The pandemic-induced pause on going into the office has come to an end for many. Newly released data in the American Community Survey revealed that in 2022, more than 124 million Americans commuted, which accounts for roughly 77% of workers, Nerdwallet reported. And as the push to return to the office has continued in 2023, that figure has likely continued to rise.
Even if you're among those who enjoy showing up to work IRL, it's undeniable that commuting can take a bite out of your budget. That bite becomes even bigger amid the rising costs of vehicle ownership — per Nerdwallet, "since 2019, the costs — including gas, repairs and maintenance, parking, insurance and licensing costs — have risen 35%."
If you've got to go in to work, here are some ways you can avoid forking over too much of your hard-earned money to do it.
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1. Make sure you're taking the best route
It's likely you already have a well-worn route you take to work, but have you ever considered if it's actually the most efficient one? Take a few minutes to compare different routes, considering which option is the shortest, if there's a way to avoid toll roads, and whether one route is more likely to put you in heavy traffic and unnecessarily burn fuel. Per U.S. News & World Report, your goal here should be to find a route that "keeps things shortest in terms of time and money."
2. Stay on top of car maintenance
It might sound counterintuitive to spend money to save, but as USA Today pointed out, skipping car maintenance is actually "going to be much more expensive and inconvenient if your car breaks down" in the future. Further, "keeping your car in tune also makes it more fuel efficient," which can add to your cost savings, reported USA Today.
3. Use a more fuel-efficient vehicle
You can also save on your commute by using a vehicle that's more fuel efficient. If you're thinking about buying a new car, you might look into an electric or hybrid vehicle, suggested Experian. Or, "if your household has more than one vehicle, use the one with the best gas mileage for your family's longest commute," Experian recommended.
If you only have one car and aren't in the market for a new one, there are ways to make your current car more fuel efficient. According to USA Today, some tricks include being gentle when braking and accelerating, keeping your speed steady and not too high, avoiding idling as much as possible, and taking any extra weight out of the trunk and off the roof.
4. Take advantage of gas rewards and discounts
As Nerdwallet highlighted, "gas accounts for about half of vehicle ownership costs," which means gas savings can majorly ease commuting costs. You might download an app to identify the lowest gas prices nearby, or you might sign up for a loyalty program at a particular gas station, suggested Nerdwallet. You often can also find savings by fueling up at a local warehouse club like Costco or Sam's Club, which "consistently beat local prices by 5 to 10 cents per gallon," according to U.S. News & World Report.
You can also score savings by paying with your credit card, which might offer points or cash back on gasoline purchases. According to Nerdwallet, some cards offer quarterly bonus categories, where you can get "as much as 5% cash back for fuel purchases."
5. See if you can shift your hours
Maybe your employer isn't so flexible about remote work, but they may have flexibility on what hours you work. As Experian pointed out, since "stop-and-go traffic eats up fuel," opting to commute outside of rush hour "can help you avoid traffic and save gas."
And whenever you do head out the door for work, try to bundle in other outings with your commute, such as heading to the grocery store or the gym, suggested U.S. News & World Report. Even if it requires a little extra planning, as U.S. News & World Report pointed out, "if you can save yourself an extra outing in the car, particularly when that location is already close to your commute, then you're saving fuel costs and wear and tear on your vehicle."
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