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The Precious Cost of Commuting

Kimberly Griffiths -- How much does your commute cost you each month? More importantly, how much of your personal time do you spend commuting each day to and from work?

A few years ago, I lived in the Chicago suburbs and commuted into the city each day for my job. I thoroughly enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the city lifestyle. I couldn't afford to live downtown and walk to work, so I commuted to work from a suburb about 20 miles southwest of the city.

The commute would start off by driving 5 miles to the train station. If I timed it right, I could accomplish this segment in about 10 minutes.

-- Cost: At 10 miles a day x approximately 22 work days a month = 220 miles a month.

Assuming this is roughly 10 gallons of gas @ $3 per gallon this could total about $30 per month.

The next part of my commute was walking from my paid parking spot to the train station which took about 5 minutes.

-- Cost: Parking ran about $30 per month.

All the commuters would be lined up on the platform waiting for the train for an 18-minute express commute downtown. Typically the train was on time but there were some horrible weather days that caused some significant delays.

-- Cost: Monthly train ticket was $75 per month.

Once the train reached Union Station in the heart of downtown Chicago, there was about a 20-minute walk to the office. Some of my fellow commuters needed to catch a bus or taxi since their offices weren't within walking distance of the train station.

-- Cost: Free for walking, roughly $50 per month for the bus or taxi.

Total Cost:

-- This type of city commute can easily exceed $200 per month not including the cost of car payments, insurance, or maintenance.

-- If you live in a smaller city in the U.S., your wallet is probably getting hit hard by the gasoline prices. In a month of commuting by car, you could spend close to $250 per month or more.

What's often not considered in the cost of commuting is your precious time. If your commute averages 1 hour each direction to and from work, this translates to:

-- 2 hours a day
-- 10 hours a week
-- 40 hours per month (one full work week!)
-- 480 hours per year (12 work weeks a year!)

Can you imagine having 20 hours more time per month if you could cut your commute in half? Wow!! What would you do with that time and the savings in money? Spend more time with your family? Take a class? Make time to exercise? Just think of the possibilities!

Consider how you might be able to cut your commute time and costs

-- Can you work from home some of the time?
-- Can you find a job closer to your home?
-- Can you move closer to your job?

Depending on your circumstances, you may find that getting a job closer to home may be worth taking a slightly lower salary if you're saving the money and time. Only you know what is best for your unique situation; take all of these different ideas into consideration.

It was painful to calculate the cost of not being paid 40 hours per month for a commute to and from work. I would try to read books, listen to books on tape, read the newspaper, and try to convince myself that the time on the train could be productive if I wanted it to be. I rationalized that it was quiet time just for me. Where I lived was of no consequence to my employer; I was just expected to show up on time and do my job.

I had a choice to make of whether I wanted to continue this lifestyle or not. I have had to make some tough lifestyle decisions but decided I would never have a commute in excess of 15 minutes each way to the office again.

If you decide to take steps to reduce commute costs you may find that you not only saved money, but you have more of your day to do what you want. You might even discover you do have the time to focus on accomplishing that goal you've been putting off because you just couldn't find the time.

About One Paycheck at a Time, Inc. One Paycheck at a Time Inc. is the leading source for sensible debt reduction solutions. Its products include the One Paycheck at a Time paperback (ISBN: 1591133327), as well as an ebook format, and the eTools program. The author of the book and president of the company, Kimberly A. Griffiths, has been through the vicious cycle of debt herself and has made it her personal goal to share her experience to help others. More information can be found about the company and its products at

© 2005 Kimberly A. Griffiths

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