The Daily Work Commute and Spending Less

January 12, 2020
work commute

How much do you spend on your daily work commute every day? The cost of gas, parking and wear and tear can really add up, and in an urban area like Southern California, it’s near impossible to live without a car!

The cost of your work commute can hit your budget hard.   Owning and maintaining a private vehicle is expensive, and one of the reasons transportation is the second-highest average expense after housing.

If you work 20 miles from home, it’s not really reasonable to bike commute or even to take public transportation unless you want to spend two or more hours maneuvering the public transportation system.  I understand that there may be some areas in SoCal that have the public transportation wired, but not mine.  It would take me almost three hours and several bus changes to go 25 miles.

For someone like me, there are only two reasonable options,  vanpooling, or continue to drive my car.

I live in the Los Angeles area and commute 25 miles each way to work and spend just over two hours a day in the car.  With today’s gas prices, my cost is roughly $8 a day to commute.  I work around 220 workdays in a year. At the cost of $8 my gas expense alone is roughly $1,700 per year, or almost $150 every month. If I add in the oil changes and necessary car maintenance, it’s closer to $200 a month. Finding a reasonable commuting option was essential to reduce my monthly bills so I could pay more against credit card debt and reach debt-free status sooner.

Here a few ideas to help save a few dollars.

Gift Cards and Loyalty Programs for Gas

  • Look for discounted gift cards for the major gas stations like Chevron, Mobile, etc.
  • Sign up for Shell Fuel Rewards or Grocery Store Loyalty Programs that offer per gallon discounts.
  • Don’t Forget Sams Club and Costco for discounted fuel. I fill up the vanpool van using Sams Club or Arco to keep our monthly contribution low. In my personal car, I still use  Shell, Chevron, or Mobile.

I also use the Gas Buddy app to check local gas prices, you would be amazed at the price differences within just a few short blocks.

Save on Tolls

Research an alternate route to save on toll fees, it might take a bit longer, but if it’s the same mileage and does not increase your gas cost, it might work for you.  If the drive home is stressful try to find a more leisurely route, even if it takes a few more minutes.

The Bus

Check the bus routes in your area. If the bus has a direct route and drops you off a couple of blocks away, then you get a little exercise along the way. The downside in taking the bus to work is that you must adhere to the bus schedule.  You want to travel light when commuting by bus, a good backpack will make your life so much easier.


If you can find a co-worker to carpool with it can save you 50%.  For almost two years I carpooled with a co-worker who lived close to me.  One week I drove, one week she drove. My workload increased and needed to work late more often, so I stopped carpooling until things settled down a bit.  Now that I was comfortable with a more stringent schedule I took the leap into vanpooling.

The Work Commute Gold Standard – Vanpool

Vanpooling is one of the most money-saving and convenient commuting alternatives to driving alone. Vanpooling doesn’t just save money,  it also saves work commute time since you can drive in the carpool lane, reducing commuter stress, is better for the environment, improves the quality of life,  and reducing the wear and tear on your personal vehicle.

If you are lucky to work for a company that offers a commuter program, you really should consider it.  I have been vanpooling for almost two years and my out of pocket is anywhere from $0-$20 a month. 

Alternative Work Schedules

Ask your HR Department about alternative work schedules. If enough people want the program, your company might be open to the idea of implementing a program.

The Work Commute on a Bicycle

If you live close to work,  commuting by bicycle is a great way to save money and get some great exercise.  For years I lived 3 miles from work and rode my trusty beach cruiser equipped with the only basket in front for my purse, water, and lunch.   This is a blog post on its own, everything from buying the right backpack to safety on the road. 

Kindle Edition Books

Use Pre-Tax Dollars

Ask your HR Department if your company offers any commuter benefits. My job allows us to pay for parking with pre-tax dollars and provides commuter discounts for people who carpool, vanpool, or take public transportation.

Final thoughts on the daily work commute and Recommended Reading.

A 2019 Study of Australian commuters found that people longer work commutes absent from work more than those with shorter commutes. Also, people with shorter commutes are more productive.  “People feel more negative emotions during their morning commutes than any other activity they engage in throughout the rest of that day.”

Unfortunately, most of us need to endure the daily work commute and we try to make it the best we can for our minds and our wallets.

Anything you can do to reduce your commute or make it less stressful is highly recommended.  Here is another article from the Conversation on how your work commute is changing who you are.

Do you have any tips to make the daily work commute easier?

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