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Tip #24: Cut your commute expenses by 40%

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This is Tip #24 of of the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge. (See past tips.)

Today’s tip is to cut your commute expenses by 40% using two techniques: Carpooling and working from home.


Tip #1: Carpool
Carpooling is a sacred cow for Americans, which is exactly the kind of expense I love to cut. We spend incredible amounts of money and time commuting. As Gallup reports, the average American spends 46 minutes commuting to/from work each day. But any advice that suggests you sell your car and exchange it for a bike is totally irrelevant for the vast majority of people. Instead, I propose something much more modest.

Forget carpooling 5 days per week. Try carpooling 1 day per week. That’s hardly inconvenient, yet you save about 50 days of carpooling per year. At the peak of gas prices, I spent about $65/week on gas. If I carpooled just 1 day per week, that would equal about $465 in savings over 1 year. (Note: Here’s how I save more money on gas.)

The key: Start small. Don’t try to turn into Al Gore on day #1. Set a smaller goal so it’s sustainable: Try 1 day per week. That’s it.

First start, then optimize
Yes, technically you have to factor in the costs of driving your carpool buddies once every few weeks, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just exclude that. In fact, forget all barriers. As usual, it’s easier to ramp up once you’ve started:

“During this past summer I spent as much as $300 per month on fuel not to mention wear and tear on my vehicle. I am currently paying $45.00 per month to ride the Van Pool. An instant savings of $255.00 per month on fuel. Take that OPEC!”
–Marcos Martinez, Katy, TX

Use these sites to start:

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Tip #2: Work from home
Consider asking your boss to work from home. In The 4 Hour Workweek (see my book review here), Tim Ferriss outlines how to ask your boss to work from home.

Sherwood: Hi, Bill. Do you have a quick second?
Bill: Sure. What’s up?
Sherwood: I just wanted to bounce an idea off of you that’s been on my mind. Two minutes should be plenty.
Bill: OK. Shoot.
Sherwood: Last week, as you know, I was sick. Long story short, I decided to work at home despite feeling terrible. So here’s the funny part. I thought I would get nothing done, but ended up finishing three more designs than usual on both days. Plus, I put in three more billable hours than usual without the commute, office noise, distractions, etc. OK, so here’s where I’m going. Just as a trial, I’d like to propose working from home Mondays and Tuesdays for just two weeks. You can veto it whenever you want, and I’ll come in if we need to do meetings, but I’d like to try it for just two weeks and review the results. I’m 100% confident that I’ll get twice as much done. Does that seem reasonable?
Bill: Hmm…What if we need to share client designs?
Sherwood: There’s a program called GoToMyPC that I used to access the office computer when I was sick. I can view everything remotely, and I’ll have my cell phone on me 24/7. Sooooo…What do you think? Test it out starting next Monday and see how much more I get done?
Bill: Ummm…OK, fine. But it’s just a test. I have a meeting in five and have to run, but let’s talk soon.
Sherwood: Great. Thanks for the time. I’ll keep you posted on it all. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Read more of Tim’s script in the section called “Disappearing Act: How to Escape the Office” of The 4-Hour Workweek.

The point is, during times when we’re all supposed to be doing more with less, if you can be more productive while working from home, your boss may seriously consider it. Most people never ask, so they never have the chance to trial a work-from-home strategy…even one day per week. (At PBwiki, the company I co-founded, we actively encourage people to work from home once a week.) What’s the worst he could say — no?

Just remember, your boss doesn’t care about you — he cares about how much you can (1) help the company and (2) make him look good. Frame your request accordingly.

Total savings: $100 to $300 per month if you apply both these tips (i.e., you’d be saving on your commute 2 days per week, or 40% of your commute).

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Last thing to do
1. See other tips in the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge
2. Leave a comment on this post describing how much you’re saving with this tip and any unusual techniques you use to make this tip work.

If you liked this tip, check out my Premium tips — one long, tactical tip per week. Save money or get a 100% refund.


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  1. I love the idea of working from home. I think that everyone seems to think it would be a great idea, but no one really thinks to ask to see what their boss will say. It’s true, what’s the worse that can happen? He or she might say no but otherwise, you might get to work from home and save a lot of money on traveling expenses as well as be able to work inside the comfort of your own home with your own self-made schedule as long as you make deadlines.

    Great idea and good job encouraging people to ask for something that could benefit them but no one really thinks to do.

  2. Unfortunately, this idea is not much of a solution for me because I’m a television producer and need to physically be at the station.

    However, at all my places of employment I’ve lived about a mile or less away. That means it’s quick and easy to get to work every day, don’t have to rely on other people to give me a ride, and only fill up my gas tank twice a month. I’ve considered getting rid of my new car and getting a much cheaper one, but that’s still up in the air.

    This also saves TIME. My coworker lives an hour away and spends two hours driving each weekday, whereas I only spend about 5-10 minutes doing this, giving me more time for myself.

    Becoming The Marshmallow

  3. In the past year, I’ve been able to transition to working from home 1 or 2 days per week. I absolutely love it. I get more done, save money, and get a chunk of my life back. Of course I would have no commute in an ideal world, but for now I’ll take it.

    I estimate my savings per year at about $2000 annually in fuel and wear and tear on the car.

  4. I live 1-2 miles from work so I too spend very little in gas. I agree with Jennifer that the time saved every day is very valuable.

    I have a bike, but Jackson, MS is not very welcoming to cyclists and it instead gets used mostly for exercise and recreation.

  5. I work from home 2 days a week. One of the perks of my job. It cuts my fuel budget, food and stress level almost in half. If I’m working from home, I’m more likely to eat the food in my cupboards instead of going out. Reduction in stress (not having to fight traffic – so nice!) probably cuts my health expenses – I’ve been less sick this year than in past years. Since I’m paid by the hour, sick time means no pay.

  6. Well, I already either bike to work or take the bus 4 out of 5 days a week, so I can agree that this is a great tip for people who haven’t taken that step. I usually only fill up the car once a month. I highly recommend taking steps to live closer to your job (or work closer to your home).

  7. When I took my current job at a university, it was a real perk because it meant I could carpool with my husband since he works here too. So we carpool together about 5 miles everyday. Even though my job pays less than one out of town, being able to have lunch with your spouse everyday , saving money on gas, and time makes up for it all.

    The only thing we’ve possibly considered to save further on commuting costs would be to take the bus. Our bus service now offers bike carriers, however we would have to pay full price for a bus pass. I’m not sure if that is cheaper than just buying gas every few weeks or not.

  8. By getting a monthly pass for my mass transit needs, my daily commute costs the same amount of money whether I use it or not.

    And in the cost of heating/air conditioning at home and it costs me money to work there. I have a timer on the controls. Currently during the day right now I allow the house to drop to 58, then heat up again shortly before I get home.

  9. good tip for those who can, none starter for me coz my patients have to get to my clinic and so do I…. used to work from home years ago, but disabled access for patients is a problem now the law has changed, and I have too much work to manage on my own now [NOT a problem, thankyou!] , so would have clinics running in my house whilst I was on days off. also downsized house, so no space….

  10. I cut mine by 100% by living somewhere that I can take public transit or bike to work from.

    Then again, I’ve always refused to have a commute over 30 minutes. I don’t think it’s a good use of time.

    For those of us who don’t live in high enough density areas to take transit, and lack safe bicycle routes to work, telecommuting is fantastic.

    I try to telecommute even with my sane commute at least once a week. Saving that hour is nice.