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Need Advice on $$$ vs commute

Old 09-04-15, 05:03 PM
  #1  
dtipton
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Need Advice on $$$ vs commute

I currently have a 40 mile (one way) commute into Columbus, Ohio. If traffic is perfect and I go a little over the speed limit I can make it in 40 minutes. Heavy traffic, bad weather, or an accident on the route make it easily an hour (75 minutes tonight in holiday traffic). I am considering taking a job that is 4 miles from my house and should offer an easy bicycle commute on a rural highway. The problem is it's a 20% pay cut. I know I will get some of that back in gas/vehicle costs but it's still a good chunk of $$$.

My question is has anyone taken that kind of cut to avoid a commute or how much more would you have to make to spend 2 hours in your car instead of bicycle commuting to work?

Any opinions would be appreciated.
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Old 09-04-15, 05:11 PM
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This is a very good question. The first thing I'll say is that it is hard for me to imagine any amount of money enticing me to spend two hours a day in my car. Yuck! But, realistically, I give that answer because I'm financially secure right now. If I were in real need, I'm sure I could be persuaded to do this.

So, how do you figure out what to do? I would start with a thorough accounting of how much you would save by biking vs. driving. How much will your insurance, gas, and maintenance bills fall? Are you currently a two-car household? If so, would the new commute allow you to sell one of the cars to eliminate registration and insurance fees? Finally, can you live comfortably with a 20% pay cut? Are the sacrifices worth it to you?

A 20% cut when you are on the edge is very different from a 20% cut that primarily affects discretionary spending. If I were in your shoes -- and in my current financial situation -- I would do it in heartbeat and consider the monetary loss a gain in fitness and emotional wellbeing.

Best wishes as you make your own decision.
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Old 09-04-15, 05:15 PM
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In my opinion time is even more important than money. I use to spend 2-3 hours in the car every day driving back and forth to work but then got a job only 20 miles away and it was worth the cut in pay alone.
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Old 09-04-15, 05:38 PM
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You can guesstimate your car savings at $0.65 per mile (From AAA). Better would be to detail it out for you specifically; fuel, tires (assume 70% of warranted life), oil changes, maintenance, mileage based depreciation, mileage based insurance, speeding tickets, parking, etc. Costs of a crash should probably be included as well.

On the plus side you could possibly add in something for no gym membership, being healthier, etc. Does your potential new employer have any benefits for people who ride a bike to work? An increasing number do since daily activity and a healthy weight are critical in keeping their health insurance costs down.

I did an hour each way commute for a number of years. I should have stopped much sooner. I and my family were much happier when I didn't have that commute and sometimes the mental frustration that went with it. You should also consider future opportunities in each job which can be worth a lot. Will you enjoy one more than the other?

Do you have a family? Make sure they're on board with whatever decision you make.
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Old 09-04-15, 06:20 PM
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Single dad with two kids. 20% cut would hurt, but would not effect necessities. Might mean I save less for retirement, but health benefits might mean I'm around a little longer to enjoy it when I get there.

I think the AAA rate is high for my situation. My car is paid off and still relatively new. Gets good gas mileage (35+) and is pretty cheap to operate (do maintenance myself).

Job would be less stressful, but might mean less opportunity for advancement. To be honest at this point in my life spending more time with my kids is more important than climbing the corporate ladder.
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Old 09-04-15, 06:30 PM
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Time is something you can't get back. I used to work as a construction surveyor, 70-80hrs/week. Money was fantastic, but I never saw my family. Quit, got a job working in a totally unrelated field for much less money, but I get about 5 hours a night with my son, and my wife's income with mine is more than enough for our financial goals (she's a workaholic)

Priorities
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Old 09-04-15, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Wittyname View Post
Time is something you can't get back. I used to work as a construction surveyor, 70-80hrs/week. Money was fantastic, but I never saw my family. Quit, got a job working in a totally unrelated field for much less money, but I get about 5 hours a night with my son, and my wife's income with mine is more than enough for our financial goals (she's a workaholic)

Priorities
+1 time is irreplaceable, you can make more money.
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Old 09-04-15, 07:01 PM
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While crunching the numbers on gas and insurance savings, etc, is "easy" ... how does one put a value on their free time?

Does anyone have a link to some "authoritative" way to do this?

Getting back to number crunching...

...the federal reimbursement rate is $0.575 per mile. You will find some websites computing the true cost of driving is closer to $1.00 per mile. Lots of variability there, but I'd suggest you crunch the numbers using those extremes. You are commuting 400 miles a week so (crudely) it is costing you between $230 and $400 per week to commute.

So, assume 48 equivalent work weeks per year, and a crude midpoint of $300/week, it is costing you $14,400 *after tax* to commute.

