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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.

  • Consumer-to-Frugaler March 8, 2015, 6:44 pm

    MMM, I love the website and am working my way through all your posts, it’s awesome!

    I admit, I’ve been way too much of a consumer throughout my life; however, one of my greatest strengths is being able to change habits super easily and I’ve decided to focus on frugality to ensure that in 8 years, at 45, I will be able to either continue doing what I’m doing, if happy, or change lifestyles, as you have.

    That said, one of the challenges I’m seeing ties to a lot of your posts re: location and housing costs. We absolutely love the city we are in, Vancouver, but the prices of a home dramatically eat your net worth, with a townhouse for our family a short distance from my office costing $1,100,000.

    Reading the stats of saving between 50% and 75% of your income seems challenging when so much goes to our mortgage and strata fees.

    Don’t worry, I know I’m just being a whiny pants, and typing it makes me realize that. Also, based on what I’ve seen on your posts, on our budgets and cash flows, for repayments of debt, should we be breaking out interest between interest (expense) and principal (investment / savings)? I’m more inclined to now, because I’m viewing the repayment of principal as a positive to net worth = savings, in which case maybe we are doing better than I think! though there are huge opportunities for improvement.

    I’m intending to start a blog as I work my way through your posts, though not in the MMM detail, documenting growth of our family net worth as we work to an arbitrary target I’ve set of $2,500,000; which I believe is achievable in the next 8-13 years.

    Look forward to reading the rest of your posts and implementing your writings!

    Reply
  • Flannery March 14, 2015, 10:52 pm

    Hi MMM,
    I am new today to your site – recommended by my friend whose frugality I’ve long admired. I am interested to know what you would say about my situation if you have a moment. My husband and I live in the Canadian prairies and moved from a city (where he works) to a small town. We have four kids and basically we moved to save on housing costs. We are now saving $750 per month on rent alone (and the house is bigger!)… but now of course he commutes forty minutes door-to-door. It seems that even considering the cost of the commute (and he can carpool with our landlord twice per week) we are ahead… any thoughts? Thanks! (PS – I stay at home and homeschool, so outside-the-home work for me and schools are not considerations in this equation for us.)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 15, 2015, 3:35 pm

      Hi Flannery,

      Considering the numbers, he’s spending 40 x 2 x 20 = 1600 minutes or 26 hours to save $750.
      Assuming a speed of 50 km/hr he drives 1300 km at a cost of, say, 40 cents per km all-in ($520).
      Due to carpooling, you can knock 40% of this cost off and get to $312/month of actual driving cost.

      So he’s saving a net of about $438/month for 26 hours of driving/riding, or $16.84 an hour. That is a pretty low pay rate in my opinion, especially for an activity that is unhealthy and among the more dangerous things you’ll ever do on a per-hour basis. But at least you aren’t losing money outright like many commuters!

      My own choice would be move within walk/biking distance of work, and revel in the health and sanity benefits – worth far more than any money savings.

      Reply
  • Damian March 24, 2015, 1:05 am

    I’ll note that your example is not outside the realm of cycling distance, I commute by bike 37km (thats about about 22 odd miles) each way 3x a week….. (this includes about 800m/2500ft climbing in total for the round trip)

    In Australia, that change in housing location would likely reduce the cost (for a similar property) by 1 to 1.5 million dollars, possibly more (Similar houses to our $500K house 35km from the CBD that are within 10KM of the CBD sold in last weekends auctions for over $3 million)

    Time is everything, but in Australia, living closer to work (and the professional jobs are overwhelmingly central in Australian cities) is not even an option unless you make a LOT of money.

    (For the record, my commute is around 90-110 minutes in, 50-70 minutes out by car (traffic flows are different), 75 minutes each way by train (including a 4km bike ride at the home end) and 85-95 minutes by bike from home to office door.)

    Reply
  • Brent April 20, 2015, 3:11 pm

    Good day, MMM!

    I was drawn back to this post to get some of your thoughts on my new working situation.

    I live in Sacramento, CA and currently commute every day to San Francisco. A 90-mile trip each way.

    “You’re insane!” Hold on, let me explain.

    I’m relatively new in the field that I’m in (I help to design electrical plans for construction projects using AutoCAD, Revit, etc.) Go to any job posting on the internet or newspaper and one of the first prerequisites is almost always “must have minimum 3-5 years experience” and I’ve only been doing this for 2. These first two years were spent commuting to Vacaville (approx. 40 miles from my home). This new job (which was offered to me in part because my father works for the company and he’s one of the most well-liked guys there) has given me a huge pay increase (nearly 40% if you count the paid benefits, something I didn’t get at my previous job), more paid holidays, on-the-job training that I wouldn’t have received at my previous job, room for growth and advancement (something else that seemed to be lacking previously), and a lot less stress in the working environment. All of those things are great in theory, right?

    However, I’ve exponentially increased my commute distance. Now normally the cost of gas, maintenance, and depreciation would skyrocket as a result but I found a work around. There is a carpool that picks up just a town over from my previous job and it costs $1.25 to ride into the city and $1.25 to ride back. Can’t beat those prices with any other form of transportation. So my actual “cost” hasn’t increased dramatically. Additionally, the commute drop-off point is about 1.5 miles from my work so I get a healthy 3 mile walk every day. And on top of that, the ride between the drop off and pick up points is between 45-60 minutes so I’m getting almost 2 hours of extra sleep that day. Problem solved, right?

    Not quite. The biggest sufferer in all this is my time. I’ve gone from a total commute time of about 1 hour, 45 min a day to at least 4 hours a day. I wake up around 4 am, get to work around 6:30 am, get off between 3:30-4 pm, get home anywhere between 6-7 pm, and try to be in bed between 10-11 pm.

    “You dummy! Move closer or find a job near you!”

    It’s so simple, it’s almost absurd. But there are challenges.

    “You’re being a complainypants!” Hold on, let me explain.

    Here in sunny California, there’s this invisible line that separates “the valley” and “the bay area”. This invisible line runs down approx. half-way between my house and my new job. On the valley side we have lower housing costs but lower wages (at least in my current job field). On the bay area side we have the opposite, higher housing costs but higher wages. The further you deviate from the dividing line, the greater the disparity, especially on the bay area side. So the closer I get to work, the more exponential the living cost increase. I’m currently renting and am paying less money for a 4 bedroom, 2k sq ft house (we have 4 kids) in Sacramento than I would pay for a 1-2 bedroom apartment in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. Additionally, we have established and fostered close relationships where we live, are very involved in the local theatre community, and both sets of parents live within a half hour of our house (see: free babysitting).

    To look at it one way, I’m cheating the established system. Paying valley living costs while earning bay area wages, all without a large increase in my established gas/maintenance cost with the added benefits of getting good exercise and a lovely nap in the morning and afternoon.

    To look at it another way though, I’m now only getting only a few hours every day with my family and have almost no time for recreation or outside-of-work-projects (I really want to landscape my backyard and plant a vegetable garden).

    I think I’ve got a real future, should I desire it, with this company. Not just a job but a career. But even if I don’t, just being in this job for a year (hitting that all important 3rd year mark) means I’ll be able to market myself out to future companies at a higher wage than if I had a locally based job.

