10 Ways to Save Money on Your Commute

Getting to and from work doesn’t just eat up your time, it also chips away at your paycheck. The good news is that there’s a wide range of solutions available to those looking to pay less for getting where they need to go. If you’re looking for advice to help cut the cost of your commute, here are ten ways to save money and get to work on time:

1. Find Out If Your Employer Offers Transportation Benefits

When you started your job, you were likely presented with a laundry list of available benefits and pre-tax savings opportunities. It’s also likely that a tax benefit for your transportation to and from the office is one of those options, whether you drive or take public transportation.

There are some specifics worth looking up, but these rules allow employees to set aside up to $260 of pre-tax income for transit expenses each month.

If you’re not sure what’s available to you, ask your employer about pre-tax commuter benefits, parking discounts, and gas allowances.

2. Try Out Active Transportation

If your commute isn’t too long and the weather isn’t extreme where you live, you may want to investigate active transportation options. Unless you’re a passionate rollerskater or you live on an island, this will likely mean biking or walking to work.

If you don’t have a bike of your own, find out if your city has a bikeshare. If you’re able to go directly from station to station, you won’t even have to invest in a bike lock!

3. Take Public Transportation

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that the US has seen a 21 percent increase in public transportation ridership since 1997. This is in large part because these systems are more available to rural populations, and everyone appreciates the opportunity to limit their monthly spending.

The simple explanation? The train and the bus are great options to get you where you need to go without paying for gas or parking. If you live in a rural area, you may live near a commuter bus that runs between metro areas with stops at Park & Rides.

While public transit schedules may not be as flexible as driving your own vehicle, a mindset shift around how you get to work may be worth it. Adjusting your morning routine to join your neighbor’s on the subway platform may save you hundreds of dollars a month.

The added bonus for public transportation fiends is reclaimed leisure time. Whether or not you love the smell of a full bus on a rainy day, public transportation is a great way to build chunks of downtime into your workday.

Use the way to work or the way home to read that book you’ve been meaning to crack open or catch up on the daily news on your phone. Listen to a podcast, stream your favorite album, or use a meditation app to destress. You have options when your eyes aren’t on the road, and none of them cost a dime.

4. Commute with a Group

Carpooling requires cooperation and coordination, but it also helps you save on the overall cost of driving and parking each day. If your commute has High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, you can also save time by skipping the traffic jam and cruising toward your office during the morning rush.

5. Know Your Available Routes

Map your commute during peak times: make sure you know the fastest way to get where you’re going. It’s a good idea to know how to get around traffic jams and what alternative routes are available to you. Of course, most popular navigation apps can help guide you to a route they judge to be a better pick, but there’s no substitute for knowing the lay of the land yourself.

It’s also a good idea to map your route on and off toll roads to pick up a few extra dollars.

If the routes are comparable in terms of time and distance, it may be a good idea to skip the tolls.

Whenever possible, use your commute as an opportunity to take care of errands along your route. Combining trips will help reduce your overall mileage.

If you have flexible working hours, consider changing the time when you leave your house to avoid peak hours. The less time spent sitting in traffic, the less gas your car will burn.

6. Get a Greener Vehicle

This strategy for saving isn’t one you’ll want to implement right away. If it fits within your budget, you may want to consider getting a greener vehicle. An SUV or a heavy truck with a large fuel tank consumes a lot more fuel than a lightweight coup or a hatchback.

If you have a family or a boat to tow, downsizing may not work for you. But get creative. Can you downsize one of your family cars and take that to work instead?

7. Drive Efficiently

There are a few tried-and-true strategies for efficient driving. Here are our top three:

  • Minimize braking and accelerating. If the traffic along your commute allows you to use cruise control, do it. The more stable your engine’s operation, the better it will function.
  • Keep it light. Don’t carry extra junk in the trunk of your car — we mean this very literally. The heavier your vehicle, the more gas it will take to move it forward. Lighten your load to save on gas.
  • Take care of routine maintenance. This is a broad piece of advice, but we promise you’ll see results. A well-oiled machine really does run smoother and use less gas. The cost of keeping your tires well inflated is tiny compared to the cost savings.

Of course, you should never avoid braking or avoid helping a friend haul a bed frame in the name of gas mileage. But it isn’t a bad idea to think about how your driving style impacts the cost of your fuel.

8. Use the Cheapest Fuel

There are apps to help you figure out where the price is lowest along your commute. You may want to get a rewards card tied to the chain you most often frequent to save money over time.

9. Skip the Drive-Through

Skip the drive-through coffee stop on your way into work. We often blog about how small dollar savings add up. It’s important to build cost savings into your daily travel. Whether you live in a bustling downtown with great public transportation options or you’re commuting into work by car, there are places where you can cut corners.

10. Telecommute

The easiest way to save money on your commute is not to leave home at all. If your organization allows you to work remotely, take advantage of this opportunity to save money on transportation. Even once a week will make a huge difference.

However You Choose to Commute, Keep One Eye on Savings

There’s no reason to think of your commute as a sunk cost. It’s more than just the time you spend in the car or on the train.

If you want to find out exactly where you’re losing time and money during your drive into the office, this spreadsheet can help you calculate the cost of your commute down to the minute. Whether or not you want to dive this deep, don’t overlook the value of the time you spend traveling on workdays: each minute is valuable and you deserve to get the most out of every one.

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