Author Topic: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?  (Read 2382 times)

Luke_MMM

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New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« on: June 06, 2016, 08:39:30 PM »
TL;DR - skip till linebreak:

So I graduated college almost exactly a year ago, and have now wound up working in NYC as a software engineer at a great company. I've always had little theories in my head about how lifestyle inflation and debt are things I'd like to avoid with my decent salary - and always entertained the thought of retiring early. Then, of course, I found MMM and read the whole blog front to back over a couple weeks, and everything became so much clearer to me.

I started off by paying off all of my student loans, instead of paying them off slowly while letting my money rot in the bank. About a 4.3% annual return! Would be maybe wiser to invest, and hope for greater returns while paying off loans, but I prefer to have a debt-free mind.

I also committed to not getting a car any time soon. I used to have one until I totaled it in a big accident (no other cars hit). The car was very old and I got as a gift from a family member, so it wasn't a huge disaster. I realized that I only have need of a car once or twice per month with my current lifestyle. Usually I can just bike in those circumstances, or worst case, borrow one of the three cars that other family members have around. Not having a car saves me on wasted insurance, and of course, gas.

As a helplessly technical person, I eventually entrenched myself in hordes of spreadsheets to do calculations across various assumptions to see when I would retire. Looks like I can pull it off in 6 or 7 years, to the tune of a 30 to 40k income at a 4% WR. I'm super excited about that possibility, though it seems like an eternity away at this point.



Anyway, the problem I have is this:
I work in NYC. I live in NJ, with my parents (paying minimal rent). This saves me a bit of money, but also costs me around 2-2.5 hours a day of commuting time. Here's some numbers that I'm playing around with, for greater clarity:

Code: [Select]
Income: $110,000 (NYC + NJ taxes eats a lot of it)
    + $20,000 stock in company
    + $15,000 annual bonus
    + $9,000 'free' money from 401k match

And here are my current monthly expenses:

Code: [Select]
Rent: $400
Loan Payments: $0 -  Yay paid off!
Commute: $500 (bus tickets + subway aint cheap)
Other: $300 (sort of a safety margin to keep my estimates conservative)
---------------
TOTAL: $1,200 monthly expenses

Where I work serves free breakfast lunch and dinner, and I eat at home, so my food costs are practically zero, saving me a lot of money. But I hate commuting so long every day. But if I move closer to the city, I want to move within biking range of work... which means living in Manhattan, which is very very expensive. Here's my hypothetical Manhattan numbers:

Code: [Select]
Rent: $1,400
Commute: $100 (Complete guesswork. Just assuming I want to get around)
Food: $300 (Need to feed myself on weekends and often dinners. Just guesswork mostly though)
Other: $300
---------------------
TOTAL: $2,100

Almost double my monthly expenses. Which could add a year or two to my estimates. What should I do? Move to a place a little closer and still use public transportation? Is it worth paying a ton for rent just to remove a soul-sucking commute?

Choices

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2016, 12:21:46 AM »
2-2.5 hours a day is a LOT. You mention that it's "soul-sucking" as well.

Do you like living with your parents? Do you have a sig other or kids? who would you rather spend that time with, or would you just rather be productive during that time? Can you find a way to be productive during your commute? Podcasts, books, etc.?

Check out Your Money or Your Life. This might help you decide how much your time is worth, and don't forget to factor in something for your sanity and independence.





ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2016, 05:55:39 AM »
I would focus on personal independence right now while continuing to avoid lifestyle inflation. It sounds like you should move closer to work at least until you can convince them to let you work from home regularly.

GuitarStv

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2016, 07:36:27 AM »
Having more time every single working day makes a really big difference to my life.  Less stress, more time to do things for health, more time to spend with friends, more time to spend living.  Personally, I'd be inclined to just choose to work for a year longer and have more time free every day while working.

Luke_MMM

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2016, 07:53:03 AM »
Thanks for the advice guys. So I should just bite the bullet and pay a hefty rent? I was trying to see if there's a middle ground between moving closer, cheap rent and short commute - but there's nothing too good in that regard - and I would probably have to buy a car, which I'd like to avoid.

mamagoose

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2016, 07:57:02 AM »
I would not move out on my own without a roommate. If my job paid all my meals too, I would eat there every single meal they allowed. $300/month is more than enough to just feed yourself on the weekends. Stay strong!

onlykelsey

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2016, 07:57:46 AM »
Thanks for the advice guys. So I should just bite the bullet and pay a hefty rent? I was trying to see if there's a middle ground between moving closer, cheap rent and short commute - but there's nothing too good in that regard - and I would probably have to buy a car, which I'd like to avoid.

