7 Smart Ways to Save Money on Your Commute

Dana Covit

It’s 9 a.m. on Tuesday and you’re sitting in traffic on your way to work. If the fact that it’s only Tuesday isn’t tough enough a pill to swallow, the cost (and hassle) of filling up on the way home might just put you over the edge. Thankfully, there are some realistic ways to cut down on the costs of commuting. Read on for seven smart, easy ways to travel to and from work like the smart professional you are.

If you're driving…

Tweak your hours. A typical 9-to-5 (or, more like, 6) commute does more than just shred your nerves; it also wastes a ton of gas mileage with all of that stop-and-go traffic. If you can, adjust your hours to avoid the morning and evening rush hours. Use Google Maps to estimate the optimal time to leave.

Optimize your mileage. Air up those tires to the highest-recommended pressure each month. Being below your recommended pressure may seem harmless enough, but it actually eats away at fuel efficiency. Airing up your tires is free at most gas stations, so you have no excuse!

Change you oil. Likewise, fresh oil keeps your engine running properly and efficiently, which means better mileage, so change your oil regularly. Motor oils are also blended for all kinds of purposes (high-tech engines, off-road SUVs, etc.); read your owner’s manual to see what your car manufacturer recommends and look for energy-conserving oils, as well.

Cut back on gas-mileage guzzlers. While you’re at it, only use the air conditioning or heat when necessary, avoid left turns (which waste gas while you idle and wait), and aim to reduce the weight in your car (unnecessary items can contribute to lower gas mileage, too).

Know the prices. Get familiar with all of the gas stations along your route. Know which usually have the lowest priced gas (or use Waze to find the closest, most affordable gas station nearby), and fill up there whenever possible. If you can, use a credit card associated with the gas chain with the lowest prices; many (Shell and Exxon, for example) offer rewards cards.

If you're taking public transit…

Explore your benefits. Check to see if your workplace has a Commuter Benefit Plan (CBP) such as Benefit Resource, Inc., which allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars toward your commuting costs. Additionally, some workplaces offer car services if you’re staying at the office past a certain time. If you travel regularly for work purposes, stay on top of your expenses or consider asking for a gas allowance. In 2009, a bicycle commuting reimbursement was added to the list of qualified transportation benefits covered by IRS code, so see if your workplace offers incentives for those who cycle to work.

Purchase a pass. Most forms of public transport offer extended passes at reduced per ride fees. Purchase a seasonal, monthly, or fixed-fee pass—or whatever works for your transit habits—so you can factor these expenditures into your budgeting.

Get off early. We’re not suggesting you walk 17 long blocks to your office—but if your fare jumps significantly after a certain point in the route, consider getting off the train a little bit early and walking the remainder of the way to your destination.

Check your route. If you’re taking the subway or bus, check in on HopStop or public transport apps (MTA On the Go, for example) for any alerts, delays, changes, or service disruptions. You don’t want to pay to take the L, only to discover service is suspended for the day—and then have to pay to take the bus, instead. Waste of time, and money!

Opener photo via Lucky.

Do you have any tips for saving money on your commute? Tell us in the comments!

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