The High Cost of Commuting - picture of hands on steering wheel in traffic

The High Cost of Commuting

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been commuting to and from work.  And, if there’s one thing I have learned during this time of transition, it’s this: commuting to work sucks.  With that being said, please keep in mind that I have only had a 10 minute drive to work for most of my adult life.  Because I’ve been spoiled for so many years, my new and unimproved 45-50 minute commute is freakin’ killing me – and I don’t even have to deal with traffic!

I had no idea how much I would hate commuting until I began to experience it firsthand.  Now I have to leave an hour early, before the sun rises and before my kids are out of bed.  And, now I know why that dude sitting in traffic next to me looks like he wants to kill someone or die trying.  It’s because he probably does.  Now that I’m living this lifestyle, I’m beginning to realize that the cost of commuting is just too high, at least for me.  I don’t think I could do this for five, fifteen, or thirty years, like many people do.  Here’s why:

Commuting is Expensive

Until I started my new job, I didn’t realize all of the hidden costs associated with a long commute.  Of course, there are obvious financial costs that are somewhat under control by virtue of the fact that I drive a Toyota Prius.  Still, I haven’t bought this much gas in years and feel like I’m filling my tank at least twice as often as I usually do.  I can’t even imagine how much worse it would be if I drove a regular car, or worse, a gas guzzler.  I’m also putting a ton of mileage and causing more general wear and tear.

Commuting is a Time Sink

In addition to being a waste of money, commuting is also a huge waste of time. My current drive causes me to give up nearly 1 1/2 to 2 hours every day.  I can think of a million things I would rather be doing other than sitting on my butt counting down the minutes until my work day can begin.  An hour and a half would be much better spent sleeping in, playing with the kids, or helping Holly do things around the house.

Commuting Robs Us of Family Time

As if all of the other negative aspects of commuting weren’t enough, my morning drive has wreaked havoc on our regular family routine.  I never realized how much just driving to work could impact us emotionally.  Ever since my oldest was born, I’ve helped her get ready in the morning.  I have eaten breakfast with her, helped her get dressed, and taken her to daycare.  Now I leave before anybody wakes up which is rather depressing.  Plus, I get home after everybody has had dinner and get stuck eating by myself.

But, things are much worse for Holly.  Because of my commute, Holly is stuck getting the kids ready for daycare by herself, bringing them to and from daycare, and making dinner and cleaning up by herself.  She’s basically living the life of a single mom except for the hours of 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. when I’m finally home and can help.

I am so thankful that this situation is only temporary and that things will be back to normal starting Monday, November 4th.  I can’t wait to help the girls get ready in the morning and take them to daycare on my way into the office.  And, now that I know how much I hate commuting, we’re focusing our house search on neighborhoods that aren’t far from work.

Have you ever commuted to work?  Did you like it?  Hate it? 

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82 Comments

  1. Oh 45-50 minute commute is really hard, last 4 years I’ve been commuting to work it was so hard for me especially during rush hours! I’m just sooo glad that working from home are offered nowadays.

    1. Gotta love working from home if you can! Rush hour is the worst….

  2. I used to commote 1.5 hours ONE WAY! I traveled by bus, train and subway and in the Netherlands we have lots of problems with our trains. Especially in fall/winter, there are lots of delays, cancellations, etc. Now I work from home and I’m much happier, not just because of the new job, but mostly because I don’t have to commute for 3 hours per day!

    1. I used to commute 1 hour each way in Chicago, but I didn’t have a family then…and I didn’t know any better. Now, I do and it blows. Glad to hear that your commute is no longer an issue!

  3. You said it man! Commuting to work does suck!!! I’ve got a 60 mile trip each way to work, so my trip can easily last 60 minutes to 2 hours depending on the weather. There have been many times where I’ve thought about how much time I’m wasting sitting in traffic, spending money on gas, etc. Fortunately I have a co-worker who rides with me, so that helps to ease the time and spread out the cost.

