Wednesday Nov 26, 2014

How to Save Money on Your Commute

29 May 2009

Everyone has to get to work somehow, right?

Personally, I have a rather lengthy commute. Every morning I walk 3 minutes to the bus stop, get on the bus, and ride 40-45 minutes to work. After work, I have to take two buses to get home, and that usually takes about an hour. Yep,

I Take The Bus

This is never the most popular option for getting to work. A lot of people would rather drive themselves, as it is much faster, more convenient, and holds more empty coffee cups. I don’t own a car. That makes taking the bus a more practical solution, but even if I did own a vehicle, I would still take the bus to save money. How much would I save?

  • I would save on parking ($10-15/day, $150-250/month)
  • I would save on gas ($5-10/day, $100-200/month)
  • I would save on insurance (?)

So I take the bus. In Vancouver, the city is split into “zones”, each zone requires a different type of ticket or pass depending on how many zones you are crossing. I live on the North Shore and I work in Vancouver, so I have to get a two zone pass. On daily basis, that would mean (at minimum) paying for two 2-zone tickets, which are $3.75 each. So $7.50 a day, $39.50/week, or about $160 a month. That does not include going out to get groceries, pick up fiancée from work, go out for dinner, get back to the office early, etc.

Instead, I pay $99/month for a 2-zone pass, which brings my daily commute costs to less than $5 – before I take off the additional pass usage.

Alternative Options

Now, I realize taking the bus isn’t the most practical solution for a lot of you. Here are some other options for you to consider saving money on your commute

Don’t Commute

Telecommuting, working from home, or starting your own business has become a popular option to reduce commuting time. With the technology that is available, telecommuting and working from home is becoming a reality in many people’s lives. Its touted as a great way to stay green (lowers carbon emissions), improve efficiency (less distractions), and improve morale (no more dealing with office gossip!).

Further Reading: 20 Essential Tips for Telecommuting

Don’t have a plush office job that allows for telecommuting? Me neither. How about you think about quitting your job and starting a home business? Before you pull the trigger you will want to spend a lot of time considering your options to determine if it is right for you, what businesses are feasible, work up a few business models, test them as side businesses, and go from there. But if your dream is to stay at home sipping tea while creating an online empire, then your commute could be from the bed to the couch!

Potential Savings: $ everything

Walk

How far away is your office? Is it within walking distance? For most of us, probably not. When I was in college, I had a couple of jobs that were all within walking distance. Its definitely not the most pleasant way to get to work, especially in the winter in Abbotsford, where everything is cold and slushy, so you’re soaked by the time you get to work.

But hey, if you want to get some exercise (30 mins a day…), some sunshine (in the summer at least), try to walk to your office one day this weekend and see how long it takes you. Its probably not as bad as you think. Just wear a light backpack with some water and a fresh shirt (fresh socks too, nothing refreshes you quite like a nice pair of clean socks) and try walking to work.

Further Reading: Top Ten Reasons to Walk to Work

Where I currently live, it would probably take me about 2.5 hours to walk to work. Oh, and once I got there, I’d spend the next 6 walking around. Walking to work isn’t the best option for me – what about you?

Potential Savings: $ everything but time

Bike

Office to far away to walk to? Have you considered biking to work? Chances are, you probably have an old bike lying around. If not, one of your friends, neighbors, or coworkers might. Give biking to work a try.

The wonderful thing about biking is that you can go as slow as you need to. You don’t have to show up at work all sweaty and exhausted (unless you woke up 15 minutes before you’re supposed to be there…). Chances are, most of the summer you could leisurely bike to your work without breaking much of a sweat. And hey, if you live at the top of a hill, it’ll be even easier.

Further Reading: Bike to Work, Five Ways to Make Bike Commuting Easy

Biking to work is a feasible idea for a lot more people than most realize. Its really not that hard, its good for the environment, your body, AND your wallet.

Potential Savings: $ everything but time, minus cost of bike (if necessary)

Public Transportation

Bus? Rail? Light Rail? Subway?

The most difficult part about using public transportation is getting used to it. Its less convenient, it has more people, it isn’t as comfortable as your car. Personally, I don’t mind taking the bus at all – until I start using a vehicle. A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to get to use my parent’s vehicle for a couple of weeks, and it just about ruined me. Its hard to get used to things taking twice as long as they could if one simply drove there.

But then you are paying for gas, insurance, car loan payments, etc. Yes, it is inconvenient, but so is being in debt. I would rather wait by the bus for a few minutes every day rather than not be able to get to sleep at night.

