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September 03, 2014

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I used to have 2 hours of commuting to add to my 10-12 hour days working in DC when starting out so we could live in a decent area with a decent townhouse for my family.

Building my own business I could run from anywhere with an internet connection became a huge goal of mine. Now I live in a beautiful rural area in a paid for home on acres that costs a lot less than that little townhouse is worth. I commute downstairs every morning. We just spent the Summer abroad, completely possible due to rental homes with high speed internet connections.

And because all my clients are in big cities I still make "big city income" with rural expenses (I can actually underbid others pretty easy, prob partially due to my substantially lower needs).

Only one problem...there's no way I could ever do a commute again.

FMF,

I agree with your take entirely. Currently, I live within a 5 minute drive from my office. I could live in same place with the "cool kids" but that would require a 30 minute one way commute. This saves me lots of time and frustration not to mention money for gas and car maintenance.

In my working days I was primarily interested in the length of my commute. My solution was to draw a 7 mile radius around my place of employment and to start looking inside that circle for a place to live.

Factors that we concentrated on at that time were:
1) The quality of the neighborhood.
2) The quality of the schools.
3) Availability of a nice, affordable place to rent.

It wasn't hard to find our starting location back in 1960. We found a brand new duplex where we could rent one half of it for $125/month. We stayed there for 3 years while we were saving up to buy a home. In 1963 we then moved about a mile and bought a brand new 4bd, 2ba home for $27,000. As our savings grew we felt that it was time to make a final move, that's when we moved about a mile away into a tract of custom homes and bought a 2 year old 4bd, 3ba home on 1/3 acre for $107,000.

That's it - we've been there ever since - now the homes sell for $1.3M - $1.7M but rarely go on sale, when they do there are always multiple offers.

It is complicated when both of you work and both have well-paying jobs and neither can or want to move to a lessen a commute. My wife is the one who has the long commute east 25 highway miles while in the opposite direction is my commute of 7 miles west. If we were to move we would both be adding to our commute because the housing to the north is more desirable than the housing to the south. Moving closer to her work would mean moving closer to her parents which she does not want to do. It has been that way since we were married 24 years ago. It will work out in 3 years when she retires and no longer has a commute I will be working for another 8 years until I would like to retire at 60.

Same boat as Matt except my wife has the shorter commute while I do 48 mile round trip. Fortunately even with a daycare drop off and pickup it is usually less than an hour each way and I love audio books so it works for me. Great job that even has a pension so I put up with it. If I do change jobs I will certainly hope for closer to home or at least have the option of commuting by rail.

For several years, my commute was waking at 4:45am, driving 30 miles to a train for an unpredictable 60 mile ride, arriving around 7:15 with a 15 minute walk to work. Home through the front door at 7:20pm.

This commute was my own choice, to live in a place we had vacationed to, and loved, for 20 years, and expecting to gain employment in the region. A combination of disappointing experiences with employment, the reality of the new place, and the stress of being where I did not want to be (commuting, job, new place) was awful. I did it for a few years and saved a lot of money, but I regret it now. If just one thing had worked out, it wouldn't have been so bad. The commute is the main thing one can control, and I would put every effort into reducing the time spent and into enjoying life, friends and family. My two cents...

Great post. I agree with you, but I did factor other things when choosing a house besides just proximity to work, including quality of schools and distance to running trails and skiing. I ended up with a 15 minute commute to work. I would be quite frustrated if I had to live more than 20 minutes, all in, from work.

Long commutes were one of the main motivators for my spouse and me to set up home offices. I've been working for myself for 15+ years now and my spouse just started a few years ago working remotely for her employer. It took a bit of time to adjust but neither of us can imagine going back to a standard office job.

Part of the calculation has to be whether you're taking public transit or not. E.g., an hour each way is not fun, but if 45 minutes of it involves sitting on a train, where you can read, listen to music, even work if you feel so inclined, it's not as bad.

My commute is about 25 minutes, but only 8 miles. Lot's of red lights and 35 mph roads, but not really any traffic. The other options would be to live in a $700,000+ condo (I can't stand condos in large buildings) that is near my work or to live in a crime infested area. No thanks, I'll take my 25 minutes. Just the value of the education where I live

Tim Russell - you sound whipped! You have the longer commute, yet you are the one picking up the kids at day care instead of your wife. Just kidding - Haha!

I purchased a house a year and a half ago that is only 1/2 mi. (4 city blocks) away from my office. I walk most days and absolutely love it! I would easily take a lower pay job to have that time freedom.

We live four miles or less from my husband's job. It may take 15-20 minutes in heavy traffic but it is all non-highway driving and a breeze compared to what most people endure. We really do like to KISS (Keep It Simple (Stupid)).

I live a 25-minute bike ride away from work, which I've enjoyed. But at the same time, I hate living in the city. I grew up in an area where the mountains were just 20 minutes away, but now we're in a concrete jungle. Commuting sucks, but there are trade offs to having a short commute.

I've done long commutes (85 miles one way) and HATE them - I did because of the housing costs...if you work in the Bay Area, CA, the amount of money you spend on housing quadruples the closer you get to the city, so it's a compromise. I was able to start telecommuting 3 days a week and using a train for part of my commute towards the end of my time at that job. Now I'm self-employed and don't commute - I hate it when I have to commute anywhere. I think of all the time lost in a car - yuck!

