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What Does Your Daily Commute Cost You?

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Cost of Commuting Infographic (Streamline Refinance) - RF CafeHow far do you commute each day for the privilege of doing your part to push back the frontiers of technical ignorance and to boldly go where no engineer - or technician - has gone before (to paraphrase Jene Roddenberry, not me). Do you know what the cost equates to you each year? This handy-dandy infographic by the folks at Streamline Refinance lays out some gruesome numbers. Those with a weak stomach probably should pass on viewing this one. Here's a hint at what you will see: See that big $795 in the thumbnail image? That's the average cost per year for commuting -- per mile! Yessiree, if you live just 10 miles from work, you're losing nearly $8,000 per year, depending on you automobile type, on gas, tires, maintenance, devaluation, and loss of your personal time (which is valuable, after all).

Back in the early 1990s I drove about 45 miles each way to Comsat, which took about 65 minutes due to miserable traffic, which is 130 minutes round-trip, or 2 hours and 10 minutes (about the run time of an average movie) each day. Figuring two weeks vacation and 10 holidays, that leave 48 weeks x 5 days/week = 240 days per year of commuting. 240 days x 130 minutes = 31,200 minutes = 520 hours per year. That's a fourth of a man-year (2,080 hours) on the road. It was a great job, but combined with working 60-70 hours per week (no paid overtime of course), it really took a toll on me. During that period I was writing my world-famous RF Workbench cascade analysis software at home, usually into the wee hours of the morning.

During the Comsat era, I drove a crappy old 1982 Ford Escort (our only car) that suffered carburetor icing regularly when cresting South Mountain in the winter, driving from Smithsburg (Hagerstown) to Clarksburg, Maryland. It was lucky to get 25 mpg, even with a little 4-cylinder engine and no air conditioning. Devaluation was pretty minimal since the car didn't have much value to begin with. Gas cost about $1.00 per gallon at the time (vs. about $2.30/gallon now). In 1992, the IRS was allowing 29 cents per mile deduction for business vehicles (for which I did not qualify), which would be $6,264 for those 21,600 miles per year (90 miles round-trip per day * 240 days * 0.29), or around $940 at the 15% income tax rate. The actual fuel cost works out to $864 per year (best case for 21,600 miles / 25 mpg). Clearly, the deductible amount allowed by the IRS does not really cover anything other than gasoline costs. My salary was something like $35k per year as an entry level engineer, with an after-tax net of maybe $30k per year, so that really hurt the bottom line. After three years, I changed jobs since I could not keep up that schedule and could not afford to move closer in the much higher cost region north of Washington D.C. BTW, there were quite a few guys who commuted even farther than I did.

Keep in mind when calculating your own commuting cost that the motivation for the creation of the poster is to convince you to sell your current house and buy a new one. That puts money in the pockets of re-financiers like the Streamline Refinance folks, so numbers are put in the most most shocking terms - yet credible in the worst case - as possible. In my opinion, the greatest cost is in lost personal time on the road that could be spent at home with your family, engaging in a hobby, starting your own business or even getting a little extra sleep. A mere 15-minute commute consumes 120 hours per year, or the equivalent of three full work weeks per year! That's a pretty staggering reality. For some people their job is their life, so commute time doesn't matter. I'm not one of those people.

Since 2008, I have had the privilege of working from home, thereby eliminating the costs of time and money of commuting. I still put in many hours working seven days per week, but it is mostly on my own schedule. One of the very few benefits of the Wuhan virus situation is it has provided a lot of people a chance to work from home at least part time, and a lot of them really like it. Of course some jobs require a presence at a brick-and-mortar location for access to equipment, facility resources, in-person collaboration with associates, and other things. A lot of companies are realizing they can save money by not needing to provide office space for all their employees. It will be interesting to look back in a decade to see how the situation changed the work paradigm.

Infographic source: "The True Cost of Commuting" on the Mr. Money Mustache website.

 

 

Posted July 15, 2020(original 3/15/2013)

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RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while typing up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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