We all want to maximize our take-home-pay, but with the constant increase in fuel prices, getting to work is costing a fortune. Thankfully, there are some easy, fun, and fast ways to reduce your commuting costs. Here are 7 ways that will put more money in your pocket:
1. Carpool Partner(s)
Find someone who lives near you and set up a deal to take turns driving to work. My co-worker lives 40 miles from work and has been fortunate enough to find someone to commute with.
- You’ll get to know a fellow employee better
- You save on gas
- You have a little flexibility since you are working with someone you know
- Accountability, as you are more likely to be on time or early with someone else counting on you
- You don’t have your own transportation during the day
- If you or your co-worker needs to stay late, someone has to wait
- If you have an emergency and need to leave early, you may need to pay for expensive transportation
2. Third-Party Carpool Service
If you can’t find someone on your own, perhaps your area offers a carpool matching service. St. Louis and surrounding areas can take advantage of the RideFinders program. This program is free to use and funded by the Department of Transportation as a clean air initiative. RideFinders matches people with similar commutes.
- Potentially large commuter base
- Someone else does the matchmaking for you
- You don’t have your own transportation during the day
- Little to no flexibility as the arrangement is more formal
3. Vanpool Services
If there are enough commuters, you may way to consider the vanpool option. Vanpools are most economical for groups of 7-12 commuters that commute over 30 miles to work. One person volunteers to be the primary driver/coordinator for the vanpool. In exchange for all the coordination, the driver gets to use the van for personal transportation on nights and weekends!
- Driver can use the van for personal trips
- You don’t have to use your personal vehicle
- Meet new people (7-12 in typical vanpool)
- RideFinders offers a Guaranteed Ride Home if you have an emergency or need to stay late
- Commuters eligible for tax deduction though IRS Commuter Choice fringe benefit plan
- Driver has added responsibility of coordination (possibly time consuming)
- Limited eligibility (most programs require certain number of people and distance)
- Little flexibility in emergencies
- Price split between commuters can cause price to fluctuate (30-day notice is requested before leaving)
4. Public Transportation
If you live in a city with a decent public transportation system, the bus/rail/subway could save money on your commute to/from work. Some employers will even pay for a monthly bus pass. A few years ago, I had a position in downtown St. Louis where parking was non-existent. The building was right across from a Metro Rail station, and taking the train to work made perfect sense.
- Save on gas and vehicle wear/tear
- You’ll have to do a little walking, which is good for your health
- Typically, public transportation runs frequently during work hours
- Employers may provide public transportation subsidies; subsidizing or eliminating the cost
- Little privacy
- Public transportation can be crowded and noisy
- Not available in all areas
Perhaps you only live a few miles from your job…consider biking to work! You will shed some weight and keep more cash in your wallet. Personally, I live too far from my job for this option, but our Metro System has an accompanying bike trail. Many commuters bike to the nearest metro station, take the rail, and ride into work. If I didn’t have to pick up my son from day care, I would explore that option from time to time!
Many employers encourage health and wellness, and may provide lockers and shower facilities. Some people are invigorated by morning exercise. If you are one of those people, this may be a great option.
- No gas expense or wear/tear on your vehicle
- You’re getting exercise
- You need to invest in a quality bike and safety gear (not really a bad thing…but an expense)
- Limited by distance and environment (make sure your commute is safe!)
- You need physical stamina
- Forced to travel light
- Dependent on weather
- Need a backup plan in case you’re too tired to pedal home, emergencies, or inclement weather
6. Compressed/Alternative Work Schedule
The compressed work schedule is a wonderful thing! I currently take advantage of this and absolutely love it. Basically, in an 80-hour workweek, I get every other Friday off by working 9 hours (instead of the typical 8) Monday – Thursday, then Fridays I alternate between short days (8 hours) and being off. Count it – it’s still 80 hours.
Alternative work schedules (sometimes called flex) allow for variation from the employees core hours without altering the total number of hours worked in a pay period. A common alternative work schedule is 4 10-hour days. This means employees would have 1 weekday off every week. Most choose Friday or Monday to have a 3-day weekend. Another common day is Wednesday, because you are only working a max of 2 days in a row.
Entire states have implemented 4-day work weeks in the past (California and Utah come to mind), but this is a benefit many employers will offer if you ask.
- Break up the monotony of a 5-day work week
- Employers benefit from extended work hour coverage
- Quality of life benefit that makes employers competitive for best employees
- 1 day a week you don’t have to drive to work
- Potential flexibility
- You’re working longer hours when you are at work
- Not available unless your employer approves
The last technique on the list is to save money by not commuting at all. If you are able to telework full or part-time, you can save money at the gas pump. Telework is basically working from home. Organizations are split on if teleworking employees are productive. If you take advantage of this option, be sure to show results! Also, full-time teleworkers often complain of being overlooked by their company.
Networking goes a long way and that is hard to do if you’re not in the office. Employees may have the option to use a hybrid approach, and telework once a week or pay period. I’m not eligible for a regular teleworking schedule because of the nature of my work; however, I can telework sporadically with supervisor approval. Usually if there is reporting or paperwork that I know will keep me in front of my desk all day, I request teleworking on that day. I haven’t been turned down yet!
- Immediate savings on cost of driving to work
- Potential savings on clothes (dress in what you’d like!)
- Save time for yourself and your company, as you can begin working faster
- Not available to all employees
- Not suitable to all industries
- Requires discipline
- Full-time telework employees are often overlooked/report feeling detached
What about you?
There is not a one size fits all method for saving on the commute to work. You have to factor in what is available and your personal preference. I use the compressed work schedule with an occasional telework day (averaging once per quarter).
- Do you employ any of the methods listed above to save money on your work commute?
- Are there additional methods that you can employ?
- If so, what are they?
MomCents is a 30-something Christian, wife, and mother of a 2-year-old son who is jumping back into the wonderful world of blogging with her attempt to create a personal finance/mom blog. If you’re looking for expert advice, she advises you to stay away! But, if you want to follow the ups, downs, twists, and turns of a real person who will make mistakes along the way…stop on by. Hopefully you’ll find a laugh, encouragement, or both! Find MomCents on Twitter and Facebook.