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My Transportation Budget: How I sliced my commuting budget it half

Driving is bad for your soul

Have you every made a bad choice just because everyone else was doing it, even though you knew it was a bad choice to begin with?  When I moved to Chicago, I decided to live 30 miles from where I worked.  I did it because everyone else was doing it… and here’s the story of how I have attempted to mitigate this disaster.


Driving is bad for your soul

Since I lived 30 miles from my work, and traffic is almost always moving along at a snail’s pace, my commute was suddenly an hour and 15 minutes each way.  I told myself that this is what everyone who was young (at my company did), because living in the city was worth it.

So I did drove 60 miles a day, for a year.  Some of you may be thinking “hey, that’s not so bad, I’ve done worse…” and other might be screaming “You are a scourge on the environment, wasting your time, and flushing money down the toilet!”.  As humans, we seem to get used to almost anything, so whatever commute you typically do seems pretty doable.  But anything longer seems crazy.

I’m here to say that I was absolutely bat-shit crazy!  Regardless of the financial, and environmental calamities, think about what this does to a person.  I listened to a lot of NPR (which was nice), but sitting in crawling traffic (for no good reason) really starts to deaden the soul.  It makes you lower your ambitions, it makes you a worse person, and it makes you want to T-bone that car that just cut you off!

I haven’t seen the numbers on this, but I’d be willing to bet that people with longer commutes are more likely to get into fights or have anger issues.  The whole is just not worth it.  I realized that I needed to stop hemorrhaging gas money, and find a better way.

How much does a mile cost me?

The typical answer of “whatever is cost you to fill up per mile” is just plain wrong.  What about the fact that you are using up the finite amount of miles on your car?  Or the fact that driving an extra mile will make you pay for an oil change or maintenance sooner.  Here’s how I calculate my cost of driving/mile.

So my car gets 26 mpg which is (I accept it) pretty poor.  I’m making a few other assumptions to figure this out.  Let’s say I drive 10,000 miles/year and a new car cost $20,000.  I’ll keep it for 20 years, and do regular oil changes and maintenance.  And this is what I get.

Purchase $20,000 Good for 200,000 miles 0.1000 $/mile
Fuel $4 $/gal 0.1538 $/mile
Oil Change $45 Every 3000 miles 0.0150 $/mile
Maintenance $800 Every 20,000 miles 0.0400 $/mile
Total Cost/mile 0.3088 $/mile

You can argue with my assumptions all day, but I feel like they’re pretty conservative.  So it all comes down the fact that my driving costs me about double what I pay at the pump.  This means that driving 30 miles to, and 30 miles back every day was costing me…

(60 miles) * ($.31 $/mile) * (5 days/week) * (48 weeks per year) = $4,450

Now that’s a considerable chunk of my salary!  And this is only factoring in driving to and from work.  If I add in all the driving I did doing errands and for fun, that number gets even crazier!

Terrific Trains

So what did I do?  I committed to making my commute a little longer, if it meant that I was free of the soul crushing freeway commute, and I no longer had to pay nearly a tenth of my salary to the automobile industry.  My morning now starts by heading out my door into the great unknown ready to walk 1.3 miles to the train station.  Morning walks are invigorating, great for your health, and you can listen to podcasts while you walk!

Then I get to the train station and take the train all the way to work!  It takes longer than driving, but I am able to read library books and truly enjoy the ride.  So it’s adding to my physical well being, I’m able to increase my knowledge, and my soul is no longer being crushed!  There is however, a cost.  I still have to pay a fair.  (It’s also taken from my paycheck before taxes, so I get some savings from that as well).

($4.7/trip) * (2 trips/day) * (5 days/week) * (48 weeks/year) = $2,280

That’s a savings of

$4450 – $2,280 = $2,170/year!

And that’s nothing to sneeze at.  Anyway, I know moving closer to where I work is an even better solution, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet.  I still have a lot to learn, but cutting my commuting budget in half was a great first step.

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  1. December 27, 2012 at 7:03 PM
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