When looking for apartments in Baltimore nearly six months ago, I was trying to strategize which neighborhoods would be best for a short commute, when I came across the perfect apartment. Being one of the wealthiest areas in Baltimore, filled with idyllic and desirable row homes and low crime rates, I wasn’t planning on moving so close to work because of the bro-like culture and high rent. To illustrate it, the average rent in my new neighborhood, Federal Hill, was $1,717, compared to Baltimore’s overall average of $853.
My place is a spacious two-bedroom, and it’s only seven blocks from where I work. While my personal rent is actually well below the neighborhood average (thanks to my roommate’s tenant loyalty discount and a few other factors), I know that I could be paying even lower rent if I lived in a different neighborhood. However, I actually save money and enjoy my life more by living so close to work.
1. Save on Gas
When I was commuting nearly 45 minutes to work every day, I always needed gas. The weekly, sometimes semi-weekly, trips to the gas station added up. On average, I bought gas once a week — a $40 expense on top of paying $50 each month on tolls. Now, I mainly use my car to go the grocery store, therapy, and my parents’ home (avoiding the tolls). I’ve ultimately cut my transportation budget in more than half since I walk to work. I am now filling my tank every two or three weeks, opting to walk more or take Baltimore’s free bus when I can. My gas allowance per month is now only $75, which saves me $135 per month.
2. Less Stressed
In the rush to get home after a long day, I felt like I was in competition with my fellow drivers to see who could get home the fastest. Even though we all had different endpoints, it was an unhealthy game that added to my stress from work and used up whatever mental capacity I had left. I know that I was not the only one who’s felt this way because of their commute. Now, with a shorter commute, I am also much more awake when I get home and I’m capable of doing more things, like washing the dishes or writing, instead of numbing my brain with Netflix. I also get to zone out to the white noise of city life during my brief walk. I like to think of my walks as bookends to my working day, allowing me to relax and refocus myself before and after a hard day.
3. More Exercise and Fresh Air
In 10 minutes, I may not burn a lot of calories, but the physical activity of walking is the important part. The break is a marker in my day that allows me to have mental transition from work tasks to home life. It breaks up my monotonous day of sitting inside. Sometimes, I “leave things” at home on purpose, so that I’m forced to take a break in the afternoon when I start to feel fatigue. It’s a small but immensely powerful act where I get a chance to zone out or reflect on my day. I also get a chance to breathe in fresh* air, which is another reminder of my humanity outside of work.
4. I Leave My Wallet at Home…Cause I Can
Because I don’t need my license or car keys, I leave my wallet at home when I go to work. Weird, right? I just grab my apartment and work keys and I am off. At first, I started this for my protection, but quickly it became a financial choice. When I leave my wallet at home, I have no way to pay for a meal out or even a cup of tea. In a craving or need, I am then forced to go home to grab my wallet, so I’m forced to ask myself, Is this worth the walk? My sheer laziness often prevents me from making an unnecessary purchase and makes me think twice. Have I on occasion gone home and come back and bought Banh Mi French Fries because I was just craving it? Yes! But, more often than not, it stops me and helps me stay under my very limited eating out budget. (Plus, when I do choose to give in, I know it will be worth the cost + walk).
At the end of day, I know I could be saving a few dollars on my rent by living in a cheaper neighborhood. However, my short walk to work has actually saved me money (less gas+ temptation to eat out) and it has given my more time and mental energy, adding to my overall happiness and health. I know I am lucky, and that not everyone can afford to live close to work. I’m grateful that I am able to walk to work, and, as of right now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Brooke is a full-time non-profit marketer, occasional writer, and year-round chronic illness sufferer.
Image via Unsplash