Apartment hunting question: how much is it worth it to be really close?
June 2, 2015 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm apartment-hunting and I keep coming across places that are very, very close to my place of work -- but more expensive than the budget I came up with by $50-$100. I've never lived close to my job, and I'm wondering if it would be worth it to pay a little extra to be within 2 miles.

I plan to stay at this job for several more years and currently I live about 20 miles/40 minutes away. I've never lived any closer to somewhere I've worked, and I'd like to -- but I'm hoping for anecdotes to help me decide whether it's worth it to stretch the budget to live really close. Was it worth it to you, and why/why not? The other places I'm looking at are 10-20 minutes away from this city, which is somewhat expensive to live in.
posted by possibilityleft to Work & Money (55 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
To me, living close to work is totally worth it. Think... if you regain an extra hour plus to live in each day, how would you spend that time? (You may even end up saving a bunch of money that way, too... more time to cook dinner, prepare lunches, less exhaustion in general forcing bad choices.)
posted by wyzewoman at 6:54 PM on June 2, 2015 [19 favorites]

I've commuted 90 minutes one way all the way down through 2 minutes one way and my opinion is it makes a HUGE difference. The fuel cost and vehicle depreciation is only one simple factor...the additional TIME added to you personal life will make all the difference.
posted by Exchequer at 6:55 PM on June 2, 2015 [10 favorites]

Totally worth it. But in my case, "close" was walking/biking distance, and not being stuck in my car made a huge difference. Even less time driving seems like a big deal to me, though of course it also depends somewhat on how bad traffic is. Overall, I think it can really reduce stress to have a shorter commute.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:55 PM on June 2, 2015

You currently spend close to 1.5 hours a day commuting. Just traveling to and from work. You're presumably not paid for this. That's 30 hours a month.

Assuming your new commute at 2 miles is 10 minutes, that means 20 minutes a day. 6 hours and 40 minutes a month. Is gaining ~23 hours of your life back a month worth $50-$100 to you?

That's all before calculating expenses you spend commuting. I don't know what your mileage is, but consider the gas spent on that .

I am three miles away from my job. I love it. When I commute by motorcycle I'm at work within 15 minutes. If I forget something at home I can be home and back to work within a lunch break.

Two miles is easily walkable or bikeable - using those methods you're now also saving money on gas or bus fare.
posted by Karaage at 6:56 PM on June 2, 2015 [24 favorites]

Am I doing this math right? It seems like it's about 25 minutes difference each way. 50 minutes EVERY day?? That is huge. 50 minutes times 22 days a month. 18 hours a month you are getting back. If that math is right thats the best 100 bucks a person could spend!
posted by ReluctantViking at 6:59 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Truly, I think it is one of the greatest luxuries anyone can have. I previously lived a ten minute walk from work and in my experience it was priceless.

Aside from that though, the numbers should work out too. If you rely on a car now and could sell it, you will absolutely save well over $100 a month, even with occasional taxi/carshare usage. And even if you don't, the gas and wear & tear for 200 miles/week is not insubstantial. At the current federal mileage rate, it would be around $450/mo.
posted by veery at 7:00 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

A $50-100 premium is easily worth it to be within walking/biking distance. Besides saving money on driving and possibly saving time, you avoid boatloads of stress. It's much healthier overall.
posted by ktkt at 7:01 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Living close is awesome, save time commuting, go home for lunch, can bicycle to work.
posted by TheAdamist at 7:02 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Totally worth it. The time saved, the money saved, the opportunity for a little head clearing exercise before and after work. You'll love it.
posted by stormygrey at 7:03 PM on June 2, 2015

In my experience, yes, assuming the new apartment is equally conveniently located to things like a grocery store and stuff like a bar or restaurant or shop you like. Even though the commute eats up time every day (which is well worth gaining), if you make your social life completely inconvenient, you may end up at a net loss.

