David Brooks in today's NYT:
If the relationship between money and well-being is complicated, the correspondence between personal relationships and happiness is not. The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting.
Some people can't afford to live closer to where they work, I realize, and many people change jobs frequently and they can't exactly move—which is expensive—every time they land a new gig. And both halves of a couple usually have to work to make ends meet and and the odds that both partners offices or workplaces will be in roughly in the same part of town are slim. But I'll never understand why so many people who do have the option of living closer to work nevertheless choose long, injurious-to-happiness commutes over apartments or homes nearer—ideally within walking distance—of their places of employment.
You might have to sacrifice a little private space—you'll live in a smaller home—or live with a slightly smaller yard or no yard at all. But the time and money you save, to say nothing of the aggravating commute you avoid, more than compensates for those losses. And since living closer to work typically means living in a denser, more urban environment, those slightly less spacious homes are closer to the kinds of public spaces—bars, restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, parks—that come to feel like additional personal, if not private, space.
And, yes, you do have to buy something if you're going to sit in a bar or a coffee shop—that's what you do with some of the money you're saving on gas.