thanks, MMM, and others here, for normalizing this for me! I just needed some non-suburban, out of the box thinkers to tell me it wasn’t crazy, it was in fact quite logical to do.

    Reply
  • Patrick June 8, 2012, 4:55 pm

    Hey MMM,

    Found your site a month or so ago off Hacker News and I must say, can’t agree with you much more – especially on this article. I bike everywhere – and really must look into a bike trailer!

    On the commuting front – while it’s probably unsustainable in the extreme – I made a little carpooling website for ski fields in New Zealand (snowpool.org).. and .. people are slowly coming around to the idea of at least sharing that expensive (200km round trip minimum) with more than one person.

    All the best, and say Hi if you’re ever out this way.

    Reply
  • Greg June 24, 2012, 8:23 am

    Great article, I’m swapping a 30+ mile driving commute for a 7 mile bike commute and am very happy about it. I get a little lost in your math though around the value you assign to the time lost in car. Its likely that my overall commuting time is going to be pretty close to the same in my above-described situation. The value to me is an hour a day of extra exercise and all the save-the-earth-human-powered-hippy goodness that comes with that vs. being in the car, although it will supplement what I normally do. so I don’t think I can count that as gained time per se towards my mortgage.

    Sure I’ll save on the commuting expenses, but riding my bike won’t put time, as in time=money, in my pocket, driving might actually win there because I could get home ~20 minutes faster in a car than on a bike.

    I’m just arguing semantics here, I’m glad for the trade-off, and more people should do it, keep preaching!!

    Reply
  • Andre October 9, 2012, 10:33 am

    Great post. I just read it for the second time. Gotta love the commuters that try to justify their lengthy commutes with the excuse, “it’s relaxing.” No thanks, I can relax on my front porch w/ a snack much better.

    Over 25 years of corporate work here are my round-trip commuting distance throughout several jobs: 70 miles, 20 miles, 10 miles, 2 miles, 4 blocks, 2 miles, 3 miles, 6 miles, 3 miles.

    Reply
  • Cnicoles6 October 11, 2012, 4:01 pm

    So I just ran the numbers and I’m more ready to move now than I have ever been before, not to mention finding a way to bike/walk/bus to work. I currently live with my parents 23.2 miles from where I work, which is about an hour commute in Hou, Tx. $18444/yr in car expense and wasted time! I am floored over here. That would pay off the parent plus loan my parents have for me. RIDICULOUS!!! 580 hours in a car just to GET to work is NOT OK!!!! Thank you for this eye opening blog. I intend to rectify this issue with a swiftness!

    Reply
  • Meg October 19, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Thanks for this post! So well-written.

    I live in Portland, OR, the (former?) bike capital of the country (I think we were ousted by Minneapolis). I work 3 days/week, and live 5 miles from work. I recently made a commitment to bike to work every day, which I had been doing only once a week. What spurred this? The realization one day that I had spent $9 on parking and $5 on driving (car costs) …. and I still had to go to the gym after work. Biking to work would cost $0 to park, and a scant few cents in bike-related costs (thanks, belt drive). Not to mention my workout for the day would be done.

    Anyway, this post is a great quantification of the true costs of commuting. I didn’t see a reference to the reduced healthcare costs related to biking to work. Or maybe you are in Canada (lucky bastard)?

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  • Istanbul October 23, 2012, 10:26 am

    I am looking for work right now. Recruiters bring me so many jobs located at least 15 miles away. That’s about 40 minutes in rush hour traffic. When i bring up the fact that it is too far, they have this funny look in their face. They do not get it. Average human brain is not made for factoring in the depreciation, gas,time,maintainance,accident risk and so on. By the way, these are quite educated people, but still do not get it. I do not remember anyone complaini about commuting costs unless gas price jumps for a short time. Many of my wife’s friends live far from each other and see each other quite a bit. I just heard from my wife that her friend visited her friend last weekend living 50 miles away driving a murano!!! I am sure she did not even pay attention for real cost of commute except gas:) I see examples like this all the time. It is hard to be the outlier and get along with everyone else. One of my friends invited everyone for a brunch that costs close to $20 and i decided not to go. It just does not make sense pay $40 for two and get all those calories that will require a marathon to burn it off. I try to convince my friends to meet at starbucks or similar spots so i am less pressured to eat high calorie food. I moved off a bit off topic. Sorry about that.

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  • Jack Olson October 25, 2012, 9:50 pm

    I hate driving to work and I’m so glad that i gave that up a few years ago. I started by taking my company paperless and instead of having a file room, we had all files hosted on dropbox. now we can all work remotely from home. Then I sold my car (and a bunch of other crap) and loaded up my family for Costa Rica. Since we live on the beach, we don’t need to go anywhere in a car except to the grocery store. We we go shopping, we just take a taxi or ride the bike. I still have my job and my US income but now i live on the beach in paradise.

    Reply
  • Matt October 28, 2012, 3:40 pm

    This is my first comment on the MMM blog so go easy :). I’ve only recently started reading the blog and this one is a great one, but I struggle with it for 2 reasons. I can’t deny the logic of this argument, I buy it 100%, but hear me out:

    1) On the “where I work” side, I’m an IT consultant and I don’t have a consistent work location. My “office” can change every few months according to who my new client is, sometimes it’s closer to home than other times. Also, I may have to go to sales meetings and whatnot mid day in which biking is not conducive to maximizing the amount of time working during the day. For this reason, driving makes sense for me. I suppose I could get a new job, but I enjoy what I do and my company is great. The pay is great and the career is great.

    2) On the “where I live” side, I have a different problem. My wife and I bought a house for 200k back in 2007 at the height of the market, so we don’t owe a tremendous amount compared to others. We refi’d down to 15 years (14 left until paid off) last year, and we both work with good incomes. However, we lost 25% equity in our home during the recession and so to sell now and move in town closer to Atlanta would be a big hit to realize that equity loss. My commute is often way worse than the ones highlighted in this post, usually more than 40 minutes to 70 minutes ONE WAY depending on client location!! It’s terrible I know, depending on traffic around the ATL. I’m not interested in renting out my house and becoming a landlord, just not interested in taking on the responsibility and time commitments with where my career is at right now.

    What’s the thoughts from folks here? My gut tells me put up with the commute for a while until my home equity bounces back + being on that 15 year note will help us build equity faster, then move. Our expenses are under control and we’re moving in that mustachian direction in a lot of others ways, but this one is an outlier.

    Thanks!
    -Matt

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 28, 2012, 7:38 pm

      Nicely put, Matt!

      I guess it depends how much commuting you could save if you moved to the center of your usual work triangle.

      If you sell your house and buy a new one in a more central place, you’ve lost nothing – because your new house is discounted by a similar percentage to your old one.

      Or you could overcome your fear of owning a rental house – it’s really very easy: one or two hours a month is much easier than the 30 hours you’re currently wasting in the car!

      You can do your own math, but it is quite possible you are in the worst possible situation right now, so taking any of the above actions could be very profitable. Your spare time is the most valuable thing you have – don’t waste it driving back and forth!

      Reply
  • Patricia November 6, 2012, 12:54 pm

    I just can’t stop reading and commenting on your posts! Another great job, Mr. Money Mustache!

    I have a quick story here. I had a well-paying job in 2008 and was commuting from New Jersey to New York daily, often leaving before it was light and getting home sometimes after 7 or 8 p.m. at night. As I’ve mentioned in my last comment, I am single, no children so even though I could have easily prepared meals for myself ahead of time, I’d frequently spend money all day long – from the bagel and coffee in the morning (or worse), right through lunch and then often bringing home dinner being too beat to cook. Add to that the $200+ a month I spent on bus passes and subway transportation, the occasional after-work “social” hours and endless dry-cleaning and that extra I was supposedly earning for this not-even-great job was very taxing.

    I started my own business after a great number of us were laid off just before Christmas that year and even with the struggles it took to get my virtual assistance business off the ground, it has been immensely worth it. I couldn’t/wouldn’t go back to my old life if you (literally) paid me to do so.

    My annual dry-cleaning cost is virtually zero, I eat out infrequently, get to visit my farmer’s market through the week when less crowded and prices are lowest (and early in the morning when selections are often best), I got rid of the car I only used on weekends at best, and I’m in a better mood far more often. I even cut off the cable which I don’t miss at all and opted instead for good old rabbit ears and a converter box. I just keep the internet because my business depends on it. Turns out that most of what I miss on TV is available online through my internet provider so I skip the DVR and anything important enough to watch can be pulled up at my convenience . . . and FREE!

    It’s true, working at home has costs involved that I didn’t think about before. I use more heating and cooling during the day when I would otherwise have been in an office and my computer is on just about 24/7, but compared for all I’m getting in return and saving, it’s so worth the exchange in time and money.

    I think most people think of cutting back as a loss of something. I haven’t experienced that at all, and when I think of what I lost all those years trying to make an ill-fitted career work, frugality and better choices have paid off big time.

    Now I only hope when I do “get hitched” I pair up with a guy who’s down with the Small(er) House Movement. Not so small you can pull it on the back of a truck or car, but just no mega mansions for me. I always knew that wasn’t what I wanted and it’s nice to know there’s a whole world of others who agree with a lifestyle of less excess.

