How to Save Money Commuting

Save time, save money – and get some of your life back

This post is about how to save money commuting. 

Easing the burden (and cutting the cost) of daily commuting is easy - in theory. You can save money commuting. How much money you actually save commuting depends on the nature of your job and the flexibility of your employer.

Here are four key strategies to save money (and time) commuting to work and back:

1. How to save money by telecommuting: Convince the boss you can work from home

Obviously it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but in an increasingly digital world many of us could save money commuting simply by working from home – at least some of the time. If you have broadband, you can even communicate face-to-face with colleagues over Skype. Writing proposals, reports, etc., editing video, graphic design, admin – many jobs have an ‘e-world’ component that can be done just as proficiently from home as from the office. Working from home is the perfect way to save money commuting.

The key to making this work is to make it a ‘win-win’ arrangement. That is, a win for you and a win for your employer: you save money by not commuting; the boss needs to derive an advantage also.

Agree on minimum target outputs when you’re not in the office, and review the success of the ‘work from home’ system at regular intervals (say, monthly). Be productive and get the job done. More flexibility equals more motivation equals more productivity – a pretty simple sell to a switched-on boss, provided face-time isn’t really essential to your job.

Agree to work a little longer on the days you’re at home – if working from home saves you two hours of commuting, offer to work an extra 30 minutes (or do additional work equivalent to that extra time). You’ll still be 90 minutes better off, and the boss will think he’s getting something for nothing.

Be accessible while at home – don’t dodge work calls or the boss will start thinking you’re at the beach. Make business hours all business – even if you are still wearing your jammies at 2pm.

Potential saving: If you can work from home just one day a week it will cut your cost of commuting by 20 per cent. That’s the fuel, the tolls, the fares, the parking fees – plus a reduction in the hidden costs as well (things like tyre and brake wear). You save 100 per cent of the cost of every trip you don’t make.

2. How to save money commuting by getting out of the peak

Sidestep the crush

Peak hour commutes are a real punish. One of the easiest ways to save money commuting is simply to get out of the peak - if you can. Peak hour travel is the most inefficient, time-consuming driving possible. Fuel consumption (and therefore your commuting fuel bill) skyrockets by something like 50 per cent – because you spend so much time stopped, and locked into stop-start crawls. You can save significant money commuting if the boss will agree to you starting work two or three hours early (or late) and then finishing a corresponding two or three hours early (or late). That should allow you to save money commuting by sidestepping the morning and evening rushes. Obviously this proposition is not much of an opportunity to save money commuting if you’re a bank teller or you work on a production line – or any other job that has rigi srat and finish times – but many jobs could easily accommodate staggered work hours. If that's you, it's a real opportunity to save money commuting.

If you do stagger your working hours to save money commuting, keep track of your productivity and review how the system is working with your boss regularly.

3. How to save money commuting by working the same time in fewer days

Work longer, less often

If you work (say) 40 hours a week over five days, there's an opportunity to save money commuting if you can put in four 10-hour days instead of five four-hour days. You'll save 20 per cent of all commuter-related costs (fuel, fares, tolls, parking). Here's an alternative working-day re-jig for a 10 per cent saving on your commuting costs: How about negotiating 80 hours in nine days over a fortnight for a 10 per cent saving in the direct cost of commuting? Again, it's not possible to save money commuting like this in every vocation, but manageable for some. And who hasn’t wanted a three-day weekend every week - as well as a little extra sepnding capacity from the money you save on commuting?

4. How to save money commuting by car pooling: either via an organised scheme or unofficially

Above: An example of over-zealous carpoolingSharing makes sense - but could be difficult to achieve in practise

Look around in peak-hour traffic – too many cars have just one person in them (the driver). You can save money commuting if you can find someone locally who commutes to and from the same location to work, at roughly the same time. Teaming up with them and sharing the commute will cut the cost of both of your commutes in half. And who hasn't wanted to save 50 per cent of the cost of commuting?

You can save money commuting like this only if all parties to sharing the trip are punctual, and departure times (morning and evening) are agreed and adhered to. To split the cost, use one car (say yours) one week, and the other party’s car the next week. You pay all the costs (fuel, tolls) when it’s your week, and vice-versa. If you can find a third person to share the driving with (or even a fourth) you can save even more money commuting by spreading the cost over more people (and use more multiple passernger transit lanes into the bargain). If one of the parties to the deal doesn't own a car, agree on a monetary contribution instead.

Don’t know a suitable commuting partner? You can save money commuting via one of various established car-pooling schemes. Try Carpool Australia, or Google ‘carpool’ and your capital city.

How to negotiate changing to a more commuter-friendly work arrangement

Getting the boss to agree to you saving money commuting could be easier than you think

  • Ensure your job really is compatible with the flexibility you're proposing
  • Make it a 'win-win' for the boss - he has to derive some benefit from your proposal as well as you (greater productivity from you)
  • Propose a trial with regular reviews - not an immediate, permanent change
  • Be accessible (not at the beach) when you're supposed to be working
  • Use technology (Skype, e-mail, sms, etc.) to maintain a presence in the office, even when absent