Author Topic: Trying to make conflicting commutes as Mustachian as possible  (Read 3012 times)

aspiring mustachian

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Trying to make conflicting commutes as Mustachian as possible
« on: November 18, 2013, 12:50:05 PM »
I just got a job that pays very well and will give me a good start towards FI. The biggest problem is that it's a 50 mile round trip commute. I have a '91 Ford Escort GT with a manual transmission, so I'd be using at most 2-3 gallons daily (my best guess, I don't know what kind of mileage it gets yet because I don't drive it very often) driving from where I currently live. Most of the drive would be highway driving. The job site is located in the northeast part of Atlanta. My partner's job is southwest of Atlanta and we live southeast of the city. Once we have some money saved up, the plan is to move somewhere that's on the public transit line and closer to where I work. This will probably happen in 12-18 months, so it's not an immediate plan, but I want to start planning for this.



Complications/Excuses:

1. He can't quit his job to look for another one, as he has a chronic and serious medical condition. His medication costs over $2,000 a month out of pocket. The alternatives aren't much cheaper and his doctor will only switch if his meds stop working. His job's benefits will kick in next months and he's been on COBRA for the past 5-6 months, so switching jobs would likely disrupt the medical care he needs. He hates Atlanta traffic and likes his relatively short commute now. His job is not accessible by any means of public transit and his coworkers live way out in the country, so carpooling is not an option.

2. I am contractually obligated to stay based at the work site in NE Atlanta for 30 months. Plus, my hours will be fairly irregular; I'd start work at a specific time in the morning, but the end time could be late at night, especially during peak demand times and natural disasters and depending on the complexity of the installations I'd have to do that day. Public transit doesn't run 24 hours, so there's a non-zero chance that I may get stranded if I take it to get to work. I don't have any friends in that area, so crashing with someone if that happens isn't a possibility and I'm sure my employer would frown upon me sleeping in the break room overnight.

3. He has a dog who has some issues with separation anxiety, to put it lightly. She normally stays at his sister's house when we're both working since his sister lives a few houses down from us. Personally, I don't think we can afford a pet, but she's his (well, our) baby and asking him to rehome her would be like asking a parent to send his/her kid to an orphanage. The dog is a very small breed, so it's likely that she'll be around for at least another decade. To avoid the destruction of our property and, really, because it's the right thing to do for her, she'd still have to be dropped off at his sister's house, so he'd have to do that and then go to work, which would mean adding another 15 miles round trip to his commute.



Proposed solution 1: I found two affordable apartment complexes within walking distance of my job, which would solve the problems of potentially being stranded and having to drive to work. I would also be able to take the bus or train to get to the grocery store and any appointments I have. However, that would mean M would have to drive over 50 miles round trip in a vehicle that uses more gas. Plus, he didn't care for this solution because he would have to go through downtown traffic every day to get to and from work. He hates driving in Atlanta when he has to make deliveries, so having to deal with the traffic in his vehicle going to and from work 5 days a week is not an option.

Proposed solution 2: Find an apartment or rental house that's closer to where I work but away from the snarl of downtown traffic and congestion. It would still require driving, but the commute would be shorter for me. The best way to do this, as far as I know, is to move to the southern part of the city so that he still has a tolerable commute. I'd still be caught in the morning and possibly the evening traffic, but given that my car gets better mileage and I have more patience than he does in that regard, it would be an acceptable trade-off. Admittedly, my knowledge of which areas are safe and affordable is limited. I know from experience that working class does not necessarily mean "unsafe," and while I believe that safety is very subjective, I would like to live somewhere with a lower likelihood of property damage and, well, hate crimes since we're a same-sex couple. This is only a concern because we will both be working 10+ hour days and will have to leave our place unattended for over half the day and during the summer I would most likely get home late at night.

Any thoughts or suggestions? I hope I've included all the necessary details. The only other partial solution that I could think of is whoever has more driving to do on a given day would take the Escort and the other person could use the Grand Marquis on a very limited basis.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2013, 12:51:45 PM by aspiring mustachian »

the fixer

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Re: Trying to make conflicting commutes as Mustachian as possible
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2013, 01:56:03 PM »
Have you tried looking for temporary places to crash on couchsurfing or airbnb? My proposal is you network there so you can call people last-minute in case you need a place to sleep for a night.

Another possible efficiency tweak is a more efficient vehicle like a scooter or motorcycle.

Foxy66

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Re: Trying to make conflicting commutes as Mustachian as possible
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2013, 02:00:20 PM »
I'm pretty new to MM, but solution 2 seems to make the most sense to me. Could you look at selling the gas guzzling car and replacing it with something cheaper to run? Would you be able to ride a scooter or motorbike to work?


galliver

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Re: Trying to make conflicting commutes as Mustachian as possible
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2013, 03:07:24 PM »
You won't like this, but...

With commutes and workdays like that, you should consider BOTH moving closer to your jobs, and spending weekends together. Not saying you have to, but I think it should be on the table.

