The unassuming power of the carpool: part 1

20190204_073926Its 2019 in the Bay Area. Everyday, two southbound lanes of highway from Sonoma County hemorrhage out hundreds of thousands of commuters into the expansive Golden Gate. Like the opening scene in Office Space, thousands of commuters inch forward toward their destination, occupying themselves with podcasts, cigarettes, road rage, or whatever else fills that tiny space between bumpers. 

Amidst this Sisyphean slog, my co-worker and I maintain a travelling speed between 50 and 60 miles per hour, discussing what choice cuts of beef we will purchase from Coscto following the work day and how to approach different issues that naturally arise in the work place. 

But how did you gain the privilege of bypassing our fellow commuters? Were you born of noble blood? Or did you gain this power through surreptitious means? My answer to your inquisition is “neither”. 

To gain this unique privilege, all we had to do was the absolute unthinkable — commit to sharing our private resources for the mutual benefit of each other’s pocket book (and the larger environment). 

Here is how I did it.

When I caught wind that my colleague, Ben, also lived in Petaluma, I approached him and proposed the idea. We agreed to switch driving each day and what benefits we have enjoyed. Let me share them with you: 

Primarily, the carpool lane shaves off a minimum of fifteen minutes from my journey to work, but more closer to 25 to 35 minutes on most days. Because Google Maps has yet to find a way to account for the carpool lane, when says it takes 50 minutes to get to work, my co-worker and I usually arrive in 35 minutes. At minimum, let’s say that I am saving 20 minutes a day by carpooling (15 minutes southbound, 5 minutes northbound). 20 minutes multiplied by 20 work days equals 400 minutes per month. 

400 minutes divided by 60 minutes = 6.67 hours. 

That’s 6.67 hours of my life I just clawed back from the system to move me closer to my goal of financial freed. Time is money and I aim to take full control of my time in the coming years. 

Second, my gas bill has literally been sawed in half. I’m talking a rusty, back and forth, obliteration of my gas bill, turning that thing into straight confetti. Let’s break this savings down into the numbers: 

  1. To determine how much gas I used for work:
    I used Google Maps to calculate the number of miles it is from my house to work (25 miles) and multiplied this times two for my commute home from work. 
  2. Next, I Googled, “2007 Toyota corolla fuel efficiency for highway traffic” and found out it is 37 mpg. 
  3. I then Googled, “What is the average price of gasoline in California?” and found out it is $3.16. 
  4. I punched all that information into this fuel cost calculator 

And from this process I learned that “This trip will require 1.47 gallons of gas, which amounts to a fuel cost of $4.65.”

My daily fuel cost of driving to and from work is $4.65 and I drive to work on average 20 days each month.

20 days x $4.65 = $93 dollars a month in fuel 

And since Ben drives every other day, I am now only spending half that $93, which is about $46.50 a month on gas. 

But wait, what about the cost of wear and tear to your vehicle? Driving everyday, working that engine, starting and stopping for 100 minutes, and going over potholes here and there has to cost something. Luckily there is a website dedicated to evaluating those costs.

I punched in all my data again and came up with a monthly cost of $241.08 for the wear and tear on my vehicle. Once again, I grab that monthly cost, set it on the chopping block in my back yard, and BAM! 

Now my wear and tear expense when carpooling are $120.54

So as you can see, I just reduced my commuting expenses from $334.08 a month for 10 months a year (teachers have a 2 month convalescent period to regain their grip on life), to $167.04 a month. 

For the ten-month school year it went from $3,340.08 to $1670.40 per year. 

And for the big picture planning, I will invest that $1670.40 I am no longer spending (but had account for in my budget) into my SWTSX fund. SWTSX has a historical 15 year average rate of return of 8.4%. I’ll continue to dump a monthly contribution of that $1670.40 into SWTSX each month for the next 15 years (when $1670.40 is divided by 12 months, it comes out to $139.20 per month). 

Using a simple compound interest calculator to see what I have after 15 years of my initial $1670.40 contribution with $139.20 a month after that, and I will have $52,392.88 in 2034. 


Action step: Ask a trusted co-worker if they know anyone who commutes from where you live to the same working location.

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