Commuting your way to happiness

Commuting your way to happiness

Picture: File image.

Living close to the workplace means fewer car loans, lower insurance costs, extra time in the day, and less chance of accidents, to name a few benefits.

Earlier this week, while I was at work, my wife sent me a picture of a fort she had built for her and Stealthy Junior. She told me that the little guy was absolutely loving it and suggested I pay them a visit to see for myself.

So I made the trip home to experience life as a citizen of Fort Stealthy over my lunch break.

On the drive back to work, I realised that this little outing was only possible because of the short distance between my work and our home. If I stayed further away, the travel time would have made my visit impossible.

Now I agree that on this occasion the convenience was only for some fort fun, but in future it could be sports matches or graduations.

Either way, I chalked my fort visit down to yet another item on what I realised was an ever growing list of advantages of living close to work.

The years have ticked by since we made the move from Sandton to Centurion, and I have realised more and more that it has been one of the best decisions we have ever made. Property in Centurion is on the cheaper end of the South African spectrum but the real benefit of the move was that we lived close to where I worked.

There is the immediately obvious financial gain of a significantly lower petrol bill (mine is currently around R180 a month) and the many hours of extra time I have saved myself, but then there are also the softer benefits – including increased happiness.

Less commuting = more money

Consider that each car has x km before it needs its next service, y km until it needs new tyres and z km until it will need a repair (with a bit of luck, x, y and z don’t happen at the same time!). The shorter your commute, the slower you will accumulate the kilometres until you need to fork out money for maintenance and repairs.

Related to the above, remember that a car can only do a certain number of kilometres until it no longer makes sense to keep it running. At this point you will need to buy a new car. A shorter commute will prolong the life of your car in years, and allow you to buy fewer cars in your lifetime. This means fewer car loans, and an increased likelihood of being able to buy your next car in cash.

A shorter commute may also mean lower insurance costs. Some of the car insurance companies factor in how long your commute is when they calculate your premium – the shorter the commute, the lower premium. This is because a short commute means less chance of an accident claim.

And finally, living close to work may mean you don’t need to drive at all. If you are only a few kilometres away, suddenly a whole host of additional transport options open up. You may even be able to become a one-car family (like us) and walk, bike or even make like Stealthy and scooter to work.

Less commuting = more time 

This, for me, is a big one. The additional time I have scored by reducing my commute has allowed me to be healthier, fitter, more fulfilled and a better, more present father.

For starters, without the extra time, it is unlikely I would have even started this blog. A long commute sucks up time that could be spent pursuing hobbies and interests.

More time also means healthier eating and fewer takeaways. When I get home there is plenty of time for me to use my expert cooking dishwashing skills to assist Mrs Stealthy in whipping up some tasty and nutritious food.

Less commuting = more great benefits

And then there are a whole host of additional benefits associated with a short commute. Here are some of them:

  1. Less chance of accidents. It’s simple math; the less time you are on the road, the lower the likelihood that you will be involved in an accident.
  2. Predictable and consistent commute time. I can pretty much predict the exact time I will get home each day. A shorter commute means traffic has less of an influence on journey time.
  3. Convenience. There have been countless examples of where I have quickly slipped back home after forgetting my work’s access tag, to pick up a delivery, let the plumber in, or even just to play fort!
  4. Reduced stress. A shorter drive means there is less chance you will want to flip the bird to the car that just cut you off.

Less commuting = increased happiness

Do you think people who have less financial pressure, find the time to exercise and eat more healthily, have more time for enjoyable activities and have lower levels of stress would be happier than their counterparts?

Duh! Seems obvious, right?

It makes perfect sense that all the benefits of a short commute will result in a happier commuter. But just in case it wasn’t obvious enough, people decided to take the scientific route and applied some research to confirm it.

I really like this chart that came out of one of the studies done on life satisfaction versus commute time. In short, they found that the longer it takes someone to get to work, the lower their life satisfaction (aka happiness).

This graph from Alois Stutzer & Bruno S Frey summarises the findings:

As you can see, the shorter the commute, the greater the life satisfaction. The best results seem to be at a one-way commute time of around five minutes. My current commute time is around that mark, and I must say I am in full agreement.

Life satisfaction decreases pretty quickly from five to 25 minutes, and gets progressively worse from 25 minutes onward.

Let’s get practical

Of course, minimising your commute time may sound all good and well in theory but in practice it is seldom the case.

I can appreciate that the decision of where to live is one that should not be taken lightly. You want a safe area in a good neighbourhood that also factors in proximity to family and friends. There is also your significant other’s work location to consider. Throw some children into the mix, and there is whole host of additional influences! For all the young, single and childless people reading this, keep that in mind – living close to work is a lot easier to get right before you have children, and probably before you get married.

Either way, I think it is important to at least take the time to think about your current location and give some serious consideration to trying to find one that balances all the personal factors with the amount of total commuting. Believe me when I say that minimising your commuting can be well worth packing up and moving!

This article was republished with permission from Stealthy Wealth. The original can be found here.

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