Should you pay for a house in a city center that shortens your commute?

Should you pay for a house in a city center that shortens your commute?

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It really comes down to the value of your time.


Key points

  • Remote work is not an option for everyone these days.
  • It might be worth spending the extra cash in exchange for a more manageable ride.

When the pandemic hit, many people were forced to switch to remote work and do their jobs from home. Many companies then confirmed this setup as new variants of COVID-19 emerged and vaccine rollouts took time to implement.

But at this point, many people who worked in an office before the pandemic have returned to in-person work. And that means a lot of people could be struggling with long commutes.

The percentage of Americans commuting more than 90 minutes a day nearly doubled between 1990 and 2000, according to US Census Bureau data. And while some workers today enjoy a hybrid work schedule where they do their work from home for at least part of the week, those commute days can be brutal.

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If you have a long commute, there may be a viable solution that doesn’t require you to quit your job: move closer to your office. But in many cases, that could mean moving to a city center where housing costs are likely to be exorbitant.

This begs the question: should you spend more on rent or mortgage to live closer to work? Or should you put up with that ride and enjoy the savings?

A difficult call

From a financial point of view, living further from a city center and commuting longer might be the most cost-effective option. You could, for example, spend $1,000 a month on rent now, but see that figure double if you were to move to a house that puts you minutes from your office.

But it’s not just money you’ll need to consider when considering a downtown move. You will also need to keep your personal well-being in mind.

For many people, a long commute can be stressful. It can also lead to reduced sleep and less time spent with friends and family. Also, if you’re the type of person who enjoys different hobbies, your commute may prevent you from pursuing them.

Let’s say you like running outdoors, but you have to be at work at 8 a.m. and have a 90-minute commute. Also suppose you work until 5:30 or 6 p.m. During the winter when the days are shorter this gives you no hours of daylight during the week to run safely (assuming you can’t or don’t want to run on your lunch break as there is no there’s nowhere to shower afterwards).

As such, you’ll need to think about how your long commute is negatively affecting your life and how much you value reclaiming that time. You may decide that spending more money on housing is beneficial if it frees up a few hours of your time each day.

Another point to consider

Moving to a city center to be closer to work doesn’t just mean spending more on housing. It could also mean giving up square footage. And this is most likely a negative point.

So, in addition to the financial aspect, you will have to weigh the advantage of spending less time on the road with the disadvantage of potentially having a smaller living space to come home to. But even with that in mind, it could still be beneficial to take steps to get rid of that long commute and regain precious hours every day.

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