    So am I justified in my insane commute? Am I the exception to the rule?
    Or am I totally off-base and need a firm smacking?

    Reply
    • Joe Average April 21, 2015, 8:01 am

      I worked for a lousy company for several years early in my career. Lousy company w/short commute vs your good company/lousy commute.

      What I told myself was that this was temporary – I was building my resume up with that job and when I had enough I’d get serious about finding a better situation. If you continue to work like this and hate some aspect of it then move on to greener pastures as soon as you can.

      Sounds like you have a much better employer. Hopefully you can be successful there enough to afford a home closer to work or you can build up your qualifications enough to find something closer to home.

      Nothing is nuts for a few years’ worth. Its just what you might need to do over the short term to get career traction.

      I met a fellow one time that had driven back and forth 125 miles each way (no carpool) for 19 years to a job halfway across the state. I asked why he didn’t move closer and he explained that his wife and her family were “married to this place” and would never move. He bought only used Ford Taurus at that point. MPG vs TCO vs reliability vs safety vs comfort…

      A few of our friends drive ~80 miles to the next big city to jobs they explain are better than anything they can get here. Must pay very well to cover the fuel, vehicle wear and their time year after year. If they are happy then I’m happy for them.

      Reply
  • 100milecommuter July 2, 2015, 6:46 pm

    Fantastic blog.

    I am currently commuting five days per week. My commute averages 50 miles and 1 hour each way. Traffic issues can increase my drive home to 1.5 hours.

    It is regrettable, but in our case, there is no straightforward solution to avoiding a lengthy commute. We are DINKs with average annual wages over 300k, but we own a large farm an hour from the nearest proper city. It is neither logistically nor economically feasible to sell for the next several years.

    My medical group lost the contract at the small community hospital where I was on staff. I took the only position available given my specialization within a 50 mile radius. My pay was reduced by 50k+ , but in exchange, I no longer take call.

    My spouse has a commission-based career that is utterly dependent upon established relationships in this area.

    I respectfully disagree that one should avoid commuting at all costs. I am doing the math, and it is just not smart for us to establish a home in the city where I am now working. My spouse often works out of a home office and has a short drive to the airport from our farm. We have no debt, own our property outright, live frugally, and save 100% of my spouse’s take-home earnings. We were able to achieve this because our cost of living on a working farm is very low when compared to the expenses of city life. Our property taxes, for example, are about $2,000 annually. We earn that just by sending a couple of calves to market.

    I estimate that it would cost thousands per month to set up a second home near my new hospital, which we would have to purchase since we have large dogs. To cover that cost, I would have to return to taking call in order to maintain our current savings rate. That would increase my salary, but there is literally no value that I can place on being free from clinical obligations once I walk through the door at the end of the day. The stress of commuting cannot begin to compare to dealing with a medical emergency in the middle of the night.

    I could sell my newer SUV and buy an economy car, but for me, the tradeoff in comfort and reliability is not worth the savings. I do not, and will never have, the luxury of flexible hours, set hours, telecommuting, or compressed work weeks. I am making the best of the path we chose, but I have a commitment to my patients and the hospital where I am on staff to be 100% accountable.

    If anyone has any brilliant ideas or similar situations to share, I would be grateful to hear about them. As it now stands, I plan to learn Spanish on audio CD and take running clothes with me in the event that the interstates become too congested to make it home within an hour.

    Should have gone to dental school, but that horse is out of the barn, so to speak.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache July 3, 2015, 8:15 am

      Wow!

      I’d start with the assumption that it MUST be done, then go on with it. For example, you could rent out your farm (or sell it at a loss), rent a house in the city, and find a new home for the dogs.

      It may sound radical to a dog person, in effect you are slicing off 20% of your entire waking life, plus about $20,000 per year, plus the risk of death or injury due to driving, plus the guaranteed health problems from 2 hours of sitting, plus the $5,000 or so in direct pet costs, JUST for the privilege of having dogs.

      Actually, some rentals do allow pets – they just come at a cost premium, but probably much smaller than the premium you are paying now.

      Finally, you don’t need an uncomfortable economy car (like a 1989 Geo Metro) to save gas – look into a 2010 Prius: quiet, fast, and luxurious, but also inexpensive and gets 50+MPG on a commute. Also one of the most reliable cars on the market – probably better than your SUV.

      Just a couple of ideas from an outsider – good luck!

      Reply
      • 100milecommuter July 27, 2015, 6:31 pm

        Thanks MMM.

        Appreciate the ideas. Thought you’d appreciate the follow-up.

        We considered all our options: leasing/selling farm, changing cars, in-town rental, even retraining in a different specialty. Dogs are family members and thus non-negotiable.

        The decision: I’m not renewing my annual contract. When I reach the one-year mark in a few months, the partners of my group can decide whether to retain me on an as-needed basis or lose me altogether. I’m going to work for myself as a 1099 contractor, filling in for groups that need coverage during vacations, illness, etc.

        Working + commuting with this gig is averaging 60 hours/week. Annual salary is less than I’ve made since residency. Dividing hours worked & commuted by salary = an hourly wage that is less than skilled trades charge. So who’s the smarter worker?

        Not worth it. I’ve gained 10 pounds. I don’t have time to adhere to my previously healthy lifestyle. I don’t participate in social outings or hobbies. My back and legs are wrecked. My husband is not getting, well, you know.

        My fancy SUV is for sale, not that any of your readers would be interested in a German-gas guzzler that requires $100 oil changes and 93 premium. B&O stereo though.

        Readers, consider carefully the true cost of a mega-commute. Money aside, it will likely wreak havoc on your relationships, your body, and your ability to participate in life.

        If you must do it, keep your eye on the prize (i.e. the end of commuting) and make it short-term. Life is too short.

        Reply
  • Vekole July 10, 2015, 3:29 pm

    Wow, such a great post….never really thought about it quite like this although truth be told, I’ve always thought about the “cost” of commuting. We spend far too much time in our cars and far too much time and money commuting to work! You’re right about the prices in Canada being that much higher too! I drive a 2013 Subaru XV CrossTrek that cost me almost $36,000 new and plan on driving it FOREVER! It currently has 42,000 kms (which is about 26,100 miles). Not bad for a 2013; If I take really good care of it, I anticipate having it for at least 15-20 years. Previously I inherited by dad’s 1988 Volvo and it was 19 years old when I sold it and truly regretted selling it instead of spending the money to fix it.

    I live in Toronto – in the suburbs – and work downtown and drive to work because my other options are not necessarily “better”. I don’t know exactly how far it is (something I now plan on measuring!) but it takes me approximately 50-60 minutes in the morning and slightly longer in the afternoon. I leave home @ 6:35-6:40 AM and by the time I park (10 minute walk from my office because it costs $10/day instead of $32 in my office building), pick up my morning coffee and walk into my office it is approximately 7:25-7:40 AM. I start work @ 8:00 AM and rarely leave before 5:30 PM. I’ve looked at the options and none of them are that much better than what I currently do (other than finding a job closer to home, but that’s another issue). Riding a bike would be near impossible given the distance and treacherous conditions on the roads with the number of cars in this city (not to mention the winter conditions). Public (city) transit takes about 90 minutes door-to-door and costs $6 return OR I could drive to the nearest subway station, which would shave about 15-20 minutes off the commute but then add $5 for parking. This would cost $11 total AND still take longer than driving to work. It also requires 1 bus and 2 subway lines (i.e. 1 transfer) and not always getting a seat. Considering the amount of time it would take, being on a packed bus + subway and the cost and time involved, I still think driving is a better option over city transit. At least from where I live.

