In 1991, country rock classic “Life Is a Highway” hit the airways, bringing with it a metaphor about life and driving we’ll never forget: “Life is a highway. I’m gonna ride it all night long.” So catchy.
Budgeting’s like a highway too: It’s the path that takes you from where you are to where you want to be with your money—but only if you stick with it. Someone should write a song about that. We’d download it.
To help with all the driving you’ll do on life’s literal highway, we’ve come up with a list of 12 practical ways to save money on transportation so you can keep on trucking—only in a thriftier way. Ready to accelerate your money goals? Hit the gas! Green light says GO.
How to Save Big on Transportation: 12 Tricks and Tips
1. Carpool with coworkers and friends.
This first tip brings to mind a car full of awkward coworkers starting and ending their day with near strangers to save a buck. Maybe one is allergic to the other’s perfume. Maybe another loves alternative polka folk hip-hop and forces everyone to listen.
Though this makes for an ideal sitcom situation, carpooling is even better for your wallet—especially with the crazy gas prices we’ve seen in the last year. And it’s not just a work thing.
You could also take turns driving the neighborhood kids to school. If a group of friends are all going to the same event, meet at one house and ride together. (That saves on event parking too.) And listen, don’t pass up the chance to share a ride with coworkers. It’s not usually as bad as the scene we painted above. Usually.
2. Take advantage of public transportation.
If your city offers public transportation, it’s worth your time to check out your options. These days, the offerings for those who live within city limits go far beyond buses and trains. Even if you live in the suburbs, you might be surprised by the choices available to you.
3. Save on car insurance.
When was the last time you checked your car insurance cost? What’s that you say? Never? Did you set it and forget it (minus the payments, of course)?
Don’t worry, most people do! But you could have an outdated policy—or even worse, you might be overpaying! No one has the time or funds for that mess.
You need to talk to an independent insurance agent. They don’t work for just one company, so they can shop around and compare policies from multiple companies to find you the right coverage at the best price.
4. Save on gas.
Your grocery store may offer gas rewards (aka discounts on gasoline for buying groceries you have to buy anyway). And some warehouse stores, like Costco or Sam’s Club, offer lower gas prices to members.
But beware. While some gas rewards programs might sound like a good deal up front, they're often linked to credit card offers on the back end. Don’t take the bait.
Rewards, however, aren’t the only way to save money at the pump. You can start with a no-brainer like shopping around for the best gas prices. Try an app called GasBuddy, which searches your local area to find the cheapest gas prices around. Just do a little looking around on your phone (which you're probably on right now anyway).
5. Ditch the car payment.
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A good rule of thumb is this: If you can’t pay off your car in two years or less, sell it. Use the profits to pay off what’s left of your loan and buy a cheaper car in the meantime. You can always save for your dream car down the road.
6. Use that cruise control.
Spending lots of time on the interstate? Cut back on all that pedal pushing by turning on your cruise control. You’ll save on gasoline and leg cramps.
7. Get rid of that second or third car.
Take a serious assessment of the cars parked in your garage, carport, or on the street where you live: Is there a glaring difference between how many vehicles you own versus how many you truly need?
Are you “car poor,” meaning the value of all your vehicles (anything with a motor) adds up to more than half of your annual income? Do you spend more than 10%–15% of your monthly pay on your transportation budget category? If you answered yes to any of these questions, selling off your extra set of wheels could be a big boost to your budget.
Everyone’s situation is different, but this just might be the answer to your too-tight-for-comfort budget problem—or a way to save on transport costs and get that debt snowball rolling at maximum speed!
8. Walk or bike when you can.
It goes without saying that walking or biking to work saves money. It means less cash spent on gasoline, of course, but it could also become a habit that leads to selling one of your cars. And that means even more savings!
But we also care about your overall wellness, and research tells us that “active commuting” like this leads to a healthier cardiovascular system.2 So get physical—bulk up your wallet and muscles while you strengthen your bank account and heart.
9. Plan your parking ahead of time.
Extreme planners of the world unite! And procrastinators too! (Though probably not until tomorrow, right?) You can save big on parking expenses if you do your research before you head out. Look online at the parking possibilities near the event or restaurant you’re headed to. Maybe you’ll have to walk farther if you park at the cheaper lot, but a little walk’s not so bad. (We did just rave about cardio.)
You can also check out Parking Panda (now called SpotHero) or ParkWhiz—two stress-free ways to park downtown. Reserve your space ahead of time for far cheaper rates than if you pay for parking on the spot.
10. Download transportation-related apps.
If you want to save even more money, hold the phone. Literally. Use your phone to download some incredible transportation-related apps. Not all states have the same offerings, so find out what’s available to you.
And don’t forget to use a map app. (That’s fun to say.) Your phone probably comes with a default version but consider Google Maps or Waze to avoid traffic. Less time bumper to bumper means less gas spent. Less gas spent means more money in your pocket. More money in your pocket means a quicker path to knocking out those money goals!
11. Don’t speed.
Speeding isn’t just a safety concern—it also empties your gas tank. Big time. Reducing your speed by five to 10 mph can improve your “fuel economy” by 7%–14%.3
So slow down! If you drive within the speed limit, you’ll be saving gas, paying less at the pump, and lowering your risk of an accident—or a ticket.
12. Be sure to budget for all your transportation costs.
Listen up: If you know your travel needs, it just makes good financial sense to plan ahead by making a budget. Whether you’re adding up expenses for your commute to and from work, figuring the cost of your personal errands, or stressing over how much that dream vacation flight will cost, making a budget for your transportation needs should always be part of your personal finance plan. These tips will get you in the fast lane to crush your financial goals.
Then you can take your transportation savings to the next level by keeping track of exactly how much you save with our EveryDollar app. EveryDollar makes it simple to track the money you're saving on transportation so you can drive off into the savings sunset.