How to Save on Your Morning Commute

Cars drive along the Hollywood freeway in Cahuenga Pass, circa 1940s. (Photo by Orville Snider/Getty Images)

Are you one of the lucky ones that has to commute to your job every day?  Where I live, the Metroplex is the size of a small state, and traffic is horrendous.  Not only is there road construction constantly, there are 4 different highway toll authorities; and they all have different rates.  If you want to get anywhere, you almost have to take a toll road.  This game is definitely rigged.

My daughter, who just graduated college, got her first job.  Yeay!  Only problem is her job is about 45 minutes away, (this is not during rush hour traffic.  Add another 45 minutes to that) with fuel and tolls, her first week cost about $80.00.  Ouch!  We know where her paycheck is going; add lunch to that every day and there is another 25-30 dollars a week.

This got me thinking, there’s got to be a way to shave some of this expense; so I did some digging around and this is what I came up with.

pumping gas

Fuel;   let’s start with the basics; we need to make sure her vehicle is running in its best possible condition.  A performance checklist tells me I need to make sure the oil is being changed on a regular basis, this includes oil filters, air filters and fuel filters.

When was the last time the plugs were checked?  I know the newer cars don’t require tune-ups, but since hers is older, I need to make sure the plugs and wires are in good condition. And the battery shouldn’t be more than 3 to 4 years old.  This is also a good time for a winter check.  Those cold mornings makes it harder for our cars to get started, kind of like me; must have coffee first.

One of the most overlooked things on a car is the tire pressure.  This can really affect  fuel efficiency; make sure tire pressure is within specs of the manufacturer.  While we’re at it, check fluids and lights; make sure everything is in prime working order.

Next thing is shopping around for fuel prices. I can sign up for rewards cards to get those 2-3 cent discounts, most major supermarkets have them (I can save a little on my groceries as well).  There is also an ap I found that I can download called gasbuddy I just type in my zip and it scours the city for the cheapest fuel prices.  Also, I made sure she is using the correct octane per her vehicle requirements.


Tolls;  First things first, get a toll tag and make sure it covers all 4 authorities.  Sometimes different toll authorities will offer toll discounts if you sign in to their website and pre-log your route with them.

Make sure the trip to work has the least amount of entering and exiting tolls.  They will zap you every time you jump back on a toll, even if you were just on that toll.  My daughter found this out the hard way.  Her GPS had her getting on and off different tolls, which was racking up the fees.  Cross check your GPS route with toll routes and fees to make sure you are taking the cheapest route.  If you can avoid tollways completely; that’s even better.

taking the train

Public Transit; Like most metroplex areas, there is public transit; whether it is the bus or train or both.   If you really want to commute on the cheap this is the way to go.   The transit authority is pretty good about making it convenient to get from train/bus station to your building.  The commute is a little longer, but it would cut costs almost in half.  And you wouldn’t have to deal with rush hour traffic; it’s a win -win in my book.  Someone else is driving and you can just kick back, enjoy your favorite coffee beverage and catch up on the media news.  You can buy monthly passes and have a stress free commute.

Now that we have mastered getting to work like a budgeting ninja; it’s time to focus on cutting back on lunch time expenses.

sack lunch

Sack Lunch;  I know I know the thought of eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day is just super boring.  But, it doesn’t have to be.  Since her break room has a fridge and microwave, she can bring just about anything her tummy desires….leftovers, soups, salads, and even sammies.  By bringing her lunch she can watch the savings come pouring out of her pockets.  Not only is she saving money, but time as well;  now she have time to take a walk around her building and get rejuvenated so her afternoon will go much better, and she won’t experience afternoon lag.

The common denominator here is plan ahead and prepare.  We are saving money, time and stress.  I am definitely all about saving money and avoiding stress.  Stress is a bad word in my book.

I hope I covered everything. If you have any comments or ideas please share!