Every family would like a little more money in the piggy bank at the end of the month, but sometimes it seems like trimming expenses is too painful or too much of a hassle. Well, here are six painless ways to save a few bucks on your transportation budget — and those few bucks can really add up by the end of the month!
1. Park the car once per day
Gas prices won’t be returning to the sub-$3/gallon range anytime soon — if ever. If your car gets 20 miles per gallon in city driving, you’re probably spending $10/day on basic errands within a few miles of your home. The next time you’re about to slip behind the wheel, stop and think if you could walk or bike there instead. If you think it’s feasible, do it! Not only will that save you gas money and wear and tear on your car, but you’ll be getting exercise to boot! You obviously won’t be able to wipe out all driving, but even one trip per day will add up to serious savings before the end of the month.
2. Hang out a little
Remember that time you dropped Suzy off at the birthday party at the McDonald’s Playland, came home for an hour, then drove back to pick her up? Next time Suzy is invited to a party — or any other event that doesn’t directly involve you, other than for transportation — don’t be in such a rush to get home. Spend that hour or two reading a book. Or getting a cup of coffee and meeting the other parents. Or going for a jog in a different neighborhood. Pretty soon you’ll realize that those hours are bonus “me time,” and you won’t be at all tempted to waste gas driving home.
3. Go with a friend
Another great way to save gas money is carpooling, something that doesn’t only need to exist in the work world. Great places to carpool are to school or to sporting events. Why should you and your neighbor each drive your own cars to the high school for conferences? Share the ride and pocket the savings. Same goes for sports or other extracurricular events — going to the “away” games or contests with the family of a teammate will make the ride more fun for everyone, and gas costs will be cut in half.
4. Combine trips
Make a new family guideline — before you get in the car, determine if there are any other errands that can be handled on the same trip. Does Johnny want to go to the middle school to shoot hoops with his friends? Stop at the pharmacy on your way home to pick up that prescription you ordered, then swing by your sister’s house to return that serving dish she needs for the potluck tomorrow. Rather than making three trips, you’re making one.
5. Get on the bus
Public transportation can be an amazing money saver if you live in a community with a good system. You may not save money on any given ride — the price of one bus ride downtown may cost more than the gas to get there — but if you become familiar with the public transportation options in your community, you may be able to get rid of one of your cars. That would be a major money saver. Even if you can’t manage that, taking public transporation completely relieves you of the burden and cost of parking. And you’ll be able to do other things while en route.
6. Shop and park
No, that’s not backward — shop for the best value in a parking lot before you start shopping. Naturally, being further from the center of the city cost less, so park there if you’re willing to hoof it. If you need to be closer, choose lots that appear to cater to business people rather than tourists, as they’re usually less expensive. For example, the lot that serves the Palmer House Hilton in the Chicago Loop costs $61 per day for valet parking; a few blocks to the northwest, at 120 N. LaSalle, valet parking costs $36 per day. The bottom line: Shopping around for cheap parking can pay off. But if you have time, do some research before you go so you don’t waste all your time and money driving around the city looking for the best deal.
If you have any other tips, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments.