Tips & Guides / Digital Nomads

The True Cost of a Commute: How Much Money—and Time—Can You Save by Working Remotely?

By Erin Ollila | Jan 27, 2023
Woman stands on a subway commuting to work.

Speeding up and then slowing down. Exhaust fumes. Stop-and-go traffic. Drivers with road rage. Rising gas costs. The high risk of accidents. There are many valid reasons why professionals feel frustrated with their work commute, but do they have to suffer any longer? Do you think cutting ties with your in-office job in exchange for a more flexible working arrangement would affect your life?

Many professionals with remote jobs, especially those who went remote within the past few years, are realizing that stopping their commute has saved them time and money—and more importantly, has also had a positive effect on their well-being.

We talked to an engaged couple who are traveling the country while working remotely about how their life changed when they ditched their daily commute. Here is what they had to say about why commuting is so difficult and how switching to a more flexible lifestyle has saved them time and money, and improved their quality of life.

Commuting added unnecessary stressors

Today’s modern worker doesn’t like to commute. In fact, 84% of respondents to a 2021 FlexJobs survey of over 2,000 professionals indicated that losing a commute was the No. 1 perk of working remotely. But why did the travel to and from their workplace impact them so greatly?

According to Adam Finley, a remote post producer, struggling to get to work on time in an area where traffic patterns were completely inconsistent was a constant pressure.

“I remember being so stressed driving to work because my particular commute in Los Angeles was unpredictable. It could take 20 minutes or it could take 60,” he says. “Oftentimes, there was fast acceleration and hard breaking because I was trying to catch every yellow light. I could not be 15 minutes late again.”

His fiancé, Roxanna Kroll, a remote project manager, agrees, adding, “I think working in an office creates a lot of unnecessary small stresses. Aside from the commute, at home, I can wear sweats and listen to my favorite music. The workday is now actually about the work when you get rid of those distractions and time sucks like a commute, it adds up to better mental health and keeps me motivated each day.”

Losing the commute saves money

One of the most obvious perks of losing a commute is the financial savings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend over 16% of their household expenditure on varied transportation costs. And that figure might even be a bit higher: In their research, Clever Real Estate reports the average U.S. commuter spends almost 19% of their household expenditure on commuting, which averages out to $8,466 on an annual basis.

When you think about the financial benefits of working remotely instead of commuting, you may think of how much less you’re paying for gas or train tickets, or even the toll a commute can take on your vehicle. But, there are other less obvious financial benefits to quitting—or even simply decreasing—the commute into your workplace.

For example, Ladders estimates that the average person can save up to $4,000 a year by working remotely. Some of the items that add up are things like buying coffee, lunches, or dinners out or the cost of buying and keeping up with your professional wardrobe and dry cleaning.

Not commuting saves time

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average one-way commute was slightly over 27 minutes. This may not seem like a lot, but over the course of one year, that round-trip commute eats up over 10 full days of your life. And worse, the Census data found that almost 10% of their commuter respondents were driving an hour or more each way to their jobs.

Spending all of this time getting from one place to another reduces the amount of time workers can spend with the people they love, doing the hobbies they enjoy, or doing any activity that lights them up. It goes without saying that losing a commute gives back those precious moments to working professionals, allowing them the opportunity to fill their time with something more fulfilling.

“Time savings has been the biggest gift of working remotely,” Finley says. “My day doesn’t completely revolve around a commute, which allows me to do more both in my work life and my personal life. There was a time I worked from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a 30- to 60-minute commute each way. There wasn’t room for anything else in my weekdays, but now I get to be a whole human—one with friends and interests during the week, which makes me happier at work, too.”

Losing the commute improves well-being

One of the less obvious costs of a commute is how it affects a person’s mental health. A recent study from Latin America published in the Journal for Transport & Health indicated that increased commuting time suggests a higher probability of depression. By gaining back the time and financial resources traditionally spent on a commute, professionals can instead dedicate those hours to experiencing life in the way that feels best for them.

Both Kroll and Finley chose to pick up and move when the opportunity for remote work presented itself—and now live flexibly enjoying different areas of the country.

As for the day-to-day life improvements, Finley says, “I’m enjoying the places I live more. I get to explore my neighborhood in a way that I couldn’t before. In the mornings, I can get in a workout class, and in the afternoons, a nice dog walk around the block. I also get to spend quality time with the people I care about after work, and not just eating a bowl of cereal before bed with my significant other because it’s too late to make dinner. I have a much more balanced life because I get to work on my own personal projects outside of work, too. There’s just more time in the day. That’s what it comes down to.”

In regard to flexible living, Kroll adds, “Remote work and flexible living has changed our lives for the better in so many ways. This year, we spent spring in Austin, summer in Nashville, and fall in Boston. It’s been an incredible gift, and it keeps remote life exciting. During the workday, I’m at my desk and focused. All I need is a computer (and good internet). But after that, I can explore a new city. It’s opened up my life to newfound color and inspiration.”

And Finley and Kroll aren’t the only remote workers improving their quality of life through remote work via flexible living, either. The Flexjobs survey also indicated that “37% of respondents said they would ‘definitely’ consider relocating, and an additional 31% said they ‘might consider it,” with the biggest reason to relocate being for a “better quality of life” (58%).

Thinking of canceling your commute and capitalizing on your opportunity to work remotely? Spread your wings and leave behind the same four walls for a new opportunity to live more flexibly. Landing, which offers apartments in over 375 cities throughout the U.S., removes the stress of furnishing a new place or starting from scratch in a new-to-you-city, with flexible leases that make it easy to move on your terms. Learn more about becoming a Landing member today!

Erin Ollila

Conversion copywriter. Copy Coach. Wing Woman. Word slinger. No matter what you call her, Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. When she’s not working with big brands and small businesses to marry strategy, storytelling, and SEO, you can find her hosting the Talk Copy to Me podcast. Erin graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and then co-founded Spry Literary Journal, which celebrates undiscovered and established writers' concise, experimental, hybrid, modern, vintage or just-plain-vulnerable writing.