Sense & Centsibility Blog

How Commuting Can Save You Money And Much More

woman running

 A few weeks ago I was trying to figure how to incorporate more exercise into my day. Due to some cost-saving measures my partner and I recently took, we put our gym membership on hold for the summer and I was having a hard time motivating myself to exercise at home. With a cold, wet spring the idea of walking (which is my favorite form of exercise) had very little appeal. After 6 weeks of no workouts, my body started to feel it: I was tired all the time, I would get short of breath more quickly than usual, and my mood was, well, let’s say I wasn't a ray of sunshine! But what to do?

A little background before I let you in on my “experiment.” We are a one-car family. When my partner’s truck died we made a conscious decision to not buy a new-used second vehicle to replace it. The idea of car payments and higher insurance premiums made our stomachs turn. We have better things to spend $200 - $300 a month on! Not getting a second car saved us a minimum of $2400 a year – not even including extra gas for a second vehicle; that would probably raise our savings to $3600 or more per year.

Going without a car was not too much of an adjustment for my partner because he had been biking to work most days – about a 16 mile ride round trip. I watched him getting in shape and losing weight and feeling great without making an extra trip to the gym. I really envied how he was able to make exercise a part of his regular routine and I started thinking about how I could do it, too. This is what I worked out.

Step 1: Rule out options

My partner has an advantage over me. He works outside all day and it doesn’t matter if he shows up to work sweaty – he’s going to end up that way anyway. I, on the other hand, work in an office and biking to work in my work clothes would be tough to do. I could change at work, but that doesn’t help with the sweat factor. I meet with people all day; I can’t really smell like I just came from the gym. If your employer has showers on location that may be great, but being a female who likes to have her hair and make-up done, I just can’t take the time to do that once I get to work. So, biking was out…and since I hate jogging as much as those who enjoy it love it, that was not an option either. Could I walk?

Step 2: Find compromise

I live fairly close to work but not close enough to walk to work. A 5 mile walk one-way would be great exercise, but would take me about an hour and fifteen minutes. I am not a fast mover in the morning – I like to sip my tea, read for a bit, and stretch before I get ready for work. I was not about to wake up at 5:30 a.m. so I could walk to work. I decided to make a compromise: I would take the bus to work instead of driving, but leave 20 minutes earlier than needed to catch the bus and walk to whatever bus stop that would get me to. On the way home I would get out at the same bus stop and walk the rest of the way.

Step 3: Do the math

This seemed like a great idea, except I worried it might cost me more money to buy a bus pass and put gas in my car. Whatever I was going to do needed to be “expense neutral”, meaning it wouldn’t cost me more money than I already had budgeted for gas - $140 a month. I looked up the cost of a bus pass – for rush hour fare it would cost me $85.00 a month for a pass, but if I bought a non-rush hour pass (I only needed “rush-hour” fare one way), it would be $59.00 and I could then add $10.00 of “stored value” to the card to cover the rush hour fare. No digging for change! I thought $60.00 a month for less wear and tear on my car, more exercise, doing what’s good for the environment, and saving money on gas might be a worthwhile experiment. Then I saw gas prices jump to $4.29 a gallon and I knew it would be a good investment.

Step 4: Research your options

I realize my experiment won’t work for everyone. Some folks live too far away from a bus stop to walk to it, or too far from work to take a bus. But there are other options, like car-pooling or park and ride for those who live outside of a metro area. In Minneapolis you can visit for more commuting ideas. For statewide options in Minnesota check out the MN Department of Transportation’s website for alternative commuting ideas. If you don’t live in Minnesota, check out your own state’s Department of Transportation website for even more commuting ideas.

The results from my experiment

In the past month I have spent $60.00 on my bus pass and $40 in gas – that’s $40.00 savings in one month or $500 a year! Not only have I not missed my gym membership at all, but my partner and I set up his old weight bench in our basement so we can keep up our strength training and I am diligent about walking to and from the bus stop. I’ve lost 5 pounds in one month without dieting and I feel great! Better yet, the 20 minutes I spend on the bus each day gives me time to catch up on my reading – a luxury I couldn’t “afford” when I had to squeeze in time for the gym. Even though my commute didn’t involve rush hour traffic on the freeway, my stress level is noticeably down, and I get to feel good knowing my choice to drive less is helping the environment with fewer cars on the road.

If I can do it so can you! Start small and work up to the bigger changes!

If you are looking for ways to save money on gas or to make sure you’re on track with your budget, call us at 888.577.2227 to make an appointment today with one of our financial counselors. At LSS Financial Counseling, we will empower you to achieve financial wellness. So don’t wait – take action today to improve your finances and conquer your debt!

Author Shannon Doyle is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS and she specializes in Debt/Budget and Student Loan Counseling.