Back To Basics: Transportation

content ballThe transportation category of your spending plan will vary from family to family and from city to city.  I grew up in Chicago where transportation usually referred to a bus, taxi, or train.  Even with those options available I mainly walked or rode my bike everywhere.  After graduating from college, I moved to New York City where, once again, transportation was usually the bus or the subway, but mainly walking.  Then I moved to Phoenix.

Since I hadn’t relied on a car much up to this point, I didn’t think anything of arriving “sans auto.”  I flew out here with two suitcases and maybe four boxes of who knows what.  Who needed a car?  Upon arrival, I found an apartment locator service and made an appointment.  A friend offered me a ride, but I politely declined when I looked at the map and saw that it was only twelve blocks from where I was staying. Welcome to my first lesson about the Phoenix grid system.  These so-called “blocks” are MILES!  Whoops!  When I finally arrived at the apartment locator’s office (four hours after my scheduled appointment), the gentleman wisely determined that there would only be two possible options for apartments to show me, and he kindly offered to drive me to see them, thank goodness.  Needless to say, my first purchases after that experience were a bike and a large bottle of sunscreen.

One of the most effective ways to reduce transportation costs is not to have a car and to ride a bike, use public transportation or walk wherever possible.  Since I learned the hard way that this is not always feasible, this blog focuses on ideas to reduce costs for people who use cars as their primary means of transportation.

Another way to reduce transportation costs is to live close to your place of employment.  Not only will you save money on gas, but many times insurance premiums will be lower, too.  Recently our economy has been very unstable and as people suffer job loss, it is not always reasonable to stay within a certain radius of home when looking for a job.  However, if possible, keeping your commute to a minimum is a good way to save money.

Since gas prices have been on the rise, it is worth looking into work-from-home opportunities.  Thanks to advances in technology, many companies are offering this option.  Even if you only work from home one or two times a week, you will save money at the pump, as well as tolls and wear and tear on the car.  If working from home is not an option offered by your company, perhaps you can find a carpool partner or two.  Many times carpools are free, since the driving rotates among the members.

Planning ahead to combine errands also saves on gas.  If you are a daily commuter, try incorporating errands into the drive to or from work.  Even in a carpool situation, errands can be done once the others are dropped off or they might appreciate a stop at the store, too.  Sometimes it feels like there are not enough hours in the day, but if you do an errand a day, your weekends will be free to spend with family rather than catching up on shopping and appointments.

Maintenance of the car is just as important as the amount of driving being done.  Properly inflated tires, regular oil changes, and fluid checks all contribute to getting the best gas mileage possible. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.   Interestingly, I also recently learned that our cars run more efficiently when we keep the gas tank at least half-full.  While this requires planning, it is a practice worth trying.

There has been some debate about whether or not driving with the windows open creates drag and causes the car to be less efficient on gas–the answer to that debate lies within how quickly you’re driving. At speeds up to 50 mph, leaving the windows down is the best way to get airflow; anything higher than that and you’re better off using the AC to offset any additional drag.

Hopefully these tips will help reduce your transportation costs.  If you have some ideas to contribute, please send an email to

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” ~Phil. 4:6


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