    1. Zoinks! That is rough. I’m not sure whether having a car pool partner would be something that I would like or if that would make it more annoying 😀

  4. Love this post Greg. Missing out on family time is the part I hate most about my commute as well. I hate leaving before anyone has woken up, and I particularly hate the days when I get home too late for dinner and my son’s bath time, which is typically my job. You can’t get those moments back, and it’s particularly painful when all you’re doing is sitting in traffic.

    1. Yep, it is a huge time sink…and you’re right, you can’t get those moments back with your family. I’m just thankful that my commuting days won’t last much longer!

  5. Mr PoP’s commute is about 35 minutes long, and he doesn’t mind it when he gets to drive my convertible on a nice day. But if the weather sucks it can really be a drain on him. Actually, my bike commute is pretty similar in length and if the weather turns it is a lot less pleasant, too.

    1. I guess I may not mind my commute in a convertible either!

  6. My commute’s between 30 minutes to an hour depends where I have to go. We have one of the worst traffic jams in the country, it can take 2 hours to go 8 miles, luckily I don’t live on that side.

  7. I commute and I really dislike it. I wrote last Thursday about the benefits of working from home and it sounds like everyone else hates it just as much! I think it’s even worse for people like me whose jobs could be done from home full-time but corporate culture hasn’t changed enough to embrace it. So instead of getting more sleep, family time, or just time to ourselves thousands of people drive from all over the metro area to come to work to….sit at a computer all day. Hopefully some day culture changes and there will at least be a lot less traffic for those who DO have to physically be at their work place to do their jobs.

    1. I hear you. Unfortunately, the mortuary business doesn’t lend itself well to working from home. However, I also have to live close, so my commute is temporary at least.

  8. I don’t think anyone loves the commute. Before going the self employed route, I too had a 45 minutes commute which totally sucked and drained life out of me. I didn’t have a car back then and it was a metro ride – a ride in an overcrowded train with people that didn’t care too much about personal hygiene during the hot summer days. It was horrible and, as strange as it might sound, one of the reasons that made me go the self employment route.

    1. That doesn’t sound like much fun. When I used to ride the train to work, I always got a ton of good reading in. I read more books in those two years than I ever have in my life. Of course, it was pretty nasty when the air conditioning wasn’t working during the summer months.

  9. I think the longest commute I ever had was about 25-30 minutes and hated every bit of it. It sucks sitting there, especially having a family and knowing you’re just sitting there and losing time to be with them. Before we were married, my wife lived in LA and it took her 3 hours to drive 10 miles home at the end of each day…I think I would’ve gone postal in that. 😉

    1. I always wanted to move to LA, but I think I would go absolutely insane there! In fact, my back just tightened up and my chest hurts just thinking about that traffic!

  10. I commute each day and I don’t mind it. I would prefer not to spend so much in gas, but I like getting some alone time. I listen to some podcasts and sometimes learn something (Hardcore History is pretty awesome) and sometimes just laugh til I cry. I also really enjoy driving with the top down when the weather is nice.

    I guess I also don’t mind so much because I actually just enjoy driving. I have always said, if I lost my current job, being a long haul trucker might be a viable option if I couldn’t find anything else.

    1. I like to drive as well, but I don’t like interrupting my routine. I wish that I had thought of books on CD the last few months! Ugh! I could have gotten some great “reading” in.

  11. My longest commute was a 30-mile, 45-minute to 70-minute commute (each way). I did that for over 2 years. It was definitely difficult… I read a study that said long commutes are the surest way to unhappiness – you have no way of planning or predicting or controlling it, and all that sitting (and stress) can’t be good for your health.

    1. I believe that study 100%. I have only had to do this commuting thing for a couple of months now, and I can’t imagine doing it much longer. 2 years is a long time, and I’m sure you’re glad that is over with!

  12. This is one of the primary reasons I’m pursuing financial independence. I cherish my time at home with my kids, but I’ve been rocking the 45-minute commute for over 11 years now. We live in the suburbs of our city which feels twice as safe for my wife, so that’s the reason we haven’t moved downtown near my office. One day I hope to move my job out of the city. One day.

