This is part of an ongoing series about how to trim the budget of the average American. As this series focuses on such broad-based tips, some will work for you and some will not. You’re invited to mention in the comments the tips that you found to be the most useful for inclusion in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of this series.
Transportation – other expenses and transportation – $3,130
This unlclearly-defined category includes vehicle finance charges, maintenance and repairs, vehicle insurance, public transportation, vehicle rental, licenses, and so on. In other words, besides buying a car and putting fuel in it, every automobile expense goes into this category.
With such a varied caetgory that speaks to the wide variety of lifestyles people have, there are many ways to save money within this category that really work well for some people – and don’t work at all for others. Thus, use these tips with that in mind – look for the ones that work for how you transport yourself.
Learn how to do basic auto maintenance yourself. Changing your oil and checking your fluid levels isn’t that hard. Your car’s manual explains how to do all of these things. Instead of paying someone else a ridiculously high hourly rate to do it, spend that time teaching yourself how to do it. Once you know how, it’ll take you less time than dealing with taking your car to a maintenance shop.
Don’t skip the maintenance. Follow the maintenance schedule in your car’s manual to the letter. Why? Skipped maintenance inevitably leads to more repair costs and a shorter lifetime for your vehicle over the long run. The fluids in your car don’t last forever, and when they start to become dirty with wear, they can cause real damage to your car. Take care of business.
Get a bus or subway pass. If you find yourself dropping coins or bills into the till on the subway or the bus every single day, get a pass. Yes, it looks expensive, but if you’re riding every day, do the math. The pass is almost always far cheaper than the cost of paying the fee every day.
Shop around for auto insurance. This means more than just using Progressive and their “comparisons.” Actually get yourself a quote from several different insurers and study their customer service and reputation a bit. You might be with the insurer that was the cheapest a decade ago, but now it’s one of the more expensive ones.
Raise your auto insurance deductible. Honestly, over the last ten years, how many claims have you made on your insurance? Instead of paying more to have a $250 deductible (for example) only to find out you’ve only made four claims over the last decade (the average of the people I polled), bump it up to a $500 deductible or even a $1,000 deductible. Then take the savings on your premiums and put it in your emergency fund. Over the long run, you’ll almost always be cash ahead.
Don’t buy cars on a payment plan. This was somewhat covered in the “buying a car” part of this series, but some of the money lost to making car payments is categorized here as well. Instead of making a down payment and shelling out cash out of pocket for the payments, pay cash for the whole thing up front.
Never sign up for a car rental at the airport. Doing so puts you completely at the mercy of the rental agencies – and you will pay for that. Take the time to reserve a car in advance.
Shop around on car rentals, too, even after making a reservation. When you’re considering making a reservation in advance, spend some time shopping around for the best rate at your destination – and keep doing it when you have a few free moments, even after you’ve made a reservation. You can always cancel the first reservation if you find a better deal – and more often than not, you will.
I want your help! In the comments, please let me know which of the tips you find most useful for trimming these costs. I’ll include the top choices in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of the series.