    Life is good, if you know how to live it. I’m earning less and keeping more. That’s good livin’ for sure!

    Reply
  • Mike December 6, 2012, 12:45 pm

    MMM,

    What would you do in my situation?

    I have recently started reading your blog and determined I am spending too much on my car.

    I have an 18 month old, 2011 Kia Forte Koup Sx, origionally purchased for $26,000 including all taxes/fees

    $17582 is left due on the car, bi-weekly payments of $254, and ZERO percent interest.

    In addition, this car carries a 100,000km warranty of which only 30,000 is used.

    My concern is that by selling this car, I will get less than what is owed on it, which will be an immedate financial hit, as opposed to making slow payments on a 0% loan.

    Whatever used car I pick up will be less reliable, and have no warranty.

    Please let me know what you think.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 6, 2012, 3:57 pm

      Hey Mike(and others in the same situation)…

      The key to these decisions is to ignore what happened in the past, and ask yourself, “Would I buy this car, knowing what I know now?”

      I would definitely sell it. Think about what you said right in your question: it might be worth less than what you owe on it.. even though you committed to a $26,000 price and have forked over $8500 in cash so far.

      In other words, you’ve already lost $8500 in depreciation just from driving that thing around for 18 months!! You could have bought a GREAT car for that $8500, and you would have no loan and another 10-20 years of reliable driving too look forward to from it. Instead, you have $17,500 in debt.

      You need to stop the bleeding immediately – sell it, get a car around $5,000 and you’ll have great reliability as well as much greater wealth over time. Meanwhile, work on your commuting – the less miles you drive, the longer your car will last.

      Reply
  • Bob December 27, 2012, 11:47 pm

    Great post! This doesn’t even cover the negative externalities of driving. There are huge costs payed by all of us due to the $125,000 commute being the norm. Congestion, pollution, risk of injury, etc.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/25/car-pollution-noise-accidents-eu

    Reply
  • amber December 31, 2012, 1:09 pm

    I think the exception to the live close to work rule is if you have reliable public transportation (that you will actually use!)

    Living in the shadow of your workplace is a bit anti-Early Retirement in my opinion. If you are always right near work, it can take over your life more easily. Sentences like ‘oh, I’ll just pop into the office and do one quick thing’ start to come out of your mouth on a weekend.

    I specifically chose to live across town because I was not sure I would want to stay where I was working, and did not want to feel bound to it by convenience. Yes, the long train rides can be a drag, but I have found ways to make it work for me, and the ride is subsidized by work.

    Reply
  • G. January 9, 2013, 11:03 am

    I’m a little late to this party, and didn’t have the time at the moment to read through all the comments. So, sorry if this has already been addressed. What’s your take on people that are looking for rural living? Want property- want our own land to wander around on, farm on, “vacation” on etc. We don’t want to see another soul for a month if we don’t want to. I’m currently in the process of a likely move to a smallish retirement community. The area is surrounded largely by forest lands (and ocean), and given the retirement setting, there aren’t a lot of homes that fit my bill. Heck, I’m not even old enough to purchase in a number of the neighborhoods. But most of them are small, and worse, “low maintenance”-i.e. no yard etc. This was not our first choice of town, it’s about 1.5 hours from where we really want to be. If I sign on with this company (and I’m “well paid”, low 6 figures) now, I will have the opportunity to transfer to the town we want to be when a new location is built in hopefully the next year. My odds are better as a transfer employee than a new hire (so it’s worth it to go to the town we don’t necessarily want to stay in). So I’m looking into real estate opportunities. Smack dab between these two towns, the one I will likely be working in and the one I’d rather be living in is great little oceanside village. Up the river a few miles is a home I’ve looked at more than once. Small farm 7, acres, already has chicken coops, fruit trees and gardens. It’s almost 34 miles exactly to either work location (and by google maps estimate) and 1 hour each way Times might be improved, but then again, its a coastal highway, so, at times the commute time might be worse. This house would work for employment in either town, meaning we could look to purchase immediately. We’re a frugal couple. That 6 figure salary didn’t come cheap, but all my loans are paid off, my (nice, newish car, bought used) car is paid off. We have no debts. We have enough in down payment to keep a 30 year mortgage under $1200 a month with taxes etc. Or, we rent, and to get what we need (for storage of a trailer, classic car) in this little community were looking at closer to $1500 a month, maybe more. And if we choose to rent in this area, for year, perhaps I get a job in the city I want to go to, and maybe cut the commute down to more like 15 miles/30 minutes. Keep in mind, we WANT this move. I’ve been waiting two years to see job opportunities come up in this area, there are maybe two viable options a year on a 100 mile+ stretch of coastline. What’s your advice in a situation like this? I start to tell myself that to I think its doable and worth it. No, I don’t want an hour commute each way every day (and, good or bad, I’m usually a 4x10hr a week worker), but when I factor in the prices of renting, and the happiness of my husband, who won’t be working, except on our land after this move (and future family), this out of the way house has everything we need and want, expect the commute. Or we wait, and find something, maybe, later that fits our needs and cuts the commute in half.