Depending on your tax bracket(s), that could be $16000-$19000 (or more) per year pre-tax to commute.

Dropping down from two cars to one car is kinda of implicit in this type of calculation, or dropping from one car to zero cars...can you do that? (as queried above).

This is only part of the story, but it gives you one way to think about the "raw dollars" involved. After that, only you can put a dollar value on free time and happiness.

If I have made a math or logic error, please point it out!
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Old 09-04-15, 07:15 PM
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No plans to drop a car.I have a family sedan and old pickup. Both are paid off. Liability only on truck.

Car gets better than average mileage and I do my own maintenance so I figure my per mile rate for operating vehicle is much lower.

I agree time is something I can't get back which is why I pursued the job knowing it would be a pay cut.

Thanks for all the feedback!
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Old 09-04-15, 08:22 PM
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This all really depends on what your priorities are, and how comfortable are you financially.

FWIW, when I went from driving to cycling to work, the costs more or less were even. Constant flats, 2 sidewall tears, buying gear (which never seems to end) and the uptick in eating were probably more than the cost of gas. Now that I have things dialed in its probably cheaper, but was much more expensive than I was expecting.
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Old 09-04-15, 08:24 PM
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Looks like I'm going to be the opposing voice on the forum today. If you take a 20% pay cut, and find out that the job doesn't suit you, or you need a change, then you are bargaining from the lower salary. You'd also have less 401k (maybe even social security - I don't know how that works). If I was in a similar situation, I would look into whether I could move closer to work, or keep looking for a job that pays the same (ideally more) than the current job.
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Old 09-04-15, 10:35 PM
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Something to consider, lower paying jobs often go hand in hand with less desirable work environments. Will the time saved commuting offset a workday that seems more tedious?

I once traded wages for regular hours, an easy commute, and a seemingly interesting job..........and it was horrible.
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Old 09-04-15, 10:52 PM
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8 hrs at work + 2 hrs in the car ==> 80% of the time at work. 20% of the time driving.

Also, consider that the government estimates that the cost of driving is about 50 cents a mile. So, 80 miles of driving a day is worth about $40. I suppose it all depends on how much you make.

Now, riding a bicycle 4 miles does take some time. Say 4 miles at 12 MPH = 20 minutes each way. But, you are getting free exercise (and relaxation???) during that 20 minutes. You also have to consider the bike and bike parts, but it works out to be a lot less than the car.

What about upward advancement? Are you at the top of the ladder at the old job, with room to climb at the new job? How fast?
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Old 09-05-15, 03:25 AM
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I'd drive half way and ride the other half. Just to avoid traffic, get some riding miles in, save some cash, feel amazing, and no gym membership.
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Old 09-05-15, 08:48 AM
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I really like the advice of moving closer to your current work site. Provided you like your current job, there are lots of lifestyle and financial benefits of living close to work.

Since you are considering a major life change (a job change) you may as well at least do a quick exploration of moving closer to work.

The advice of driving partway to your current job is also very good.

Best wishes! This stuff is never easy but in my experience it is good to do some deep analysis of lifestyle, home and career every 5-10 years or so, even if you don't make a change.

Originally Posted by treadtread View Post
Looks like I'm going to be the opposing voice on the forum today. If you take a 20% pay cut, and find out that the job doesn't suit you, or you need a change, then you are bargaining from the lower salary. You'd also have less 401k (maybe even social security - I don't know how that works). If I was in a similar situation, I would look into whether I could move closer to work, or keep looking for a job that pays the same (ideally more) than the current job.
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Old 09-05-15, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Johnny Mullet View Post
In my opinion time is even more important than money. I use to spend 2-3 hours in the car every day driving back and forth to work but then got a job only 20 miles away and it was worth the cut in pay alone.
Right. We can usually get more money, but time spent is gone forever. Seriously.

I would also estimate the cost of driving that 80 miles daily and compare that to the 20% pay cut. I had a 45 mile each way commute as a young man and almost came out ahead by renting an apartment a couple of miles from work.
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Old 09-05-15, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by dtipton View Post
I currently have a 40 mile (one way) commute into Columbus, Ohio. If traffic is perfect and I go a little over the speed limit I can make it in 40 minutes. Heavy traffic, bad weather, or an accident on the route make it easily an hour (75 minutes tonight in holiday traffic). I am considering taking a job that is 4 miles from my house and should offer an easy bicycle commute on a rural highway. The problem is it's a 20% pay cut. I know I will get some of that back in gas/vehicle costs but it's still a good chunk of $$$.

My question is has anyone taken that kind of cut to avoid a commute or how much more would you have to make to spend 2 hours in your car instead of bicycle commuting to work?

