By Andrew Housser
May is National Bike Month, and this year, National Bike to Work Week is May 15-19. Since 2000, the number of bicycle commuters has grown by up to 500 percent in some cities. People commute by bicycle to save money, to be kind to the environment and to stay in shape – as well as to enjoy the ride.
Along with saving money and getting a workout, cycling can give you a chance to clear your head on your way to or from the workplace. For quick errands during the workday, check into a bicycle-sharing program instead of hopping in your car. Currently, about 1,000 cities worldwide have bike-sharing programs.
In addition to bicycling, here are more ways to save money on your commute.
Calculate your commute cost. Use a tool such as the commute cost calculator to see what your trip to work or school costs every month or year. Then consider the options below – and how much they might save you.
Carpool. Sharing a ride lets you share the expenses of commuting. Options including car-sharing, Lyft and Uber make carpooling even more flexible. For instance, you could catch a ride with a neighbor one way and take the bus or car-share home, for instance.
Look into employer reimbursement. Some employers offer paid parking, but many also offer a transit pass or reimburse for bicycle commuting. Federal tax laws do not require you to count transit passes or bicycle reimbursement as income. If your employer does not offer these benefits, you may consider asking your supervisor about them.
Work from home. When many of your work tasks are virtual ones – done on the computer or phone – your job might be portable. Studies have found that productivity often increases when people work from home. If it makes sense for your job, and your employer allows you to work at home even one day a week, you would reduce your commuting time and expense by 20 percent.
Consider an alternative work schedule. Avoiding peak traffic times might cut your commute time (and expense) dramatically. A change in hours might make it more feasible to walk or bike to work. More employers are implementing flex time or allowing employees to shift schedules, as long as the employee works the required hours and can manage all job responsibilities.
Move closer to work. If your only option is a long car commute, consider moving closer to your job – or closer to good public transit. This option only makes sense if your housing costs will be affordable in the new location, but it is worth consideration for many commuters.
Drive more efficiently. You can minimize the amount of gas your vehicle uses by driving more conservatively: obey speed limits, leave plenty of space between you and other cars, and accelerate smoothly. You also can get help from smartphone navigation apps that warn you of traffic delays. By avoiding congestion, you will avoid wasting gas idling.
Leaving your car in the garage saves wear and tear, and fuel costs. Today, more and more people are even selling their cars, which frees up money spent on payments, insurance, fuel and maintenance. Whatever you do to cut your commuting costs, you will gain peace of mind from putting your savings toward repaying your credit cards or building an emergency fund.
|Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.|