    Reply
  • Joe C January 17, 2013, 10:29 am

    Thanks for this article MMM.

    I’m from the snowy tundra of Rochester NY myself, but last year moved all the way down to Clearwater FL for a nine-month internship. I bought a bicycle on Craigslist there and started biking to work regularly (about 5 miles each way).

    My co-workers thought I was pretty weird for a while when they saw me rolling in, sweat flying (FL summers – ouch), but hey, there was a huge shower and locker room at work. And these were the same people who would poke fun at me for eating PB&J, right after they ordered a $12 lunch and DROVE several miles to pick it up at a local take-out joint. Sheesh.

    Reply
  • Fig Newton January 20, 2013, 9:09 pm

    As a note on bike repair costs. I bought a used road bike for $75. After a year of biking to work (3,300km) I finally spent another $75 to replace the worn-out chain and cassette. I did the repair myself, but if you used a bike shop it might cost you another $50.

    For me, that was 2.3 cents/km (4.6 if you count the initial cost of the bike). Road bikes are simple machines that require very little upkeep if you don’t abuse them.

    Reply
  • Angela January 23, 2013, 7:55 am

    This article is the one that initially brought me to mmm… and it’s been the most frustrating to me. I relocated (for marriage) and left my job with a 2.5 mile commute for a new job with a 52 mile (round trip) commute. OUCH. It was my top choice Company in my field… and I was hoping that a transfer would happen rather quickly….that’s the only way I justified it.

    I’ve been biding my time wasting 1-2 hours a day in traffic for the last 6 months, and finally got the news I’ve been waiting for… I’m being transferred to the location that’s 3 miles from my house beginning April 1st!!! I’ve already mapped out my bike route :) Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  • Andrew January 30, 2013, 7:47 am

    “I’m looking forward to reading about the empty interstates and bicycle-filled streets tomorrow morning.”

    This is great. Looks like we’re closing in on 16 months since this post, and we’ve yet to read about the empty interstates! I am finally going to pull the trigger on getting my wife a bike (from Craigslist) and going to get my bike that’s been hanging unused in my parents’ garage for the last 4-5 years. And I’m going to do it by the end of April. (We got so caught up in consumerism before we woke up that we’re drowning in debt. I need a couple months to pay off a student loan and then that cash will be free to purchase her a bike.) Keep up the good work, MMM! Everytime I get ready to order “a catheter and a bedpan” I come read one of your posts.

    Reply
  • chubblywubbly February 19, 2013, 5:06 pm

    I love to bike, but only in parks. I live in NYC and it is dangerous riding through so much traffic.

    I am not the world’s greatest biker as I have problems keeping my wheel straight but I can bike for 15 miles no problem.

    Would you bike to work if you lived in NYC? Also would you recommend riding against traffic, I see lots of restaurant deliverymen bike this way.

    Reply
    • Ian Turner May 25, 2013, 9:57 pm

      I bike to work in NYC, so I guess the answer to your “would you” question is “yes”. I initially started because bicycle was the fastest way to get to work, and because I could do much of my commute through central park. But since I moved, I keep doing it because I love getting some outdoors time every day before and after work, and because I feel that if I didn’t then I’d have to make time to go to the gym.

      Bicycling is good for you! The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks of injury by somewhere between 20:1 and 100:1, and that’s even if you don’t wear a helmet.

      Regarding your second question, no, I do not recommend ever riding against traffic or on the sidewalk. I know that delivery workers do these things; it’s because time is money to them, and they make precious little as it is (but it’s still dangerous).

      Reply
  • Matt February 22, 2013, 1:27 pm

    So this is my second post to this article, and really a follow up from my post about 6 months ago or so.

