‘Real Money’: Save Money On Your Daily Commute

By ABC News

Jun 4, 2013 7:31pm

ABC News’ Paula Faris reports:

California newlyweds Rob and Lisa Oshima are trying to save money to start a family. But like so many of us, they’re spending too much time and money commuting.

Rob drives 20 miles one way from his home in Orinda, Calif., to his job in San Francisco. It takes him about two hours one way and costs $100 a week. Lisa travels 40 miles to her job in Palo Alto, which adds up to $80 a week. Together, their commuting costs come out to $720 a month.

The Oshimas aren’t the only ones suffering the price of long commutes. Each day, 600,000 Americans travel at least 90 minutes and 50 miles to work with 10.8 million Americans traveling an hour each way, according to the 2013 Census. The average household spends almost $3,000 a year on gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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But does it have to cost so much? Alex Bayen, a transportation expert and associate professor of systems engineering at U.C. Berkeley, says no. There are secret commuter shortcuts that can help you save.

Tip 1: Change your driving habits. You can save big on your bottom line with a gadget called Automatic. It plugs into your car, tracking your driving and alerting you where you’re burning the most fuel and what easy changes you can make to save the most money.

For Lisa Oshima, it’s her speed. “I’m a bit of a speed demon,” she said.

Automatic, a San Francisco-based company, calculates that its device can save 30 percent on fuel costs. That’s $216 a month for the Oshimas.

“What we realized was people spent a lot of money on gas but don’t really know how that money is being spent or that they can make small changes to their driving that would have a big impact,” said Automatic’s chief product officer, Ljuba Miljkovic.

Automatic also tracks your trips.

“On this trip from San Francisco to Palo Alto, it was 31.6 miles and it cost $3.37 in gas,” Rob Oshima said. “It looks like there was some hard braking and some hard accelerating in it.”

The Oshimas were able to figure out exactly how much they’re spending and where they can save.

Tip 2: Save time with Waze. Get there quicker and safer with the Waze app. It tells you exactly how slow traffic is moving, which can cost you big bucks. Idling for just 10 minutes costs as much as driving five miles.

Tip 3: Carpool with Lyft. Look around on any freeway and you’ll see tons of cars with only one driver. But you can easily find a carpool buddy with apps like Lyft, whose drivers undergo strict background checks. If Lisa Oshima carpools just once a week, she’ll save $60 a month.

“Why not?” Lisa said. “We’re all going to the same place.”

With these tips, the Oshimas expect to save $3,972 this year alone, cutting their gas bills in half. That’s an extra $331 in their pocket per month.

For these newlyweds, it’s a nice nest egg for their next chapter.

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