Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cost of commuting: minimized

There's a reason this blog is called "Toward Mustachianism" and not "Doubling-Down On Mustachianism Hardcore Extreme". There are a lot of dudes on the internet who are more willing to live the frugal life than I am. No More Harvard Debt comes to mind, and I've been reading a lot of Dividend Mantra lately courtesy of MMM. I'm not gonna lie, these guys have frugality muscles that are way more developed.

I really like this simile of "frugality as a muscle". I'd characterize myself as a frugality girly-man, albeit with a latent goal of working out at the frugality gym more often. More on this later.

But it's not all bad. I didn't walk into this blog a completely hopeless high-income high-spending anti-Mustachian loser. Before I started down this road I held one Mustachian belief very strongly: commuting is the devil.

Eerily accurate map of New Jersey

I grew up in New Jersey — Springsteen Country, to be precise. Since I was a kid my mom commuted to north Jersey for work, somewhere around Poor Minorities and Hipsters; then later she worked in Executives Living in Mansions Driving Mercedes-Benzes (all too accurate). Her commute was (and is) between 60 and 70 miles one-way, for around two decades now. That's between two and four hours in the car every work day.

She's not the only one. My girlfriend's family lives in the same town, and her dad works in NYC (over 70 miles one-way). My childhood best friend, same deal, his parents both worked in north Jersey. Commuting is the culture of living down the shore — that or dealing with jackass tourists I guess.

Kids learn by example. I learned that, whatever the consequences, I'm not interested in a lifestyle that involves or entails commuting. When I got my job we settled on an apartment complex barely three miles from my office. Now that we own a house, the commute is about the same distance — a little over three miles. It's an easily bikeable commute with paths the whole way. I could even start running if I want to double-down on badassity.

Yes we're paying more to live in a nicer area. But we're making at least part of that up in reduced commuting expenses and more time at home. Even driving a particularly anti-Mustachian SUV (more on that later), I fill up maybe twice a month.

So you see, even if your focus isn't frugality qua frugality, your life can take on a distinctly Mustachian flavor. That said I'm definitely interested in streamlining our vehicle fleet, biking to work more, and spending less money on gas. It's that much easier when you decide to live where you work and work where you live.

How far away from work are you deciding to live?


  1. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the mention.

    I'd love to exchange frugal ideas anytime!

    As far as my commuting costs, I've gotten it down to about $50/mo after selling my car and taking the bus everywhere. I walk when I can't take the bus. I'm thinking about buying a little 50cc scooter for grocery runs, but it's easy to limit your grocery bills when you only buy what you can carry home for a mile-long walk.

    Best wishes!

  2. Hey DividendMantra, good to see you around here :)

    $50/month for commuting is stellar. My girlfriend and I don't even have car payments and we regularly spend $300/month on fuel and insurance, and that's not even counting repairs. I'm looking forward to exercising some willpower and bringing that number down.

    I do have one question for you. How did you decide to start investing before paying off your student loans? There are some interesting trade offs there and I'd love to hear your perspective.

  3. Acolyte,

    It sounds like you're doing a great job "flexing your frugal muscles".

    My student loans are at a very low interest rate (slightly less than 3% last I looked). I know for sure I can earn more than that long-term through investments. If you don't think you can earn more than that, then paying off the student loans would be the way to go.

    Don't forget student loan debt is tax deductible.

    Also, there are income-based repayment plans and since I don't think I'll have the loans paid off before I "retire", I can likely reduce my payments down to levels that will have a very minimal impact on my monthly budget.

    Just my take on it.

    Best of luck on your journey!

  4. By student loan debt, I meant student loan interest paid during the tax year is tax deductible.