    My dilemma before was that I was commuting about 2.5-3 hours a day to work and about 85 miles round trip, 5 days a week. Putting tons of miles and wear on my car, as well as missing important things in my life. Through a little stressful argument with my wife over the commute, I decided to put things into action. I really had 3 different levers available to me to save cost:

    1) get a fuel efficient new car (mine is paid off), but this did nothing to save my time
    2) move to a house closer into the city (i work all over the city since i’m an IT consultant so biking to work is kind of an unrealistic idea for me since i could be at multiple client sites during a single day)
    3) get a new job (not really realistic since i’ve got a great career, make great money, and enjoy my work)

    so.. update… we went with option 2, we moved about 28 miles closer to the city. my commute went from 85 miles a day to about 32 miles a day round trip. I’m sure some folks still balk at this and I know it’s not as short as this article calls for, but living any closer into the city gets you into some potentially bad areas. we moved as close as reasonably possible, plus moved very near my parents for future child care needs.

    Also, update… we did not sell our old house and take that loss, we turned it into a rental property. We’re 2 years into a 15 year loan and found a renter who is covering 90% of the mortgage value, so we’re only coming out of pocket a little bit.

    All in all, the new house mortgage is a good bit more than the old house, but our net worth overall has gone up because of the second house ownership. We’re saving about 400 bucks a month in gasoline costs alone, but most importantly, my commute is only 1 hour a day now. It’s been an amazing ride, but thanks to this blog MMM for really getting my mindset around how important it was to consider a move to resolve the issue.

    Reply
    • Ian Turner May 25, 2013, 9:59 pm

      Regarding the “potentially bad areas”, I’ll just note that car commute length is one of the strongest predictors of both health and happiness in industrialized Western societies. You really might end up healthier, happier, and richer if you went for the gave those neighborhoods a closer look.

      Reply
  • webman April 8, 2013, 1:39 pm

    As someone who commutes 4 hours round-trip everyday (company banns WFH) on public transits, all I want is to say “FUCK COMMUTING”

    Reply
  • tree_weezel April 28, 2013, 9:00 am

    Invariably this strategy makes people who work in a city look at “bad areas” and get squeamish.

    I would like to see a MMM guide to “Urban Warfare”: safeguarding and soundproofing an inner-city home and and maybe securing your car too.

    Reply
    • futurista February 12, 2015, 6:27 am

      I’d argue that those “bad areas” are bad because you don’t live in them. You have to be the change, and make it easier for others to follow in your footsteps. Things will get better, as they have in many cities, for precisely this reason. The trend toward urban living is strong.

      Reply
  • Jhun June 12, 2013, 11:40 am

    Well said! Thanks for the post.

    This is my life till now. I got a car accident twice in two years. I like this qoute

    ” You can’t count the ‘cost’ of the time I spend driving to work, because I have no way to get paid for those hours”

    Better to find a job close to the place I live and just live within your means and be happy with what you have. Start loving and wanting what you have and what you are getting.

    Reply
  • Karl June 27, 2013, 9:37 am

    Hey Mr. M.,

    I scouted the comments above to see if this had been brought up, but I did not see it.

    This is a great article, and I’ve reread it several times thinking about my own situation (roughly the same as your example: 20 miles and 40 minutes each way). On my latest rereading I realized I didn’t agree with one assumption for calculating how much more would be reasonable for a house closer to work.

    I don’t know if anyone will read this far down, but on the assumption that they might take your numbers at face value and actually spend $15,900 per mile for a house closer to work, I would suggest they should adopt a “monthly payment” standard rather than an “interest payment” standard, since paying interest alone doesn’t reduce the principle. Granting the serious ‘fuzz’ of assuming we net $625 for the 6 minutes saved in each day (which is more likely the for longer distance differentials), that would mean we could (should?) spend $11,200 rather than $15,900 per mile.

    At that cost, assuming a 30 year mortgage at 5% (and assuming the Bankrate mortgage calculator is accurate), $795 per year will pay both principle AND interest. Even though this number is almost 30% smaller than your original figure, it represents a big shift in perspective: we still should consider spending an additional $336,720 on a house 30 miles closer to work. The more hardcore mustachians would aim to by a smaller house, spend close to the same amount, and really grow the ‘stache by pocketing the difference.

    Reply
  • Heath July 8, 2013, 4:15 pm

    I finally have something to add to this discussion! This was the article that hooked me on MMM a year and a half ago. Yay!

    I’ve been slowly trimming the fat from my lifestyle, and I recently moved close to work. I now ride my bike 4 miles one way, and couldn’t be happier. Well, mostly. I live in Tempe, AZ (in metro-Phoenix), and it’s currently 1 billion degrees outside on my ride home @ 5pm. But I’m learning how to manage it. Riding in to work in the morning is nice though!

    Some tricks I’ve learned for the heat:
    – I wear a helmet, and it keeps the sun off most of my head. Plus: less brain damage! :)
    – I use a basket (or panniers) to tote my backpack, which eliminates the sweat-soaked back/shoulders syndrome.
    – I bring a change of clothes and some wet-wipes for remaining ‘fresh’ and ‘professional’.
    – I apply sunscreen to my more exposed bits, as the sun will disintegrate my blindingly white and fragile skin otherwise.