    1. Oi! 11 years! That is hardcore man. Good luck moving that job to the suburbs. I’m sure you’ll be happy you did!

  13. If you live in Southern California, commuting is part of the “dream lifestyle.” I was fortunate, never having to commute more than 15 minutes or so, except for one stretch, when my commute was almost an hour each way. But it’s amazing how many people do it…. and keep doing it.

    1. Yeah, no thanks. I used to have that dream and I’m glad that I didn’t let it turn into a nightmare.

  14. For ten years, I did a 70 mile one way commute twice a week. I rationalized it by saying that the other days were only a few miles, but it still sucked. After having a child, I almost lost my mind, which has led me to where I am today, working part time!. I still work out of that office sometimes, but it is on my terms and I don’t go in bad weather anymore.

    1. Good for you Kim! It sounds like you have your work planned around your life instead of your life planned around your work.

  15. I totally relate to doing the math on wasted time. I spent over a decade with an hour plus commute one way (without factoring in traffic delays). Five days per week spending two plus hours behind a wheel equated to a wasted day of work per week.

    It was easy to justify commuting to the home office.

    1. Wow. I never really thought about it that way. I never did the actual math, but you are totally right. No wonder I have been having trouble getting work done on the blog recently. I’m spending an entire work day in the freakin’ car right now. Sheesh!

  16. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    Some mornings my commute is 45 minutes, and I live only 13 miles away from work…I usually listen to books on tape or TED Talks to try to make it somewhat productive.

    1. Love me some TED Talks! I wish I would have thought about the books on tape sooner. I’d have a whole library “read” by now.

  17. Ah, welcome to the commuting world! I do it each and every day with my son. It takes me 30 minutes to get him to daycare and then another 10 – 20 minutes to get to work. It is a huge time suck and one where you just can’t be productive. Luckily, I get to spend it with my son. Unfortunately, he sleeps for most of it 😉

    1. At least you are with the kiddo. Right now, that is one of the major reasons that I hate the commute – I can’t see the kids.

  18. I’ve never had to commute more than 10-15 to work. I don’t think I could do it. Spending an extra 1.5-2 hrs in the car each day would kill me. Luckily, since I am working from home now I don’t have to worry about it, hopefully for a while.

    1. Gotta love the commute from the bed to the home office!

  19. I am so glad that I don’t have to commute to work anymore. My day job was always fairly close to home, at around a 10 minute drive. However, when I was going to school and working full-time, that did kill me. I would have to drive 10 minutes to work, and then when I got off work, it was another 45 minutes to school. It was not fun.

  20. I have a long commute and I hate it. It is generally an hour and 15 min, but sometimes more depending or traffic…and sometimes a little less. It definite is a waste of time and money. I really hate traffic. If I could go back in time, I’d probably have gotten the Prius because they allow you to use the HOV lane for certain cars…it would probably save a little more time.

    1. You SHOULD have gotten the Prius! I’ll let you borrow my sweet ride sometime 😉

  21. I used to commute for 60 miles one way to work and then moved and dropped it to 30 miles. I moved again and it is now 2 miles…hahaha..I ride my bicycle to work sometimes. When I was commuting 30 and 60 miles one way, I really hated it but mostly because I worked overnight and it was very risky driving home tired as there was always a chance I could fall asleep on the wheel. Now I am very happy I don’t have to drive that far.

    1. I’m curious, were your moves due to your commute? It seems like a good reason to move, so I’m wondering if that spurred you on or if it was just a bonus.

      1. Yes I moved because I could not take the commute. But the first move was also affected by where my wife got a job when we decided to relocate and also school.

  22. A 45 minutes commute is definitely not fun. It takes me about 45-50 minutes each way but I take public transportation so on the plus side for me, I can catch up on news, read, etc.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t mind my hour commute on public transportation back in the day. I read a lot of books, newspapers, etc. Plus, I didn’t have a family yet, so there was that. Now, it bites. I wish I had been thinking and got me some books on tape to listen to. Oh well…

  23. I’ve occasionally had to drive over an hour to a job site as a freelancer, but luckily that’s rare, but in southern california it’s a freaking nightmare. It is just such a drag to be stuck in traffic that long, and I have no idea how some of my friends do it. I had one bad commute in Seattle but I hope to never again have to do it again. I love working from home for that reason.

