If you’re looking for ways to save money, you may have already trimmed the areas of spending where cutting expenses was relatively easy: groceries, eating out, cable TV, phone usage. However, for many Americans, commuting costs are their second-largest monthly expense after housing.
If you haven’t considered it before, now may be a good time to take a closer look at your commuting costs and how you might trim them. Here are some ideas for putting the brakes on commute-related spending:
If you’re in an area that has a good bus, train or other public transportation system, give it a second look. Many employers subsidize the cost of using public transportation, so if you’re not sure, ask your HR department whether this benefit is available. However, even if you pay for your own commuter passes, the savings could be worth it.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that drivers generally pay 55 cents per mile to drive a car when you add up gas, insurance, depreciation/maintenance and tolls. To pinpoint the number of miles you drive to work, refer to an online map. Then use AAA’s 55-cents-per-mile figure to compare your annual commute costs to the price of a public transportation commuter pass.
You can also use a calculator, such as the one available at the American Public Transportation Association, to compare your driving costs to the price of public transportation cost. Depending on the size of your vehicle, the length of your commute and local gas prices, your public commute costs may be only a fraction of your driving costs.
Cut Your Driving Costs
If you absolutely must drive to work, you can still cut your expenses: by
- Arranging a carpool. See whether you can take turns driving with coworkers who live nearby. Or try using a service like icarpool.com to link up with commuters in your area.
- Skip the premium gas. Unless the owner’s manual in your car specifically recommends using higher-priced gas, stick with basic regular. According to AARP, regular gas can save you up to $5 every time you fill your tank.
- Buy a more fuel-efficient car. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars per year on gas costs by driving a car that doesn’t guzzle gas. In fact, prices on many popular hybrid gas-electric cars are now significantly lower than they have been in years because of higher demand for greener modes of transportation.
More Ways to Save
Cutting your costs related to insurance and driving more strategically can also add up to big savings.
- Be a smarter driver. It may sound crazy, but planning your driving route so you avoid left turns can save you a lot of waiting and idling time. Another smart option: ask your boss if you can shift your work schedule to arrive at work earlier or leave later. Also, use cruise control when you can, and avoid quick starts and stops. Each of these strategies can help you save gas.
- Reevaluate your insurance. Every few years, compare your current insurer’s prices with several other providers. You may find a better rate. Also consider increasing your insurance deductibles, canceling collision coverage on an older car and dropping extra costs like third-party roadside assistance programs if your insurance policy already offers that option.
- Consider telecommuting. If your employer allows it, look into working from home once a week or as much as possible. Remote work has become much more widely accepted and practiced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any time you cut your driving, you reduce your gas, depreciation and other related costs.
Once you look more carefully at your commuting costs, you might be surprised at how much money you can save. And knowing that you’re spending less during drive time might even make your daily commute just a little bit more pleasant.
Please contact Judith Barnhard via our online contact form for more information.
Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell (CBM) is a professional services firm delivering tax, accounting and business advisory expertise throughout the Mid-Atlantic region from offices in Bethesda, MD and Washington, DC.