Shorter Commute or Bigger Space: Which Is Better?


In an ideal world, everyone would be living in a large house, located just a few minutes’ walk away from where they work. Big enough to have space for every activity where you can host parties, start a vegetable garden, and install a walk-in closet for all your clothes and accessories. The reality, however, paints a different picture. Staying in cities and business districts mean cramped studio condominium units, shared facilities with roommates, and more views of concrete than nature.

For every minute saved from commuting, you are giving up precious square meters in return due to increasing rental costs. The living room becomes multipurpose, masquerading as the dining area, the home office, and in some cases, the bedroom too.

On the other hand, traffic is becoming a nightmare, making the journey to work longer and more expensive, whether you’re using public transportation or driving your own vehicle. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the average American commuter wastes 54 extra hours a year in gridlock. That number increases to at least 83 hours if your workplace is in major cities like New York and Los Angeles. Traffic can turn the calmest and collected person into someone road raging at other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

It’s tough choosing between a shorter commute but having a small living space and a longer drive but enjoying a bigger house. Both situations are not ideal. To help with your decision, here are a few questions you can consider.

1. What are your transportation options?

Not all options are created equal. Mapping out the possible commute routes you can take will show if it’s worth it to live closer to work. There might be a subway station around the corner, but what if the previous stop is a busy one? You’ll have to contend with fighting for a spot on the crowded train. If the locations of your home and work are within walking distance, then the shorter commute can be the more appealing choice.

Meanwhile, living in a more residential area can be worth it, especially if it’s only one long bus ride or you have a carpool option. You can spend the time listening to music and podcasts and watch YouTube videos. Knowing what’s the commute like can help you weigh your options.

2. Does your workplace have flexible working arrangements?

Given the reality of traffic, some workplaces are being more open to alternative working arrangements. Telecommuting and 4-day work weeks are popular options. They save time and effort and can even boost productivity. There are also occupations where their work’s nature allows flexibility in the location. That usually includes licensed professionals like public adjusters and accountants, virtual assistants, and programmers. They can choose to work at home or in the office, as long as the tasks are finished.

family on the couch3. What is your family situation?

Do you live alone, with a partner, or with a family that has small children? The answer to this question can significantly influence your decision if the shorter commute or bigger house is more apt to your situation. If you’re flying solo, then a small apartment near your workplace will be a dream come true. Meanwhile, it will be a nightmare for a family with little children because of the lack of space, privacy, and affordable schools.

The choice between the shorter commute and the bigger space is difficult. You are stuck between a rock and a hard place, forced to decide which is less taxing and stressful. Taking all factors such as transportation options, workplace policies, and family situation into account can help in reaching a worthwhile decision.

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