Six ways to cash in on your commute
In fact, 3.7 million workers (14%) had daily commutes of two hours or longer in 2015, according to analysis by the TUC.
But instead of staring listlessly outside the window at the world passing by, some savvy commuters are cashing in by making money – or at the very least saving on their commuting costs.
They share their experiences with Moneywise.
Write and self-publish novels
Over 11 months in 2014, Mark Dawson (pictured below) wrote and self-published a million words on his three-hour round commute from Salisbury in Wiltshire to London Waterloo.
He had already written and published some books in his spare time prior to 2011 while he was living in London. But when he moved to Salisbury with his wife, he began to write on the train. As his journey began in Salisbury, Mark – who was working as a film classifier at the time - always got a table seat, meaning he could set up his laptop, put on his noise cancelling headphones, and begin to write.
The 43-year-old self-publishes what he writes using Amazon.co.uk's Kindle Direct Publishing programme, which is free to do. However, the online retailer takes a 30% - 65% cut of royalties depending on factors such as the price of the book and the size in megabytes – plus, you may also have to pay delivery costs.
Mark prices his books at about £3.99 to £4.99, which means he falls into the category where he makes 70% royalties.
By November 2014, Mark says he was earning more than enough from his crime novels to cover his £5,500 season ticket. In fact, he was making a mid-five figure sum each month – more than 10x his day job, resulting in him taking the plunge to become a full time writer.
Mark says he never experienced any negativity from other passengers. One “shoulder surfer” – what he calls people who read over his shoulder – helpfully pointed out that Mark had wrongly referred to wrapping a boxer’s hands in “bandages” when it should be “wraps”.
While he still publishes on Amazon, he also shells out for the likes of a copy editor, proofreader, and for his covers to be professionally designed. He has published 22 novels to date and his new book ‘Blackout’ is due out later this year.
His advice for others thinking of taking the plunge is to just “do it”. He says: “Amazon has made it incredibly easy for people to reach out to readers. You don’t need a publisher or an agent these days. The process is really simple. Some people can be shy but if you want to be a writer you’ve got to publish your work eventually.”
Share lifts or charge petrol money
Jason Webb from Harvington, Worcestershire (pictured above with his son Monty) and Mark Bickerdike from Harrogate, Yorkshire (pictured below) both save money by sharing lifts with colleagues – something they organised using lift-sharing company Liftshare.
31-year-old engineer, Jason, shares his 25-mile (each way) 40-minute commute from Harvington to Gaydon with a colleague he was matched with using the scheme. They take it in turns to drive alternate weeks. He estimates this saves him about £50 a month on petrol.
Jason says he has to drive to work anyway as there’s no suitable public transport where he lives, so this is a good way to save as well as to have a snooze in the car on the week he’s not driving – he starts work at 7am. He adds: “I’d definitely recommend the scheme if you want to save a bit of cash or meet a new friend. The only negative is that it restricts your flexibility; for example if you need to stay late at work.”
51-year-old Mark Bickerdike meanwhile, shares a lift with three other colleagues, with each of them taking a turn to drive on alternate days. The 25-mile journey from Harrogate to Bradford takes about an hour and a quarter each way and Mark estimates it’s probably halved his motoring costs – saving him about £60 a month on petrol, let alone on wear and tear or running costs.
Along with the cost saving, he says the benefit of sharing makes the journey “fly by when you’ve got somebody to chat to”, and that it also takes away the stress of driving. He adds: “There aren’t really any downsides, but you do need to plan your journey better and to agree a start time that suits everyone.”
Liftshare is free for both drivers and passengers to use, and drivers can even charge passengers, although this is capped at an estimated actual cost of the journey by Liftshare, due to the fact that if you make a profit it will invalidate your insurance.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says: “All ABI motor insurers have agreed that your insurance cover will not be affected if your passengers contribute towards your journey costs (including fuel, vehicle depreciation and associated vehicle running costs), as long as lifts are given in a vehicle seating eight passengers or less. This does not apply if you make a profit from payments received or if carrying passengers is your business.” You can also check passenger and drivers’ reviews online before agreeing to share or offer a lift.
Other sites running similar schemes include BlaBlacar and GoCarShare.
Crochet and sell your wares
Bex Webb (pictured above) started crocheting a few year’s ago on a New Year’s whim. She began making items for friends and family but when she got a request to make a blanket in a limited time frame, she started crocheting on her commute to get it finished in time and she hasn’t looked back since.
The 38-year-old’s journey starts at the end of the Metropolitan tube line in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, which means she always gets a seat. She then crochets to Finchley Road, before changing to get a bus to Finchley Central, which she also crochets on, to her job as an administrator for The Association of Jewish Refugees.
On a day’s commute, which can take up to two hours each way, Bex crochets anything from a hat, to bunting, to three coasters – which she made the morning she spoke to me.
She then sells these at Chesham’s monthly local produce market under her ‘Dolly & Blue’ brand name. She’s participated in three markets to date and is in the process of deciding whether to continue with the stall on an ad hoc basis or to concentrate on setting up an online shop at Etsy.com to sell her wares.