I'm 20 minutes away (4 miles by bike) and many days, I miss when I used to be a ten minute walk to work.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:09 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

As someone who commutes 2 hours each way 5 days a week, omg, go for living close! That's a tiny financial difference compared to how much life you'll get back.
posted by kitten magic at 7:09 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, this is a no-brainer. I live 3 miles from work. It's 10 minutes door-to-door by car, including the walk from the parking lot, and 20 minutes by bike. The days I cycle, I get 40 minutes of exercise for only 20 minutes of opportunity cost, plus I feel better about myself.

$100/month is $3.30/day. If you're driving a 40-mile round trip, you're undoubtedly spending more than that on gas per commute, so you'll break even on gas right away.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:10 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you live near a place with weather but I live walking distance (little less than a mile) from one of the places I work. It's terrific if the weather is super sketch on the roads to know that I have the option of walking one way. I mean walking in sketch weather is not terrific but it's TONS better than white knuckling it on icy roads. I also can get exercise going to/from work if I want to and I think there is a lot of value in living in the same community that you work in. Two miles is nearly walkable for many people and easily bikeable if the roads are set up right. For a $50-100 difference I would not think twice about this unless there is something else really wrong with the neighborhood in terms of living there.
posted by jessamyn at 7:10 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I live about that far from my job and it is so valuable to me!

1) I have a job where stopping in on evenings or weekends is... not required, but resulting in hours less work the next day when something odd comes up. I'm the nearest person on staff and it's great to just jump in, flick a couple of switches, and head back home. It actually makes it easier to leave work at work because I'm not worrying about that stupid switch, and then I get to feel like a big hero.

2) A few times of year, there's some reason that normal travel routes don't work. Traffic is terrible, or there's a snowstorm, or a bike is busted. Having multiple transportation options is fantastic. Depending on the day, we bike, walk, take the bus, or drive. It's much less boring that way, and I can decide if it's a "get exercise" day or a "answer emails on the bus" day. I lose about 10 minutes if I miss the bus.

3) Multiply anything commute-related by 10, since it's to and from 5 days per week. 10 minutes versus 40 minutes to commute is 5 extra hours per week. To me, free time not spent frustrated in traffic is worth way more than 10$ per hour.

The only downside I can see is if everything EXCEPT work is 40 minutes away, including groceries, social contacts, doctors etc, such that you'd be reverse-commuting every other day. We worried about this but we found we still go downtown (where we used to live, less close to work) plenty often, and don't need to deal the downsides of the area on a daily basis.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:11 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I live about two miles from work, walk for 20-30 minutes or take the bus home for 10 minutes, and pay ridiculous rent. Seriously worth it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:15 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, there are a lot of studies saying that the shorter your commute is, the happier you'll be.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:15 PM on June 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

Research has shown that shortening your commute is one of the most effective ways to increase your happiness. Plus if you can walk or cycle to work you get your weekly requirement for activity.

The rewards associated with longer commutes -- a bigger house, a higher salary or better schools -- don't fully compensate for the sacrifices we end up making by working so far from home (e.g., less time with family, and health issues like back pain, higher cholesterol, weight gain and anxiety).
posted by srboisvert at 7:17 PM on June 2, 2015 [17 favorites]

Oh and for the record we pay about $500 a month more for proximity to both my wife's job and the lakeshore and consider it totally worth it.
posted by srboisvert at 7:20 PM on June 2, 2015

I used to live an hour and a half away from work. I now live two blocks away.

There is no amount of money that would convince me to live more than half an hour away from my place of work ever again. $50-$100 is a trivial amount of money for how much better a shorter commute will make your life.
posted by Tamanna at 7:22 PM on June 2, 2015 [10 favorites]

Well, I feel kind of silly since we are all unanimous in this thread, but yes that kind of difference in commute is worth it. I've done both a long and short commute--I currently live about 7 minutes from work and I'd never go back to a one hour each way commute again (exactly the same on transit or driving). Money can't make up for time lost to commuting.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:24 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

$50-$100 premium is absolutely worth it. (My rent jumped a bit more than that when I moved closer to my then-workplace, but I was also going from a roommate situation to a studio that was all mine.) I went from an hour train commute to a 10 minute walking commute. And while I still kept the transit pass for convenience, I moved around my food budget so that I went home for lunch more often, or brought in food from home, and that covered most of the rent premium.

