What Is Your Financial and Mental Commuting Limit?

What Is Your Financial and Mental Commuting Limit?


When it comes to commuting to work or school, there is much more to be concerned about than just the price of gas and oil changes. Your mental well-being takes a toll when driving in congested traffic, bad weather, or in a hurry. Some folks like to have a good 20 minute drive from work to home to give them some “downtime” to transition into home-mode. On the other hand, some just cannot bear commuter traffic. We all have our driving preferences and limits. What are yours?

Driving Across The State

A few years ago, I took a job that involved an hour commute. Gas alone cost over $300/month plus constant oil changes. I did that for a year, then caved and moved closer. It was not because of the cost (my rent was super cheap), it was the traffic that drove me crazy.

Some days it would take me 2 hours to get to work. I worked until 6:30p just to avoid heavy traffic. Even with all the shortcuts I learned, it was very stressful. Sometimes I would be exhausted by the time I got to work!

After a year, I moved closer decreasing my commute back to 30 minutes. Even though rent was more costly, it evened out with the money I had been spending on gas and car maintenance

Driving To Another State

My new and current job involves commuting to NYC from NJ. I knew it would be expensive from the beginning; the train, the taxes and the more expensive everything in the city. I also knew I would be back to another long commute.

But I took the job and I am definitely glad I did. I cringed at the $279 monthly pass but really grew to like the stress-free, drive-free train ride. I can sleep in the morning and relax (or write blog posts as I am doing now) on the way home. It is an hour to myself, which is a pretty rare occurrence.

Recently, New Jersey Transit increased fares by 25%. My 1hr 15min commute is now $349/month! Part of me wants to find a cheaper alternative even though it will definitely involve driving on traffic-heavy roads. The other part of me just wants to keep my stress-free albeit expensive commute.

I calculated that driving closer with a friend might save me $40/month; but would include driving in heavy traffic. Something I truly dread.

So readers…

What are your thoughts on long commutes? Commutes involving public transportation? The cost of commuting?

Also, how much more are you willing to pay for convenience in general? I have written about the cost of convenience before but, at the risk of sounding hypocritical, I truly like this convenience.

I am genuinely interested in opinions and advice so please share.


10 Replies to “What Is Your Financial and Mental Commuting Limit?”

  1. I do not enjoy driving. I don’t consider myself a good driver. I don’t even own a car – share one with the BF, but it’s a manual so I can’t even really drive it.

    I bitch and moan about PT, but really, I love it. And when you work in the city, it’s a nobrainer.

    I don’t know. Maybe if my cost doubled I would have to think twice, but parking in town alone is equivalent to the cost of my bus pass. And I’d still have to walk at least a couple of blocks from there to work and vice versa.

  2. I wish I had the opportunity to use public transportation, but Los Angeles / Orange County doesn’t have a good system since everything is so spread out.

    I have a fuel efficient car so I can drive 3 hours round-trip five times a week and only fill up twice in that span, so it’s not expensive. The gridlock is always annoying, but as strange as it sounds, I kind of tune out when I drive. I let my mind wander and suddenly I’m home. It’s a freaky feeling. At some point in my drive I snap out of it and wonder how the hell I got to where I was. It’s like being on autopilot.

    If I could pay more to use public transportation, however, I would do it.

  3. I say stay on the train. $40 does sound like a lot, especially calculated over a year however how nice is it to be able to read, go online, snooze etc…………you’d never be able to do that with a person in the car with you, they may think you’re being rude. Sometimes I think it’s better to spend a bit more $$ to have some peace of mind. Sometimes I take a 30-40 min nap at lunch because we have a sofa in the quiet room. It feels wonderful to just “be” even in the midst of a busy workplace. Plus I did not have the best luck when I tried to share driving to work, the other person would be late or just not be able to make it. I am someone who can’t stand being late at all.

  4. Lee Ann: Thanks for the advice! I had not thought about the disadvantages of depending on someone in that way. That is even more stress to worry about! For now, I am sticking with the train until I can find a better alternative.

    The Jetpacker: When I was driving 100 miles round trip a day I did fill up twice a week as well, but that seemed like a lot to me! I think average people fill up 3-4 times a month, not 8!

    I completely know what you mean by “tuning out”. There have been so many times that I “wake up” and wonder how the heck I’ve been driving for the past 30 minutes because I was day dreaming in another world the whole time!

    You have made me realize that I should be grateful that I have access to public transportation this way, and I definitely am. If it were not for New Jersey Transit, I would not even consider New York City for employment.

    Eemusings: I am not sure if I could live without a car! I am considering moving closer to NYC but know that I would have to give up my car to afford the rent. It feels like losing my freedom!

  5. Curious — how long is your door-to-door commute? Is the one hour just on the train? I know it takes me 90 minutes to get to Midtown (I’d have to drive 10-15 mins to the subway/PATH/train).

  6. door-to-door is usually 1 hour 20 minutes; that includes 10 min drive to the station, 10 min walk actually to the station from my car, 50 mins train, and 10 min walk to work. (The train is 45-60 minutes depending which one I catch).

  7. You work in my dream city! *wipes drool off cheek* I think it’s really whats more important to you. Keeping your sanity or keeping money in your pocket. It sounds like you really enjoy your hour here and there though,thats something to think about especially when your in a nasty traffic jam. I’m insanely jealous you guys have effective public transit, and I would so take advantage of it. :)

  8. Im also 27, I also work in NYC and I also have a crazy expensive and about 2 hour commute. My monthly pass including $40 subway fare is $340 and the MTA keeps changing the schedule and increasing fares. On top of that, when my husband went to register his car again it turns out that all NY areas serviced by the MTA have to pay $50 registration fee for the MTA! So we are getting it on both hands.
    With all that said, I got rid of my car so I only take the train. I walk to the train station (20-25 min walk) and in the evenings my husband picks me up. Stick with the train, it’s costly but less of a headache than driving.

  9. Does your employer offer a transit FSA? That is where they cost of your transit pass is taken out pre-tax so you save roughly 40% (of the first $230.) Depending on your exact tax rate you would save approx $92 per month or $1104 per year.

    If you are not sure, your benefits department should be able to help. If they don’t they may want to consider it. (In addition to you not having to pay taxes on the amount, neither does your employer so it is generally a cost neutral benefit.)

    I am currently majoring in HR and have previously worked in the benefits field.

  10. I used to commute 1 hour everyday to my job. I didn’t mind the commute, one hour, one bus, no transfers. But after a while, it started getting to me. My job changed its hours of operation, which meant I was getting home at leaving my house at 8 in the morning, not getting home until 8 at night. 12 hours, with no time for a good breakfast nor a nice quiet dinner.

    I am not one for commuting at all. I choose to work within walking distance of my apartment, even if that means my rent is much much higher than if I would choose to live outside downtown.

    But, in saying that, I live downtown now. I have everything I need within walking distance. The higher rent has produced a high happiness for my life.

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