    I could take GO Transit, which is our regional rail system (Government of Ontario Transit). This option allows me to park my car for free but costs $12 for a return fare and door to door it takes about 70-80 minutes (taking into account having to leave a little earlier to park the car and the walk from the train station to my office). All in all, my options are to move closer to my job – which is not really an option considering the cost of housing in the City of Toronto – or find a job closer to home. I work a 4-day work week and actually get paid MORE money than I would in a suburban setting working 5-days, which would include evening and weekend shifts, so seniority does have its perks. I work as a Dental Office Manager and due to the nature of our location, our office is not open weekends , we get our full hour for lunch and my boss is very accommodating with respect to holidays, time off, leaving early, etc…and we all like each other and get along. To trade this in for an office closer to home that would offer none of these perks for a better commute does not necessarily equate to a better quality of life. I love the idea of saving more money and walking to work but there is something to be said about a great work environment that is stress-free. In my opinion, the stress associated with working in the “wrong” job is just as bad as the stress associated with long-distance commuting. Six of one, half dozen of another, but better the devil I know than the devil I don’t know.

    I definitely plan to revisit the numbers associated with commuting and wish to thank you for an eye-opening post.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache July 11, 2015, 4:00 pm

      I think your current car commute is probably the most possible option. The GO train might be the winner without moving (because you can easily work and read from the comfort of the train). But I’d look at renting a place right near your office, so you can walk to work – rent is much cheaper than owning in Toronto, and might even be cheaper than your current housing expenses out in the suburbs!

      Reply
  • Alex July 16, 2015, 4:27 pm

    I look to this article often, and noticed that a couple of big tangential costs related to commuting aren’t really considered. While a long commute doesn’t force you to skip cooking and exercising it is also worth noting that those are two significant costs often correlated to a long commute. A long commute in traffic is mentally exhausting and limits free time at home so often it seems people with long commutes skimp on those two things – either eating out or eating something fast and unhealthy, along with skipping the workouts. Both those are very costly choices that would push this cost equation even higher toward a short commute.

    Reply
    • 100milecommuter July 27, 2015, 6:44 pm

      Spot on, Alex.

      Read my follow-up comments above.

      I’ve gained 10 pounds in 6 months due to a 60 hour work/commute week. My spending on groceries has MORE THAN DOUBLED due to the frequent need to buy prepared foods, takeaway, or eat in restaurants. I drink wine to de-stress before doing it all over again. I get up by 0500 and am too tired to exercise by the time I get home in the evenings, so my fitness has tanked.

      The mental, physical, and monetary costs cannot be overemphasized.

      Reply
  • Kevin Smith July 18, 2015, 8:00 am

    I am a big fan of the blog. But, last year I also traded in my 15 minute bike commute for a 20-30 minute car commute (each way) on the highway.
    These two things may seem at odds, but I think that these are not black and white issues and like every decision the pros and cons.
    I now pay for gas, pay for parking, car repairs and maintenance. These are financial costs and they are not insignificant.

    But my previous job had me travelling 30-40% of my life, and with a newborn on the way this was not feasible. I used to work in an office and had very long hours and almost no workplace flexibility. I now work at a college where I get two months paid vacation in the summer, sabbatical opportunities, great pay and benefits and work from 9-4 with lots of flexibility.

    In short, this was the right decision for me. As undesirable as it may be, sometimes the cost of adding a commute is outweighed by the benefits of the opportunity. I can honestly say that I would be divorced and a lot more unhappy had I not chosen the new job with a commute. And, to my surprise (and this may be blasphemy on this blog) I actually sort of like the commute. It gives me a chance to mentally shift from home to work mode, and I catch up on my favourite podcasts (must be noted that a predictable 20-30 minute commute is much different than a 1-3 hour one in heavy traffic.)

    Of course every situation is different… but for me adding the commute was the right decision.

    Reply
  • Jacob July 27, 2015, 8:53 am

    How does living close to your work apply when seen in the context that the average American holds over 11 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48? Should people move 11 times in 30 years?

    *Caution- MMM style math incoming* Trying to apply this number to a FIRE participant since they most likely will not be working until 48. Say someone retires at 40, Cutting that 26% off of those 30 years reduces the average number of jobs from >11 down to 8. Then say for the sake of argument that there are a couple of job changes which can be done without moving, which leaves us with 6 moves in a 22 year period.

    Is that typical/desirable/consistent with Moustachian ideals?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache July 27, 2015, 11:34 am

      Hell yeah! I’ve moved more than 11 times in the first 20 years of my adult life.

      When getting a new job, I would consider it a given that you should expect to move, and a lucky exception if your new job is in the same bikeable area relative to your house as the previous job.

      Reply
  • Teejay VanSlyke July 30, 2015, 5:17 pm

    I’m a web developer and I’ve been working from home for a decade now. Yesterday I took a call from a company in the Bay Area to see if they were open to remote part-time work, and they said they were only looking to hire locally for on-site work.

    This inspired me to write an article about how remote work is eventually going to eat the world, and how hiring managers need to become more open to remote work. I did some analysis, and an average senior web developer takes an effective 15% pay cut as a result of their commute!

    http://www.guilded.co/blog/2015/07/30/your-best-candidates-demand-to-work-remotely.html

    Reply
  • shauna July 31, 2015, 8:37 pm

    thanks for this interesting article and comments.

    My partner and I work fairly close together , but the neighbourhood we want to live in ( semi-urban, older with smaller houses and big trees) are not located near our workplaces. As well our kid’s preschool ( there’s only 1 montesorri school that will take him at this age) is the other end of town. We don’t know what school he will go to, but the schools near the neighbourhoods we like rate badly. Do you have any advice? Currently were looking to find housing near a new LRT line that’s going in, which will pass both our workplaces, but still isn’t close to any of the kid’s future potential school options.

    Any advice?

    Reply
    • Brilliantine August 3, 2015, 3:37 pm

      Rent near work. Homeschool the kid.

      Reply
  • BrookeS August 3, 2015, 10:42 am

    Hi MMM,

    Questions for you:
    My fiance and I (both brand new grads with little choice in jobs) got jobs about 30 miles away from each other. We decided to live a few miles away from his job, since his car’s gas mileage is way worse than mine (both cars paid off — woohoo!).

    While I commute 40 min to an hour each day. Would you have done differently? I didn’t discover your blog until after we had signed the lease on our house, and now I am wondering if we should have done things differently. Everyone made it seem like a 40 minute commute is no big deal, much like the couple you mention. It’s crazy how accepted 80+ minutes in the car a day is to most people! I don’t hate it though, I actually enjoy the alone time to think and listen to my audiobooks. But financially, it might not be smart! I would appreciate any advice.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Andy August 18, 2015, 8:04 am

    I see this hasn’t been commented on in quite a while, but maybe somebody out there will see it. lol. Perhaps I’ m just not thinking clearly yet this morning, but I’m not following what is being said here:

    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).