Especially if this means you can have a walking or biking or transit commute rather than a driving one, I'd do it.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 7:25 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are you crazy? Totally worth it living that close to where you work, especially for such a small amount of money! The gas alone... not to mention the traffic and stress and aggravation. If anything, you can justify it by thinking of how much money you'll be saving on convenience foods when you're too tired to cook a budget dinner after your commute. Do it.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:27 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

The only thing that would make me hesitate is if all your social life is where you live now. 40min is a long drive home after a late night. Otherwise, yes, totally worth living close to work.
posted by kjs4 at 7:29 PM on June 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

Absolutely worth it. I live in a small city now and one of my favorite things about living here is my commute. I can go from the door of my house to the door of my office in 11 minutes everyday by car. My friends who live in the Twin Cities and I will call each other on our commutes sometimes. If we leave work at the same time, I've made it home, changed clothes, started a load of laundry, started dinner, puttered around a bit...and they are still in the car. The only way I'd say no is if there's nothing to do where you work at night or no grocery stores, churches, etc nearby.
posted by notjustthefish at 7:30 PM on June 2, 2015

Oh hell yes. I pay a stupid amount of money to live within walking distance of my job and it is 100% worth it. To pass this up for $100 would be an insane mistake.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:38 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Anecdote: one of the best jobs I ever had was the one where I worked three miles away. I biked to work in the fresh air, biked home on that beautiful, scenic route at lunchtime to get away from my grouchy co-workers and eat my lunch in peace, finished my shift and biked home again along that same route. I was always happy by the time I got home because the worries and annoyances of the day had drifted off of me during the ride home. A car commute has never done that for me, no matter how short. Also, little things like errands and grocery shopping are so much more easy to deal with when you're not on the road a majority of the time during your week.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:40 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have a look at Walk Score for info on how long walking/biking/transit/driving commutes might take (it'll let you enter one or more addresses to commute to, and show you apartments in that range) and what amenities are nearby.

I generally bike or take the bus to work because car commuting fills me with gut-twisting stress. It's worth it to me even if I can leave home ten minutes later when driving. Being close enough to walk the whole way would be extra-awesome (but I'd probably use my bike anyway because it carries more stuff than I do.)
posted by asperity at 7:46 PM on June 2, 2015

In general, I agree that living close is worth it. But I'm going to throw in an alternative POV anyway.

Currently, I live more than 1 hr away from work*. I moved away from my previous apartment, which was around 15 min from work, because my old apartment was in the middle of nowhere. Because there was nothing to do after work, I worked 13 hour days (with no overtime pay) just because I had nothing better to do. I have a much better social life in my current apartment than in my previous one.

If cost is the only factor, I would definitely recommend that you live closer to work, but I needed to consider the other factors as well.

*more than 1 hour is pretty normal in Japan, plus with our fabulous public transport, my 1 hr 8 min commute is ALWAYS EXACTLY 68 min. Much better than getting stuck in traffic for an undetermined duration!
posted by xmts at 7:47 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Xmts makes an excellent point; there are social things to consider. In my case, I was equally happy doing fun things on my own as I was doing things with others, so being stuck out in the suburbs was not a big deal to me. You definitely should keep that in mind when making your decision.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:56 PM on June 2, 2015