Any opinions would be appreciated.
I think you could pay me enough to be in a box for two hours everyday, but I'm not sure how much. I'm currently living car-free. So, if a job was going to require that I own a car, it would need to pay for the entire additional expense of car ownership (I remember this being roughly $0.35/mile (and biking costs $0.05/mile) + the extra two hours of my time (10 hours is 25% more than 8, so an additional 25%) over what I'm making now.

So, I think a 20% cut to save 25% time actually makes sense. Or, you could move closer to the current job!
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Old 09-05-15, 11:35 AM
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I would focus more on what you'll be doing at work and where you'll be happier. I would gladly drive 2 hrs/day if it meant the 8 hrs was more challenging/enjoyable. At the end of the day you need to enjoy what you're doing. In my experience making 20% more won't make up for a dreary job. Likewise trading a couple of hours of relaxing commuting for 8 hrs of a sub-optimal work isn't worth it either.

My advice is to pick the more rewarding job and then figure out what you need to do in your life to make it work. I commute 2hrs/day but my kids are gone and I do it on a bike. If I was 40 mi from work I'd try and arrange it to ride one way 4 or 5 times a week by leaving a vehicle at work occasionally.
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Old 09-05-15, 01:24 PM
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A lot depends on your line of work and how easy it is to find a different job if you need to. How recession proof is your career? If you needed more income at some point down the road, is finding another job relatively easy for you?

There is so much to consider beyond salary and whether or not you can ride your bike to work.

You hear of lots of people who are at the end of their lives, - men in particular, who wish they had spent more energy on their relationships than their job. I think there is a lot to learn from that. However, money (or lack of it) is often a major cause of friction and stress. In the past I have traded higher incomes for more meaningful work and I don't regret it. At this point in my life though, a 20% cut in my salary, while not the end of the world, would force me to make some awfully tough choices.

You said you were a single dad. One recommendation I've gotten, if this is a relatively recent change in your situation, is to not make other radical changes in your life too soon afterword if you can avoid it.

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Old 09-05-15, 03:30 PM
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Is flex time an option? For example, working 10-12 hour days 3 or 4 days a week. More hours per trip, more fuel savings.

I did that for a couple of years, 20 years ago when I lived in a rural area and my commute was around 50 miles a day. I was helping look after an elderly relative who needed a lot of help at home and with medical appointments. Gave me more free time at home and was more cost effective in travel expenses. And I was able to quit a part time weekend job that, at $10/hr, wasn't really cost effective due to travel expenses. And this was mid-1990s gas prices, which were significantly lower than now even with relatively "low" current prices.
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Old 09-05-15, 03:44 PM
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I'm not a number cruncher, but in my situation, it's probably break even between car and bike financially. I ride for the reduced stress, the workout and fresh air, which is priceless.
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Old 09-07-15, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by dtipton View Post
Might mean I save less for retirement, but health benefits might mean I'm around a little longer to enjoy it when I get there
Living longer means you need more retirement savings.
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Old 09-07-15, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
I would focus more on what you'll be doing at work and where you'll be happier. I would gladly drive 2 hrs/day if it meant the 8 hrs was more challenging/enjoyable. At the end of the day you need to enjoy what you're doing. In my experience making 20% more won't make up for a dreary job. Likewise trading a couple of hours of relaxing commuting for 8 hrs of a sub-optimal work isn't worth it either.

My advice is to pick the more rewarding job and then figure out what you need to do in your life to make it work. I commute 2hrs/day but my kids are gone and I do it on a bike. If I was 40 mi from work I'd try and arrange it to ride one way 4 or 5 times a week by leaving a vehicle at work occasionally.
This is along the lines of my thinking. You spend a significant part of your life at work, so if you have the option, you should go for whatever gets you most energized and somehow make the rest of your life work around it. (as you aren't the only one depending on your paycheck -base assumption is that you can provide for those that depend on you if you pick the "energized" option.) Good luck.
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Old 09-07-15, 10:45 PM
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On my last three moves (prior job, this job, bought a house), I was at a point in my life where I was able to pick a home in a location from whence I could ride. I'm not sure if this situation will persist forever, but it's nice for now.
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Old 09-07-15, 10:57 PM
  #25  
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I did it. I had a company vehicle so, the expense wasn't an issue. However, the bike ride to & from(I was 5 miles) was amazing. Got home earlier than before & healthier.
The only down side was that the company I moved to was a complete mess. It was a horrible career move & it wasn't going to last.
If you are unhappy where you are, it never hurts to look around. If it's a backwards career move, you may have a tough time getting back. There are a ton of reasons that it could work in or against your favor. Think it through & good luck!
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