One of the things you may run into when you are coastal is that you have a job that requires a long commute (i.e. the better paying jobs are not exactly local). It can be a difficult choice and sacrifice. People have thought I’m crazy at times for subjecting myself to an absurd commute until I show them a picture of the coastline that’s within 5 minutes walking distance.
Assume you won’t get any chores done during the week
Some commutes may feel more brutal than others, but if you assume you have limited time in the morning or evening during the week, try to get all chores done on the weekends. Bonus if you have money in your budget to pay for a cleaning service. So for as annoying as it sounds:
Clean your kitchen by end of Sunday night. Put those dishes in the dishwasher. No one wants to see your ick. And I’m guessing you’re not excited about unwanted critters being attracted to your house.
Have enough clean laundry on hand for a week or 2. Getting everything done on weekends sounds great until you run out of minutes or have a jam-packed weekend. Having some slack in your chores helps reduce stress. And, washing larger loads of laundry is more environmentally friendly anyway
Long commutes can be expensive, find ways to save money
I prefer public transportation over driving when possible. Both are expensive. Trains (and other public transportation options) feel more expensive because of the obvious payments. Driving, while leaves you with more flexibility, the gas, tolls, and car wear-and-tear add up quickly. And, sitting in traffic for hours is just painful.
Check with your employer for a commuter discount program (i.e. WageWorks). You may be able to pay for part of your commute with pre-tax dollars. Be warned: keep an eye out for cutoff dates to change your deductions and ticket purchases.
Do the math to figure out which ticket is most cost-friendly. If you’re not in the office 5 days a week, a weekly or even a daily pass may be less total money than a monthly pass. That’s especially true during the winter holidays and when you’re taking a vacation. It’s annoying, but could save you a noticeable amount of money for the year.
Bring your own food (breakfast, lunch, snacks). Ok, this one takes a little more planning, but if you can get into the habit you could save at least $10 a DAY (!!!) compared to what you’re paying to buy food during the day. My new favorite trick, partially because I was having separation anxiety from not having local iced coffee was pack my own in a S’well bottle. The ice is still there 6+ hours later. I have a few of these so I have a little less cleaning during the week. And bringing a salad for lunch, besides saving me money, is a lot more healthy than whatever I was buying.
Use your travel time to improve your future (or sleep)
Unless you love commuting, I’m guessing this isn’t something you want to do forever. Or at least if you want advance your career, you could use the time to improve your future.
Get an advanced degree while you travel. Seriously! There are plenty of traditional universities that offer distance learning (especially if you want to avoid any online university stigma) because they have realized that they need to offer students flexibility. I did this in the early 2000 to complete a Masters degree. Bonus: check if your current employer has a tuition reimbursement program. You may qualify if you’re doing something relevant to your job.
Start a blog. You think I’m kidding, but if you have a wireless data plan you could blog your way into a new income source – and hopefully not need to commute forever! You can earn money via advertisements, supported postings, and affiliate marketing. Note: use this as an outlet to explore your dreams and passions, not vent about your employer. Otherwise you may find yourself looking for a new job!
Catch up on your reading. Check out the latest best sellers or get starter on topics related to your career. Always be learning and engage your brain.
And if all else fails, learn how to sleep on a train. Obviously if this doesn’t work if you’re driving, but if you’re up super early an extra nap will help you keep some amount of your sanity. Depending on the route you have, this may be easier said than done. If you find you can’t sleep, refer to the ideas above.
To sum it up
Long commutes may not be fun, but can be productive. They work a little better if you can setup a schedule and stay organized. And in the end, it’s not for everyone. My advice, find a way to make it work especially if you have no other choices.
How about you? How do you manage your long commute?