One of the downsides to working at a “real” job outside the home is that you often have a commute. It might only be down the road, and take you 10 minutes to get there. On the other hand, you might have to drive more than an hour to get to work. Depending on the length of your commute, and how you spend it, you might be surprised at the cost involved.
The most obvious cost of any commute is the gas cost. You have to keep your car fueled up. The longer your commute, the more you’ll pay in gas each month. Your vehicle’s size and its fuel efficiency also matter. If you have a long commute in a car that guzzles gas, your costs will be huge.
Many people choose to buy more efficient cars, take public transportation, and carpool in order to reduce these costs. However, gas costs aren’t all you have to consider. There are other costs to your commute, and it’s important to consider them as well.
Wear and Tear on Your Car
One of the hidden costs is wear and tear on your car. When you commute, you create a situation in which your car needs more maintenance. The more you drive your car, the more it costs to keep it up. You don’t want a car that is going to break down on you in the middle of the commute, so you need to keep up with oil changes and recommended maintenance. When something breaks, you need to fix it as soon as possible so that it doesn’t leave you out of commission.
While other options, like carpooling, can reduce the costs involved, they are still there, and you still have to prepare for these costs.
Realize, too, that your insurance costs might increase with your commute. The farther you drive, and the more often you are in your car, the greater the chances that you will get in an accident. This means that you could very well end up with higher rates, pushing up the cost of owning your car.
What About Time?
The above costs are just the financial costs. You can alleviate some of those costs with the help of public transportation and carpooling. If you have a short enough commute, you can ride your bike to work to avoid some of those costs.
But, no matter how many ways you find to save money, you still have the time factor. That’s time you can’t get back. You could be spending that time with your loved ones, learning a new skill, or even starting a business.
Some commuters try to make use of this time by listening to audiobooks and other useful information. I had a college professor who told us that, before he “retired” to teach, he had a two-hour train commute — each way. He made it a point to spend that time doing work tasks, catching up on email, or reading something useful that he could put into practice to better his situation. Having someone else “drive” made it easier for him to be productive during the commute.
However, even so, he was discouraged by the fact that four hours of his day were spent commuting. He missed out on time with his two young sons, and he didn’t have the time he wanted to pursue hobbies. One of the reasons he quit his job and took a university teaching position in a place with a lower cost of living was so that he could cut his commute to 15 minutes each way, and have more time with his family.
Don’t forget that your commute costs you in more than just money. Take a look at your overall lifestyle, and figure out where your commute fits into that. If you can reduce the time you spend commuting by moving, telecommuting part of the week, or even quitting and starting a business, it might make sense to do so.
What do you think? How does your commute affect your life and your finances?
Yes, I totally agree that commuting would really cost too much. Like my hubs, he is working in a big city and his daily transportation has a big chunk of his salary. That’s why he really thinks to start his own business in the future.
One of the things I love about having my own business is that my commute is from my bedroom to the downstairs — and I can make that commute in my pajamas!
We haven’t commuted far to work for a decade or more. I work at home now (zero commute), and my husband is 7 minutes from either of his work locations. I’m glad we don’t have to spend time or money driving to and from work each day.
It’s a nice thought, that you can have more time and money when you are able to ditch the commute.
I have never been a big fan of the commute. Like you said, besides the financial costs, there are too many additional personal costs to spending time in any car, even a hybrid, including lost productivity, stress and obesity. Not to mention the community costs of sprawl.
I went car-free last year and although it does mean that I need to live in a downtown area and decline jobs in the suburbs, this lifestyle has made me healthier, wealthier and much, much happier in return!
That’s great that you’ve found a way to make it all work. And I admit, as a suburb-dweller, that I’m a bit jealous. I would love to live in an area where everything is close.
I used to work about a 10 minute walk from my old job. I would still drive to work more often than I should have, and every night (because I wasn’t going to walk alone past 10pm), but a tank of gas would last me about a month.
Now that I moved and switched jobs, my commute is only a 10 minute drive, but I am using gas so quickly! I’m lucky if a tank will last me 2 weeks now. My windshield also cracked because I drive on the highway now… so that was an unexpected cost of the commute as well…
We couldn’t afford a house near work, so we purchased one 30 minutes away. I’m coming to realize it wasn’t really a better deal for many of the reasons you mention. With the potential for really high gas prices always threatening us, we should have been smarter. That and we have a 3 month old whose snuggle time is seriously compromised by our commute. Wish we’d been smarter! We are attempting to sell our house premarket on Zillow. We will list it next year if it doesn’t sell this year.
Commuting can definitely be a pain. I was recently in a situation where I was offered a promotion but my commute would increase from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. I took it because of the opportunity and I would still come out pretty well even with fuel and wear and tear costs, but I do miss that nice 10 minute commute.