    I left a job making $50k that was 6 miles from home at about a 12 minute drive each way to take a job making $65k that is 34 miles from home and a 45 minute drive each way in the best of conditions, usually an hour to an hour and ten minutes in the winter. This was about 8 months ago, before I stumbled across this site and article. The person they hired to replace me recently left, and I’m going to discuss taking the job back (I am beyond over the drive, plus having the knowledge of this article now). I will be taking a reduction in pay to go back no matter how the talks go, but I’m curious to figure out just how much I’d save going back. I drive a Honda Civic and get 41 mpg on my current drive to work. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Mary-Ellen August 23, 2015, 8:16 pm

    Hello!! I am new to the site but am loving it!! I have been a big Dave Ramsey fan for a while and my husband and I are almost out of debt.

    We would really like to get on the FI band wagon ( have been payin about 50+% of our incom to student loans looking forward to making that much work for us) and realize the benefits of living near your jobs. We are curious to know how to move closer to work when you both work in different areas. We have ” short commutes” 15 and 30 minute by car but, one or both of us may change jobs in the next two years. We are renting and want to make good choices when buying and changing jobs and realize the two are connected. I guess the question is how do you find a good job in a place you will love living in if ( for the time being) you need 2 incomes to get on the band wagon also, how do you optimize location for two jobs? Or do you aim for a good location and one high paying job while the other person does odd jobs and looks for new work in the new location?. Hope these are alright questions! Thanks for all you do to encourage us readers!

    Reply
  • Jake September 16, 2015, 1:26 pm

    I know it’s been a while since anyone has posted to this feed but I feel the need to jump in and address, what to me has been an elephant in the room for a while, the topic of motorcycles. I’ve been reading MMM for a while now and never in any blog/feed/discussions regarding commuting have I seen any mention of the benefits to reap from owning and commuting on a motorcycle, hell, even a scooter, why not!?
    I can hear MMM gearing up to blast me on un-necessary material objects, too much “stuff” I get it! Having said that, please consider this, for someone like myself who lives in Houston, TX., where you can ride all year long a motorcycle is a perfectly acceptable means of transportation especially considering 95% of the time I spend on the road I’m alone anyway. Do I also have an automobile? Yes, I own a 1989 Ford ranger. I keep it around for when I need to haul some building supplies for around the house, transport my hockey gear and myself to the rink or for the occasional rainstorm. If you consider that insurance as well as fuel consumption is much cheaper for a motorcycle (I spend ~$20/month on gas and commute ~45min/day) it suddenly begins to sound rather attractive. I know I should move closer to work but in the meantime it’s far better than every car, excluding of course the electric ones.
    I used to live in Ft. Collins and then in Laramie, Wy. so I know how weather can be a huge detractor towards owning a motorcycle in a climate that is cold and snowy 6 months out of the year. It’s really hard to sugar coat that one, driving in snow and rain is not only dangerous but also wildly unpleasant! To this I say, “6 months of riding is far better than 0 months of riding.”
    I’m obviously biased.
    I’ll close with this,
    A motorcycle is not just a two-wheeled car; the difference between driving a car and climbing onto a motorcycle is the difference between watching TV and actually living your life. We spend all our time sealed in boxes and cars are just the rolling boxes that shuffle us from home-box to work-box to store-box and back, the whole time, entombed in stale air, temperature regulated, sound insulated, and smelling of carpets…
    -Author unknown

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 16, 2015, 4:32 pm

      Agreed, Jake! I’ve been a motorcyclist for 25 years now, although I don’t currently own one (no garage space and nowhere I need to go). Similar ideas are in this blog’s post on scooters and electric bikes.

      Just a caution for the stats-minded: motorcycles are considerably more dangerous than cars or muscle bikes. Also, depending on the model your chain and tire replacement costs can sometimes exceed the cost of running a car. Remember, cars get 40-50MPG these days if you grab a used Prius for $5k or a Scion xA like I have for even less.

      Not being too overly concerned about minimizing danger, however, I’m with you on the motorcycles thing. Given today’s motorcycle market I’d probably buy a Zero electric motorbike: http://www.zeromotorcycles.com/

      Reply
  • Matt September 17, 2015, 7:56 am

    I remember first reading this article a year or two back and largely dismissing the “value of your time” part of the equation, figuring the marginal hour of time isn’t worth my full hourly wage. Cut to the present day, at which point I’ve been working full-time for two and a half years now and commuting for that amount of time as well, with a son and another child on the way. Suffice to say, I’m really starting to see your point on the cost of one’s time. I am pretty much the definition of the Ultra-Mustachian driver in this article (2007 Toyota Yaris, sadly automatic transmission, bought for $5k, expecting to get a total of 100k miles out of it over the time I’ve owned it). With a 12 mile, 25 minute commute, I’m really going to consider the value of moving after my employer decides on a new location in the coming year.

    One other thing I wanted to throw out there if you’re not already aware of it, is a program I found useful on clearerthinking.org about determining the value of your time and seeing how logically consistent you are with how you value it: http://programs.clearerthinking.org/what_is_your_time_really_worth_to_you.html

    Reply
  • Keith October 2, 2015, 6:25 am

    Groan…. I have been reading this blog and similar blogs for the past week or so with great interest. At times I have been astounded at the sheer eccentricity and lengths people have and are going to cut the rat race noose from around their neck. In fact some of the long term plans of frugality to me seemed in some cases sheer lunacy and made me chuckle. But this post has put me to shame and bought me firmly down to Earth! In nineteen ninety I commuted to work by bicycle for a period of ten years from my home town to work here in the UK. A distance of about seven miles round trip. Then they moved my job fifteen years ago and up till about a couple of years ago I was car sharing our now eighty five mile all round trip with a total time of between two and half to three hours. Again all round. Now I commute on my own at the moment and possibly for the foreseeable future. This involves getting up at 5.45am, quick breakfast and a fifteen mile cycle ride to get to my car. Don’t ask why I also have to cycle….it gets complicated. Also when we moved my job here to Lincoln UK, I was given funds to help to either move or commute until the fund ran out. I chose the latter (dumb I know). My now my present eight year old car which was brand new when I bought it has done 130000 miles, but would most probably have been worn out by now if it weren’t for the fact that I car shared for the first six years of its life. I am now nearly 57 and my state pension retirement age is 66. So to get to that age I will need either another brand new car or a couple of second hand one to see me through if I were to stay in my present predicament. Hence spend my savings of the last eight years on another car. Funny…surely that was to help with my retirement! Anyway, the short come is I spend about £4000 pounds a year getting to work plus all the lost hours, and as I get older…..tired! I am though fortunate that my job is pretty good (not well paid though) and had up till recently had a good work based pension scheme which I can take now. It would pay all my bills and all my food if I am careful and with my savings take me possibly to my mid sixties, where I would take a few other pensions. But I am hanging in there for a few more years yet. Just hope I don’t meet a truck coming the other way though on my daily commute. After all….you gotta live long enough to spend it.
    Just a final thought. Who has the case of sheer lunacy now? You have my permission to chuckle!

    Reply
  • Joe C. November 4, 2015, 7:11 am

    I’m really torn right now on this topic.