Yes, yes yes absolutely. And if you think about your income as being "per time spent getting to, being at, and getting home from work" then it also amounts to a significant per-hour raise for you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:57 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I lived 10 minutes from work, I would go home at lunch, eat lunch, and do at least one chore (start a load of laundry, vacuum the living room, etc). Doing this every day at lunchtime meant my weekends were pretty free for being lazy. Now that I live 45 minutes from work, I am bored during my lunch hour (I usually end up just working through lunch) and my weekends are more chore-oriented than relaxing-oriented. If I could afford to live close to work, I would in a heartbeat.
posted by dogmom at 8:03 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

A few months ago I started a new job a mile away from where I live and it is the best. I can bike in five minutes, if it's a nice day I walk through the neighborhood, I can walk my dog or work in my garden on my lunch break, I buy a tank of gas like once a month. It's great.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:09 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I commuted from Seattle to the West Sound for about a year (1.5-2 hrs). I did it on purpose, because I was young and wanted to be in Seattle. I figured, either commute on my work days, or always be driving the same distance on my days off, plus not be able to do anything on week days without having to return home early. I did the same thing in Yokohama for a while.

That was good when I was young, but I found I was actually doing stuff in Seattle less and less, but still having the work commute. I still don't live right by work because I have to have some city life, but it sure is nicer to not have to commute that far whether I want to that day or not.
posted by ctmf at 8:12 PM on June 2, 2015

As a contrary voice: Are there things near your job that you want to go to? Is it a place you want to hang out? Do you have friends in that area (or do you want to make friends in that area)? Basically: If it wasn't near your job, do you want to live there anyway? Or is the only appeal is that it's near your job?

For me, I've decided living farther away from my job is OK (but I work out in the suburbs, rather than in the city). I'd rather be around people I know and places I want to go. For me, though, my job is not my life and I'm OK with an hour commute if it means I can see my friends after work (which, right now, I can't).

If your job is in a neighborhood you like, then it's absolutely worth the added cost. If your job is your only consideration ... well, I guess it depends on what your job means to you and what you do with your free time.
posted by darksong at 8:21 PM on June 2, 2015

I think time is more valuable than money. You can always save money or find ways to get more money, but time isn't something you can do that with. If it takes you 20 minutes to commute vs. 5 minute, at only 15 minutes difference, that is 30 extra minutes round trip per day, and 2.5 hours per week, which is 130 hours per year. There's no way to not spend that time and there's no way to get it back. For me, living closer to my office usually means getting more sleep because I don't have to wake up as early. It also is nice to be able to run home from work if I want to just make lunch at home (saving money!) or if, like, I need to poop.

For $50 or $100 over my budget, I wouldn't even think twice if I liked the place and the location was that convenient. If you drive, you will end up saving some gas money as well, which may reduce the financial overage slightly.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:21 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I did the opposite, I changed jobs instead of apartments, new job closer to home and out of the city, but the effect was the same. I went from about 8 miles towards the city taking 35-40 minutes (I'm near Boston, sigh, and that would be on a good day) to 6 miles reverse commute and solely back roads taking 10-15 minutes. I am so much happier! No traffic, no stress, no angst. I can go home at lunchtime if I forgot something. It's SO nice to have extra time at night to just relax. Being able to stop and get groceries and run a few errands and still get home before I used to is just great.

If your budget is really tight, consider the savings on gas and wear and tear on your car. The time you'd save which would allow you to freelance, or prepare lunches so you save on takeout, etc.

Downside: no time to listen to audiobooks or podcasts in the car. By the time you start it up, you're there! Personally I can deal with that.
posted by clone boulevard at 8:58 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Obviously you have a pretty unanimous opinion here, but I also live near my work and it's pretty awesome. I sleep more, get more personal time, and I can run home if I need something. Plus if I get sick at work or something it's not some big ordeal to get home. If you otherwise like the neighborhood, it's worth the extra money-- you'll save it in gas/bus fare.
posted by easter queen at 9:42 PM on June 2, 2015

Where is everything else? I have recently worked close to where I live (great, as above) but I haven't seen my friends in forever, haven't been to any exhibitions, haven't seen or interacted with people who aren't like those in my area, etc. not worth it, going to find a new job in town and eat the commute as chillout podcast time.
posted by Iteki at 9:47 PM on June 2, 2015

I work in hospitality, and before that, broadcast. So, generally in big city centers.