    1. Yeah, So Cal would be awful. I have no idea how those people can take it.

  24. My commute right now is about 5 minutes. It’s awesome. I love it and get to sleep in longer. However, we are looking for a house, and due to price near my office, we can’t afford to live there. Plus, I don’t want to live in those neighborhoods anyways. My commute is probably going to increase to 30 minutes.

    1. I never realized how awesome it was to be just 5 minutes from work until I had to start driving every day. I’m sure I would get used to it. Luckily, I don’t have to do it myself for much longer.

      Good luck house shopping!!!!

  25. I’m lucky my commute is about 15 seconds and I can typically do it in my boxers. But yeah, when I did have a commute it sucked out-loud. I can totally feel your pain. The only thing that made it tolerable is books on tape!

    1. BAH! I wish I’d been listening to books on tape all along!!! Now, I’ve only got a few days left…

  26. Commuting is a time drain. Though it is more relaxing than being behind the wheel, especially for long drive, but there are setbacks to not traveling in the comfort of your own car.

    1. Yep, commuting just sucks your time away from you.

  27. Traffic is the worst! I had a similar commute for my previous employer, however, I tried to make the best of it. I would listen to podcasts, audio-books and the occasional hip hop jams. It definitely made the commute easier.

    1. Yeah, I wish I’d been listening to books on tape. Unfortunately, I’ve been wasting time listening to sports talk and the occasional Broadway showtune CD 🙂

  28. I’m right there with you homie. 45 min to and from work for me as well, even with a carpool. I leave at 7:30 and get home around 5:30 🙁

    I am still on the hunt for a job MUCH nearer, but options are slim at the moment. I hope to go all MMM and ride a bike to work someday as well, to kill commuting costs and get my butt in shape as well!

    1. I’d love to bike to work. Maybe I’ll think about doing that once we move. Well, I might think about thinking about it anyway. 😉

  29. I used to have a longer commute, about 30 minutes, which isn’t terrible for LA especially since I was going against traffic. It could have been much, much worse! Now days my commute is about 5 minutes since I relocated my office. 🙂 On the big plus side, now you know how much you hate commutes so you can make sure your new house is near work and avoid locking yourself in a permanent long commute!

    1. Yuck! I don’t know how you LA peeps do it.

      Yuppers, on the location of the new house. I’m hoping to be within 10 minutes of work…15 tops.

  30. I have to say I have been spoiled, too. Most of my jobs have been 15-20 minute commutes. However, I still don’t like driving. Even though it’s a short distance, I encounter a bunch of stupidity on the road. I don’t think I would be able to stand commuting for an hour or more! Waking up earlier and getting home later are extra inconveniences, too. I hope you find a house nearby!

    1. Thanks! Me too.

      Actually, I really do like driving. I just like to do it on my own time and not waste that time during the day going to work. Oh well…at least it is almost over for me anyway.

  31. Thankfully I currently live 8 miles from my work. With morning traffic it takes me about 25 minutes to get to the office, and even that drives me crazy. But living in metro Atlanta, I know it could be WAY worse. I know folks that sit for over an hour in traffic, going to work AND coming home, every single day. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be able to handle it and I would do anything to avoid having a job in the city. I’m glad you won’t have to endure your commute for much longer!

    1. Yeah, how would you like to sit in a parking lot going both to and from work. Icky…

  32. Todd @ Fearless Dollar says:

    Commuting can cost a lot of dollars, but the true cost is the life we “lose” while commuting. Man–two hours is 1/8 of your waking hours, and most of your free time!

    I repeatedly have passed up promotions and opportunity that required commuting.

    I think the few exceptions I’ve seen are people commuting my train or another person controlling the ride–that still allows for reading, writing, etc.

