I completed my debt pay off journey on December 29, 2017. Just like my sobriety date, I’ll never forget it. I lived with my parents during the final 15 months and once the debt was gone, I started making plans of where I’d live next. The whole world was my oyster and so I had choices. I ultimately chose to live where I could walk to work.
Clean Slates & Strategies
My parents are awesome and encouraged me to stay with them through the winter months to save some more dough. I acquiesced to their suggestion and by not being in a hurry to move out, I was able to:
- Build up my emergency fund to a sizable amount (something I managed to not have for the first 44 years of my life).
- Buy some stuff for my new apartment.
- Celebrate my debt pay off by attending CampFI Mid-Atlantic.
- Enjoy more time with my parents.
When I started looking for apartments I knew one of my goals was to lessen my commute time to work. You see while living with Mom & Dad, I had a 45-60 minute commute one way to work. I took advantage of that time by listening to podcasts but I was ready to be done with the loooong commute.
When you have a clean slate a whole world of choices opens up to you.
I pretty much knew where I wanted to live. I work in a nice area and a lot of the apartments close by are costly. But, there are several apartment complexes which are older and much cheaper. Additionally, these older/cheaper ones happen to be the closest to my office.
Although I knew this is what I wanted, I decided to visit several other apartments for comparison.
I looked at a hip studio apartment with hardwood floors in an ultra-hip part of town. It was great except it was still a 30-minute drive to work. Hip was not worth the hassle.
I visited a spacious apartment with tons of closet space that was close to my parents. It was a bit cheaper and definitely roomier than the units close my office. However, I decided I didn’t need bigger and paying a bit more to be closer to work was going to be cheaper in the long run.
I decided on what I knew from the beginning and signed the lease for an apartment which is about 3 blocks from my office.
There were multiple units to choose from and here’s where the tougher decision came in. They were remodeling 4 units with new everything. With an older apartment building, having a new unit was attractive. Of course, this came at a higher price.
It was still within my price range which would allow me to hit my savings goals. However, I decided upon the amount I’d be willing to pay for a newer unit and made an offer. Being that I was the first one looking at the newly remodeled units, they accepted my offer and the deal was sealed!
I moved in on May 1, 2018, and you can read all about the furnishing of my little apartment in this article.
Walking to Work
My apartment is incredibly close to work, but it’s also close to these things which I value:
- Trader Joe’s
- My gym
- The Metroparks
- Beautiful rolling streets with bike lanes
My day starts out sans stress due to the proximity of digs. I’m not the only one who thinks walking (or biking) to work is a good idea. Here are some links to other articles on this topic:
- Thoughts on two months of walking to work, by Young Fire Knight
- Wisdom from years of bike commuting, by Waffles on Wednesday
- The true cost of commuting, by Mr. Money Mustache
- I escaped my car and now walk 7 miles home when I work in the city, by Jenny Rough via the Washington Post
Now my commute to work is literally 5 minutes…and I get to walk it. Seriously, how lovely is that? Furthermore, I walk home for lunch. Who doesn’t need to get more steps and fresh air in their day??
That being said, I want to break down the different benefits of walking to work. If you are ever in a position to make this choice, you’ll know what you have to gain.
When we use our feet to get us somewhere we are putting out fewer pollutants into the environment. This one is pretty basic.
Love and respect the earth.
My walk is short (5 minutes) but if you count the time to work, home for lunch, back to the office after lunch, and back home, that is 20 minutes of walking. When you sit at a desk most of the day, the movement is a welcome reprieve. No doubt my walking commute is contributing to my health but being that my commute is short, I still exercise in other ways.
I encourage people who may have a longer walking or biking commute to consider it. Think of it this way, the longer you commute is on foot or pedal, the more likelihood you have of being able to kill two birds with one stone. Commute to work = exercise = win.
I always loved this quote by the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, “you can either take the time to exercise when you are young or take the time to be sick when you are old.” Yeah, I know there are always outliers and exceptions, but I believe wholeheartedly in the correlation between exercise and health.
I used to drive 45-60 minutes to work each way. The early part of the drive was peaceful and scenic; however, as I approached the office I had to contend with rush hour traffic and construction. This part of the commute was anything but peaceful.
Now, I walk out my apartment and onto the busy street down three blocks to my office. I feel the fresh air in my face and get the blood flowing in my veins. It’s peaceful. I arrive at work ready to take on the day.
I’m able to be more productive in my mornings. By getting 1 &1/2 to 2 hours of my time back each day, I can now devote it to writing, reading and/or working out. One could say, this blog is possible due to my choice to have a short commute to work.
Having more time to do the things I love makes me happy. I feel good about being able to walk or bike most places. I enjoy my neighborhood more and meet new people.
I had some family and friends who were concerned that by living closer to work, I might end up working longer hours. So far that has not been the case.
Maybe my blog is a welcome distraction.
Perhaps I look forward to leaving work at a decent time because I don’t have to contend with traffic.
Maybe, just maybe I’m finding balance. Either way, I’m happier.
I’ve calculated that I am saving $75 – $100 a month on gas by walking to work and living close to the things I value. That turns in $900 – $1,200 a year which gets invested. At a 7% rate of return, I can turn that into ~$22,823 – $30,431 in 15 years. Woah!
Furthermore, by less wear and tear on my car, I can keep it longer. My current 2008 Saturn with high mileage is still going strong. I see no reason that I won’t be able to keep it a few years longer.
I have enough money in a savings account for my next car purchase but I will prolong until it’s a necessity. I’m earning an APY of 1.9% on that money so it’s really not much growth but it’s something.
If you are saving for a car and can walk to work, you should be able to truncate the time to your savings goal.
Capacity for Road Trips
Being that I don’t spend 2 hours every day in my car, I’m inclined to say yes to more road trips. I’ve said it before that you tend to appreciate things more when you do them less.
This past weekend, I was able to make a road trip to Toledo, Ohio which is about 2 hours west of me (Cleveland). I was able to spend some quality time with Andrea & her husband, Jason, from Saving Joyfully. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, I recommend you do. I gain a lot of inspiration from her…and her joy is, um, contagious.
Furthermore, I was able to enjoy a spectacular sunrise over an architecturally beautiful bridge on my way home from Toledo the next morning:
My assessment is that having a shorter radius to all the things you value is life changing. Right now, I don’t think it’s feasible to be without a car completely because of spaced out family members and friends. However, I certainly do like going days without needing to drive my car.
Are you saving for a car? Walking to work could certainly curtail the savings time. Wouldn’t it be nice to pay cash for your next car? For me, I can honestly say, I’ll never have another car payment again if I can help it.
I get it, reading a blog post about a woman (who you may have or have not met) re-arranging her life to be able to walk to work can seem out of reach. We get attached to our homes and relocating is hard work.
However, I challenge you to think a bit outside the comfort box. What would your ideal life look like if you could create it? By eliminating frustrations (like traffic) we can free up more time to be on purpose, make the world a better place, and help people. I’m pretty sure no one’s purpose is to spend agonizing time stuck in traffic.
Walking to work has had an overall positive effect on my life. In my assessment, I’m healthier, friendlier to the environment, less aggravated, happier, wealthier, and more able to travel. That seems like a win/win/win/win/win/win.