Choosing a Residence that Strategically Cuts Commuting Costs

Strategic Commuting for Singles

If you live alone and have a long commute, reducing the cost of commuting is as simple as moving closer to work.

Less miles driven = less fuel and maintenance expenses on your vehicle (most of the time, city/hwy mileage breakdown will have an impact, but you get the idea). Transportation cost savings are fairly linear, unless you move close enough to work that you can get rid of a car altogether. Then, huge cost savings could follow.

When choosing between residences when relocating for a new job or simply changing residence location, the comparison should look like this:

total cost of housing + transportation at residence A


total cost of housing + transportation at residence B

Of course, there is a subjective quality of life component that needs to be factored in as well. What would your quality of life look like at residence A and residence B?

Time isn’t subjective though – you either have it or you don’t. How much is it worth to you to get back 30 minutes, an hour, or even 2 hours + of your life 5 days per week to reduce your commute?

That is a big deal. The average commute in the U.S. is 16 miles and 26.9 minutes each way. At 250 work days per year, that’s 13,450 minutes, 224 hours, or an added 28 eight-hour days of work per year. Considering we only average 10 paid vacation days – that’s a huge loss of time.

There are environmental ethical considerations as well, but we won’t even go there today.

If your total costs decline or are similar and your quality of life improves, making the move to the closer residence is a no-brainer, even if it means you are paying more for housing.

Commuting Costs for Couples

But what if you have a significant other than you cohabit with?

Well, if you both work near (within 4 or so miles, lets say) one another, then the comparative calculation is the same.

total cost of housing + transportation at residence A


total cost of housing + transportation at residence B

But what if you both have a decent sized commute and you work locations are 10, 20, or more miles apart?

This can get tricky – but the comparative cost calculation is still the same.

When presented with this scenario, many couples seemingly gravitate towards what they deem to be a compromise. In other words, “somewhere in the middle”. Lets put a visual behind this.

cost of commuting

  • Worker #1 works at a location in Holland, MI (red arrow)
  • Worker #2 works at a location in Grand Rapids, MI, about 24 miles away (green arrow)
  • “Compromise commute” residence A location (yellow arrow) is located in Hudsonville, MI, about 12 miles from Grand Rapids and Holland
  • “Long-short commute” residence B (purple arrow) is located 1 mile from worker #1’s work location in Grand Rapids and 23 miles from worker #2’s work location in Holland

At first glance, the compromise residence (yellow arrow) seems like a win. The couple shares the commute load evenly. With residence B (purple arrow), one half of the couple would see their commute dip to a mile, while the other would have a longer commute of 23 miles versus the residence A commute. Total costs would be the same because total commuted miles are the same, right?

Not necessarily.

With residence B, one half of the couple would be able to walk, bus, or bike to work. Going from two medium length commutes to one long and one short commute permits you to take the next step, by getting rid of your car altogether. This could result in a HUGE leap in cost savings. For me, it was about $5k per year.

And while a single person could also achieve similar significant cost savings by getting rid of a vehicle (as highlighted earlier), one shared vehicle between a couple is much easier than zero vehicles for a single.

Moving to residence B also encourages a scenario where worker #1 could look for and eventually find a job much closer to worker #2 and residence B, which would further cut costs for the couple and improve quality of life, whereas the “compromise commute” residence does not encourage this ideal outcome.

What about turning your back on “compromise”, you say? Well, worker #2 could enhance worker #1’s quality of life with increased chore load until worker #1 could find that closer job. How’s that for compromise?

It can pay to be strategic about your commute.

Have you executed a similar strategy? How much did you save?

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