By: Katie Wornek, UHEAA
When it comes to obtaining even our most basic needs – from food, to money, to human interaction – odds are most of us probably leave our homes every day, which means we all have transportation costs. Here are some ideas to help you spend less on getting around.
If avoiding driving altogether is an option…
1. Take public transportation
Public transportation is usually far less expensive than owning a car, and you might be able to find ways to make it even cheaper. Many public transportation systems allow college students to ride for free, and some employers encourage their employees to take public transportation by offering stipends or subsidized pricing.
Keep in mind that paying for monthly or annual access to trains, busses, or light rail is usually cheaper than buying individual tickets on a day-to-day basis. Tally up how many times you’ll need to ride each month, then do the math to see if buying an extended pass will save you money over paying for single trips.
2. Get your exercise
Depending on the distance you need to travel and the safety conditions of your routes, consider using some good old-fashioned cardio to get there. From walking to biking to longboarding, there are plenty of self-propelled modes of transportation to choose from. This could save you a lot of money – walking is free and buying and maintaining a bike costs significantly less than car ownership. Plus, you’ll be doing something healthy for your body and the environment.
If a vehicle has to be a factor in your transportation…
3. Explore sharing options
Carpooling is a great way to enjoy the benefits of a car while restricting your costs and carbon emissions. Consider carpooling to work with coworkers, carpooling with friends to group events, or carpooling with classmates to school.
If you don’t travel by car very often or very far, consider using ride-sharing services like Lyft or Uber. Depending on your transportation habits and needs, this could be a less expensive option than owning a vehicle.
Some colleges offer car-share services that allow you to rent a vehicle from the college for a short duration of time. Contact your campus’s commuter services office to ask about car-sharing options at your school.
4. Save on gas
Some service stations charge less for fuel than others. Try to make a mental note of different gas station prices as you drive. You can also use websites like GasBuddy to compare fuel prices in your area. But, before you drive across town to fill up, do a quick cost-benefit analysis: will you spend more driving to the cheaper gas station than you actually save in the end?
You can also save money by choosing the appropriate type of fuel. The numbers on the gas pump (85, 88, and 90) refer to the octane rating of the fuel. Some engines need higher-octane fuel than others, and more octane means more money per gallon. Consider skipping a higher-octane fuel if your car doesn’t require it – you should be able to find this information in your vehicle’s owner manual or on the manufacturer’s website.
Conserving fuel helps you fill up less often and save money over time. Consider the following tactics:
– Haul only what you have to – the more your car weighs, they more fuel it takes to move it
– Maintain proper tire pressure – underinflated tires can be detrimental to gas mileage
– Go easy on the gas pedal – accelerating quickly and driving at high speeds requires more gas
– Remember your oil changes – replacing your oil regularly can improve your fuel economy
5. Look for free parking
From long-term parking passes to short-term meters, parking costs can add up quickly. Finding free street parking may mean walking further to your destination, but it can help save your pocketbook. You should also pay close attention when reading parking signs– some paid parking spots are free during certain hours.
6. Identify what you can fix yourself
Every vehicle requires regular maintenance, and if you own your vehicle long enough, you may encounter the need for repairs. Having a professional service your vehicle can be expensive, so it is helpful to identify maintenance or repair jobs you can do on your own.
Deciding which projects to tackle will depend on your skill set, comfort level, and access to tools and equipment. You may want to start with easy, low-risk tasks (like replacing your headlight bulb or wiper blades) before working your way up to more complex tasks (such as changing your oil or replacing a worn drive belt). Don’t forget – you can find plenty of helpful instructions and videos on the Internet, just use caution and make sure the advice and sources are credible.
7. Drive safely
There are many ongoing costs involved in vehicle ownership, including insurance. Your driving record can affect your car insurance rates and deductibles. Doing everything in your power to avoid accidents and traffic violations can save you money.