Tips for saving on your commute amid high inflation

FILE - The price of regular unleaded gas is advertised for just under $4 a gallon at a Woodman's, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in Menomonie Falls, Wis. Falling gas prices gave Americans a slight break from the pain of high inflation last month, though the surge in overall prices slowed only modestly from the four-decade high it reached in June. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File) (Morry Gash, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – Gas prices are falling but still higher than they were a year ago. And inflation has made most everything else more expensive. If you're looking to save money on your commute, here are some tips:

IF YOU HAVE A CAR:

MAKE A DRIVING STRATEGY

AAA recommends avoiding traffic and adjusting your normal route in order to avoid unnecessary driving. When possible, visit “one-stop shops” where you can run multiple errands in the same space and only use premium gas for cars that either recommend it or require it.

“Paying for premium gas for a car that is regular is a waste of money and is of no benefit to the vehicle,” according to AAA.

MODERATE YOUR SPEED

Driving the speed limit can help you save money. Most vehicles reach optimal fuel economy at 50 mph. For every 5 mph you drive over that, it can cost an additional 30 cents per gallon, according to fueleconomy.org.

For more tips to save on fuel, the U.S. government offers recommendations such as how to choose a fuel-efficient vehicle and how to save on gas during hot or cold weather conditions.

CHECK GAS APPS

You can save on money by looking at which gas stations offer cheaper gas prices.

“While there’s no silver bullet to supreme savings on this global commodity, a gas app can help you pinch pennies,” NerdWallet wrote in an article ranking the five best gas apps.

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR GOVERNMENT AID

Since the beginning of the pandemic, local and state governments have provided economic relief in various ways.

Vicente Gonzalez, a postal worker in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, who has experienced economic difficulties from both the pandemic and inflation, has benefitted from both government and community help.

“I was able to benefit from backpack giveaways, mental health services and food distributions,” said Gonzalez, who also helped in some food distribution efforts in his community.

Some cities and states are providing aid packages to help residents to manage rising inflation and high gas prices. Colorado is sending $750 to individuals to battle the rising costs and Chicago is sending gas cards of $150 and prepaid transit cards of $50 to eligible residents.

ASK YOUR CO-WORKERS OR NEIGHBORS IF THEY CAN CARPOOL

San Jose State University professor Asha Weinstein Agrawal recommends carpooling, even if it’s only once a week. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 9% percent of commuters carpool.

IF YOU USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:

TALK WITH YOUR EMPLOYER

Even working from home one day a week can make a difference. If a job is remote-friendly, employers should be open to the idea of covering some of the commute costs at least temporarily, said Abbie Langston, director of equitable economy at PolicyLink, a national research institute.

If that’s not feasible, Yanira Merino, national president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, proposes that people talk with their employers about economic incentives to pay for the commute.

“I think this is a time to organize our community and try to do it as much as possible in places where public transportation is not available to us,” Merino said.

CHECK IF YOU QUALIFY FOR A DISCOUNT PASS

Children, students and people over 65 are among those who may qualify for discounts.

For example, the New York City MetroCard has a reduced fare for people over 65 or who have qualifying disabilities or a service animal. Los Angeles Metro also offers a low-income discount for citizens who make under $41,400 a year.

BUY TICKET PACKAGES

Buying 10-day or monthly packages, depending how often you use public transportation, can help you save money.

Boston subway users, for example, can buy a one-day unlimited pass, which allows you to travel in several types of public transportation, for $11 but can buy a seven-day unlimited pass for $22.50. If you commute five days a week, you would save $32.50 if you buy the seven-day pass.

CHECK IF YOUR EMPLOYER OFFERS PRE-TAX EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

With pre-tax benefits, employees are not taxed for the part of their income that is spent on commuting costs. The monthly maximum amount that people can use as pre-tax benefits is $280, according to the IRS.

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