How to: Commuting

The rising property prices, illusion of economic instability* and the human fear of change (or conversely the false need of being seen as 'cool') have created a trend of very long commutes to work. It is not uncommon for people to do a daily two hour round-trip but very few realize just how counter-productive this is and how wrong their assumptions are. For a significant quality of life factor, very little thought is put into it. As per usual In this article I will discuss the causes for this phenomenon, the actual cost to you and finally ways to reduce it aka The Pragmatist approach.

Factors causing long commutes

    There is only one objectively rational (pragmatic) reason for having a long commute, you work in a city center and the property prices (both to buy or rent) are just ridiculous. You can then simply trade your time for money and optimize your income. This only applies though in the case you haven't fallen prey to the illusion of economic instability. If you fear that the socioeconomic state of your country is always in flux, you will think you have to cling to the first work opportunity that comes along even though it means you will have to commute to a big city. As we will see shortly your perceived income and your real income can have more than 25% difference just due to commuting, which usually makes the "golden" opportunity you found more like "fool's gold".

    The second category of factors causing this phenomenon is that, quite frankly, humans are incredibly stupid. Even in cases where it's possible to move closer to work without any increases in expenses -while reducing your commute time significantly- people will refuse to do so citing trivial reasons and arguments. Some examples are that "their favorite restaurant is close by" or they will "be further away from their friends", and while there might be some merit to staying close to family/friends you will actually spend less time with them if you don't move. Similarly, if the job happens to be outside a city center younger people tend to willingly commute further and pay higher rent prices just to live closer to the city center, so they can have a "social life". These people are actually called "reverse" commuters and as is the case with the first category they actually achieve the opposite effect of what they think they will achieve.

    As you may have noticed I left out some things like "traffic congestion". This has been done on purpose since even though these play a role in how long your commute takes, there is a limit on how much you can optimize it. It is quite illogical to waste so much time thinking how to cut your commute time from 2hours to 1.5hours when it could have been 15minutes if you weren't so stubborn and/or stupid. The route is the most important factor and optimization can come later.

The actual cost of commuting

    We've seen in the report cited in a previous article regarding breakdown of costs that transportation accounts for a whopping 20% of yearly income. This can easily be brought down to 4-5% just by switching to public transport. Its important to emphasize that these figures only account for direct monetary costs and is not the only thing affecting you when you commute to work.

    The average (return trip) commute in the US was around 50minutes in 2013 while the average work week was 46 hours. If this commute time is not productive (seldom is) this means that you are essentially working 4 extra hours, i.e. your hourly rate is actually 92% of what you think it is. On top of that your career is not advancing with these extra 4 hours if you want to consider it as working for your employer.

    All in all, the best analogy is that you are paying 20% of your salary + 4 hours per week. These hours might not be worth the maximum of 8% of your salary but they are productive hours and their worth depends how valuable an hour of your life is. I will call it a day at 25% to have a realistic and round number.

    It is apparent that everything is a balancing act between living expenses, transportation costs, commute time etc. The important part is to choose where you commute from pragmatically, the hours you save can be used to visit your friends/family for much longer when you do so. Remember that you will be commuting to work 5 days a week, but how often do you go out? In the especially stupid case of "reverse commuters" it might be cheaper to stay in a hotel when they go out to the city center than to pay the extra rent. Everything that follows only applies if you have understood this, otherwise its as futile as polishing a turd.

* This is the main brainwash tactic of our generation, designed to create perfect working sheep. More in future publications.

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