There I was, sitting in Subway, minding my own business, about to put 6 inches into my mouth. I’M TALKING ABOUT A SANDWICH YOU PERVERTS. Suddenly, two girls in their early to mid 20s appeared, subs in hand, and they sat down at the table beside me. One was cute, so you know I was at least a little excited about this. Except she talked in the little girl voice, which immediately takes away from the sexiness. Just a little though.
Anyhoo, I need to add a little more to the back story before this will all make sense. I live in a small town, approximately a hour and a half away from the nearest big city. As you can imagine, there are all sorts of people who are just waiting until they can make their next trip to the excitement of the big city, not to mention all the exciting nightclubs that are just waiting to take their money in exchange for getting drunk next to unfamiliar people.
Back to that lunch at Subway. It turns out that one of the girls lives in the big city (Calgary) and commutes every day to my crappy little town. This literally blew my mind. I’m surprised my brain is still in tact.
I checked it out on Google Maps, it is 135km one way. She drives back and forth every single weekday, with the exception of statutory holidays. For easy figuring, lets assume 225 workdays per year. 225 workdays multiplied by 270 kilometers per day is 60,750 kilometers per year.
According to this fancy chart, driving a Toyota Prius 60,750km would cost our cute lunch friend $21,908 over the year. She’s also looking at a minimum of 1 hour each way, even though the trip takes at least an hour and a half if you do the speed limit. People who drive 60,000 km per year don’t typically drive the speed limit though. So let’s assume an extra 2 hours per day commuting time.
If she makes $60,000 per year for 1800 hours worth of work, (225 work days x 8 hours per day) that works out to an hourly wage of $33.33. That ain’t so bad, I think most people not living in New York or San Francisco would be happy with that. But what if we factor in just the time commuting? Suddenly her hourly wage drops to $26.67 per hour, a 20% decline.
Not only that, but she’s paying more for housing by living in the big city. A lot more. Once you add in her increased commuting costs, and she’s probably spending an extra $30,000 per year for the privilege of living somewhere exciting. I have no idea how she actually was able to afford a whole sub. This chick should spend more time reading personal finance blogs.
My example is pretty extreme, but there are all sorts of people reading this blog who commute across their city to work and think nothing of it. 30km return commute is still 150km per work week, which is 7500km per year, assuming 50 weeks per year. Assuming 35.9 cents per kilometer, you’re still shelling out almost $2700 per year driving your ass to work.
Plus, just about every office jockey out there uses their commute as an excuse to spend all sorts of money on new (or next to new) cars over their working lives. Hey, they need something reliable to get to work, and alternative transportation just isn’t an option. So they overpay for cars to the tune of like a hundred grand over their working lifetime. Car loan interest rates are low now, but they won’t be like this forever, just adding more to your transportation bill over the years.
As the mantra says, housing is about location. People want more house for the same money, so they buy in the suburbs. Typically, the further out the suburb is, the cheaper a house costs. So people figure out how much house they can afford, and then choose the best location they can afford. The problem is though, often these houses in the suburbs come with a long-ass commute. Nobody factors in the cost of this commute when they buy a place in the suburbs.
What’s my solution? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Move somewhere smaller. If you have a generic government job, you’ll make exactly the same no matter where you live. Small towns often come with less competition as well, since about half the people are just counting the days until they can find a job in an exciting big city.
You’ll cut your commute to 10 minutes max, and you’ll cut your living expenses significantly as well, since housing costs less. Plus, crime is usually lower, the air is cleaner, and you might actually know your neighbors. Over the course of a lifetime, you can put hundreds of thousands of dollars in your pocket by just choosing a lower cost of living area.
Yes, I realize not all of you will be able to pull this off. If your dream is to work at Vogue magazine, you better get your ass to New York. And if you want to work for Apple, community college in Mobile, Alabama probably isn’t going to get you there. But, if you’re in that huge majority of average people, you can easily find a job in your chosen field in a small town.
There are all sorts of extra costs to living in high demand areas. If you’re serious about getting ahead, maybe you should pick somewhere that actually makes it easy to save. This doesn’t mean living in the sticks, there are plenty of medium sized cities with low costs of living. Maybe you should consider these things before choosing a place to live. Or you could piss away tens of thousands commuting like my new girlfriend. Except now I always pay for Subway.