    When I get home, I take a quick cold shower and feel like a million bucks… Which is what I’ll hit day, with advice from this site :-)

    Thanks again MMM. For all of the badassitude.

    Reply
  • ruralgirl August 15, 2013, 10:56 am

    I love this article and it gives me lots of things to think about. Maybe you can shed some light on my situation.

    I graduated school last year and ive been looking for ‘the real job” since then.

    I live in a rural area but i am about 1.5 hours from a major city. I do think that 1.5 hours is too much so i dont usually consider jobs in the city.

    there are some smaller cities within 40 mins drive, I have found some jobs about 12, 13$ an hour there.

    In my town that i live in almost everything is minimum wage, occasionally you might find $9 an hour. ( i can bike anywhere within my town and the next few towns, a rural bike commute is nice except in winter as they do not plow/salt all the roads so it is a major risk (i would have to walk then. Even driving is risky in winter here because of the plow situation and salt shortages)

    the past few months i have worked a temp agricultural job that the commute ranges from 4 hours/day to 1 hr a day but the company drives us in a bus :) so there is no stress there at all, can relax the whole time.

    Now i am presented with 4 different job offers :

    Which do you feel is the best, mustachian wise, all things aside?

    Option 1: Job located 5 blocks from my residence. Pay is minimum wage. also dead end job but get tips/commission

    Option 2: Job located 1 hr away. Pay $14hr some opportunity for advancement + commissions

    Option 3: Job is 30 mins away. Pay $12/hr. dead end job.

    Option 4: Job is an hour, 5 mins away, pay is minimum wage, but they said they can give me full time, lots of hours.

    I am thinking the best might be the one in town, but wanted ur advice

    For reference my car has $175,000 miles on it and gets 25mpg.

    In the past i drove 3 hours a day commute and spent about $400 on the car every month when all was said and done. And i hATED 3 hr drive…it was nuts.

    Reply
    • Ian Turner August 16, 2013, 5:08 pm

      Hi Ruralgirl,

      Some questions: Are you living with your parents? Is the cost of living where you are now significantly different from the cost of living closer to your prospective employers? Are any of the jobs more interesting to you personally? Do you have a significant other, child, or other constraints?

      Assuming the answers to these questions are all “no”, my advice would be to take offer #2, and then plan to relocate closer to the job, hopefully within bicycling distance or public transit, but at least enough to cut your commute costs and hopefully get rid of your car. My reasoning is based on the following assumptions:
      1. #2 is the highest-income job, before taxes.
      2. Taxes don’t make a big difference here because you’re not making enough for them to take a real bite.
      3. Distance is not a major factor because you can relocate, which is a one-time cost.

      Regarding biking in winter, you can get special winter tires for your bike which have metal studs to grab icy pavement. They are comparable to chains for a car, I guess. I’ve never tried them personally but I don’t think they are too expensive.

      Reply
  • Karl August 20, 2013, 2:10 am

    After a little convincing and encouragement, my housemate recently bought himself a nice steel single-speed bike for commuting to work (7km away) and general use. I recommended the single speed simply because he is new to bikes so extra simplicity of use and reduced maintenance is a must.

    It cost him $190 inc shipping (on sale), plus another $80 for a decent lock, helmet (mandatory, unfortunately) and a pair of lights. I promised to give him some training for free so he is comfortable riding on the road and amongst traffic in our auto-centric but fair-weathered city. At the moment he is spending at least $56 per week on public transit.

    Even if he uses his bike for half those trips the bike will have paid itself off within 10 weeks of use. After that the savings are going straight into his pocket! Especially since the weather is getting nicer here in the southern hemisphere and as he rides more his confidence and fitness should improve as well, which should result in a higher ratio of trips taken by bicycle and thus more money saved.

    I have no idea why anyone else wouldn’t ride a bike too, especially if they are lucky enough to live in a flat, fair-weather city within 10km from work or other attractions.

    Reply
  • Tina September 11, 2013, 11:09 pm

    I’ve been also looking at houses in Longmont, actually, as that is all I can afford – 13 miles from my work in Boulder. But your blog post was my final inspiration to say no to that. Even though I know that a small house with land, bought now while interest rates are low, would be a better investment over the long haul, I’ve decided that *not commuting* is my highest priority.

