Are You Wasting Money Driving to Work?

As gas prices remain historically high, you may be feeling the financial pressure of your work commute. Depending on where you live, your commute could be costing you even more than you think! We’ll explore the cost of driving to work and offer some tips for reducing those costs including comparing the cost of driving with commuting alternatives like public transportation, biking and a hybrid work schedule.

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How much money do you spend commuting to work?

According to a study by FlexJobs, the average commuter will spend between $2,000 to $5,000 per year and travel between 5 and 13 miles for work per day.

The cost of commuting varies widely depending both on what method of transportation you are using and the cost of that method where you live. 

Transportation Options for Commuting to Work

In most cases, driving is likely to be the most expensive way to get to work. Fuel and vehicle maintenance are much more expensive than alternatives like public transportation or biking.

Carpooling with a coworker can help divide the cost but will probably include additional mileage and time.

MethodCostAssociated Costs
Driving$$$$Fuel, Vehicle Maintenance 
Carpooling$$$Fuel, Vehicle Maintenance, Longer Commute Times
Public Transportation$$Fare, Longer Commute Time
Walking $Walking Shoes, Longer Commute Time
Biking$Bike Maintenance, Longer Commute Time

5 Way To Save Money on Your Commute

You might not be able to skip the commute altogether, but there are a handful of ways drivers can reduce gas costs, cut back on vehicle wear-and-tear and potentially reduce their lost time:

#1 Take Public Transportation 

Taking public transportation is a great way to save money on gas, and it can also be a productive way to travel to work. You can use the time to catch up on reading, answer some emails or simply relax. 

If you’re not already contributing to a commuter benefits account, ask your boss if you can use part of your income to cover the costs of trains, buses, tolls and parking. Commuter benefits can reduce your taxable income and potentially save you as much as 40% on your transit cost.

#2 Ride a Bike or Walk

Bikes are a convenient mode of transportation on traffic-congested streets and can help you get in some physical activity. Walking is another great option that has the added benefit of being free if you live close enough to work for this to be an option. 

The overhead costs of bike maintenance, safety gear like helmets and a good pair of shoes will still be less than gas and car maintenance costs.

#3 Adopt a Hybrid Work Model

Many companies are embracing a hybrid schedule that allows workers to work from home a few days a week. Working from home can save on gas and childcare expenses, and it allows for a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to managing one’s time. As a result, many companies are embracing a hybrid work model that allows workers to choose which days they want to work from home. 

While there are some challenges associated with this arrangement, such as coordinating team meetings and keeping everyone on the same page, the benefits often outweigh the drawbacks and will save you money on your commute.

#4 Get a More Fuel Efficient Car

Consider shopping for a more fuel-efficient vehicle to make your drive to work less costly. There are a number of ways to do this, such as choosing a car that uses an alternative fuel source or one with a higher fuel efficiency. Sedans can be a good option when you’re looking for a low price tag and higher fuel efficiency. 

In addition to saving money on gas, you may also save on maintenance costs with a more fuel-efficient car.

#5 Use a Reward Card For Gas

If driving is your only commute option, consider getting a rewards credit card – many of them offer cashback or points when you pay for gas. You can also download a mobile app that will help you find the best gas prices in your area. Also, if you belong to a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club, you may be able to get discounted gas prices. 

By taking advantage of some or all of these options, you can save money on gas – even if you can’t cut back on driving miles.

Calculate the Cost of Driving to Work

The total cost of driving to work depends on many variables including the type of car you drive (its age and condition,) the distance you travel to work, how often you commute, parking costs and the current cost of fuel. 

To calculate the cost of your daily commute you first need to find your car’s “dollars per mile.” To find the “dollars per mile” of your vehicle you need to know it’s fuel efficiency or miles per gallon.   

______ (round trip miles) x _____ dollars per mile = _______ (round trip cost)

______ (round trip cost) x 21 (working days/month) = _______ (total monthly cost) 

______ (total monthly cost) x 12 (working months) = _______ (total yearly cost) 

You may also wish to add on the cost of parking and car maintenance; the calculator embedded below takes those factors into account. 

Keep in mind that neither of these methods can account for changes in fuel costs throughout the year, or how weather conditions affect fuel economy in areas with seasonal temperature changes. But you can use the numbers as a guide to make big picture estimates. 

Calculate the Cost of Taking Public Transportation

To calculate the cost of public transportation you’ll need to know the cost of a round trip ticket on whatever method of transit available to you in your city. 

______ (round trip ticket cost) x 21 (working days/month) = _______ (total monthly cost)

______ (total monthly cost) x 12 (working months) = _______ (total yearly cost)

Don’t Forget About the Cost of Commute Stress!

According to an article cited by Psychology Today, commuting is considered one of life’s least enjoyable activities! Growing commute times as well as crowding and traffic are thought to be significant factors in the stress and frustration experienced by commuters. 

When deciding which method of transportation is right for your commute, you’ll want to weigh the emotional cost of your options against the financial burden. Your preferences and priorities will be unique to you. 

For example, despite the cost of fuel you may prefer to drive to work because of the time it saves. Or you may find that spending extra time on a bus or train works well for you because it gives you time to read or listen to music while also saving you money.

Budget For Your Commute

Commuting is a consistent recurring cost that can really add up. You can fill out our free budgeting worksheet to calculate how much money you can spend on your commute. Whether you drive, take public transportation, bike, walk or have a hybrid schedule, knowing how much your commute costs will help you budget for what you need.

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