Ten ways to cut the cost of your commute

Emma Woollacott
Typical scene during rush hour. A traffic jam with rows of cars.  Shallow depth of field.
Typical scene during rush hour. A traffic jam with rows of cars. Shallow depth of field.

With property prices rocketing, particularly in London and the South East, people are finding themselves living further and further from their place of work.

There are advantages to this - research this summer revealed that moving an hour out of London can cut the cost of buying a property by an average of £380,000. But the cost of commuting can itself be pretty significant. Last year, consultancy firm Hay Group worked out that commuters in London and Birmingham were spending as much as a quarter of their salary just getting to and from work.

And things certainly aren't getting any better. While chancellor George Osborne announced last month that January's rise in rail fares would be capped at 2.5%, this is still outpacing peoples' pay.

Meanwhile, although the cost of petrol has fallen recently, parking costs are soaring - London is now the most expensive city in the world in this regard, with some central London car parks charging as much as £75 per day.

But there are ways to shave a few pennies from the cost of your journey - we look at a few tips for a canny commute.

Get a season ticket...

Getting a rail season ticket not only costs less, it protects you from fare increases as long as it's valid. Fares usually change at the beginning of the year, although there may be changes at other times too. National Rail has a calculator, here, that will show you how much you could save.

As you'd expect, the savings are biggest when buying an annual ticket, which essentially offers 52 weeks' travel for the price of 40. However, this may mean forking out several thousands of pounds - for most people, easier said than done. However, many employers are willing to offer interest-free season ticket loans to staff, which can represent a saving of hundreds of pounds.

...or two

Word has finally trickled out about the merits of split ticketing: buying separate tickets for different parts of your journey. For example, instead of buying a ticket from A to C, you may find that it's cheaper to buy two tickets, one from A to B and the other from B to C. You can still get the same train, and don't need to break your journey at B: all that's necessary is for the train to stop at B.

You can find out whether you can save money by splitting your season ticket this way through a bit of trial and error. Make a note of every station at which your regular train stops and, using the season ticket calculator above, check out each one as a possible "break point".

Take two wheels

The merits of cycling around town are obvious - it's often much faster, as well as effectively free. If you're commuting into the city from 100 miles away, it might not seem like the most obvious suggestion - but if, for example, you're using your car to get to the railway station, you can at least eliminate those petrol and parking costs. Many employers take part in the Cyclescheme, lending you the money to buy a bike and deducting it from your pre-tax salary - so you save at least a fifth of the cost.

Join a car share

The maths isn't difficult: if you can share your commute with one other person, you can halve the cost. And if nobody you know is going your way, sites such as Liftshare and BlaBlaCar can find you a match. Both allow you to look for a lift or to advertise a spare seat in your car, and both have calculators to suggest an appropriate cost. Many people really appreciate the company, too.

Use buses/park and ride

Many people with cars barely consider using anything else. But buses can be far cheaper, so it's worth checking out the cost of a season ticket. Even if this isn't feasible, using a park and ride scheme can eliminate the cost of expensive city centre parking and mean you avoid congestion charges.

Take the coach

It's also worth checking out long-distance coaches as an alternative to the train. Journeys tend to be longer, but costs are much lower. Unlike the train, you can be sure of a seat, and Wifi will let you catch up on work or entertainment. Many commuter services run more frequently than the train, and the coach may well have a stop that's closer to your place of work than the station.

Cut your parking costs

If you really do have to drive all the way, you may be able to save on your parking costs. It's worth shopping around. The local council website should have a map showing the location of car parks and their charges - and you may find that switching to a different one saves you money.

An alternative is to rent a parking space from a homeowner near your place of work through a website such as Justpark.com or yourparkingspace.co.uk. Prices are set by the owner, but tend to be between around £10 and £60 a week. Your car will probably be safer than in a public car park too.

Switch to a scooter

Swap your car for a motorbike or moped, and you'll save money on fuel, tax and insurance - and if your workplace is in central London, you'll be exempt from the congestion charge as well. Even better, if you're in a city, the chances are that you'll get to work more quickly as you zoom through the traffic jams.

Flexible working

Most rail fares are far lower if you can travel outside peak hours - generally from 6am to 9:30am and 4:30pm to 7:00pm. If you can persuade your employer to let you work less-conventional hours, you may be able to get a far cheaper ticket.

Rent a room in town
It's a drastic option, but with commuting costs so high, some workers are finding that it's cheaper to rent a room Monday to Friday, rather than fork out for a season ticket. Most room rental websites have a section for weeknight-only lets, and some specialise: Mondaytofriday.com, for example, or Fivenights.com.

Read more on AOL Money:

Taking public transport to work? Don't be so smug

'House price saves' by commuters

Rail fares - how to cut costs

The Downsides of Commuting
The Downsides of Commuting