I've had a 55 mile commute that took 1 - 2 hours each way. However I am usually working in the car as I have a driver so have been able to adjust to this. I don't think I'd be able to drive this myself every day, plus putting in a full day at work.

-Mike

I couldn't agree with you more, FMF. People WAAAAAY underestimate the many hidden costs of commuting. Besides the ones you mentioned, you have:

--Increased risk of obesity & related health problems (which cost a bundle)
--Increased risk of being in a crash.
--Increased risk of divorce (which also costs a bundle)
--Increased risk of depression.

I live a block away from my job. I can't tell you how much of a difference it made going from a short commute (20 minutes door to door) to no commute!!!!

@Sarah....you make a good point about transit commutes being less stressful than driving...That may be true, but not always. My sister commutes to work on the NYC subway. After living there more than a decade, she says she DREADS it when some loudmouth jerk starts screaming about the Bible to a captive audience on the train or when some mentally ill person starts screaming for no reason. Not fun and can be very stressful. I witnessed it myself on a short visit to NYC several years back...kids getting on the train with a radio playing doing flips & other tricks on the train. It was entertaining because I was on vacation. Wouldn't be fun if I had to deal with idiots like that going to work on a daily basis.

I recently moved from a 2 mile (4 minute drive) commute to a 27 mile (27 minute drive) commute and I couldn't be happier. My new drive is all highway country driving and it has beautiful sunrises and sunsets. My wife was driving 30 minutes to work on the opposite side of town so we moved near the middle of both of our jobs and bought some land and a fixer upper that we are in love with. The way I look at it, if you are happier at the end of the day, then the commute is worth it. Will this always be my stance? No, but I plan to be working for myself in another 5 or 10 years.

I have a one hour commute each way, but that's using public transit and I get to read and, as a result, enjoy it. Fortunately my transit system is far more pleasant than NYC subway.

Urban sprawl has created horrible commutes near most major cities. All because everyone wants the 4 bedroom house with the big back yard and 3 car garage.

I don't think people realize just how much they sacrifice by commuting 2 plus hours per day. Cons - less time to spend with kids, no time to prepare healthy meals, no time to exercise, no time to pursue your own personal interests. Giving up healthy living is not worth it.

@Mark--it really depends on the form of transit. I've commuted using the NYC subway, and I wouldn't consider most lines during rush hour suitable for getting much done. That said, going home later in the evenings I could sometimes read documents on my iPad. You learn to tune a lot out. I've also commuted using NJTransit, which is a lot more workable.

Basically, as a committed city dweller, I would never want to live so far from my job, but I especially don't get it for people who have to drive hours and hours every day. I would get to work every day already half-pissed off and frustrated!

Most of the readers of this blog are probably many years away from retirement and are primarily thinking about their daily commute to work.

I have now been retired for 22 years. Looking back I can now in hindsight see the benefits of my easy 10-15min commute to work, but what I didn't realize in those days was that the 4br,3ba home that we bought in 1977 when retirement was still 15 years away was also going to be absolutely ideal for us to live in after the kids were gone and we had retired. One of the kid's bedrooms is now my office, another is where my wife keeps all of her books and hobby paraphernalia, and the the other is a guest bedroom. It's also nice, in my case, to have a vegetable garden and fruit trees and a large 2-car garage. Another feature that I have grown to appreciate over the years is that our home provides more privacy by being at the bottom of a court and is also further away from traffic noise.

Even more important now that my wife no longer drives and I try to drive as little as possible is that there is a great advantage in being within walking distance of such places as, the post office, the supermarket, the drug store, your credit union, the library, some restaurants, and even a bus stop should we need it.

We all cannot pick where we live at all times, as well as 100% guarantee our employment situation. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. That being said, I hate long commutes. I don't mind long drives, but hate long commutes where I have traffic, stop lights, accidents. When it takes you and hour to drive 18 miles is just crazy and a big drain on your life.

I completely agree. I've been on a mission to get my commute down after foolishly signing up for about an hour commute one way a year ago. My current commute is 35 min and in 2015 I'll be down to a 7 min commute (20min for my husband). Can't wait! I might even bike.

I live 30 miles from my job, and it takes me anywhere from 35 - 60 minutes door-to-door. My husband works 10 miles away in the opposite direction; it takes him 15 minutes to get to work. He works much longer hours than I do, so it made sense to live closer to his work - plus we are a blended family and would have difficult making our custody schedules work if we moved somewhere more in the middle.

I'm not fond of the commute, but right now there aren't a lot of jobs in my field that are within a 20 minute commute to our home. I expect this to change over time as the city creeps further into the suburbs.

I commute to Chicago 1hr 20 min each way door-to-desk. I go via train 55 minutes of it, so I can do some work, surf the web or even catch a nap during part of it. That made it bearable for the last 11 years. The primary reason for this location was school district. Now that our youngest has graduated from high school, we're looking to move downtown. We're just going to let the kid get settled in college and then pull the trigger. I'm so sick of being tied to a train schedule...

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