Every time my commute is longer than 20 minutes, I lose quality of life. Also the money spent on commuting and/or cabs if I go out for drinks near work.

Do it :))
posted by jbenben at 11:39 PM on June 2, 2015

I just moved three houses down from my work and I LOVE it. I get to
* sleep in longer
* get home earlier
* run home when I expect a delivery or need to let someone in to fix something
* get stuff I forgot in both places
* go home for lunch break and pass out on the couch if need be

I pay $150 over my original budget and I would say, it is totally worth it.
posted by Fallbala at 12:45 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Consider commute costs. Car or even public transit can easily exceed that 50-100 every month. If there are market and whatnot within walking distance, skipping the car will save you a LOT of $$$ and you can just go Lyft or if you really need wheels, car share like ZipCar.
posted by kschang at 1:46 AM on June 3, 2015

I've had years where I drove 25k miles/year commuting to work - I was driving for anywhere between two and four hrs a day to travel to and from work. I can now walk to my office in 5 mins. If I work outside the office it is normally less than an hr door to door and on average no more than 45 mins on the train. It makes a massive difference to my life. That is the best money you'll ever spend - and you won't even spend it because it will be largely offset by cost reductions elsewhere.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:21 AM on June 3, 2015

The only negative is that if you're the only person who lives nearby, if there's something off hours or emergency that needs to be dealt with, they're going to call you to do it.

I end up going in to work on at least a few major public holidays for this reason.

That said, I love being a 20 minute walk from work. 20 minutes of walking is enough to clear your head and provide space between work and home, but not so much that you think of it as Commuting. As said above, you can go home if you need to meet the plumber or pick up a package, or you forgot your lunch, or you need dry shoes. The stress of commuting is really significant when you travel longer, especially if you're using public transit or driving in traffic. You're not going to be bothered by adverse weather conditions as much - unless it is super icy.

The price differential that you're describing makes it worth it. Hope you enjoy your new place and your tiny commute!
posted by sciencegeek at 2:54 AM on June 3, 2015

You do need some sort of barrier between work and home. When I lived in hospital accommodation, on site, I was forever popping back to work in the evenings and weekends to finish things off. I also never felt that I was ever really NOT at work - I need a 10minute walk or cycle home to decompress and feel like I've really left. So I wouldn't live TOO close (definitely not within sight of work).

On the other hand I hate wasting time sitting in a traffic jam each morning - that sucks. I would say 10-20mins each way is about perfect. It's also much nicer if that journey is walk- or cyclable.
posted by tinkletown at 4:19 AM on June 3, 2015

For a year, I had a 1.5 mile commute that I bicycled at a leisurely pace. I found I could not dismount my bike at my destination without at least a little smile cracking my face. Multiply that by 2*5*52 and you'll find the product compelling.
posted by klarck at 4:36 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I commute ~25 miles (45 minutes) each way. It is totally worth it because I live in a fun city instead of a boring suburb, all my friends are in town, and all the interesting things to do are in town. I could live walking distance from work, literally across the street from my office. But I would then be 20+ miles from all of my friends and all of the interesting things to do.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:57 AM on June 3, 2015

It's worth it. I used to live about 15 miles away from work, which doesn't seem far but it would take about 45 minutes in rush hour traffic, sometimes more, to get to work in the area that I am from. A few years ago, I moved only one exit over on the interstate and it's LIFE CHANGING. It's worth the extra cash.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 5:09 AM on June 3, 2015

All other things being equal, if you don't take the closer option, you're paying yourself less than minimum wage to commute.
posted by caek at 5:21 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the consensus, everyone. I have no social ties to my current location and there is plenty to do in the area, so it sounds like it would really be worth it to take the plunge. You've talked me into it!
posted by possibilityleft at 5:59 AM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

Sounds like you've already been convinced, but just to add to the chorus: yes, do it! Living in a good location is something you will appreciate every single day.