    So I’m now in process of buying a mobile home 1.5 miles from my workplace. It is a feudal setup with only partial homeowner sovereignty and i will have to pay ridiculous space rent, but if you consider that the cost of the mobile home is less than a down payment would have been, basically what I’m getting is very cheap rent in a very expensive town. I plan to pretend I’m actually paying the same amount that I would be paying on the mortgage and instead, sock the extra money away in some sort of savings/investment account, eventually to be perhaps spent on a retirement place on a tropical island :-) Or buy a home with land down the line.

    What do you think of the mobile home as an MM strategy?

    Reply
  • dude October 3, 2013, 11:02 am

    Oh, this post hurts me deep down. I mean viscerally, like a mule kick to the bread basket. Here’s why — I drive 70 miles/day, 9 days a pay period, i.e., every two weeks (I work a compressed schedule, so I have every other Friday off). I’ve been racking up 30K miles per year on my car since I started this commute 7 years ago, to the tune of around $350/month in gas alone. And yes, it sucks big blue ones. I don’t need to be told that. Prior to moving to our current eastern megalopolis residence, we lived in an even larger eastern megalopolis just a few hours south — NYC. There, I took the subway for a mere 15-minute ride to work (and back). 30 minutes of laid-back, productive — because I polished off books and my magazine subscriptions at a furious clip — commuting a day. No more.

    I (weakly) justify the asinine commute this way — I like living in an urban area for all the amenities it offers; bars, restaurants, sports stadiums, parks, bike paths, grocery stores, etc., all within a short walk or subway ride. It also didn’t hurt that we bought our place in what is the hottest real estate market in this area, while many of the people living out where I work are underwater, even still (largely because many bought at the peak). We really like where we live (and our place has all the things we wanted — deck, off-street parking, basement, etc). But of course, we paid — and continue to pay — a serious premium for that (I try very hard not to think too much about how much less we could have paid, and where the difference could have gone, had we bought out in the ‘burbs where my job is). And finally, even if I wanted to move closer to where I work, my wife would never go for it (I had to drag her kicking and screaming out of NYC, and I don’t think she’s forgiven me yet for that one).

    Changing jobs, i.e., moving my job to where I live, is simply not an option. My current job offers me an unmatched pension (which i will be eligible in just 5 1/2 years at age 53) and benefits package that I wouldn’t give up at gunpoint. Moving out to where I work? Well, all common sense says I should (though my wife would then either have to commute into the city — made easier by train service) or find another job, which would likely pay a lot less.

    So I suck up the commute, with all its attendant ills, and dream of the day I reach FI and no longer have to pack myself like a lemming into a shiny metal box . . .

    P.S. — It’s painful to share my suckitude in this way, but I’m hoping it will be cathartic, as the act of reading just about everything on MMM has been. I’ve already taken the axe to a lot of frivolous spending since I began reading this site just a few weeks ago. I’ve had around a 25% savings rate for a while now (which is pretty solid considering I will have a pension that replaces around 43% of my salary), but have been super-inspired by the eye-opening math presented by MMM regarding how early one can retire based on X rate of savings. You got me hook, line and sinker. Now to contemplate my commuting situation a little more . . .

    Reply
  • Mad Fientist October 8, 2013, 6:44 pm

    I know this is an old post but something I read recently made me think of this article (which is one of my favorites, by the way) so I figured I’d share what I read.

    While doing some research on the economics of happiness, I came across an empirical study that actually quantified the negative effects of commuting on a person’s well-being. The study found that someone who commutes 22 minutes (each way) would need 35% more income to be as satisfied with their life as a person who does not commute. Therefore, moving 22 minutes away from work would be similar to taking over a 25% pay cut, even before accounting for the actual monetary costs of commuting that you highlighted in the post!

    Reply
  • Intelligence Analyst seeking to become financially intelligent October 30, 2013, 10:03 pm

    I work in Defense Intelligence currently deployed to Afghanistan, but will be moving to work somewhere near the Washington, DC Metro Area upon my return (unavoidable). Before reading this blog I was mentally prepared to drive my 30k 2013 vehicle about an hour each way to save on rent. Now that I have your incredible formula, I can formulate the optimal living location by factoring the higher monthly rent versus the true cost of commuting. I am new to MMM, but am quickly becomming a disciple. After too many years wasting money and having little to show for it, your blogs will help guide me towards being FI. Thank you and please keep the great advice coming!

    Reply
  • Cuzzourt December 27, 2013, 1:30 pm

    Great post. Very relevant to my situation. I appreciate you calling the decision to live with a commute as complacency.

