Rob Stock: Work close to home to spend less and end up wealthier

Pedal power may modestly lift the food bill, but it's a cheap alternative to the 20.6 cents to 33.2 cents a kilometre ...

Pedal power may modestly lift the food bill, but it's a cheap alternative to the 20.6 cents to 33.2 cents a kilometre cost of running a car.

OPINION: Commuting is boring, harmful to your health, and dangerous for your wallet.

I base these claims on personal experience.

I was a jobbing journo in London for three years, and commuted in from a village near Cambridge.

Here was my commute. Rise before dawn. Cycle 3km to Waterbeach village station. 9km train ride to Cambridge. Change for the 90km trip to King's Cross Station. Tube and foot to office on Picadilly Circus.

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The trip took anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to two-and-a-bit hours in the aftermath of the deadly 2002 Potter's Bar train crash.

It was life-sapping and costly.

I used to bunk three nights a week in friends' pads in London to cope, resulting in less sleep, more boozing, and more spending.

When Auckland became my home, I kissed a fond goodbye to mega-commuting.

The drive from Titirangi (an outlying Auckland suburb in a rainforest), to work was about 25 minutes.

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But as the years passed, my commute time got longer as the roads got fuller.

Children arrived, and with them a diversion to daycare.

Suddenly the commute was the better part of an hour each way.

Rush, rush. Fill the tank. Pay the rego. Groan when its WOF time again.

Commuting is a growing plague.

We are building ever more properties on Auckland's fringes. People are commuting in from Pokeno, Pukekohe, Millwater, Hamilton.

People have "driven till they qualify".

This is an American term capturing the idea people will commute from wherever houses finally become affordable.

Owning a home is so critical to our identity, we are willing to make big sacrifices for it.

Humans mostly want freedom from landlords and the chance to put down roots. Galloping house prices mean we also now fear being left behind as renters for life.

But the person who lives near work has a financial advantage.

On the bus, I recently read a study on the Auckland Transport website claiming the average Kiwi commuter spends $11,852 running a car each year.

If they sold it and used public transport, they'd save $9065.78 a year (not including the cost of insurance).

Just leaving the car at home would save Aucklanders about $1200.

Like all such studies, there were assumptions (distance travelled, petrol prices, parking prices, etc), and issues ignored (surly bus drivers, inconsiderate fellow travellers, longer and less predictable journey times, etc).

But all other things being equal, commuters have to earn more, and spend more time on the move, than people who live near work.

Mad house prices mean commuting is a Hobson's choice for many who want to own a traditional family home.

And at times, a career opportunity (like mine in London) is worth making a commuting sacrifice for.

But for the person who has set their life up locally, day-to-day costs can be lower, especially if they can bike to work.

Imagine ditching that car and investing the better part of $12,000 a year.

- Working close to home can pay dividends
- Cars sap your wealth
- Commuting saps your soul

 - Stuff


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