How Much Is Your Long Commute Costing You?

by AJ Pettersen · 17 comments

The new economic reality is forcing many to broaden their search for new employment. This means looking for jobs outside of their local area with commutes of an hour or more each way. But how much does a commute really cost? Is it just time, or are you wasting other precious resources too?

Long Commutes Costs Money

Your long commute is wasting precious time that you could be productive instead. If you work a job with an hourly pay rate, this will be quite clear. This is an extreme example, but let’s say you are a lawyer charging $250 per hour. Now assume you take 15 minutes of your commute per day on billable work. If you work 250 days per year, this amounts to over $15,000 earned a year. What could you do that money?

Not everyone works for $250 an hour, of course, but you can see how even small amounts can add up over time. And what about having a job where you don’t get paid by the hour? This is where the financial burden will be harder to calculate, but you can probably answer it for yourself. How much better could you do your job with an extra 30 minutes every day? How about an extra 15? Over the course of the year an extra 15 minutes per day adds up to over 60 hours of work. How much more effective could you be with 60 more hours of work?

Long Commutes are Stressful for the Entire Family

If you have a family, you know that long work hours are stressful on everybody. Each minute you get to spend with your spouse and children are important to the well being of the entire household. More time for having fun, and more time to discuss more serious subjects such as money matters too. Imagine getting home 30 minutes earlier everyday to have a family dinner, and the immense impact this would have on your family.

A recent study by a Swedish University found that commuting over 45 minutes to work increases the chance of divorce by 40%. With divorce rates going up in our country, you need to ask yourself if you are willing to increase the possibility of you and your spouse separating. Being aware of numbers like these before making the decision to start a job with a long commute is vital. Is the job more important than your family? Can you make it work? These are questions you need to ask yourself.

Long Commutes Affect Your Personal Health Too

Long commutes have adverse effects on your personal health as well. You could probably figure this out on your own, but how badly does sitting in the car for hours everyday affect you? A research by Brown University shows that if you spend 45 minutes driving to and from work, you will lose 2.3 minutes of exercise, 3.5 minutes preparing food and almost 20 minutes of sleep. These numbers seem small, but they become quite large when multiplied over a long period of time. With obesity on the rise, maybe exercising more and spending more time making healthy food would keep you from becoming a statistic.

What To Do

With employment harder to come by, a job offer could be irresistible even if it means long commutes. However, sitting in the car for hours on end are a waste of time you could be spending working, being with your family or sleeping. Long commutes take away from your health, your family’s health and the health of your finances all at the same time. Is your long commute and ultimately job worth the stress? You are the only one who can answer this very question.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

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  • Brad says:

    There’s another option – commute via a train or bus, and sometimes they have wifi (in some cities).

  • Lorena says:

    Are there any studies showing the benefits/shortfalls of longer commutes via public transportation? In my city, some commutes can double if you’re using the bus and/or light rail instead of the car to get to work. But, you can use that time for other things, like e-mail or reading, so it’s not totally “lost” time.

  • Marbella says:

    Here in Sweden weekly commuter we a lot and is only home on weekends and it has shown that’s who families weekly commute is much happier and feel better than famliy who meets daily.

  • Ella says:

    It’s very easy to blog and tell people to have shorter commutes and whip out your calculator to figure out the numbers. But the simple fact of the matter is when you live in cities like New York City, you either pay through the nose in rent, thereby cutting into savings or not saving at all, or you’re commuting. It can take 45 minutes to cross town at run hour and you’re only going the equivalent of a few miles. And to those who might say, well move out of New York! Move somewhere cheaper! To those people I say, why don’t you all move away from your friends and family and doctors and people you trust to save a buck. And if you live near the city most of the jobs are IN the city so you have to commute.

    So blog entries like this are interesting but life is not as black and white as the bottom line.

    • viola woolcott says:

      VERY true also Ella.

    • Renard says:

      @ Ella,
      Everyone must make choices. You are making your choices, so kwitcherb*tchin. My choice is to live in my low-cost, working-class neighborhood about 8 minutes from my place of work. I can ride my bike or even walk to work if I were to need to do so (example – snow days).

      If you are working in NYC, chances are good that you earn more than I do (NW Hoosierland). However, my cost of living, housing, transportation, insurance, taxes, etc. is much less, so there’s a good chance my disposable income is greater. Good luck to you.

  • Mladen Adamovic says:

    Numbeo website measures how much time do people spend on commute by city. It shall raise signals to city governments where people spend too much time on commute.

  • Kyle says:

    Instead of focusing on the negative, find the positives. Be smart with your time. I use my morning commute time to drink my coffee and plan my day, that way I am focused and ready to go when I get in the office. While driving home from work I either take this time to unwind and destress before I get home to my family, listen to audio books on CD ( Zig Zigler is a good author to look into), or to catch up with friends on the phone. I have also heard of people using this time to learn a second language.

    • KM says:

      Sometimes that’s not enough. I use my commute time to listen to podcasts and educational shows like The Universe (and have been trying to find decent audio textbooks without success) so I can use my time wisely and learn something, but I am still completely drained afterwards. I can leave home perky and upbeat but get to work exhausted and sleepy, and that doesn’t change from whether I listen to something educational, music, or just spend the time in silence. It takes me a while to get back into the functional state after I arrive on the other side (same when I go home).

      • viola woolcott says:

        I understand all of that and used to feel the same. I changed my state of mind. My perception and I turned my time on the train into being productive. I know, I do not travel by train every day. Sometimes once a week (or not even that). You feel depleted KM. My hunch is that you don’t like what you do and that you may even feel drained by being in a small space with loads of people who feel like you do about commuting. Neddless to say really, but it drains your energy and you are not protected.

        • KM says:

          Actually I love what I do at work and I just wish I lived closer. And if I commuted by train, I would be a lot happier since I could read, knit, work, or do something else visual. Having to drive for 40 minutes each way doesn’t give you a lot of options for being productive while having to keep your eyes on the road. Listening to something or thinking/planning is pretty much all I can do.

  • Christopher says:

    My 45 minute commute is now a 30 commute, and a fun one, now that I am carpooling with a few friends. With four of us in the car, it feels not just like driving to work, but spending time with friends. And we get to use the carpool lane. Double win.

  • viola woolcott says:

    That’s a good reminder for us to have to commute at times or on a regular basis. I have been saying it all along to add the hour (or more) there and the hour back to your 8 hour-work-day. Let alone getting home and still having to do your household duties etc. It really is a question of how much you like your job. What you get out of it for yourself.

    I work from home but travel quite a bit, so to me personally commuting is a ‘normal’ thing. Instead of taking my car, I take the train AND I take my laptop and work and get my work done whilst travelling. I consider myself lucky after reading the article, as commuting is no big issue to me.

  • KM says:

    My commute is one of the main reasons I am considering looking for another job. I love what I do, but long drive (40 minutes each way) is killing me. The problem is that there is probably only one company near home (about 15-20 minutes) that’s in my career field.

  • thefrugallery says:

    The book “Your Money or Your Life’ focuses a lot on what your time is worth. You might not get paid $250 an hour, but certainly your time is worth something. Long commutes often result in more meals out because people are too tired or stressed to make a meal. And of course, it’s impossible to put a price tag on your sanity!

  • Emily Hunter says:

    One of the primary reasons that I quit my job was the commute – I was doing over an hour each way (sometimes an hour and a half!) and I felt that working 11 hours a day and only getting paid for 8 was barking up the crazy tree. I took a *serious* cut in pay, but my stress has nearly vanished and I’m a much better person for it.

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