Wednesday, October 17, 2007

10 Tips for the Commuting Student

The second-highest cost of living in Southern California is the commute and all things auto related (the first being housing). Furthermore, if you are under twenty five, the auto insurance industry takes you for everything you're worth. Worse if you are a male.

If you are a fellow commuter, student or not, these helpful suggestions are for you.

1. Time your classes according to traffic. Why take classes from 9am until 4pm? You'll be leaving to school during morning rush hour and coming home during another rush. It's pointless time spent in bumper to bumper traffic on the freeway. I scheduled my classes this semester from 1:30pm 'till 10pm. I hit zero traffic and cut my driving time down significantly. Plus, you eliminate sudden stops and accelerations that burn excess fuel.

2. Bring water or another beverage. You'll be less tempted to stop at a fast food joint or gas station to pick up a drink if you get thirsty on the drive.

3. Fill up at the cheapest gas station. This is one of those common sense measures. Avoid gas stations that are right off the freeway or near the campus. They always overcharge. I actually don't fill up near my house; I've found a gas station near my boyfriend's house that tends to be five to ten cents cheaper than other local stations.

4. Preventive maintenance goes a long way. Keep the tires filled up properly so that the treads don't wear out (or burn extra fuel). Make sure the gas cap is screwed on tight (gas evaporates). Get the oil changed on time.

5. Know your route and alternatives. If there is an accident on the freeway (which there always seems to be in Southern California), it is in your best interest to either get off the freeway or hop on another one. Taking the streets is usually much quicker than horrendous traffic. Mapquest is awesome in that regard.

6. Place items in the trunk. This saves you money by keeping your possessions from getting stolen. College campuses are prone to car theft. Protect your assets by keeping them in the trunk instead of in plain view on the back seat. Don't tempt would-be burglars. A coworker of mine had her front passenger seat window bashed in because she left a messenger bag on the seat.

7. Look into public transportation. Life without a car payment, auto insurance, maintenance fees and gas is much cheaper. If you can go without a car, then by all means, do so. Furthermore, as a student, most campuses offer discounts on bus passes and metro fares. Even if you do have a car, the metro can save you on time and money; the cost of a parking permit alone is ridiculous. I personally attempted to align my classes this quarter so that I could do so. Keyword: attempted.

8. Bring lunch/snacks with you in backpack rather than leave in car. I've learned this one myself. Otherwise, you are more likely to buy food on campus. Who really wants to walk all the way back through those impossibly large parking lots?

9. Carpool. For two semesters, I carpooled with my best friend. It worked out perfectly. Think about it: half the cost of gas, someone to chat with in the car, time to catch up without taking time out of your schedule, and half the price of a parking permit.

10. Buy a parking permit. As much as I think things are ridiculously overpriced, it's more economical to buy one than to pay per day. At my campus, it is six dollars a day to park versus eighty four dollars for a quarter. At six dollars a day, twice a week, for eleven weeks, it comes out to be a hundred and thirty two dollars. That's only if you come on the days you have classes. I save nearly fifty dollars buy purchasing a parking permit.


gildedbutterfly said...

I live according to #7, and love not having the expense and stress of a car. While others are focused on driving and all the tension that comes with it, I'm reading my book and listening to my mp3 player. :) Of course, that's easy to do in NYC; if I lived in Iowa, it'd probably be a different story.

VixenOnABudget said...

I didn't have a car for a year. Living in Southern California without one is rather difficult. Now... if I lived in NYC, it'd be a whole other story!