    For the last 2 years I’ve lived and worked in city A with a short easy commute. Recently I took a good promotion to work in City B, about 20 miles away. My mustachian nature led me to finding room and board in City B to be close to work (3 miles away). However, I am not able to afford an apartment in City B and the situation I’m living in right now is extremely untenable (think Craigslist stranger nightmare).

    I’m considering moving back to city A to get my own place and be closer to friends and family. It would be 21 miles each way to commute to City B, however. On the plus side, I’m single with no debt, no kids, drive a reliable paid-for car, etc. I also have a part-time job in city A which would be a walking commute from the apartment I’m considering. What should I do?

    Reply
  • Alec Weege November 9, 2015, 12:24 pm

    It speaks volumes that it remains cheaper to find an alternative method of commuting other than driving even when driving is so highly subsidized. Think about the amount of roads and highways and expressways that we have built and maintain and salt in winter. Now think of how much that must cost! Then fold in that heavier vehicles exponentially increase the wear and tear on those roads and American vehicles have been ballooning in size. Then consider that the gas tax was last raised in 1993 and is not inflation indexed. The true cost of commuting includes an enormous amount of government subsidy. Unfortunately that means that I’m paying for the jerk in the clownmobile [Tahoe, Suburban irk me the most] whether I choose to drive or not. As disappointing as this knowledge is it STILL makes more financial sense to abstain from using the road and so I bike and transit.

    Reply
  • joshpr December 3, 2015, 2:14 pm

    I have been walking to work for almost 10 years in NYC. Everyone always says isn’t living in NYC expensive? Well yes, BUT:
    1.) I get the time back from not commuting more than a few minutes each day;
    2.) I get exercise; and
    3.) I have NO commuting costs (no car payment, no insurance, no gas, no tolls, etc.

    And I get to live in the best city in the world. Really don’t get why people would rather drive or spend $500/month taking the train or bus in. It’s a waste of time and money.

    Reply
  • Cindy December 24, 2015, 11:39 am

    I am new to this site and couldn’t agree with you more, MMM.

    One important piece I did not read mentioned in the article or comments, is that by eliminating/reducing commute time, parents can save a lot of money on childcare.

    Here is our situation:

    We have a 10 year old and 12 year old and live in a densly populated street car suburb of a medium sized city. We have 5 transportation options available to us where we live: walk, bike, bus, car, and Uber/Lyft. My husband commutes to a job about 30 min each way, but works from home at least twice per week.

    We own a 2010 Honda Civic (paid off in full), and 4 months per year (winter), my parents live in New Mexico. I “babysit” their second car in exchange for use while they are gone.

    My commute is a 8 minute bike ride. On windy/rainy days, my husband drops me off and I take the bus home. I will use my parents’ car in the winter, but next year I will be in a new building that is a 10 minute walk away that I can walk to in all weather, so the occasional bus expense will be gone and my parents car will be nice to have, but not needed.

    I work as an educational assistant and have a relatively low stress, low pay position ($13.13/hour). I work 30 hours/week, 9 months/ year. However, this really pays off big for us in a few ways:

    1) We pay nothing for before or after school care for the kids
    2) We pay nothing for summer care/ winter break care for the kids. With the exception of about 5 days per year (which my husband works from home) I work the exact same schedule as my kids’ school schedule.
    3) This arrangement allows us to own 1 small paid off car.
    4) A non-monetary but important item is that in a few years our kids will be teenagers. This allows us to have 1 parent “around” everyday they are out of school.

    We have rough estimated that the savings from our plan makes my hourly wage more like $20-$25/hour.

    Some tips for all the complainy pants who will say you can’t have 1 car with kids:

    1) my kids walk or bike to/from school everyday, in all weather. It builds character. I do have a few mom friends at the same schools who I have made arrangements with in the beginning of the year who are willing to pick them up if needed. (only in extreme cases) One is a person I have babysit for before for free (never underestimate the future financial benefit of being willing to help out when needed) and the other mom I give a six pack of beer to once and a while for picking up my kid about 4 times per year.

    2) Most of when we need 2 cars is a scheduling thing more than anything – be flexible about times to go to the grocery store etc. In a pinch – Uber will pick you and your child up (no kids alone). We have had 2 kids, 2 sports in 2 different places and have made it work.

    3) Drive like minded friends around when you have access to a car, then when you are invited out and don’t have a car – they can drive you. A friend I drove to skiing this year, drove me out to blueberry pick that summer when I was without a car.

    4) I cannot emphasize enough how much independence and self-reliance children gain by living somewhere they can get themselves around town without being driven. My kids get themselves to friend’s houses, library, pool, school, etc. – all by themselves.

    Thanks for the great blog!

    Reply
  • Triton December 30, 2015, 11:26 am

    Okay, here is one. I have just been hired for a career that I am thrilled about in Eastern Canada, and for the first time ever, will have the possibility of owning a house. I have been looking into property near my workplace within walking or biking distance (which is what I do at my current workplace). I do not currently have a driver’s license, but will be getting one soon, even if it’s just to take advantage if car sharing and rentals.

    Some things are throwing a wrench into the works:

    1) I just discovered that my workplace is likely to move within the next 10 years, but nobody knows where

    2) The city is spread on 2 sides of a harbour, with only 3 major access points in or out of the city peninsula. 2 bridges (one of which is under construction for another year and has restricted access), and 1 highway.

    3) If I end up on the wrong side of the harbour, the “pinch points” of the bridge mean that even if traffic is fine now, it will be insane later, as the area grows

    3a) For the exact same reason, if my partner works on the opposite side of the harbour as me (it’s not far in terms of real distance), he will be in the same boat, no matter where we live. He does not have a solid career yet, and is likely to change jobs. He is from Finland, and used to biking in up to -20 degrees c as his primary method of transportation, but even he can’t bike on unplowed roads.

    4) I will be working rotating 12 hour shifts, and generally sleep for 9 hours, giving me only 4 spare hours on the days that I work. (4 days on, 4 days off)

    6) The weather is such that for large stretches of time, it is likely that my street will be unplowed, doubling a walking commute, and making biking completely impossible (This occured last year for 6 weeks solid. It was eye opening.)

    7) I am working in emergency services, so I must always, always, have a backup plan to get to work on time

    8) It is entirely possible that even DRIVING in a normal car will not work, due to the possible volume of snow, so for anything longer than walking distance, I may need a truck to ensure I can exit the driveway and get to work, on unplowed roads, without getting stuck.

    9) If I am walking distance to work, I am driving distance to the library, grocery stores, friends, my aging mother, and the movie theatre (which is all I need access to).

    So…help?

    All I’ve come up with is moving within walking distance of the current location, and then moving again, when, and if my workplace changes and my parter settles into a career (which is likely). I don’t want to rent for the next 10 years, when I could potentially pay off a house in that time, but it means that he will probably have to commute by car, because of where my work is located!

    I am going in circles!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2015, 9:17 pm

      Hey Triton – have hope!

      First of all, it is easy to sell a house and move, so don’t consider it a lifelong commitment. I’m already on my fourth house in 15 years and I would not hesitate to move again if the right reason came up. But you should also not be shy about renting for multiple years if you are not sure how career locations will shake out. Renting is often cheaper than buying, especially in Canadian cities these days.

