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A dummy's guide to cutting commuting costs
Sheetal Jhaveri
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July 31, 2008

Inflation is at its peak. Rising cost of consumer durables, food and fuel have left most of us in a difficult situation. We all are thinking about ways to beat inflation and how to reduce our monthly expenses.

I am sure most of you must have, at some point, made it a point to cut down on your lifestyle expenses. Didn't you?

Also, I am equally sure that most of you must not have succeeded. Did you?

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Well, whatever your success ratio the point is that more can be done. Let's first look at managing travel/commuting costs and time.

To begin with let's try to economise on the things which have started costing more and pinching our pockets like never before.

Fuel forms a big chunk of it. With rising crude prices petrol/ diesel prices seems to be pinching everyone the most. With banks offering competitive interest rates in the recent past -- not now as interest rates are also on an upward journey -- owning a vehicle has become very easy and most of you, I am sure, must be owning either a two or a four-wheeler. Consequently, your fuel bills must have skyrocketed and hence the mounting expenses!

If you are looking at cutting fuel expenses you are probably starting out on this exercise quite wisely.

Car pool

A tried-and-tested method and one of the best ways to reduce travel cost when driving to work. Share a car with office colleagues or neighbours or friends heading in the same direction. Car pooling not only helps in reducing travel costs but also decongests traffic and reduces pollution as well your stress levels.

If you have no one with whom you can pool your car or vice versa then check this site out: which can help you to find car pools in your area. The only limitation of this site is that it offers its services in limited cities like Bengaluru [Images], Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai.

Public transportation

It is the best and cheapest mode of travelling. Sanket Mehta, 24, a businessman from Mumbai's Fort area, says: "For me to travel from my home in Santa Cruz to Fort in peak hours takes at least an hour and a half. I use the train instead and reach my office in an hour or so; I don't get tired as well. Also, it's much more economical."

Trains and buses can be very crowded especially at peak hours. But they are economical and you don't have the headache of finding a parking space. You will understand this more if you are a resident of one of India's biggest metros where congestion is creating a huge problem. Remember where you can use bus or train; avoid taking a taxi or a rickshaw. Iy you live in a city that has taxis or rickshaws try to share them to reduce the burden of travelling fares.

Plan in advance

You can schedule your day in advance so that you can club appointments or places you have to go to. This way you can plan your route and transportation in advance and not only save time but also fuel. Also, if there is no urgency then select non-peak hours to reach your destination so that way if travelling by car you reach early as well as save on time and fuel. Again try to use public transport and if travelling during non-peak hours then you do not even have to worry about the crowds.

Walk where possible

Avoid taking your car or rickshaw or taxi to short distances where it's possible to walk. Like, going to a grocer's near your house.

Driving tips

Use driving tips to save that extra litre of petrol. You can get driving tips from your car dealer as well as from the service station you visit or even from the Internet.

School drive

For all those with children you should try to use the school bus instead of dropping your kids to school by car, taxi or rickshaw. Or form a car pool to drop kids to their school. With the amount of classes students attend these days parents spend half their time in dropping their kids to classes and picking them up.

Again parents can get together a group of children from their neighbourhood and form a car pool or can hire a bus to drop kids off to their classes and pick them up. This will prove economical both in terms of time and money.

Use teleconferencing

Technology can be a great boon in current times. Business people can use teleconferencing where possible instead of travelling.

Free home delivery

On weekends or even on weekdays instead of going out for dinner or lunch you can order your food at home. Almost all the restaurants have free home delivery service. This way you can save on fuel by not travelling to the restaurant, save on time by avoiding the waiting time at the restaurant (that is to wait first for a place and then for food which can be used for some effective task like reading a newspaper at home or doing some household chore). Also, you will save on time spent in searching for a parking lot, that is, if no valet service is available.

Buy passes

One should make use of monthly, quarterly or annual bus and train passes wherever available. It saves time because you can avoid peak hour queues to buy tickets everyday and arrange for small change. Also, the passes are a much cheaper option than buying tickets everyday if you go for periodic passes.

However, this only applies if you are travelling the same route everyday for work or other purpose. Also, students and senior citizens should try to use the discount available to them.

There are also a bunch of other even more radical innovations to save petrol flying around -- like using bicycles to work. It's not always practical solution especially in India. But creating an awareness sparks new ideas to cut costs.

Do you have an interesting idea on how to cut costs? Would you like to share your idea of cutting costs while travelling, shopping, eating out, buying clothes? Let us know on the message board below!

We would love to hear from you -- email advice and opinions in this regard to, along with your photograph, contact details and age. The best entries will be published right here on

Sheetal Jhaveri is a financial consultant and can be reached at

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