The true cost of commuting


barry said...

Here I am being a crank when I should be studying for exams that start tomorrow. Anyway...
Nearly 80% of this $795/mile figure comes from an estimate of lost time, which is then converted to money at $25/hour. However, very few of us can make 25/hour in our spare time, especially when the spare time amounts to less than 30 minutes/day.

Another issue to consider is that many people commute long distances because they cannot find work close to home. In theory, most would agree that a long commute is not ideal, but having a job with a long commute is better than not having a job.

Another reason people commute long distances is that they work in the city where housing costs can be extremely high. Money lost in commuting is often more than compensated by cheaper housing.

The basic point is still valid of course--commuting costs more money than we like to admit. In many circumstances, however, a long commute is actually a smart financial decision.

Johonn said...

The author's point is that you should value your free time. Maybe you wouldn't make $25 per hour in all of your free time, but the reality is that if you spend an hour each day commuting, then you're actually working for 9 hours a day (or whatever 1 extra hour adds up to) and thus effectively cutting your pay by a certain amount. It doesn't mean that you would be using that time to make money otherwise, but that you could be using it to do anything else - spend time with your family, do repairs on your house, learn about something.

To answer the point about commuting long distance because people can't find work close to home, well in many cases they could move their home close to work, if that was the case. Most jobs have some sort of housing nearby, be it apartments or a suburb. Clearly there can be higher housing costs, but as the graphic shows, you can effectively justify paying more for a house by moving several miles closer to work. Which would you rather pay more for? Gas that goes up in smoke? or a house that you can later sell and hopefully regain most, all, or even more than you paid for it? Furthermore, if you live close enough, you can actually bike or walk or use some other form of self-powered transportation, and only have one vehicle instead of the 2.5 that most people have.

I should add that the general theme of his blog is that one should work for a number of years, live frugally, and reach the point where he can become financially independent. At that point, he can retire, or choose to continue working at his own discretion, but the important thing is he is not a slave to his job. It is a very interesting concept. Furthermore, if he does retire, he can still choose to do any work that he wants to, the main point is that he doesn't *have* to work if he doesn't want to. The author and his wife set a goal for both of them to be retired by the time they had a son at age 30 or 31. The realized that goal several years ago (one was 30 the other was 31) and now they are able to stay home and spend much more of their energy raising their child.

I recommend reading this blog, if you have the time. Even if you don't want to retire, there is a lot of really great financial advice as well as a lot of other know-how such as doing repairs on your own house rather than paying other people to do it. Many of these ideas are not new to us, but many of them are. Of course if you do read the blog, you'll have to get over the fact that he tends to use swear words from time to time, and he also drinks beer. But if one can't separate the good from the bad in order to learn something, he's missing out, in my estimation.

I don't necessarily agree with every single thing he talks about on his blog, for instance, I don't really want to send my kids to public school, but the vast majority of things are really great ideas for how to live a frugal life AND still live a great one.

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