How to cut the cost of your commute
Filed under: Career
With prices showing little sign of easing, how can you slash the cost of getting into work each day?
Smart season tickets
A season ticket is far more effective than pay-as-you-go for commuters and regular rail users. Opting for a weekly or monthly card will save you money, but for the biggest savings, buy an annual pass. If stumping up a lump sum is out of reach, ask your employer if it offers an interest-free season ticket loan.
National Rail's season ticket calculator is useful to work out the cost and view the different options available for each route.
It is possible to make considerable savings if you stick to a specific route rather than buying a ticket that is available for any route on your journey. For example, a 12-month Brighton to London season ticket starts from £3,392 for travel to City Thameslink, Blackfriars or London Bridge stations, rising to £3,708 for travel to Victoria, and £4,020 for travel to all London stations.
If you travel on a heavy commuter route it is also working looking into split ticket options. In some cases, it is cheaper to buy two season tickets that cover different legs of the journey, providing the service travels through the specific stations.
Another idea to cut your monthly or annual train or tube ticket price is to see if it is cheaper to travel from a different station. For example, those living in zone five in London might benefit from walking or cycling to a station in zone four. Equally, getting off the train a couple of stops early and walking the rest of the way may also bring the cost of your travel down and allow you to incorporate exercise into your commute.
Take advantage of railcards
There is a good selection of national and regional railcards available that can save up to a third off ticket fares, but with the majority only valid on travel after 9.30am-10am, they don't seem much help to commuters.
However, with the rising popularity of flexible working it is worth speaking to your employer about altering your hours to benefit from discounted train travel.
The Network Railcard for south east England for example, gives a third off most rail fares for journeys in the Network Railcard area. The 12-month card costs £28 and offers the discount on travel any time on weekends and public holidays or from 10am Monday to Friday, although there are exceptions that allow slightly earlier travel.
Find a lift share
If you work out of town or in a location where train travel simply isn't cost effective, you'll depend on your car to get to the office each day. Car sharing is a cheaper – and greener - alternative to driving an empty vehicle and has boomed in recent years.
Liftshare, the UK's biggest car-sharing network, saw 64,000 new members in 2010, rising to 71,000 in 2011. This means it is on track to hit 500,000 members by April. The site reports that the typical commuter who car-shares every day saves about £800 a year, but many save much more.
Members must be over 18 to register on the site, which is free to use. They input the trips they'd like to share, with details of times and destination, and search for suitable matches. People without a car can inquire about lifts in their area and contribute to fuel.
In addition to the cost savings of car sharing, members report other benefits including the social side of travelling with others and feeling far less tired from not driving every day.
Get on your bike
Cycling or walking to work isn't for everyone, but it is definitely worth considering. Not only is it highly cost effective, it is also a great way to get some exercise and ease your carbon footprint.
Walkit.com is a useful website and iPhone app to help plan walking routes across 16 UK cities. Type in the postcode of your starting point and destination, and the website will give you a choice of direct or less busy routes.
If cycling is more your thing, find out if your employer is part of the government's 'Cycle to Work' scheme. It allows you to put a given proportion of your salary aside, usually for a fixed 12-month period, in return for the cost of a bike that you can buy outright. The extra bonus is that the bike will be paid for from your pre-tax income, so you are effectively buying it tax-free.
Join a car club
If you can drive but don't want the hassle or expense of owning a car, then a car club might be up your street. Pay-as-you-drive car clubs are also a convenient alternative for those who only need a car on special occasions or for a few times a week.
There are two main national companies covering various cities in the UK - citycarclub.co.uk and streetcar.co.uk Annual membership costs around £50, depending on the website, and insurance is included. Hiring a car for one hour starts at around a fiver, and the more hours you drive, the lower the cost.
Rent a parking space
If parking costs add to your commuting bill through a season ticket for a mutli-storey space or extortionate on-street meters, look into renting an empty driveway near your workplace instead.
Websites such as parkatmyhouse.com.uk and yourparkingspace.co.uk pair owners of unused driveaways, parking spaces and garages with those needing an affordable place to park. You can read reviews and usually pay a daily, weekly or monthly fee.