1. Buy in bulk. Seasonal purchasing isn’t limited to flowers and produce; buying your rail or bus pass by month or season can save you a lot of dough, too! Check out your town or city’s public transit system and see if they have an unlimited one- to three-month pass. You typically save a few cents per ride, with more savings the more rides you purchase. Just make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth and using it every day (most passes work out to be about two rides per day five days per week before they pay for themselves). And remember to revise your strategy during peak-vacation months, like July and December: no sense in paying for your commute on days off!
2. Hop on, hop off. Annoyed by how many stops your train makes? Play frequent stops to your advantage. Check out your transit line’s schedule to see when the fares increase along your route. If the price goes up just before your stop (or down just after), hop off early or a little late and stroll the rest of the way home. You get a quick walk in twice a day and can save a few bucks per ride.
2. Keep it steady. We know you have somewhere to be, but avoid speeding and then slamming on the breaks. These rapid changes in speed eat away at your car’s fuel efficiency over time. According to the Energy Saving Trust, your car runs at its best around 55-65mph. After that fuel efficiency decreases rapidly: for example, driving at 85mph uses 40% more fuel than at 70mph (not to mention being over the speed limit!).
3. Pump it up. Make sure your tires are properly and evenly inflated to get the most out of your gas mileage. Under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 3%, and if you’re commuting twice per day…you do the math. Most cars will list the ideal tire pressure on the inside of the driver’s door. Pick up a handheld pressure gauge at your local hardware store (they’re about $10.00) and check up once a week to make sure you’re ridin’ smoothly.
4. Play it cool. Your air conditioning increases fuel consumption at all speeds, and is one of the main culprits for using up excess gas. On moderate days, roll down the windows instead: at speeds less than 40mph, opening the window slightly won’t affect fuel use. If you really need it, leave the AC on only as long as it takes to regulate the car’s temperature, and then turn it off again — and of course, keep your windows closed to hold the cooler temperatures inside.
6. Clean up your act. That gym equipment banging around the back of your car? It’s burning up fuel just by coming along for the ride. Removing 100 pounds of extra stuff from your car can boost your miles per gallon by 2%. Remove roofracks, boxes, and tow hitches when not in use, as these accessories create more drag on your car. The less aerodynamic your car is, the more you’re going to pay for it at the pump.
7. Ask for a hand. Done everything you can and still scraping for quarters under the seat for money to commute? Talk to your HR department about any perks or savings for commuters. If you live outside a certain radius to work, you might be eligible for compensation or discounts, such as pre-tax rail and bus passes. It can’t hurt to ask; even if there are no discounts available, your employer might be able to suggest a carpool buddy!