      Secondly, look at fat tire snow bikes. They can traverse snow even a 4×4 truck cannot handle. If you get an electric boosted model (or add an ebike kit motor), you have even more power and range. These things will get you through Halifax faster than any car.

      Reply
      • Triton December 31, 2015, 9:30 am

        Thank you for the response, triple M! Both of those options are worth considering, as I work out the current taxi/ferry type situation. I start next week; and if I come up with a workable solution, I’ll let you know!

        Reply
  • Ashley February 10, 2016, 5:54 pm

    Hahaha! I live in Broomfield. I work in Longmont and my husband works in Denver. I hate the commute, but we both love our jobs. The 40 minute commute is worth it to have jobs that give us the balance of lifestyle and money we want.

    Although, I’ll keep petitioning RTD to finish their lightrail. A 40 minute commute isn’t as bad when you don’t have to drive.

    Reply
  • jenel March 18, 2016, 10:45 am

    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?
    Thank you for this. SO many parents don’t get it.

    Reply
  • Dru April 13, 2016, 10:14 am

    It would be helpful to see this broken out in terms of how much more rent you should pay for every mile closer to work as well.

    Reply
  • Julie Tran May 2, 2016, 4:37 pm

    Hi MMM,

    My boyfriend introduced me to your blog and it’s just been one mind opener at a time everyday! Thank you! I quit my 6-fig high paying job back in 2011 to travel around the world knowing that when I come back, I’d have to start all over again. I’ve moved to Denver from LA b/c it just makes sense; while I love CO, jobs aren’t as available as they were when I lived in CA (without a 2-year gap on my resume). After 3 months of searching, I recently interviewed for a job and got the offer the same day! How cool is that? The only problem is that there was a miscommunication, so instead of a 10 mile commute (still a lot), I’m now looking at a 25 mile commute on average (31 miles if I want to avoid the rush hour madness). It’s definitely a consideration especially since my bf and I are working towards being FI in the next couple of years. I’m torn; I want to start contributing to our income and with my earning potential, I can expedite our early retirement even sooner, but I’m having a hard time finding work (despite having a masters in engineering at Johns Hopkins). I’m beginning to feel desperate, and I’m really thinking about taking this job, but this commute is going to kill me! We’re biking/walking kind of people, and sitting in traffic 2 hours driving 50 miles roundtrip would decrement my quality of life significantly. Not to mention the drive from Lakewood to Lone Tree is only to my office, from there, my job requires me to drive to the Broomfield office on occasions. This is NO drive I will ever want to make, plus I volunteer at Children’s hospital CO in Aurora twice a week, this additional drive would not be ideal for anyone, and I don’t want to stop volunteering b/c of this job. Any advice you can give? What should I do? Should I continue to hold out for the right job, if I don’t necessarily need the money right now? Other than to contribute to our retirement pot? Keep in mind that I have an old 2003 toyota solara, a V6 engine that yields only 27 mpg on the high way (22 in the city). The gas tank size for this car is 18.5 gal. Thanks for sharing your wealth with us!
    Julie

    Reply
  • sp May 23, 2016, 9:58 am

    I am very close to giving up my IT consultant job working mostly from home to taking a tech marketing job 40 miles round trip (2 hours) away. The new job is closer to my skillset, better benefits and base salary. After reading your background and this post I am inclined to stay in my current job. But I’ve been here 10 years. So my question is how much more salary is worth the commute? I’m on six figures and the new job is 16% more; the benefits include four weeks additional time off (family days, personal days, sick days, vacation days.) I need a change. Is the extra cash and time off on top of the career refresh worth it? Very keen to know your thoughts!(Side note: I’ve been able to be around to see my one year old grow up at home. But I won’t have that for baby #2 with a new job. Although there’s no guarantee of status quo with my current j job.)

    Reply
  • Johnny June 14, 2016, 4:49 am

    I have a 36 mile commute. It takes 42 minutes in the morning and 52 going home. I use the time to listen to educational and informative podcasts. We bought a derelict farm for less than half of any similar property within 90 minutes of work and are getting it operational to transition from the day job. In our case, the mid-term goal will eliminate the commute although it stinks for now.

    Reply
  • Brendan O'Connor June 21, 2016, 9:49 am

    “A person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office.”

    A whole book about the commute.

    http://alifeofproductivity.com/your-daily-commute-may-be-destroying-your-happiness/

    Reply
  • Jeremy June 21, 2016, 10:30 am

    I got a loan for a Ford Fusion 4 cylinder new in ’06 for a whopping $21k out the door. Given your normal 10 year spread of costs, I ran through receipts on everything the car has cost. Including interest, maintenance, repairs, gas, and insurance, 133k miles and its actually cost me $50,000. I was floored finding this out, that puts all the costs over 10 years at the price you recommend buying a good used car, which would likely last years without much else needed. Thanks for opening my eyes MMM.

    Reply
  • Mikey July 2, 2016, 6:41 pm

    I think your math’s a little off in one point:
    “For each of these miles, you waste about 6 minutes in the round trip, adding to 25 hours per year ($625 of your time).”
    This would work out to an average car speed of 10mph. I don’t know about you, but I can do better than that on my bike…

    Reply
  • Jon July 8, 2016, 7:45 am

    It’s really cool to see you write about this because a business partner and I had a disagreement a few weeks ago. I just got moved into a new place, but before that I was extremely hesitant of taking even a 10 minute commute. People don’t do the math, but that ADDS UP.

    If I drive 10 minutes one way, 5 times a week to my office (I work from home on the weekends when I can), that’s 100 minutes. Multiply that by 52 weeks in a year and that’s 5,200 minutes or 1.5 days. Now, imagine if my commute was like the 45 minute one you described. Holy cow…

    Reply
  • JOAO Ferreira July 10, 2016, 11:39 am

    On this side of the Atlantic let me remind everyone that the average British spends totally with its car around 70£ per week, 280£ per month and 3400£ per year, just for its automobile. These costs are insurance, fuel, vehicle inspection, vehicle excise duty, car finance, depreciation, maintenance, repairs and improvements, parking, tolls, traffic tickets and washing. This total cost might reach 500£ per month but most people disregard it because they pay such expenditures during different periods within the year. Do yourself your calculation at AUTOCOSTS.INFO and you might get surprised by the final result. Think afterwards how much you earn and how many days per year you need to work to afford your car.

    Reply
  • Gina July 22, 2016, 7:50 am

    My whole life I’ve worked close to home. Now I’m thinking about commuting. 45 minutes to and from San Francisco.

    Why? Two reason’s. One is personal, the other is career.

    The personal. I’m a new nurse. The work is hard. I like the distressing quite time in the car before I come home to my family.
    Two if I drive, I can work at one of the best public hospitals in the country, very appealing.

    So I’m going to try it out. If it works for me I’ll continue to do it if not I’ll find something closer. Personally I think it’s fine to commute as long as the benefits outweigh the costs in terms of quality of life. For me the commute gives me distance from challenging and fulfilling work and a bit of time to switch gears before I come home to my awesome family.

    My friends ask me why I don’t just work closer and take a break before coming home, but the gravity of my family is really strong and I think the break would just get shorter and shorter until it disappeared entirely, and without breaks I’d eventually burn out either at home or at work.

