Dumb Financial Decisions: Little Things Add Up Quickly

Early RetirementLast week, a colleague mentioned to a group of us at work that he had just signed a contract on a new home.

While answering lots of questions and accepting lots of congratulations, he casually mentioned that his new commute would only be seven or eight minutes longer each way.

The consensus of my co-workers was that amount of time was essentially irrelevant.

Driven by my FIRE-focused brain, I, of course, immediately grabbed my calculator to start quantifying the impact those “meaningless” seven or eight minutes would have over the course of a year.

The results were not pretty.

Seven or eight minutes of extra travel each way, adds up to 15 minutes of extra travel each day, which adds up to 75 minutes of extra travel each week, which adds up to about 60 hours of extra travel each year.

I know the kind of hours my colleague works. Given his new commute, I’m being generous if I assume he’s going to spend only 11 hours a day at work or driving.

Add in seven hours of sleep, and, at best, he has six hours a day during the work week to be what I define as “free”, meaning that he’s doing something besides working, commuting, or sleeping.

Since his new commute is going to take an extra 60 hours a year, he just agreed to give a full ten days of his “free” time away.

Each and every year.

Not wanting to out myself at work as someone who’s laser focused on financial independence and early retirement, and not wanting to rain on my colleague’s parade, I didn’t share the details behind the numbers with him.

But I did mention to him later that afternoon that seven or eight minutes extra each way added up to about 60 hours a year. He seemed shocked when I mentioned that number, but being a fellow numbers geek, he quickly realized my calculations were correct.

Keep in mind that all he and I discussed was the potential impact his longer commute will have on his time.

We didn’t even get into the fact that his commute will be about 15 miles longer each way, as he’ll now have a lot more highway time. An extra 30 miles a day round trip means he’ll be putting at least 7,000 extra miles a year on his vehicle. At the current IRS mileage rate of $0.545 per mile, that means he could be spending nearly $4,000 a year extra for the privilege of also giving up ten days of his life.

I hope he and his family really love their new house!

My point was not to make my colleague feel bad about his decision. I certainly shouldn’t be calling out anyone, as I still haven’t done anything to fix my own long commute!

But I hoped that perhaps I could help my co-worker recognize that seemingly small decisions can become very significant over an extended period of time.

I wrote about this last year, and hope that in a few years, when I am closer to early retirement, I’ll be able to more openly share my thoughts on similar topics with people like him that I interact with on a regular basis.

If there was a lot of buzz about his new house, imagine what the level of chatter will be once everyone knows I’m planning to leave the rat race for good at an age when most of my co-workers probably expect me to work for another five, ten, or fifteen years!

What small decisions have you made that eventually cost you lots of time or money?



  • Arrgo

    April 6, 2018

    You’re right little things can add up quickly if you aren’t careful. At the very least you want to be aware and how the costs can add up long term. I know people say to focus on the bigger things, but I believe in looking at all spending and expenses. You can really fritter away a lot of money every year on stupid stuff if you aren’t paying attention. The smaller things can really add up too.

    • ROMT

      April 7, 2018

      You’re absolutely right Arrgo. The little things add up, especially when they are repeated (or avoided!) dozens of times a year!

  • Claudia

    May 28, 2018

    Nice article, is not common to convert the time of commuting home-job in money…
    I moved closer to my job. I walk more (2km go/2 km return). More time for me. More time for hobbies. Better sleep and better health. This is a small decision that improved my life.
    Financially, to cook my food (and rent a small garden and plant some food there) has another great impact.

    • ROMT

      May 28, 2018

      I agree that living close enough so you can walk or bike to work can have great advantages Claudia. Like you mention, better health, less money, more time, etc. It’s a win on so many levels! We’re fortunate that we have a yard with room for vegetable and herb gardens, as well as my berry plants, so that helps us also. Thanks for stopping by!


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