There is nothing quite like having your very own vehicle. You can hop in your car and go wherever you want, whenever you want. But these days, all of that freedom is going to cost you. How can you possibly get to and from work–and everywhere in between–without feeling like you’ve spent your life savings on fuel?
Do some research
Websites like GasBuddy.com are hugely beneficial, allowing you to look up gas prices based on location. Where is the cheapest gas station in your neighborhood? Just a few clicks will reveal the answer. However, be warned that just because the cheapest gas station is a short 10-minute ride away does not mean you should go there to fill up. That would be a waste of gas, which defeats the entire purpose of your goal–to SAVE money on gas. If filling up with the cheapest gas is what you want, do so as close to home as possible.
Try setting up a carpool arrangement with neighbors or coworkers that you know and trust. Carpools work in a few different ways. Each day or each week, the participants can alternate driving their own car. It can be you on Mondays, then a different person for each of the remaining days of the week. Also, carpoolers agree to split the cost of gas. The more people that can (comfortably) fit into the car, the cheaper the gas will be for everyone. In other words, if it takes $30 to fill up a gas tank, which would cost $10 each for three people, but it would only be $6 for five people. Every little bit helps!
Carpooling comes with a few caveats, though. This plan only works if everyone involved has similar work schedules. And coordinating everyone’s hectic and varied schedules is a job within itself. Not everyone gets off of work at the same time. What happens if someone has to leave work early for an emergency? Be aware that although carpooling can save money, there are times when it might not be the most convenient transportation method.
Work from home
These days, companies all over the U.S. are opening up to the idea of allowing employees to telecommute. In fact, some companies have been encouraging this alternative work style for years. It has been known to improve employee productivity by catering to a more flexible home/work balance. Do a quick check around your workplace. Do you know anyone who works from home, even occasionally? Has anyone ever even mentioned it? Even one or two days per week can save you big time on gas, eat out for lunch, and unnecessary time in traffic. First, you will have to make sure a few things are in place. Do you have a reliable Internet connection? An operable phone line? A dedicated work space? A printer? Most of all, will you be reachable at home during work hours? Many employers want to ensure that you have a proper working environment and availability at home before they give you the green light.
Public transportation or ride share
Buses and trains are generally affordable and reliable. Do you live near a stop or station? Check out your local public transportation websites and do some research. While a bus stop may be closer to you, keep in mind that buses get stuck in traffic just like cars do. A train station could be farther away, but trains can easily stay on schedule although delays can and do occur. Public transportation also allows you some extra time for things that you might not be able to enjoy otherwise. You will have extra time to stop for a coffee, read the newspaper, or catch up on emails while someone else drives you to work. It’s almost like having your very own personal chauffeur!
Joining a ride share is another option. Similar to carpooling, a ride share is usually offered by the same local agencies that operate nearby buses and trains. For a weekly, monthly or annual fee, you park in a designated lot, hop on a charter bus or van and enjoy the ride to work. Some buses and vans are even equipped with Wi-Fi so that you can get some work done before you even step into the office.
If you decide to opt for a paid form of alternative transportation, don’t seal the deal without first crunching some numbers. How much do you normally spend on gas for a month? If your gas cost is typical $150 per month, but a monthly ride share membership is $165, you will have to decide whether or not that extra $15 is worth it. Besides the cost, think about traffic and the stress it causes. If driving to and from work is something you absolutely dread, then spending a little more on another form of transportation could actually be saving you in terms of future health-related costs.
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