I don't understand how, if you work in Manhattan, any situation would require you to buy a car.  Why do you think you'd have to buy a car?

I'd note that biking to work is a great option 80% of the time, but unless you have a gym and closet at work, there are days where that will not be feasible, or the roads will literally be shut down.  Even if you plan on relying on your bike, you should definitely consider bus and subway routes in your rental plans and leave space in your budget for X rides a month.

GuitarStv

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2016, 08:08:32 AM »
Thanks for the advice guys. So I should just bite the bullet and pay a hefty rent? I was trying to see if there's a middle ground between moving closer, cheap rent and short commute - but there's nothing too good in that regard - and I would probably have to buy a car, which I'd like to avoid.

Not necessarily.  It's totally dependent on you.

You're in a good situation, so there's no rush.  Maybe keep what you're doing going for a while and see if you're OK with it.  If it gets to be too miserable, then move to the more expensive one with extra free time.

Why would you need a car in Manhattan?

jim555

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2016, 08:12:52 AM »
I had a soul sucking 3 hr a day round trip commute from Long Island to Jersey City before I FIREd.  If I was you I would continue to stay at home and suck up the commute until FIREing.

meghan88

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2016, 08:52:01 AM »
Thanks for the advice guys. So I should just bite the bullet and pay a hefty rent? I was trying to see if there's a middle ground between moving closer, cheap rent and short commute - but there's nothing too good in that regard - and I would probably have to buy a car, which I'd like to avoid.
I'd note that biking to work is a great option 80% of the time, but unless you have a gym and closet at work, there are days where that will not be feasible, or the roads will literally be shut down.  Even if you plan on relying on your bike, you should definitely consider bus and subway routes in your rental plans and leave space in your budget for X rides a month.
I've been bike-commuting in Canada since forever - Montreal mostly except for the last 8 years in Ontario - and aside from a few major snow storms when I chose to walk, any 5-mile or less commute is entirely do-able year round by bike.  The roads are never "shut down" for a bike.

Rainy days:  gore-tex poncho
Hot days:  washcloth clean-up in the loo; change of top if necessary (carried in pannier or basket as knapsacks can get hot on the back)
Cold days:  dress in appropriate layers

I would think a car would be a major pain, not to mention a huge expense.  On the odd weekend when you might want one you can always rent one.

As for renting, aim for something as small as you can stand, and/or get roommates.  It's not forever and you can always stay on the lookout for something else.  The smaller the place, the less stuff you'll accumulate, and the easier it'll be to move.

onlykelsey

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2016, 09:05:47 AM »
Thanks for the advice guys. So I should just bite the bullet and pay a hefty rent? I was trying to see if there's a middle ground between moving closer, cheap rent and short commute - but there's nothing too good in that regard - and I would probably have to buy a car, which I'd like to avoid.
I'd note that biking to work is a great option 80% of the time, but unless you have a gym and closet at work, there are days where that will not be feasible, or the roads will literally be shut down.  Even if you plan on relying on your bike, you should definitely consider bus and subway routes in your rental plans and leave space in your budget for X rides a month.
I've been bike-commuting in Canada since forever - Montreal mostly except for the last 8 years in Ontario - and aside from a few major snow storms when I chose to walk, any 5-mile or less commute is entirely do-able year round by bike.  The roads are never "shut down" for a bike.

Rainy days:  gore-tex poncho
Hot days:  washcloth clean-up in the loo; change of top if necessary (carried in pannier or basket as knapsacks can get hot on the back)
Cold days:  dress in appropriate layers

I would think a car would be a major pain, not to mention a huge expense.  On the odd weekend when you might want one you can always rent one.

As for renting, aim for something as small as you can stand, and/or get roommates.  It's not forever and you can always stay on the lookout for something else.  The smaller the place, the less stuff you'll accumulate, and the easier it'll be to move.

