I used to commute. A lot.
Back when I started my first office job, I was driving 23 miles to work and back, which took 35 minutes AND since I used a busy commuter route I had to get to work 20 minutes early or waste even more time sitting in traffic. I listened to a lot of music during that time, though, to the point where I still to this day associate certain parts of M83’s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming album with that drive.
Then I moved into a new apartment in the city, mostly because living at home wasn’t fun, but also because I was sick of commuting and wanted to live closer to my job. It not only cut my drive from 35 minutes to just under 15 minutes, it also gave me a reverse commute along a much quieter route, which meant no more getting up early to beat the traffic jams. Not having to get up so early helped me sleep better, and gave me A LOT more time in the evenings.
How much time, exactly? Shaving 20 minutes off my one-way commute meant 40 minutes less drive time per day. My reverse commute also meant I didn’t have to start work 20 minutes early anymore, since that time wasn’t very productive anyway.
In short, the new apartment gave me 60 extra minutes a day (!!) to write, recharge, or do whatever else needed doing, and that’s not even counting the time I saved by not buying gas as often.
I found myself asking a really important question: Why the hell didn’t I do this sooner????
How Much Does Commuting Cost?
Then there was the money: my trusty Volvo gets around 24 miles to the gallon, and driving 46 commuting miles round-trip (23 miles x 2) meant almost two gallons of gas per day, which at the time (when gas cost $3.50 a gallon…) meant spending $6.70 a day just to get to a place where I needed to make money.
Dividing that up over an 8 hour shift meant that commuting was costing me 84 cents an hour.
Or, multiply that by 5 days a week, and that added up to $33.50 from my weekly paycheck. Not cool.
The new 6 mile commute cut my costs down to 1/2 gallon of gas per day, which only cost me 22 cents an hour, or $8.75 a week. That felt a lot better:
Here’s something even crazier: If you count commuting as part of my workday, my 35 minute commute tacked an extra 70 minutes on to my 8 hour day, and that plus my 20 traffic-saving minutes brought my day to a total of 9.5 hours:
At the time, my salary averaged out to about $11 per hour for an 8 hour day. Add on that extra 90 minutes and subtract the $6.70 spent on gas, though, and my hourly rate turned into more like $8.56 per hour, if you count commuting as work. Ouch.
With the closer apartment and decreased commute, though, my pay rate rose to $10.15 per hour, a jump of $1.59 per hour. Much smaller ouch.
(The really crazy thing is that none of the math factors in wear and tear on your car, which adds up fast and costs you in repairs, oil changes, and new tires over the long run!)
Want to see how your commute measures up? Try plugging your own gas costs, commuting times, and hourly wages into the equations above.
Why This Matters
The commute-cutting move was easy for me since it left me with more time to write, more money in my monthly budget, and made me feel better about my job, but it can be a difficult one for a lot of people, especially if you live with someone. If you’re looking to free up more time and money (my two favorite resources!), though, ask yourself these questions:
- How much do you like where you’re living now? Would you be just as happy living somewhere else, especially someplace closer to your job?
- Are there other things besides work (friends, family, fun, etc.) that are closer to where you’re living now that balance out your work commute?
- How tied down to this place are you? Do you own a home, have a lease, etc.? How easy would it be to move?
- Or, is where you live not the problem, and would you rather work a new job that was closer?
And the big one:
- How much would that extra time and money help you reach your creative goals?
If you live with someone who works in a different place, though, there’s probably going to have to be some compromise, especially if your partner’s working toward different goals. Try talking it over and bringing up how you can best get to where you want to be—you might even find a new plan that helps both of you.
The big takeaway is that reaching your creative goals involves organizing your life in such a way that makes reaching these goals as smooth as possible. If your goals are important enough, then making a change is 100% worth it, even if that means making sacrifices.
What’s your commuting experience been like? How does the moneymaking math play out for your job? Let me know in the comments, and I promise I’ll reply back ;)