If the decision was between an apartment close to work but in an area you didn't like and an apartment further from work in an area you really liked, I'd argue for the latter. But since it's just a question of location vs. price, and the price difference isn't even that much, as long as you can afford it it's a no-brainer.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:57 AM on June 3, 2015

Adding to the general consensus: I moved to a more-expensive apartment within easy walking distance of work (and other interesting things), and it has massively improved my quality of life. I've lost almost ten pounds without even trying, just because I walk or ride my bike everywhere instead of driving. I'm eating better, because I can stop at the grocery store on my way home from work and decide what I want to cook for dinner. I can go out for drinks after work without worrying about how I'm going to get home. There are actually some slightly annoying things about my apartment, but I've decided that I don't care, because the location is so great and being there has made me a happier person.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:46 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

One cautionary note - consider the weather and traffic.

I currently live 2 miles from my work, which is absolutely worth it. It's a 15 minute cycle ride each way, so I get in a bit of activity, without actually breaking a sweat or needing to consider showering/changing amenities - except on the worst weather days (which, living in England, are plentiful).

EXCEPT. I am currently heavily pregnant, and physically unable to ride. So I have to drive. Which takes 35 minutes because of shortcuts I can't take in the car that I would on the bike, and terrible traffic because I'm going across a city. My husband, who works 9 miles away, takes the same amount of time to get to his office down the motorway.

So make sure your potential new commute will actually save you time and frustration (and/or add value to your life via exercise, and whether you'd be a fair-weather non-car-commmuter) before taking the plunge.
posted by jennyweed at 9:35 AM on June 3, 2015

I've lived 10-15 minutes away from work(at a premium), and 5(!!) minutes away from work(at a MUCH bigger premium).

11/10, would do again. I can run home from work and change before i go somewhere, i can eat food out of my fridge as fast as i can go to the store, i can grab things i forgot nearly instantly. If i have a weird gap where i have some afterhours project later at night after everyone leaves it doesn't make sense to just dick around instead of basically spending a loop commuting, i just go home!

It's also been amazing to be able to quickly respond to say, an issue at my house or a package getting delivered at a stupid time they didn't say it would be. I've ran home on foot and signed for a UPS box!

Compared to living 30 min or an hour away, i'm convinced it actually saved me money. I ditched my car, don't have to get a bus pass, and don't end up getting random cab rides and other crap getting places.

It's worth noting that this involved 100% committing to just always walking or biking, in seattle, in the rain. I still feel like it was worth it though. I just bought some boots and said meh. Especially the really short commute i had until very recently.

The only negative is that if you're the only person who lives nearby, if there's something off hours or emergency that needs to be dealt with, they're going to call you to do it.

There's a solution to this: DONT TELL ANYONE YOU MOVED THERE. Unless you need to give HR or some accounting person your address for paperwork, just don't bring it up. Act dumb like it wasn't a big deal if anyone asks you about it, and they wont.

I lived not-nearby to work in between the two times i lived close, and when i moved back while at the same job i had while further out i just told... no one.
posted by emptythought at 1:53 PM on June 3, 2015

Do it! And definitely call your insurance company to find out if decreasing your commute from 20 miles to two will reduce your premium. You might discover a very apples-to-apples answer to your question right there. While you have them, you might ask what happens to your premium if you stop commuting altogether. If you walk or bike to work, does that put you in a completely different tier for auto insurance? It may!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 2:47 PM on June 3, 2015


It's not just the hours of your life you get back per year and your decreased commuting costs -- by minimizing your time spent in cars you're also significantly reducing your chances of being killed or maimed in an accident.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:51 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

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