Lesson 4: How to Save on Transportation
In 1991, country rock classic “Life is a Highway” hit the airways, bringing with it a metaphor about life and driving we’ll never forget: “Life is a highway. I’m gonna ride it all night long.” So catchy.
Budgeting’s like a highway too: A path from where you are to where you want to be, and a road you’ve got to keep on consistently if you want to be successful. Someone should write a song about that. We’d download it.
To help with all the driving you’ll do on life’s literal highway, we’ve come up with a list of 10 practical ways to save on transportation so you can keep on trucking—only in a thriftier way. Ready to accelerate your money goals? Hit the gas! Green light says GO.
How to Save Big on Transportation
1. Ditch the car payment.
The number one way to save money on your ride? Chuck your car loan. With the average car payment being $525 per month, that’s a lot of savings to free up.(1) A good rule of thumb is this: If you can’t pay off your car in two years or less, sell it. Use the profits to pay off what’s left of your loan and buy a new-to-you, cheaper car in the meantime. You can always save for your dream car down the road. (Get it?)
2. Save on car insurance.
When was the last time you checked your car insurance policy? What’s that you say? Never? Did you set it and forget it (minus the payments, of course)? Don’t worry. Most people do! But you could have an outdated policy—or even worse—you might be overpaying! No one has the time or funds for that mess. You need to talk to an independent insurance agent. They don’t work for just one company, so they can shop around and compare policies from multiple companies to find you the right coverage at the best price.
3. Get rid of that second or third car.
Take a serious assessment of your garage, carport, street parking or whatnot: Is there a glaring difference between how many vehicles you own versus how many you truly need? Could you start using public transit, walking, or carpooling with coworkers, roommates or family members? Are you “car poor,” meaning your total vehicle costs take up more than half of your annual pay? Do you spend more than 10–15% of your monthly pay on your transportation budget category? If you answer “yes” to any of these, selling off your extra set of wheels could keep you from exhausting this expense category.
Owning fewer cars means freeing up money from car payments (if you have them), gas, maintenance, insurance and other fees. So don’t slam the breaks on this seemingly radical plan. Treat it like a rolling stop and ease into the idea for further consideration. Everyone’s situation is different, but this just might be the answer to your too-tight-for-comfort budget problem—or a way to get that debt snowball rolling at maximum intensity!
More Ways to Save on Transportation
1. Carpool with coworkers and friends.
This word brings to mind a scene of awkward coworkers trying to start and end their days with near strangers to save a buck. Maybe one of them is allergic to the other’s body fragrance. Maybe one loves alternative polka folk hip-hop and forces the others to listen. Though this makes for an ideal sitcom situation, carpooling is so much more. Take turns driving the neighborhood kids to school. If a group of friends are all going to the same event, meet at one house and ride together. (That saves on event parking too.) And don’t dismiss the chance to share a ride with local coworkers. It’s not usually as bad as the scene we painted up there. Usually.
2. Take advantage of public transportation.
If your city offers public transportation, find out more! These days, the offerings go far beyond buses and trains for only those who live inside city limits. Even if you live in the burbs, there might still be good options for you.
3. Get in on gas rewards programs.
Your grocery store may offer gas rewards—discounts on gasoline for buying the food you have to buy anyway. And some warehouse stores offer lower gas prices to members. There’s also GasBuddy, which searches your local area to find the cheapest gas prices around. All of these are simple and effective methods you can put into action today. You just need to do a little looking around on your phone, which you’re probably on right now.
4. Use that cruise control.
Spending lots of time on the interstate? Cut back on all that pedal pushing by turning on your cruise control. You’ll save on gasoline and leg cramps.
5. Walk or bike when you can.
It goes without saying that walking or biking to work saves money. It means less cash spent on gasoline, of course, but it could also become a habit that leads to selling one of your cars. And that means even more savings! But we also care about your overall wellness, you know, and research tells us that “active commuting” such as this leads to a healthier cardiovascular system!(2) So get physical—bulk up your wallet and muscles while you strengthen your bank account and heart.
6. Plan your parking ahead of time.
Extreme planners of the world unite! Procrastinators of the world—unite too! (Though probably not until tomorrow, right?) You can save big on parking expenses if you do your research before you head out. Look online at the parking possibilities near the event or restaurant you plan to enjoy. Maybe you’ll have to walk farther if you park at the cheaper lot, but we just raved about cardio, and a little walk’s not so bad. You can also check out Parking Panda online or the SpotHero app—two stress-free ways to park downtown. Reserve your space days before you need to park your ride for far cheaper rates than if you pay for parking on the spot.
7. Download transportation-related apps.
If you want to save even more money, hold the phone. Literally. Use your phone to download some incredible transportation-related apps. Look into Hytch, Swift or NuRide. These reward you for carpooling! Not all states have the same offerings, so find out what’s available to you.
And don’t forget to use a map app. (That’s fun to say.) Your phone probably comes with a default version, but consider Google Maps or Waze to avoid traffic. Less time bumper to bumper means less gas spent. Less gas spent means more money in your pocket. More money in your pocket means a quicker victory over those money goals!
These tips can get you in the goal-crushing fast lane. Ready to rev up? The easiest first step to saving on transportation is to find out if an independent insurance agent can help you save on your auto insurance. Then, go through the rest of this list and drive off into the savings sunset.