Friday, June 13, 2008

Four friends find savings in carpooling

Deanna House of Food and Nutrition Services has some simple advice for anyone considering saving money by sharing rides to work: “Try it, you might like it.”

She and three of her neighbors who work in Purchasing, Janice Pride, Deb Powell and Anna House, have made carpooling a habit over the last few years. They say sharing the ride in from Billings has added money to their household budgets while reducing the number of cars on the road.

Anna and Janice originally started riding together in the spring of 2005, when gasoline was approaching what now seems like a bargain: $1.50 a gallon. By 2006, Deb and Deanna had joined in, taking turns driving the group to work and back.

“We had talked about it before, but when gas first started going up, we decided we needed to do this,” Deanna says.

The group says that while the environmental benefits are a nice side effect, the financial incentive was key to getting everyone on board.

“We’re four cheap women,” Deb says, laughing. She’s quickly corrected by Anna, who prefers the term “frugal.”

Depending on who is getting picked up, the trip is about 26 miles each way. All four women work the same shifts and they take turns driving to spread out the cost of gas.
“When I drove by myself, I was spending $60 per week,” Deb says. “Now, I usually spend about $20 per week.”

The group says carpooling is a lot easier than one might think. The group keeps in touch about their schedules and they make adjustments when someone can’t ride or needs to make a stop at the grocery store or pharmacy.

“Most people think they have too much going on to do it,” Deb says. With a little planning, though, the group has accommodated family schedules by doing things like dropping one another off at children’s sporting events. “Everything we do is between Springfield and Billings, so it’s not that hard.”

But what about giving up the 25 minutes of private time each way that their commutes used to provide?

“Well, we’ve never had a fight or anything!” Deanna says with a laugh.

“Unless it’s about the temperature of the car,” Deb grins.

“You may be used to driving by yourself, but the cost savings really offsets that,” Anna says.

All four of the women have noticed a savings not just on gas but in reduced wear and maintenance on their vehicles. They say it’s a good feeling knowing that they’re reducing the number of cars on the road during rush hour and freeing up parking spaces at work.

“Most cars you pass on the road have one person, but we look like a school bus!” Deb says. “If we could fit more people in, we would.”