Getting To and Fro on a Budget: Cutting Down on Transportation Costs

Kate Robinson
Greater Nevada Credit Union

I just got back from a two week road trip, which was incredible but cost me about $800 in gas. It got me thinking though, about ways to save money on transportation in general. I planned to talk to you about whether buying more expensive gas really makes a difference to your engine or your fuel efficiency, but no one seems to agree (except that your engine is probably not in danger, even if you buy less expensive gas). So I thought I’d look at some alternative ways to save money on getting to and fro. None of the following tips for cutting down transportation costs include the purchase of a donkey-cart.

Car-Pooling or Car-Sharing

This one seems like a no-brainer, but many of us (me included) get so caught up in our daily routine, it might not occur to us to catch a ride to work with a co-worker. I have a colleague who lives a mere two blocks from me and works one office over. Since I drive a pickup truck, it might save both of us a good deal of money if we starting picking each other up for work. In fact, I think I’ll go ask her...

Seriously though, especially if you are commuting to a different city, find out if you have friends or co-workers going the same direction. Not only will it save money for everyone involved, it’s a great opportunity to build friendships.

Packing a lunch

I work four miles from home. That’s not a lot, but if I go home for lunch every day (which I did until recently, when my roommate bought me a TARDIS lunch box) that’s 16 miles per day. According to fueleconomy.gov, that means I spend $5.84/day in gas. If I don’t go home for lunch, then I spend $2.92. That may not seem like a huge difference, but over the course of a year, that’s a $759 savings (enough for another two-week road trip!)

For those of you who live farther than four miles from your work place, you save even more.

Alternative Transportation

There are lots of ways to get where you need to go that don’t involve starting up your pickup truck (or sedan, or SUV, or whatever). For instance:

  • Buy a donkey-cart: Just kidding, I promised I wouldn’t recommend that and I don’t.
  • Take the Bus/Subway/Other Public Transportation: For big city folks, there are usually trains and the like, which I have found to be far more efficient and cost-effective than trying to drive in metropolitan areas. But even in places like Reno and Carson City, there are bus schedules. It might take a day or two to get in the habit, but try experimenting with taking the bus and see how much you save!
  • Ride your Bike/Walk: This one happens to be really good for your health as well as your wallet! Granted, it won’t work all year long, but if you live within walking/bicycling distance of wherever you need to be, why not build in an extra 15 – 30 minutes to get there and reap the financial and physical benefits?
  • Car Share Networks: If you live in a big city, did you know there are programs that allow you to rent a car by the day or hour? This saves all the cost of owning, maintaining, insuring and parking a car if you don’t drive often enough to justify it. There aren’t any car share programs in Nevada that I’m aware of, but for your friends and family who don’t live here, it’s worth checking out.

Vehicle Maintenance

Your gas mileage is impacted by things like whether your tires have been rotated, whether they are properly inflated, and whether your fuel injectors are clean. Make sure to replace air filters, use the right motor oil, and be careful not to keep too many heavy items in your car to ensure your vehicle is performing at its best. Plus, make sure your gas cap fits right and is secured.

Be a Good Driver

Did you know driving aggressively costs you more? Gas mileage decreases at higher speeds, and stepping on the gas and brakes too often reduces your fuel efficiency. Observing the speed limit and driving politely will not only keep you out of trouble with the law, it can save you $0.10 per gallon.

Relatedly, organizing your errands can help keep your trips down and increase your efficiency.

Do you Have the Best Insurance?

It’s not all about gas mileage. We all know there are many other costs associated with owning a vehicle. When was the last time you checked to make sure you’re getting the best price on car insurance? Shop around to see if you can save on the coverage you need. Not all insurance is created equal.

Wash it By Hand

This may seem like a small thing, but $7 - $15 at the car wash could be spent more efficiently elsewhere. Plus washing the car by hand in your driveway can be fun in good weather. If you’ve got kids, this is a great activity to do with them. But even if you don’t, it’s a great way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Is it Time to Upgrade?

If you’re driving a gas-guzzler, maybe it’s time to take a new look at your situation. Is that vehicle still the one that best fits your needs? Crunch some numbers and you may find that the savings on gas over the length of a loan sometimes mitigate the cost of the loan. Of course, you can always contact us with any loan-related questions you might have.

Any other suggestions for cutting down the cost of getting out and about? Comment here!

08/15/2014