My bf and I live 3 hours apart and do this. Sometimes it sucks--when you're stressed and can't support each other with hugs or dinner or picking up the slack in other ways, or when various events/plans pile up in a way that we don't manage to see each other for a month straight (this weekend he was sick, next two weekends I'm traveling). But generally it's very tolerable, and would be even more so with only 1-1.5 hr in between-you could even do a weekday trip sometimes. The main thing that makes it ok, though, is knowing it's temporary: I have 2 years left of grad school, after that everything will change. Hopefully after your contract is up you can find a situation with a less painful commute. Maybe in a different city/state?

aspiring mustachian

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Re: Trying to make conflicting commutes as Mustachian as possible
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2013, 07:31:40 PM »
Foxy66: That's something I hadn't considered. He's looking at trading in his Grand Marquis for a Ford Focus. I don't think I could convince him to do anything smaller than that. We haven't made the leap to combine finances beyond one joint savings account. It probably cuts down on tension, to be honest.

thefixer: I hadn't thought about airbnb or any other couchsurfing sites. I'll definitely look into that, as it would be perfect for the times that I do get stranded. From what I was told, it's a lot likelier that it will happen during the summer, so I'll have time to network at this job and ask coworkers, assuming any of them live closely enough. It will probably help that even though we all have our own routes, no one is allowed to go home until the last person is done.

galliver: I've given some thought to it. His commute is about 20 minutes and there isn't anything within walking distance of where he works, as it's an industrialized area. There's also no public transit because the county shut down its public transit 4 years ago. Given the price of housing in the area where I'd be working, I'd have to crunch the numbers. It's a ZIP code with a COL that's significantly higher than where we live. Rent is at least 1.5 times the cost of where we live now. Rent is $400 where we are now, including water. $600/month is the cheapest apartment rent I could find within walking distance and I don't know how much water typically is. I will call the complex tomorrow to get a ballpark estimate. I can assume that it will go up between now and the time I'd be ready to move, but it's good to have a baseline figure. I'm great at keeping gas and electric down (better than he is, I might add) because I'm of the opinion that it's more logical to dress for the weather and only use the thermostat to stave off the weather extremes than as a personal climate control system and I prefer using small appliances to cook rather than a stove or oven. Depending on how much gas I use and how much wear and tear the car sustains when driving from where we are now to work, moving still might be a better deal than staying where we are now. The biggest negative impact to our quality of life is that I'd only get one weekend off per month, as my employer considers Saturday and Sunday work days, so I'd have to plan around that and his fairly random off days. There are also mandatory OT periods (natural disasters, summer, and various other events) to consider. He gets every Sunday off, but works most or all Saturdays, with one additional day off per week.

All that being said, it seems the two questions I have to answer would be:

1. At what point would it be more economical to stay and at what point would it make financial sense to move? Based on an estimate of 25 mpg, a 13.2 gal tank, driving roughly 250 miles a week, and current gas prices (~$3.25 is the highest I've seen), I can expect to shell out $171.60 per month for gas. I'm not sure about the cost of wear and tear, like tires and oil changes. If I change the oil myself (something I still have to learn how to do), that will cut down on the expense. The tires would cost me roughly $10.26/month, assuming normal wear and tear and the absence of things like running over a nail or blowouts. If I can beat the EPA estimate of 31 highway mpg using hypermiling techniques, that would cut down on the gas expenses, but only by so much. I could pick up groceries on the way back from work and I currently live within walking distance of a barbershop, which would take care of the regular errands without using too much extra fuel. I would much rather live somewhere with easy access to MARTA because I hate driving.

2. How can we preserve our quality of life while optimizing our (or, if I can't get him totally on board, my) finances? He's not totally on the frugality wagon yet, but I see it as a work in progress. Having financial peace will be very helpful in terms of minimizing the effect of inevitable emergencies and other major expenses that crop up and I can use that angle to gently cajole him. This is very subjective, of course, and it's a matter of whether our relationship could withstand the strain of us being apart for an indeterminate period of time. I would be eligible to transfer after 30 months, but there's no guarantee that I'd have the seniority to get a transfer anywhere.

I'm leaning towards option 2 (moving to a halfway point) right now but it may be better to keep things the way they are until my 30 months are up and I can try to transfer to a city with a lower cost of living. Atlanta isn't known for being a cheap place to live, whereas Memphis (my hometown) has a very low COL but a piss-poor public transit system and is economically stagnant. Nashville is also reasonable and has a more robust economy and better public transit system. M is a truck driver, so he could probably find work in a reasonable amount of time, but the medical situation would be a concern.

the fixer

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Re: Trying to make conflicting commutes as Mustachian as possible
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2013, 09:55:36 PM »
Car expenses: I'd budget about 5-10 cents per mile for maintenance for a "mature" car, i.e. over 80-100k miles. I'm a big fan of changing my own oil, but it doesn't save you any money unless you prefer using synthetic. It seems like oil change places jack up the prices for synthetic quite a bit, but a conventional change is not much more than it would cost you to buy the oil & filter from the auto parts store.

JessieImproved

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Re: Trying to make conflicting commutes as Mustachian as possible
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2013, 07:16:24 PM »
I'm in Atlanta too, and I feel your pain.  Transportation options simply suck here.  However, as far as cost of living, the amount of money I can make here far outweighs any additional costs.  I just try to keep my mustache waxed at all times. ^_^

aglassman

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Re: Trying to make conflicting commutes as Mustachian as possible
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2013, 03:44:01 PM »
In the meantime, look into hypermiling.  You have a great car for that already.  I communte 44 miles round trip.  Using just the bare minimum hypermiling tatics increased my mpg from 28mpg to 34 mpg.    I actually don't mind slow traffic now as I get much better mpg in the 40-55 range than 65-70 range.

For reference, I drive an automatic 4cyl Ford Fusion.