    An old boss of mine commuted 90 minutes each way–but he loved it. It was the only alone time and think time he got all day. Interesting perspective.

    1. Until recently, I’d never really thought about the effect commuting would have on somebody’s life. Now I know that I don’t want to do it. I’ve had trouble working on our side projects lately because of the commute. It eats up so much time, I don’t have the time or the drive to do anything extra.

  33. I only recently started working from home but I used to have a long commute, and I hear you. It’s the worst, mostly because of the time lost. I’d happily pay a bit more money (and even take a slight decrease in pay) to avoid the time wasted on the commute.

    1. True dat. The time lost is the worst part. Knowing what I know now, I think I’d also take a bit of a pay cut instead of commuting long-term.

  34. It’s awful and I just hate it. I weep silently whenever I come across the signs that give you estimated travel time and see it double or triple the usual time. I remember fondly being on a contract where I had a 5 minute walk to work. That was a great time and hopefully I can have something like that again.

    1. I hope you can too. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that commuting blows.

  35. At one point I was driving 200 miles a day to commute from our new house to a client site. 1,000 miles a week! A tank of gas EVERY OTHER DAY! Talk about insane. Luckily about half of the commute paid mileage so I didn’t go too poor.

    1. WTF Lance?!? That is totally ridonkulous! You are certifiable my friend…CERTIFIABLE I say!!!

  36. I still commute to work! I used to drive just 15 minutes, but I now drive 45 minutes. It will change this Friday back to 10-15 minutes. I hate driving and wish I could find a school closer to home.

    1. I hear you. Being close to home is much more important to me than I ever thought. Why is it changing back to 10-15 minutes? New job?

  37. I’m lucky that I don’t have to deal with too much traffic right now. Lots of people who live up where I work do have to deal with it, so in that way I’m pretty blessed.

  38. I used to commute 45-50 minutes, one way, to work. Thankfully, my commute was mostly on some pretty rural roads, so I didn’t have to contend much with traffic, but the costs of time and money eventually became the coffin nail of that job.

  39. I work really part time right now and occasionally have to drive into the city which is 40 minutes to an hour from our house. Every single trip I always wonder how people drive that or more every day.

  40. I totally get where you’re coming from. I’ve always commuted and also waste at least 1.5 hrs per day. I’m at the point of being used to it but believe me, I’d much rather ne 10-15 mins from home and with my family. I genuinely love my job and job location I just hate the commute. Once our debt is paid off I may consider cutting back to part time (2-3 days/ week) and closer to home but we won’t know for a few years.

  41. I’m very lucky because my commute has only ever been around 15 minutes. Now I work remotely and my commute is zero, and I love it. I totally agree that a long commute must kill your soul, and I’m glad you guys only have to deal with it for a little longer.

  42. I’m right there with you, Greg.
    My recent move added about 10-15 minutes to my drive time as well.

    On the bright side, I have a lot more time to listen to podcasts!
    On the down side, yeah.. it sucks.

  43. We’re about 13 miles from my husband’s work and it usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to go one way. We share a car and I just landed two jobs so now that happens every day, twice a day…there/back, there/back. 52 miles plus me driving to/from work, running errands and going to doctors appointments. We’re putting over 70 miles on the car each day and I have to do most of the driving. Hours wasted. I need the car for both of my jobs so public transportation is out of the question. My husband refuses to ride the bus or carpool. We don’t have kids but it’s still a big waste of time and I hate it.

  44. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    I can take an hour-hour fifteen commute as I take public transit but I would never drive a commute of that length. It’s too much money and too stressful!

  45. Christian says:

    My daily commute is about 1.5 hours EACH way, and I have to agree that it will suck your soul. Unfortunately all the work in my industry (creative) is in a major US city and housing is ridiculously expensive, which forced us to find housing outside the city. I’ve been doing it for about one year now, and have definitely noticed a dramatic change in my mood and energy levels. My fiancée and I are wanting to have kids soon, and I know I can’t do that with this lifestyle of commuting.

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