Making the Commute Easier

Until the end of June, I lived near my office. When my wife and I moved to Calgary, we chose a home that would be convenient to shopping, schools and public transit. But the first priority was that it be close to my office. I was able to walk to work in 15-20 minutes. We were able to save quite a bit of money by having only one car and not driving very far.

Almost six years later, as we were planning for my oldest to enter grade one, an old idea resurfaced. It would be great if the kids could go to the Mandarin bilingual school. There is a single public school with this program in Calgary, it could be very beneficial in the future and their grandmother, who is Chinese, would be very pleased. This had never seemed realistic in the past, since the school is located at the other end of the city from where we lived and worked. But with the idea that I could retire in a couple years, and the fact that kids can only enter the program in kindergarten or grade 1, we decided to enroll.

With the school located so far from our house, we were faced with three choices. If we stayed in our house, our son would have a long bus ride, around an hour and a half, each way every day, sometimes arriving very late if there is snow or an accident; or my wife could drive both ways every day in traffic with three kids. The other option was to move much closer to the school (and my wife’s mother) and I would have a long commute every day.

To me, this underscores the fact that we don’t make all our decisions using financial reasoning. It would be least costly to stay in our house and send our son on the bus every day. But that wouldn’t be best for our family. I don’t think it would be right to put a six year old on a bus for three hours a day, especially when he can’t read yet to pass the time. We decided to move, and I chose to commute, because I felt it would be most beneficial for our family.

The LRT in Calgary is relatively quick and cost-effective when a single person is traveling from one end of the city to the other. My office is at one end of the line, and we chose a house at the other end. I save between one and two dollars each day (depending on gas prices), as well as the maintenance and depreciation of the car, by traveling on the LRT. Better than that, when I’m not driving, I can spend my time in ways that I choose. I bring a book, or my netbook, with a cell phone so I can do work or connect to the internet.

My final idea for making the commute more bearable may have been inspired by Tim. Who wouldn’t want to have an extra day off each week? I need to work 40 hours, but I’ve arranged to only come into the office for four, ten-hour days a week. I have to remain available by cell phone on the other day (Wednesday), but I save at least two hours by not commuting every day. It makes for four long days, but it also gives me an extra day that I can spend with my family and do things around the house.

We decided to move for our kids’ future, not for financial reasons. However, it meant that I would need to commute at least an hour every day. I found that taking public transit reduces the cost, but more importantly it gives me more time to read and write. I also reduced the time I spend commuting by working 40 hours over four days and remaining available by cell phone on the fifth weekday. It’s important to me to feel good about my lifestyle now, not postponing all my enjoyment until I’m retired.

How do you deal with commuting? How have you made a difficult situation easier? Are there things you do before retirement, just to make life enjoyable?

5 thoughts on “Making the Commute Easier”

  1. I dealt with commuting by first doing less of it (i.e. telecommuting, working P/T). When doing less of it was still very annoying and exhausting, I then did none of it (i.e. retired).

    Problem solved.

  2. For me, avoiding a long commute is worth the extra cost as it reduces stress and gives us more time to spend with family – that’s what we’re also really trying to achieve with good finances right?

  3. Many people in my office who have long commutes have lobbied for a 4 x 10 hour work day, which has not been accepted by management, for whatever reason.

    For me, if I had a significant commute, I think I could get a lot of my leisure stuff done during the bus ride (reading, internet surfing, video games) and spend the time when I was home spending time with my spouse.

  4. deegee, I agree that having no commute is ideal. It must be nice to have reclaimed your life.

    Tiny, less stress and more time with family are definitely the goals. Money or finances are only the means. I think I’ve found some ways to reconcile less stress and more family time with a long commute (for the present), but having no commute is definitely worth money.

    Dave, I’m sorry to hear that management is being inflexible. I think happy employees are productive employees, but I know that not everyone believes that. Using time on public transit is certainly better than sitting behind the wheel!

  5. We moved to be closer to my work over 3 years ago after 9 years of commuting. I hated the commute, especially in the winter.

    The real estate market in where we are now isn’t nearly as strong as the one we moved from and we knew it. The flip side is there is a lot of value for what you spend here.

    So, it may end up being tougher to sell our house in the future. The relief of not commuting has been tremendous and that is what made it a good decision for us.

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