Money

6 ways to cut commuting costs from someone who saves $1,000 a year on transportation

When you live in an expensive city like New York, you're always looking for ways to cut costs ... especially when your weekly budget is $60. One way I'm cutting back is by trading in cabs and public transportation for my own two feet.

When it comes to getting to and from work each day, rather than paying for the 12-minute subway ride, I walk the 35 blocks.

This is actually something I've been doing since I moved to New York City. Sure, walking takes about three times as long as the subway, but the earlier wake-up call is well worth it. I cut $117, the price of New York's monthly Metro pass, from my expenses. That's $1,404 a year.

Plus, the daily 3.4-mile round trip is built-in exercise and quality thinking time.

I'm lucky to live in a pedestrian-friendly city within walking distance of my office. If walking to work is completely out of the question for you, here are a few other ways to cut back on commuting costs.

1. Bike to work

If you live within a few miles of your office, consider investing in a commuter bike, which could easily pay for itself in less than one month. Trent Hamm, author of "The Simple Dollar," estimates that you could save nearly $6,000 a year by leaving your car in the garage and riding to work instead.

If you live in a big city, consider a bike share, which eliminates the hassle of storing and maintaining a bike.

2. Use public transportation

If you typically drive to work, but public transportation is an option, consider using it at least a few days a week.

While you may not save time, chances are you'll save money. Plus, commuting by bus or train offers the luxury of enjoying a book, magazine, or newspaper.

3. Check to see if your employer offers commuter benefits

If you're not tapping into commuter benefits, you're leaving money on the table.

The concept is simple enough: You can use pre-tax money from your paychecks to cover mass-transit passes — including the train, subway, bus, and ferry — and parking. According to WageWorks, you can save an average of 30% to 40% on public transit, which could be hundreds of dollars a year. Use WageWorks' calculator to see exactly how much you can save.

4. Carpool

If biking and public transportation are out of the question, buddy up to save on gas. Plus, you'll qualify to use the HOV lane, which could shave time off of your commute during rush hour.

5. Use a rewards card when you buy gas

If you're going to be spending on gas, at least make sure you're getting rewards for refueling. The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, which was named the best credit card for everyday spending, will give you 3% back at gas stations.

Hamm recommends using a card tied to a low-cost gas stations: "Many chains offer rather impressive rewards cards. If they do, sign up for that card and use it only for fueling, paying it off at month's end and using the rewards as often as possible."

6. Telecommute

The most effective way to save money is by not commuting at all. This may be more feasible for some than others, but even if you work from home once a week, that's money saved.

Along the same lines, if your hours are flexible, alter the times you go into work to avoid rush hour traffic. Your commute will be much simpler if you get a head start and hit the highway before or after everyone else does.