Here is how I make my bus ride productive AND fun:

Read Blogs

Using my Blackberry Pearl, loaded with Opera Mini, I navigate to m.google.com/reader. In my Google reader, I have all the blogs that I want to read on a daily basis. This allows me to use my downtime, whether its at work, home, or during my commute, to read fantastic content.

Read Books

Again, using my Pearl, I use Daily Lit to send me small segments of large books to read classics whenever I have a minute or two. I used to use Viigo to get the RSS feed, but I found a few problems with that set up. Viigo either limits the amount of entries per feed (say, at 25), so that you lose entries if you don’t read them in time, or it fills up your memory card – or both. Instead, I recommend using Google Reader (or take the email option).

Watch TV

My most preferred method of spending my morning commute is to use my iPod Nano (3rd Generation) to watch videos. I never used to use my iPod for video, because I found it difficult to find anything to put on it. There’s a couple methods for this. If you buy TV shows off iTunes, you’ll find that they sync quite easily. For everything else, I use iSquint, a discontinued but simple program that lets you convert any video format (like .avi) to an iTunes friendly format. It’ll even automatically add your videos right into iTunes so that the next time you sync your iPod, they’ll pop right on there.

Meditate

I sometimes use the time on the bus to just focus myself. Especially if I know that I am going to have a tough day at work, I spend a little bit of time zoning myself out, by focusing on myself, my breathing, my thoughts, my feelings. I’ll imagine the day going well, I’ll visualize positive interactions and pleasant outcomes. It lets me become “zen” before I walk into an office of loud talkers and a world of angry home owners.

See? Isn’t saving money while commuting fun?

Drive Smarter

Sometimes my work requires that I drive around the city, isn’t of walking around it. Whenever I do so, I am always amazed as the different types of drivers out there. The ones that annoy me the most are the slam on the gas, slam on the brake kind of drivers. I’m just not sure why the feel the need to get to the next red light 4 or 5 seconds ahead of the rest of us. Are they afraid that we’re going to budge? Regardless, I always feel a little sorry for them, because they’re burning a TON of full in their rush to nowhere.

Further Reading: Lessons In Fuel Efficient Driving

If you must commute by car, do yourself a favor and start driving responsibly. Its not cool to speed, it never has been, and now its costing your wallet to get your adrenaline rush. Here’s a few tips to improve your driving commute:

  • drive in a fuel efficient manner
  • consider car pooling
  • trying improving your mind while making your commute more productive: listen to audiobooks, no Top 40
  • buy and drive a fuel efficent car
  • move closer to your work
  • bring your work closer to your home

Potential Savings: $ as much as you put into it

Everyone has to get to work somehow. How do you?

About the Author

Bank Guru

My real name is Banking “Guru” Smith, yes my parents were bankers and believed that I one day would become a famous banker just like them. I enjoy a double-double coffee, super long lines at the grocery store and annoying CSR’s (Customer Service Representatives or more commonly known as ‘Tellers’). You will usually find me working behind the scenes, I let Sensei generate all the attention. I also forgot to mention that I invested in Madoff, think I will ever get my money back?
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Comments (0 )



Mrs. Micah Wrote:

My husband drives me about 2 miles to the metro station, unless I decide to take the bus to the metro (but it’s sometimes late, so I don’t like risking it). If he’s teaching that day, he parks at the station and walks to work. I ride the metro train to about .7ish miles from my workplace and I walk the rest. This morning it was shockingly muggy in DC for 8am and I got a bit sweaty.

I generally read books or just sit and rest. If the train gets stuck and I don’t have a book with me, I pull out my iPod and watch movies. I don’t like listening to music on the train because you have to turn it up too loud just to hear it. But with movies I know what they’re saying, so if the volume is on the verge of what I can hear, then it’s fine.

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Matt Goulart Wrote:

Nice! That sounds like its a hybrid (even better!) commute of carpooling, walking, and public transit!

I invested in some in-ear headphones, so that they block out exterior noise so I don’t have to crank them (and damage my hearing) just to listen to the sound of whatever I’m listening to/watching. Definitely an investment for the future.

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Matt SF Wrote:

Reminds me of the days I used to battle MD/DC traffic … never going back to that mess! No more I-270 for this kid.

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MoneyEnergy Wrote:

@MattJabs is right – great post! Love the Canadian photos – College station! North shore!:) I spent some time in Van and I remember quite well all the trekking around those zones – living in the center and having to work down in Surrey, or on the North side…. so I understand when you say it only takes one bus to go to work but two to get home. If I could have it my way, I’d be able to bike to work and also have my gym nearby too.