    So when your doing you quality of life calculation keep in mind that commute can also equal mandatory quiet time.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache July 22, 2016, 1:22 pm

      Ahh, I’m sorry to hear about this decision. What about a 45 minute walk or bike ride instead? So much healthier (and safer) than spending time in the car.

      One last point you might consider is that car-commuting is not just a personal decision. You’re harming everybody else in the world, just a little bit, and harming your local community in a larger way, every time you do it. Highway expansions, smog, deaths and injuries, noise, and congestion are all stuff you impose on everybody else, every time you drive a car.

      Of course, with these externalities considered, most of us will still decide to drive occasionally. But if you pretend they don’t exist, you are unintentionally ending up as a much more destructive citizen. Why not consider others?

      Reply
  • Dave August 16, 2016, 10:58 am

    Not this is lacking, but you have crafted your trade over 6 years. Would love to see a re-pitch of this article. This is single-handedly one of the facets that keeps people poor in the USA.

    Reply
  • Derek August 20, 2016, 1:01 pm

    Mr MM,

    This was the article the lead me to your wonderful blog. My question comes with a dilemma in your 50 jobs over 50k without a degree you list a lot of skilled trades, all of these require commuting how would you advise in these circumstances?

    Reply
  • agt September 12, 2016, 9:37 am

    I had to chime in with this:
    A guy I work with lives less than a quarter-mile from our office and still drives his (company owned) SUV to work and back. His house is literally two short quiet residential blocks away. He also drives it back home for lunch or to fast food places over a mile away. I haven’t gotten around to asking him WTF?

    It’s a bit perplexing too because at work and on job sites he is incredibly energetic and hardworking. He will climb 5 flights of stairs 20 times a day without hesitation. Yet he drives to work. Everyday.

    To top it off, once my boss was asking around the office for a ride over to his house to pick up the car while he was out of town. When I mentioned that she could just walk, she responded that she “didn’t have enough time”.

    It’s truly bizarre and reflects the sad state of are car-dominated society I guess.

    Reply
  • zach September 26, 2016, 2:26 pm

    Hey there,

    Before i go any further a quick about me: just turned 24, full time student/business owner, just purchased my first house a year ago. I have no debt (aside from my mortgage), and my business is sales based which requires me to make 2 hour round trips very often.

    To cut cost i drive a 2004 honda civic i paid $5000 for 3 years ago. I get a return of around 44mpg mixed driving with it (manual transmission/hypermiling). My insurance is about $700 a year (PLPD in michigan. I plan on driving it until the wheels fall off (currently 120k miles, purchases at 80k).

    My school commute is necessary as the cost is insane for on campus tuition. It’s around 40 minutes round trip.

    I don’t think i would ever buy a new car/lease (especially with michigan insurance rates) but as far as bike riding I don’t think the time to savings ratio would be worth it to me.

    Reply
  • TrevorM September 27, 2016, 6:59 am

    Alright, took steps 1 and 2 so far! Step 1 got some of our liquid stagnant cash into Vanguard Index Funds, will be dumping as much as possible for the next FOREVER. 2. I just turned in my Toyota Tundra for a Mazda3! I still have a small car payment for the time being (but no mortgage), but it’s a start. Next step is to try and get remote work! Thanks for all the tips and tricks MMM.

    Reply
  • Be September 27, 2016, 1:43 pm

    I used to live less than a mile from my work but we had to move because the only places that rent to people with a dog are owned by corporations that charge $1,500 p/m as their starting rent (small 1 bedroom). Now we share rent with a friend and live halfway between said friend’s workplace and mine. So we’re trying to build up a 20% deposit to by a house near my job – a forecloser looks tempting but I don’t know if there will be any still available in the 6 years it will take me to save it. It’s going to take that length of time with my husband’s health (high insurance costs) and a single income. I didn’t even consider buying until I started seriously reading this blog. Thank you for the inspiration!

    Reply
  • Steph October 13, 2016, 4:20 am

    This one is tricky for me. I have waited 8 years to get to the position I am in. I work in an amazing place, and would be unlikely to find anything closer to home. It’s a 35 minute trip to work… It didn’t feel like much when I only worked three days a week but now my days are increasing it’s feeling like a pain. I drive a very small and economical car and my hubby works from home, so between us it’s not a huge deal. But for me it’s a little frustrating. The ‘rock and hard place’ thing is that where we live is so lovely and the kids are so settled in their schools that changing just is not something we would consider. My job pays way above award and is exceptional in my area of work… so I’m kind of stuck. We plan on throwing everything we have at our mortgage over the next five years and getting it paid off and then maybe we will do some re-jigging. I certainly don’t want to leave this house until we are ready to downsize in retirement. :) Great post! Vert thought provoking

    Reply
  • alexchf October 31, 2016, 7:28 am

    I like these posts, always makes me wish I was doing a better job saving. Still, I’ve moved to a small European city, and can strongly advise buying an E-bike. In the USA these have no insurance or registration costs, and can go up to 25 mph with assisted pedaling. I use mine for all shopping, commuting, and use a bike trailer for the kids. A nice e-bike costs 3 grand. But I’ve used mine full time for 3 years with only a few bucks in upkeep. So per day that’s very cheap. The nice thing is, with kids in tow, uphill, in the sun, you don’t really sweat. You can use bikelanes, and don’t ride with traffic, so it much safer than a moped (and you can’t take the kids to daycare with a moped). And there’s no gas costs. Recharging costs like 10 cents. A 5-10 mile commute is really nothing, and the hills don’t matter.

    Reply
  • Justin December 21, 2016, 1:04 am

    Hi Mr Mustache!

    Awesome website! This is an interesting article, but what’s your advice to people who live in a hotspot, such as San Francisco, or Cambridge/Oxford/London UK, where the price of buying a property is in the stratosphere? Should they rent? Should they change jobs? Should they buy further away from work where it’s cheaper, but will suffer a longer commute? Should they buy close to work, where the prices are likely to be insane? It’s a tricky situation for many.

    For me personally, I rent in a village, about 6 miles from one of these hotspot cities, allowing me to cycle, but I would struggle to buy a house around here at these insane prices.

    Reply
  • Judas January 25, 2017, 2:00 am

    I live an hour East of Vancouver BC, and i know a lot of people who commute there, from here, every day. You need to cross a bridge to access Vancouver from the East, unless you go out of your way to avoid this, which costs even more in time and gas. Now, some of these bridges are tolled. Soon, they all will be. Those tolls are brutal. I know people who are bent over for nearly a grand a year in tolls on one bridge alone. I became interested in this ‘math’ due to a good friend getting all excited about his new job in the city making $33 to start. Thats a decent wage here. I told him he was nuts. After going over the math with him (and thats my own math, nowhere near as comprehensive as in the article), he saw the absurdity, and dropped the idea. He’s since (actually from then on) embraced entrepreneurship, and is based at home. He has a brand new son, one that he and his wife were never even supposed to be able to have, and he was about to spend nearly FOUR hours a day in traffic… not getting paid for it… away from his family… and surrounded by grief and anger. This brings me to my point…

