If you are at all familiar with the personal finance blog space, then you might have heard of Mr. Money Mustache. He is really big into creating a culture of bucking the norms of culture and retired at the age of 30 years old. His retirement story has been predicated on an extremely high savings rate during your working years (75% or more), and extremely low yearly expenses for his family of three (< $25,000/year).
In order to keep his yearly expenses low, he has one compact car and bikes everywhere else. I was really intrigued with how he even had gotten a baby cart to pull behind his bike in order get his groceries home from the grocery store. In this post, he is pretty blunt in his opinion of how anyone who drives less than 15 miles to work is an idiot.
Regardless of whether you agree with him or not, it definitely gets you thinking. That is exactly what he wanted in the post. In fact, it got me thinking too. Thinking about how can I adjust my lifestyle to not be like everyone else. I'm not on the mustachian “bandwagon”, or into the idea of being called a “Mustachian”. What I am into is saving money (thrifty) and living a healthier lifestyle. Call it, “Healthy Thrifachian”!
However, living a lifestyle that is counterintuitive to the culture is hard. Biking to work in the pitch black darkness is difficult when everyone else is zooming past you in their $40,000 sports cars, or dualy-hemi super charged trucks!
In August, I started my experiment (which was one of my goals) of biking to & from work. After biking four times in August I started running the numbers in my head. I was trying to figure out what are the net benefits that this is giving me. In order to give context, here is a breakdown of my situation.
- I live 4.1 miles from work
- My car commute time is 10 minutes
- My bike commute time is 20 minutes
- If I bike to work I don't work out over lunch (saves me driving 2 x 2miles = 4 miles)
- If I bike to work I work through my lunch hour (saves 60 minutes of time = $40/hour – rough dollar savings)
- Biking to/from work burns 250 calories
- Working out over lunch I burn 550 calories (on average)
- Cost per mile driving – $0.54/mile
I love laying out the numbers like this. It gives me a clear picture of just how much things cost me and how much I'm benefiting from biking. But there is more to it! We can't just merely collect the data, and say, “Yep, that is what it costs or benefits me.” Let's dig further.
Commute Savings Analysis
- Home to Work Commute – 4.1 miles x 2 = 8.2 miles
- Driving to workout – 2 miles x 2 = 4 miles
- Total Driving Saving – (8.2 + 4) x $0.54/mile = $6.59
- Commute to/from work – 10 x 2 = 20 minutes total (positive benefit)
- Bike to/from work = 20 x 2 = 40 minutes total (negative benefit)
- Work through lunch = 60 minutes (positive benefit)
- Total Time Benefit From Biking = 20 min (dif between biking & commuting) – 60 min = 40 minutes net positive
- Net Postive Time Benefit x Rough Estimate Time Rate = 40 minutes x $40/hour = 66% x $40 = $26 net positive cash benefit
- Biking to/from work calories burned: 250 calories
- Working out over lunch: 550 calories
- Net Negative Health Benefit: 300 calories
So as you can see, if I bike to work I'm saving $6.59 in driving + $26 in net positive time benefit, for a total savings of $32.59. However, by biking to work I'm having a negative health benefit of 300 calories each day (that is based on the assumption that I'm working out over lunch every day I commute in).
When you lay it all out, it is really interesting to analyze whether a certain choice is benefiting you or not. In my biking vs commuting analysis, my conclusion is that I'm trading $32.59 in savings and a 20 minute increased commute time for burning 300 fewer calories. Is it worth it? What is your opinion? In my situation it probably depends on the day, time of year (amount of daylight), and motivation.
I'd be interested to hear whether you've done a similar analysis. How have you laid out all the benefits analysis and determined what you a trading off for certain choices? Let me know what you think of my analysis. What choice would you make?