    I have been at my current job for a year now and have driven almost 30k miles. The commute is 55miles one way and averages over 90 minutes. So at least 3 hours a day. Its horrible and sad that I have gotten used to it. I put my home on the market 3 months prior to starting this job and as I write this it is still listed. I am likely asking for to much ( less than what I paid). My is a nurse and works part time for a plastic surgeon and has a significant role there. Both our families live here. We have a 3 year old whom my in laws watch for us when we both work. I estimate that a similar job in my small town would pay 10-15k less and have less opportunity to be promoted and see earnings grow. If we moved closer to where I work, housing costs nearly double and renting would double what I pay now for a mortgage, including insurance and property taxes. We would also need to pay for daycare or lose my wife’s income. If my wife did work it is unlikely that she would find a job like she has now that allows her to work part time and avoid the usual 12 hour shift nursing jobs. We also want to have another child.

    All this has made the decision extremely difficult and frustrating and caused me to become complacent. I’ll have a CPA license sometime in 2014 so will probably have more opportunities if I become motivated enough to look.

    I am currently think I will be happier earning leas and working where I currently live( everything is within 3-5 miles of where I live).

    Reply
  • Stephanie February 1, 2014, 10:28 pm

    I live in Colorado too and I just LOVE this post! I am all about never ever taking a job that forces me to drive a car to work, ESPECIALLY drive a car on the highway. For me it is much more about the hell of driving compared to the freedom of biking, rather than money. I probably save a good amount of money in gas and wear and tear on my car.

    I drive a manual transmission 1999 Saturn SL2, which I will likely not replace if it dies because there are so many great carsharing options in Denver. I see all these people who drive really far to have big houses and I just DON’T GET IT! I have a 1680 square foot house where 3 adults and 1 child live and it’s plenty of space for us, in fact, we have an extra room that is barely used. I would hate to see the winter utility bills for a 3000 square foot house.

    It’s good to see I’m not the only one who would put the ability to bike to work ahead of most other things in making job decisions. I’m far from early retirement so I will be working for awhile and if I have to find a new job that will definitely be a top priority.

    Reply
  • Tim February 3, 2014, 5:46 am

    Math error?

    Sorry to be a pest, if I’m misunderstanding your calculations on the 17 cents per mile… But I’m considering a move based on the cost of my commute, and I want to understand the math properly.

    $25 oil change spread over 5k miles – isn’t that less than 5 cents?

    $300 tires spread over 50k miles – again I come up with less than 1 cent.

    I’m truly trying to apply this to a real life situation. Will you mind explaining what I’m missing?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 4, 2014, 12:07 pm

      Hi Tim – yeah, as the article says the oil is 0.5 cents, tires 0.6, maintenance 1. So that’s about 2 cents/mile, added to 10 for fuel and 5 for general car weardown, adding to 17.

      But these are VERY barebones costs – not many people can drive at this low of a cost unless they are skilled at DIY car maintenance and can extract 100,000 trouble-free miles from a $5,000, 35MPG car. For most people, I’d suggest doubling the figure at least. For typical SUV-financers, the figure is often over $1.00/mile.

      Reply
  • Reg February 12, 2014, 5:47 am

    I do have one question that may actually seem silly, But here goes:

    How close is close enough?
    Also, is it safe? Really?
    Let me explain.

    I do live in the center of the major city in the area (always did), and I work 11 miles away. It just happens to be unbikeable, because the complex I work at (covers 3 sq miles, at least) is actually on the edge of town, and there are no bike paths all the way there (yet). But, my commute is 9 minutes (13, with traffic) on all of four roads, counting the one I live on (5 turns to get to parking lot from house). I’m looking at buying a place about 5 miles from work, but I’m not sure if I’m already good for distance (closer is VERY questionable). I’m not opposed to biking for any reason other than personal safety; where I live, I’ve known at least 6 people hurt (seriously) on motorcycles, and my dad biked (bicycle) to work a lot, but fell off his and had a mild concussion (his own fault; but not sure how long he was down, tho). Am I making too much of the dangers, and given I’m talking a 5-10min commute by car, and even in my car that avg 21mpg its not a full tank to drive for a week, would it still make sense? My commute by bike might actually be longer!! HELP!

    Questions:
    1) Trade car for bike (still?)
    2) Fears of bike accidents valid?

    Reply
  • Panama April 4, 2014, 1:40 pm

    I love this post and topic. More Americans need to put a realistic value on their time. I drive 25 miles each way on a poorly maintained highway in southern Louisiana. One way ranges from 45 minutes to 75 minutes. So a daily commute of 50+ miles and 2 hours gets old quick.

    Leave my door at 7AM and get home after 6PM Monday – Friday.

    I am doing this a few more months until I can move and hopefully work from home.

    Reply
  • Doug Swain April 29, 2014, 5:23 pm

    Curious MMM – When you were working a 9-5 job and commuting by bike, how long was your commute? I’m planning on moving closer to work to start doing this.

    Reply

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