5 Ways to Cut Your Commuting Costs
Kim Lankford | Monster Contributor
July 26, 2011
Take Advantage of Discounts from Your Employer
The federal and most state governments offer big tax breaks for commuters. These laws allow employees to spend up to $105 per month in pretax money on transit passes or van-pool expenses and up to $205 per month in parking benefits, as long as their employer offers the benefit. Like money you contribute to a 401k or flexible-spending account, what you spend on transit passes or parking lowers your taxable income and thus your tax bill. If you’re in the 25 percent federal tax bracket, you’ll only pay about $48 for a $64 pass — and even less when you subtract state and FICA taxes.
Some states offer more benefits. For example, Maryland offers employers an extra 50 percent tax credit for providing transit passes. If the employer gives the employee the pass rather than having the cost deducted from their paycheck, the company can take a federal and state tax deduction as a business expense plus get the 50 percent Maryland tax credit. As a result, an employer ends up paying about $11 for a $64 transit pass if the employee is in the 25 percent tax bracket, says Alves.
If your employer doesn’t provide these perks, lobby for them. They cost the employer little or no money but are valuable employee benefits that can attract workers and help them save. “A typical commute costs about $1,000 a year, and this will save them about $400,” says Jon Kessler, chairman of WageWorks, a company that helps employers administer these plans.
Look for Other Transit Discounts
Those over age 65 ride Maryland’s commuter rail trains half price, while students save 15 percent on most commuter rail passes. Students at participating colleges can get a $64 pass for local bus, light rail or subway for only $39. Most states offer similar discount programs.
Share a Ride
Carpooling and vanpooling helps you split commuting costs over several people, which is particularly helpful in areas lacking good public transportation. You may even be able to use up to $105 per month in pretax money for van-pool costs if your employer offers the benefit. Most states or counties have databases to hook people up with ride-share partners or van pools that have similar schedules and commutes. Check out your state’s department of transportation or CommuterChoice.com for resources.
Cut Your Car Insurance Costs
If you cut your commute, make sure you tell your insurer. You’ll generally get a low-mileage discount if you drive fewer than 7,500 miles per year.
This article was originally published on Monster.com.