    STRESS. Stress is a killer. It kills far more people than smoking, or drinking, or any other vice you can come up with. It causes nearly all diseases and lends power to the ones it doesn’t. It ages you. It drastically corrodes your quality of life. It even attacks the quality of life of those around you. It can destroy quality time with family or loved ones at best, and at worst it can destroy them too. Stress is cumulative… it compounds like a corrosive spiritual interest. That commute, even as little as 10 minute a day for some people, is pure stress for most. Think about it. You are already going someplace you’d probably rather not be going (work, and yes, i understand not everyone hates work, but they like vacations more… which kinda helps the point), at a time you would rather be sleeping… AND very likely sleep-deprived (i could write an article on this alone), wasting valuable time doing it (very few get paid to commute, gas or time), and the whole time that you are not engaged in stressful driving, you are still completely surrounded by other people who are also stressed, probably miserable, certainly anxious, or even angry, and further… given their safe zone inside a vehicle, and somewhat anonymous, they are more likely to be more entitled, more aggressive, or even outright pricks. Some are downright dangerous. This is also assuming that nothing goes wrong (in any highway approaching Vancouver, EXCEEDINGLY rare is the day where nothing goes wrong) and you have to spend extra time in this mess… surrounded by now even more irritated and desperate commuters… to say nothing of the added stress of being late for work, or appointments.

    Further, nothing about this commute is healthy. Sitting for any length of time (especially if you’ll be sitting all day at work) is not good, sitting for hours… in stress mode? Very bad. Are your windows down? just cracked a bit? How’s that pollution taste? People who work in sites where running vehicles are common get cancer. They almost all get cancer. Stuck in a running parking lot for hours a day? Hmmm…

    A few have touched upon this, but i think it needs to be emphasized. How valuable is time with your kids? with your significant other? time spent indulging your passions? It only sounds like ‘an hour a day’… but over a year? Thats a lot of time with someone or something else raising your children (if you are single, or both of you work). A few hundred hours a year is a LOT of time to pursue a hobby, skill or knowledge.

    And lastly (i’m still skipping many other points here), does anyone actually care about what all this commuting is doing to the environment? And this last one i am sure i’m alone on, but it needs to be said… how about the fact that the only people you are making rich with all this sacrifice are the evil bastards that ARE ruining the Earth… whether socially or physically. Would anyone just up and say donate $4000 a year to big oil companies? In my opinion at least, the less money and power we give those bloodsuckers the better. Vote with your wallet?

    Anyways. My opinion. You commute is probably not worth it. I see a LOT of excuses above in the comments, and a lot of incomplete math. Hell… even if the ‘math’ still falls just a bit short, if you HAD the money (because you would), would you not pay an extra 1oK a year for another 300 hours with the wife and kids (or your travel, or home renos, or model train set…), less chemicals in your body, FAR less stress and stress-related ailments in your life… 300 less hours NOT surrounded by angry, miserable, desperate people? You are who you surround yourself with, and to some extent, this applies to people you dont even talk to.

    It was refreshing to find and read this article. Here i was thinking i was the only one who even saw the ‘math’… let alone who could actually do it. Here is a quote that i should have prefaced this entire rant with:

    “The problem is, you think you have time.”

    Reply
  • Sam January 27, 2017, 1:55 pm

    I fully agree with your views about buying an old car., i like the savings..but when the old car slides in Candian snowy winter..it makes me think of buying a AWD SUV..it’s good saving money but what happens if you get hurt driving on snowy days..any suggestions..thanks.

    Reply
  • CasBass February 11, 2017, 3:10 pm

    So this is great, except when even MMM would be willing to drive 22 miles like my husband does (well he would if just looking solely at the costs). Yep, house prices are greater than 1 million dollars or more 0 miles from his work. Then take in the fact that on some days he is able to ride the company bus, we have 3.25% interest instead of 5% and our car costs are actually close to 10cents per mile it made since to live that far away. Welcome to Silicon Valley.

    Reply
  • Jodie March 1, 2017, 6:31 am

    I’m pretty late to the party here, but doesn’t this assume that work is the only place that you want to go? I live about 18 miles from my primary job, which is about 30 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the evening for my commute. During my commute mostly i listen to podcasts I enjoy or I sing along to musicals, which probably my neighbors don’t enjoy if I do at home. I also will stop on the way home to do some errands. There are rentals available near my primary job that are comparable in price, but not ammities (laundry, air conditioning, etc), and my place is much nicer than anything I would find near work. There’s also a 3.5% additional city tax near my work that I don’t pay in the suburbs, which would be About the same as the cost of my car payment, just based on my primary job salary. A monthly metro card would eat into about half of my other car expenses, and then I would have to pay even more if I wanted to travel outside of the city without a car or bike, which would eat into about half of what’s left to go to the other places i would usually travel by car. So my numbers tell me I’m about $75/month on the plus slide if I moved in walking/biking distance of my primary job; however, that virtually obliterates my ability to take on additional work outside of near my job, which some months brings in as much as an additional $5k/month (though $3K is more realistic). It would easily take me an hour on public transportation to get to other parts of the borough, or 30-45 minutes by bike, and I’m not crazy about the idea of biking a few miles at 9PM in a New York winter, when there’s barely enough room for 1 car to get down a street, let alone a car and a bike, assuming the car even saw me (and assuming my bike isn’t stolen or vandalized, since I’d have to leave it chained outside where there’s not a bike rack). I’d also have to start spending much more time on tasks like doing laundry and going to the grocery store, which in the end may not save me any time on the commute by car vs by commuting by foot. Yeah, sure I can get rid of my gym membership, but there’s a gym in my present building that’s free already- I pay for the gym (and a trainer) because I like the structure of the gym, I like the pool, I like the yoga classes and the rock climbing wall, and I get none of that benefit by walking 10 or 15 minutes to work each day instead of driving. Is there something I’m missing here? (I’m not in a position to buy a house until I’m done with PSLF in about 4 years, for a number of reasons, so buying vs renting numbers aren’t realistic for me right now).

    Reply
  • Finances with Purpose March 21, 2017, 12:17 pm

    I love your commuting take. People look at ME like I have three heads when I say similar things, in response to job options. No, I don’t want a job that will have a 45-minute-to-one-and-a-half-hour commute each day! I don’t even want to THINK about it. I think THEY are the crazy ones. I only want that job if I can move there, and quickly. It’s amazing to me how quickly family and friends jump on these enormous commutes, then wonder why, in a few years, they feel trapped and don’t like their life anymore…

    On that note, I’m leaving my home office to bike to the grocery store…

    Reply
  • dinosaurene April 7, 2017, 2:48 am

    I have a 40 min commute, but I commute by electric trains! I love it! Bike down to the train station (4 min) and jump on the train. The price for this? Completely free! (One of the benefits at my work) Also living out here instead of the city saves me 200000$ in cheaper house, also quieter and safer than the big city. Riding in a train is safe and relaxing, you can sleep, read, talk to people, also I use some of the time to get ready for work because of technology and all trains being equipped with free high speed wifi. I would never ever consider moving to a place that dont have electrified railroad with trains running every half hour as a minimum, and the station needs to be in walking distance to your house.

    Reply
  • dave April 10, 2017, 5:59 pm

    3 days per week, I work from home. 2 days per week, I have a 1 hour drive to the office. The only good thing about the drive is that I get paid mileage. It equals about $100 per week. The $100 is nice, but I would rather work from home everyday.

    Reply

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