I’ve written before about what I call “the great PCS budget reset.” The general idea is that each time you move, you have the opportunity to change the large, fixed costs in your life: housing and transportation. The choices you make about housing will affect your finances for that whole tour (or until you move, if you can stomach a mid-tour move.)
A recent Reuters article highlights just how much transportation costs can add up. Your commute is costing you more than you realize looks at the problem from several angles, and the conclusion is the same: the cost of transportation can make or break a budget. In fact, the wise Mr. Money Moustache believes that “this misconception about what is a reasonable commute is probably the biggest thing that is keeping most people in the US and Canada poor.”
In addition to the expenses of commuting, people with longer commutes have more overall health problems. The stress also adds up, both for the commuting person and the family who is holding dinner waiting for Mom to get home.
For the military, the math might be a little different. Depending on your job, and your place in your career, the cost/benefit analysis could be substantially different. Going to be deployed for a year out of a two year tour? That changes the math. Figuring out the best way to have a happy family while you finish out three years until you can retire? That changes the math. Other considerations might include a child who requires frequent medical care at a particular hospital, older family members who need care, or the cost savings of living in a home you already own.
All those exceptions aside, be sure you have thought critically about the transportation costs of your new home. If’ you are moving this summer, be sure you give careful weight to the financial, physical, and mental costs of your commute. In particular, do the math to figure out how much the work commute will cost before you make a final housing choice. You might be surprised what you find.