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my cost of living

Starting last week, I began staying a little closer to work during the weeknights. I am renting a room for these 5 nights and the days following until I go back home on the weekends. I am doing this for several reasons:

  1. It’s expensive to live here. Everytime I drive my car to and from work, it’s costing me around $.50 a mile. I think the government reimburses you about $.40 a mile but I would imagine that driving in LA is more like $.50 or $.60 a mile. So, every little that I don’t have to drive is like a financial break. Gas prices are as high as almost $3 for a gallon (although, I just filled up for $2.65 yesterday at my favorite location). And then getting work done on my car could cost me hundreds of dollars. Delaying the inevitable is important for my personal finances and lifecycle of my car. The longer I can make this car last, the better it will be for me in the long run. So, instead of driving to work everyday, I will now be driving down once to my new place, parking for the week, and driving back home on Friday.
  2. I save a lot of time from being on the road. I woke up at 5am starting the 2nd week of work just to avoid traffic so that I could maximize the time I had for myself. Instead of being on the road for 2.25-3 hours a day, that cut it down to about 1.5-2.25 hours. Not a huge improvement, but enough to give me more minutes during my day to do more productive things.
  3. Doing both of these cuts down on the stress that I feel. I know that I will get stressed over these kinds of situations, but by doing what I’m doing, it helps my happiness level, which is always important for my productivity.

So, as I see it this is a good temporary situation to be in. However, let’s sorta break it down financially and see if this really is worth it.

Assuming that I drive to and from work everyday, it’s about 28 miles to and from work. So the amount of time it takes to leave my house to the time I get to my desk, and vice versa, can vary anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. So again, this means I’m on the road anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours a day. What a waste of time!

Since I get a free bus pass at work, this not only saves money but time. From the time I walk out my door to the time I get to my desk riding the bus is usually about 25-40 minutes each way. So I could spend anywhere from 50 minutes to 1.4 hours a day riding the bus. This is more than a 50% savings on my time that I spend in transit everyday. And while I’m on the bus, I theoretically could do other work or something else productive. But I’ll get to that in a second.

So now that you understand the time savings, let’s get back into the money issue. Let’s figure out what I’m paying (although I won’t use real numbers because I do not want to disclose my actual financial situation to everyone in the world).

Let’s say that I pay the average cost for a shared room situation in LA at about $700. This is the location that takes me generally the longest to get to and from work. Then, to save on gas, car maintenance costs and time, I go find another place to stay closer on the weeknights that costs me about the same at $600. So the total that I have to pay for living is $1,300 per month. Is that extra $600 a month going to offset the amount that I pay for gas and car maintenance every month? Definitely not. Here’s what it looks like.

280 miles a week to and from work
100+ miles travel to and from 2nd job plus social life (could easily vary)
380 miles
/24 miles – the average amount of miles I get per gallon
16 = amount of gallons I fill up per week
* $2.85 per gallon
$45.60 a week!
* 4
$182.4 a month

Wow, that’s just the amount I pay for gas every month. Then there’s car maintenance. However, instead of figuring out the cost of maintenance, let’s just use the other figure.

$.50-.60 per mile
* 380 miles a week
$190 – 228
* 4 weeks in a month

So as you can see, this is really adding up! Now let’s assume that this is all of my car costs. Now we need to factor in the time that I could use spending on other projects. Since I basically decreased the daily amount of time that I spend on the road, I gain about 7.5 hours – 1 hour (drive to and from the 2nd house) = 6 hours every week.

During the 6 hours, I could make anywhere from $25 – 50 an hour from my freelance work or client work. This is about $150 – 300 additional dollars I could make with this freetime!

Now let’s look at the other situation. Here’s what I spend in gas alone:

50 miles a week to and from house
100 miles to and from 2nd job plus social life
150 miles a week
/ 24 miles per gallon
6.25 gallons a week
* 4 weeks in a month
25 gallons a month
* $2.85 per gallon
$71.25 a month

Now for overall maintenance

$.50-$.60 per mile
150 miles per week
$75 – 90
* 4 a month

So here’s the final monthly breakdown as I see it.

Scenario #1:

$700 – rent at house #1
$912 – car maintenance costs
$150 – potential money I lose by wasting the time on the road
$1762 a month!

Scenario #2:

$700 – House #1
$600 – House #2
$360 – car maintenance costs
$1660 a month

Not much of a savings, but then again I still have that other potential $150 I could add

$1660 expenses
-$150 additional income to offset costs

Oh, and another expense that won’t exist anymore is garage fee!

-$90 a month for garage fee

. . . wow. So, this means that per month, all I’m really saving is about $342. Or to put it in another perspective, that’s $4104 a year. That’s a huge chunk of change, people.