Matt Pickering, Software developer, sailor and seeing life is a rogue wave in a quantum sea
I get this question a lot. I live 50 miles from my job in suburban Washington DC. People are stunned when I tell them I do a 100 mile round-trip commute daily. They only retain that expression until I tell them why.
Here’s the typical experience of an employee in my company…
Lives in suburban Leesburg, VA. Commute 22 miles one-way daily. Part of the commute involves a toll road. Time of commute for them averages a little over an hour each way.
Average single family home price in their area is $500K to $600K.
So after gleaning this information with their look of amazement over my commute, I reply…
I live twice as far away as you do but my house costs not even half as much. Yet for that distance my commute one-way is only 5–10 minutes longer on average. As a bonus, I am on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and my neighborhood includes a private dock that costs 1/10th of what it would cost me to rent a slip in a nearby commercial marina.
Since 80+% of my commute is done at highway speeds I put less relative wear-and-tear on my car and my view is for the $250K+ I’ve saved in mortgage payments I can afford to drive a car into the ground every 8–10 years.
Time is the factor in commuting, not distance. If it costs me half as much to live the same lifestyle as you for the same amount of time invested, I honestly don’t understand why more people don’t do what I’ve done. But I actually do understand and it comes down to perception of what people are supposed to do.
People are supposed to live in nice neighborhoods and drive to work in a town or area “close” to work. We’ve been conditioned to this ideal of suburban life. I live several towns over in a completely different environment well detached from my office suburban area. Quieter, more laid back. All I have done is buck perception.
And that bucking of perception saves me big bucks in reality. A quarter-million less spent on my mortgage over time means I get to retire in my early 50s with a paid off house, water access and no more wear-and-tear to deal with to do what I want.
If you’re given the chance to buy in a “cheap” area in some new or existing development in the middle of “nowhere”, do so. Check the direction of urban sprawl in your area. Odds are good within 10–15 years that “nowhere” area will suddenly be engulfed by expansion and your cheap house will now be desirable property for the up-and-comers wanting to live there. It happens a lot.
I am lucky in the sense that really can’t happen to my neighborhood. I have the advantage of being in a waterfront area that was established back in the 1950s and it has nowhere to go and can’t be surrounded since it is surrounded by water on three sides. There has been growth on the main road. I remember it being lonely farm country 20 years ago but that can’t encroach on the neighborhood since it was there first.
For me it has been more than worth it. I learned long ago to separate where you live from where you work. Live where you want to spend your days. Not where work tells you it would be best. Work will sort itself out. I spent years moving to be closer to work only to have work change sometime later. After several rounds of this we stopped. We live in a place where we want to spend our weekends, not our jobs.
It can be hard. The commute is hard done year in, year out. But we have seen the financial results of these choices. And just adapting to those choices is enough. I will happily take the extra commute distance when my time doesn’t change and my cost of living is half. Only you can decide if that is acceptable to you.