Disagree. The roads in Manhattan are sometimes legally shut down to bikes, it happened this past year twice that I noticed (and maybe other times when I wasn't planning on biking, so wasn't paying attention).  I mean, you could risk a ticket, but I certainly would not.  Also, in his 1400 price point, depending on where on the island his job his, he's probably looking at a significantly longer than 5 mile bike commute.

frugaliknowit

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2016, 10:10:54 AM »
Time to spread those wings and "fly out" on your own!

csprof

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2016, 07:39:56 PM »
TL;DR - skip till linebreak:

So I graduated college almost exactly a year ago, and have now wound up working in NYC as a software engineer at a great company. I've always had little theories in my head about how lifestyle inflation and debt are things I'd like to avoid with my decent salary - and always entertained the thought of retiring early. Then, of course, I found MMM and read the whole blog front to back over a couple weeks, and everything became so much clearer to me.
Almost double my monthly expenses. Which could add a year or two to my estimates. What should I do? Move to a place a little closer and still use public transportation? Is it worth paying a ton for rent just to remove a soul-sucking commute?

An alternate question:  Let's say you had 1.5 extra hours available in the day.  Could you invest this time in a way that counterbalanced the extra rent in a profitable way?

You could:  work more, either on a core project or on a 20%-style project;  pick up extra skills that would be useful in the rest of your life.

I'm assuming your current plan doesn't account for raises/promo?  A 5-year out good software developer can earn a lot more than $110k in NYC and SV.

You could do things that don't pay financial dividends but help maximize your long-term happiness:  strengthen your social support network;  work out at the gym your work very likely has or provides subsidized access to;  volunteer.

Financial optimization aside, how important is it to you to be FI in 6-8 years vs. 12, anyway?  This is intangible, but if you're talking about a trade between 6-8 years at "gaah i want to pull my hair out" vs 12 years at "i'm pretty darn happy" ...

Keep in mind this is coming from someone who absolutely despises commuting.  It's hard to read through all of the correlations, but in general, longer commutes are pretty strongly associated with lower life satisfaction and wellbeing.  It's also worse for your job performance, which has an indirect effect on that raise/promo question.  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/28/commutings-hidden-cost/

What you haven't mentioned are your friends and social circles, and activities/etc.  though.

tl;dr:  Don't just try to maximize short term savings, try to maximize your overall long-term life satisfaction, of which money is one component.

mxt0133

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2016, 08:20:17 PM »
I made the same commute when I was living in NJ and here is what I would do if I had to do it all over again.  I would pay someone $300-$500 a month to just crash in their place from Monday night to Friday morning.  Just tell them you will sleep on their couch or floor and need access to the bathroom, even that is not necessary as you could join a gym and shower there.  This will will remove your commute during the week.  It will allow you to stay later for work/networking events in the City and develop friendships there.  Soon you might even find a co-worker/friend/significant other to move in with.  That 2-3 hours a day will do wonders for your energy at work if you can use it to exercise and continue to develop your development programming skills.  You should re-coupe the extra expense in a year or two by increasing your compensation and improving your quality of life.

A the other alternative is to buy a car and sleep in it during the week.  Yes it adds the expense of a car but  removes the commute.  There are many blogs out there that chronicle how they do it in NYC.

Goldielocks

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2016, 08:41:02 PM »
Go find a computer job in NJ for only slightly less pay.

My friend is really bummed that the NJ programmers he works with get paid double what he does, just because NJ is close to NYC, and not because NJ has horrific costs of living.   Apparently there are quite a few companies in NJ that hire programmers.

Luke_MMM

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Re: New Mustachian, how can I solve my commute?
« Reply #15 on: June 10, 2016, 02:17:13 PM »
Thanks for the advice guys. So I should just bite the bullet and pay a hefty rent? I was trying to see if there's a middle ground between moving closer, cheap rent and short commute - but there's nothing too good in that regard - and I would probably have to buy a car, which I'd like to avoid.

I don't understand how, if you work in Manhattan, any situation would require you to buy a car.  Why do you think you'd have to buy a car?

I'd note that biking to work is a great option 80% of the time, but unless you have a gym and closet at work, there are days where that will not be feasible, or the roads will literally be shut down.  Even if you plan on relying on your bike, you should definitely consider bus and subway routes in your rental plans and leave space in your budget for X rides a month.

Sorry - I meant that if I tried to find a place outside the city, on the Jersey side possibly, that I would have a middle-ground between commute length and rent price - but may also have to buy a car. I couldn't find anything that seemed like a good choice in that area to both have a smaller commute, and smaller expenses.

To everyone else - thanks for the responses. I guess the solution I need is to find a roommate somewhere in NYC. CSprof made good points about being able to work on side projects. Though my calculations do include a conservative promotion estimate.