smart spending

Pain in the lot: Pare growing parking fees

Purchase a monthly or annual parking pass. Buying bulk parking privileges is usually cheaper than multiple one-day rates.

Use park-and-ride lots. These services offer free or discounted parking, plus a nominal fee to ride a bus directly to the destination. Park-and-ride is usually cheaper than on-site parking.

Avoid parking tickets. No-parking signs can be difficult to decipher, so read the restrictions carefully and if they're not clear, don't take the risk. One ticket can be much more expensive than parking fees. On the other hand, don't overlook the opportunity to park where seemingly complicated restrictions have deterred other drivers.

"It may seem obvious but if you're using street parking, make sure to read the signs and pay attention to the maximum times posted," Virgallito says.

Free parking benefits

Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C., suggests one way to cut office parking expenses to zero: Ask your employer to pay for your parking.

"You'd be surprised by how much is lost for a lack of asking," Cunningham says. "Companies may be willing to add this perk in order to keep a key employee."

If that doesn't work, here are some other suggestions from Cunningham.

Use public transportation. Some companies reimburse all or part of employees' bus fares, subway trips and the like to and from a work site to discourage solo commuters who take up more parking spaces at greater cost to the company.

Leave one car at home. "If your spouse works close by, just take one car to work, thus cutting parking costs in half," Cunningham says.

Work at home. Even a few days of telecommunicating per week can reduce transportation and parking costs.

One last tip: If you know you'll be parking at a crowded venue such as an airport, museum or sports stadium, search online ahead of time to find out whether cheaper parking is available nearby. Many venues offer information about parking on their websites. You also can use a search engine. Try "free parking near" or "cheap parking near" and the name or address of your destination to find more options.


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