Great ideas for passing the commute – though on some subways/trains, the automatic digital "voice" reminding you to do everything can be so repetitive and loud it can interfere with reading – iPods would help there.

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Matt Jabs Wrote:

Ha ha, what a timely post Alan, I just started riding my bike to work today! I was going to write a post about it, now I don’t have to.

My commute is 10 miles each way and takes me about 40 minutes.

On my bike commute today I experienced the following:

1. No stress2. No traffic3. Enjoyed the outdoors4. Free workout5. Free ride6. Joy of saving money7. Some others that I just can’t think of right now.

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Nice post! Now that my city has lightrail (the bus system, alas, was out of the question, converting a 40-minute one-way drive into a two-and-a-half-hour ordeal fraught with risk of mugging or rape), I ride to work whenever I can. Because I freelance as an editor, I can carry paying work with me: often I earn about $50 reading page proofs during the train’s two-hour round trip.

Nifty thing about lightrail: if someone creepy gets on your car (as a bunch of loud, aggressive characters did on Friday), you can step off at the next stop and hop back into one of the other cars before the train’s doors close. ;-) If it were a bus, you’d have to get off and wait another 30 or 45 minutes for the next bus to come along.

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Matt Goulart Wrote:

@MoneyEnergy – When were you in Van? What were you doing here? I love living on the North Shore.

@Funny about Money – That’s awesome that you can actually be working during your commute! That’ll be something that I will add to any future post re: commuting – find a way to work during the commute!

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Revanche Wrote:

I’ve done a 1.3 hour commute, each way, for almost 5 years now. While it’s inconvenient that I can’t go anywhere after work until I go home first, and bringing home anything bulky is tough, that’s about it for the drawbacks.

I can use that time to become human again after a long day, and avoid traffic, and there are so many things I can do during that time: 1) call family & friends, 2) read books, magazines, letters, 3) write letters to family and friends, 4) watch movies or TV shows I don’t normally have time for, 5) work OT or work ahead to make the next day easier.

If I were more crafty, I could have knit or crocheted yards of blankets and other things; many of my acquaintances do.

Best of all, if it was really a hard day, I can always take a good long nap!

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Rosa Wrote:

Thank you for including biking in this! I biked or bused for more than a decade (now I telecommute). I get a new bike about every other year, either due to theft, dissatisfaction, or just wanting one. That’s about $300/year plus some random other costs (upkeep, tubes, lock). Bus costs are higher – but I’ve always had employers who subsidized it.

I can’t even begin to calculate how much money I’ve saved – however much a car costs, plus parking and miscellaneous costs. It’s a huge opportunity for financial and physical freedom that most people never even consider.

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Matt Goulart Wrote:

Rosa – The bus is definitely more expensive than biking. Biking is also more environmentally friendly. However, in some situations, biking would simply take too long, or be too laborious. In some situations, like yours, it works out perfectly! I think a lot more people could bike to work than already do.

And now you telecommute? Ah, the pinnacle of commuting – no commute at all!

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Rosa Wrote:

It is nice! I still have to take the kid to daycare and pick him up, so I bike or walk about two miles a day anyway. But it is nice having a walkable "commute" – and now i can wear jeans every day instead of biking in a skirt & flats.

I am actually a really lazy biker – I won’t ride more than 3 or 4 miles to work (and for most of those 10 years, only 2 miles each way). And I ride the bus if there’s snow. But I know a lot of people who ride much farther and in much worse weather – yet you’re pretty unique among frugal bloggers to even bring it up.

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Carz Wrote:

The simple listening to music will do in buses. I think the most problematic part in going commute is the threat people might be facing when riding late. With all the gadgets you mentioned above, you’re more likely to be at risk.

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I like commuting to work by bike listening to my IPOD. A relaxing option and saves getting caught in traffic jams if you were driving. Plus you can set your own schedule of when you leave versus following train and bus timetables if you were catching the train or bus.

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All are the perfect way to save money on your commute, according to me prefer buses and if possible then walk is the perfect way to save money.

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“The most important things in life aren’t things.”
You got some great material on here, I see why people love your blog so much. Will make sure we subscribe to rss and keep up with your new stuff. Thanks so much for writing. Me and my family are on 3 year trip around the world having a blast. Come visit our blog we update with all types of crazy stuff.

Unstoppable Family
Brian and Rhonda Swan

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