The market stall costs £12 a day, but by selling one beanie hat alone she recoups that cost. She says she just about broke even after her second stall in terms of the material outlay. Etsy, meanwhile, charges a 16p per item listing fee, a 3.5% transaction fee, and a 4% + 20p payment processing fee. A similar online craft hub to consider is Folksy.com, although again sellers will be charged fees.
Bex says she got some funny looks when she started crocheting on the tube, but says her fellow commuters are now used to it. She adds: “Moneywise, handmade items are very hard to make a living from when you factor in the material costs and the time. But crocheting on the tube makes the journey so much quicker and it’s very satisfying to make something yourself, although I haven’t quite mastered the art of crocheting on the way home when I don’t always get a seat!”
Get paid to advertise on your car
Mark Callaghan, a 43-year-old accident and emergency porter, has a 14-mile round-trip to work in Edinburgh from his home in Musselburgh, East Lothian.
He saw an advert online for Car Quids.com - which matches companies with motorists who then display the firm’s adverts on their car - and thought this seemed to be an effective way to make money for very little effort.
Mark is currently being paid £150 to have veterinary firm, Pawsquad, advertise on his car for two months (see his car pictured below).
He says this covers his petrol for those two months, leaving him with about £20 to spare. As part of the deal he also gets a free home visit from Pawsquad for one of his dogs.
He adds: “This is my first time using the scheme but I’d certainly do it again and I’d highly recommend others do it too - as long as you don’t mind keeping your car clean [which is one of the mandates he was given]. Although perhaps if you’re shy and retiring having adverts on your car could be an issue.”
The typical advertising period for Car Quids, which is free for motorists to sign up to, is two to three months with drivers earning £75 to £100 per month on average - what you earn depends on where the car is driven. Current advertisers include Bloom and Wild, easyCar, eMoov, and Papa Johns.
Car Quids has campaigns running in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London, and Manchester and will shortly be launching campaigns in Brighton, Essex, Leeds, and York. It’s also run campaigns in Nottingham and Hampshire. Motorists will be screened for their suitability beforehand – whether you’re picked depends on what area you drive in, as well as factors including age and driving history.
Having adverts on your car shouldn’t invalidate or push up your car insurance premiums, but the ABI advises you check with your car insurer first as insurers view risk in different ways.
Study to nab a pay rise or new job
When Rob Tregaskes (pictured below) decided to leave the army he knew he had many transferable skills to help him find a job, but as he had no business or financial knowledge, he decided to study for a part-time MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree with the Open University.
This enabled him to land a job in banking while he was studying, and every weekday morning he spent the 40-55 minute train commute from Horsley, Surrey to London Waterloo carrying out the required reading for his degree. He downloaded all of his books as PDFs to his iPad and worked his way through them on the journey.
He says: “There was a lot of reading and consumption of information that I had to analyse. So the commute was the perfect time to do this as it’s relatively peaceful. Studying on the train is no different from reading a book or reading a newspaper.”
Despite his course costing £16,000 (although Rob paid £13,000 as he received learning credits from the army), during the four years it took to complete his studies he was promoted twice at the bank – something he credits to his degree, and by the end of the course he had already paid off the fees.
Now 34, he’s left the bank and is working for a start-up company, something he says he had the freedom to do as he gained a broad education from studying and because he had no debt leftover from the course.
Mystery shop on your commute
Emma Drew (pictured below) is a full-time money blogger (you can find her at emmadrew.info). But before she quit her job as an admin assistant in November 2015, she had a 50 mile round commute where she put her money making tips for others into practice.
When driving from her home in Ely, Cambridgeshire to work in Cambridge she would pass major supermarkets, restaurants, and high street shops where she would pop in on the way to carry out mystery shopping or dining tasks sourced via companies such as Grass Roots, Marketforce, The Mystery Dining Company, and Red WigWam. On one supermarket shop she’d typically be able to buy about £6 of produce for free and then get about an £8 fee for completing the task.
She would also complete Field Agent tasks on the way home. One such job required her to drive to specific locations to check that a Sat Nav company was using the correct co-ordinates. She earned £3 to £4.50 per task doing this.
Emma says carrying out these tasks on her commute helped her to save around half of her £300 a month petrol bill. She also drives more economically to save on petrol by accelerating slower, not breaking harshly, and using free air at certain petrol stations to pump up her tyres.
The 28-year-old also makes money when using public transport. She completes online surveys where you can earn from 50p to £1 for a short three-minute or so survey to £10 for a 30 minute to an hour-long survey. She recommends Prolific Academic, which matches scientific researchers with participants who get paid to complete surveys for projects. Emma says she’s carried out some “interesting” psychological tasks.
Raffler is another site she recommends for the commute – you have to watch two short videos a day and then you’re entered into a daily £1,000 prize draw – she’s yet to win but says one of her readers won after only two days of her blogging about it.
Emma adds: “What else would you do on the commute? It’s a great time to do something that’s going to earn you money.”
Association of British Insurers
Established in 1985, the ABI is the trade body for UK insurance companies. It has more than 400 member companies that provide around 90% of domestic insurance services sold in the UK. The ABI speaks out on issues of common interest and acts as an advocate for high standards of customer service in the insurance industry. The ABI is funded by the subscriptions of member companies.