A long commute doesn’t just waste your time — it’s also a serious drain on your budget. According to a national poll conducted in 2016 on behalf of CareerBuilder, 84 percent of people drive to work, and 37 percent of them spend $25 or more on gas per week. Multiply that by 50 weeks, and that’s $1,250 a year just on gas, not to mention tolls, car maintenance, etc.
These tips can help bring down the cost of your commute to a more manageable level.
Use a Car Pool
Ask your coworkers if they would be interested in setting up an office carpool. Rideshare.org estimates that if your commute is more than 12 miles, a two-person carpool can save over $1,500 a year. Carpooling can also get you to work faster in areas with special high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.
Take Public Transportation
Living in an area with a strong public transportation system can help bring down the cost of commuting. For example, an unlimited monthly pass for all Muni and BART services in San Francisco costs only $86 a month. That’s $1,032 per year versus the $1,250 driving cost, and you can use your monthly pass to get around in the evenings and on weekends. Public transportation also gives you extra free time to do something productive and healthy like planning your weekly to-do list, meditating or listening to a foreign language app.
Work From Home
The easiest way to save on your commute is by not commuting. Can you work from home during the week? Ask your manager if he or she may be willing to establish a flexible schedule. For example, some employees stay longer at the office four times a week in exchange for one quieter day at home.
Switch to a Fuel-Efficient Car
If it’s time to buy a new car, consider buying a fuel-efficient vehicle such as a hybrid. Do your research first, however, as some are much better deals than others. The U.S. Department of Energy shows how much you will save in gas per year with the hybrid version of a car versus its non-hybrid counterpart, as well as the price difference between the two models, so you can calculate which vehicle could save you the most money.
If you’re still a few years away from buying your next car, make your trips as fuel-efficient as possible. Take all unnecessary weight out of your car, keep your tire pressure at an optimal level and change your oil every month.
Check for Commuter Tax Benefits
A commuter tax benefit program gives you a tax break for eligible commuting expenses like train and metro passes, bus tickets and parking costs. It doesn’t count toward gas, tolls or vehicle maintenance, however.
With this program, you pay for commuting expenses out of your pretax earnings. The expenses are paid before you receive your paycheck, so you don’t pay taxes on the amount that goes toward commuting expenses. For example, if you spend $200 a month on the subway and are in the 25 percent tax bracket, this program would save you $50 a month ($600 a year) in taxes. The federal limit for eligible expenses is $255 a month, and some states’ monthly limits are lower.
With some good music pulsing through your speakers, a hot coffee in your hand and a fun carpool buddy by your side, you may catch yourself enjoying your commute. And with these money-saving tips, your daily trip to work will also be a little more affordable.