I’ve already told you the most important way to save money in New York City. Now for the easiest way.
You are out late at night. You’re tired and you just want to get home. You think the easiest way is to grab a cab. You won’t have to worry about getting cross-town or switching subway lines. It will be SO much faster, you say to yourself as you sink into the leather backseat. I get it. It’s the easy choice. But it’s not worth it.
The obvious and not so obvious costs of taxis are absolutely terrible. Let’s START by going through the math. Let’s look at someone who takes 5 cabs in a week. First of all, I know people that take 5 cabs in a weekEND, so I am being conservative here.
First of all, a taxi will charge you $2.50 for the right to sit down. If it’s after-work rush hour, there is a $1 surcharge or $.50 for a ride after 8pm. Then there is a $.50 tax charge. You haven’t gone anywhere. You’re no closer to home than before you got in the cab and you have thrown away up to $4 already!
Then, you pay $2 for each mile. We already know that, as New Yorkers, we are expert walkers. So it’s safe to say that you’re probably traveling more than 1 mile if you decide to hail a cab. On top of the $2 for every mile, it’s $2 for every 5 minutes you sit at a traffic light! Want to know how many traffic lights there are in New York? 12,460! Sure, in Manhattan, they are timed pretty well, but you will definitely be paying something for time stopped at them, ESPECIALLY if you are going cross-town.
I am going to be REALLY generous in our example and say that our test subject is only taking rides within Manhattan. No bridges or tunnels. No tolls. No extra charges for leaving the boroughs. And no issues with cabs (illegally) refusing to pick you up because your destination is too far away. Needless to say, the cost in the situation I am about to propose could be a LOT higher.
Let’s say, on average, you are traveling 5 miles, late at night. You are only stopped at traffic lights for 5 minutes (holy cow, you lucked out!) You just took a $15.50 cab ride. But wait, you have to tip. Under no circumstances should you stiff your cab driver on tip. You were the one that made the choice to take the cab. Personally, I would tip $3-4 on this ride, but from what people tell me, $2.50 is more normal.
Average Total Cab Cost: $18
Cost for 5 cab rides per week: $90
Cost per year: $4,680
Now, that $4,680 is in after-tax money. Just to illustrate my point, think about your current salary. By switching from taking these cabs to giving them up (in pre-tax money) you are giving yourself a $5,350 raise, approximately. Imagine if you walked in to work tomorrow and your boss told you that you were getting a $5k raise. That is exciting! The best part is that if you find yourself cabbing too much, you can give yourself that raise today by giving your hailing hand a rest and taking the subway!
“Come on Mr. NYBudget”, you say, “you’re always asking us to sacrifice and make our lives more difficult for the sake of saving”. I admit that it’s easier to decide to take a cab. However, after you make that decision, the actual process isn’t always as convenient (or quick) as you think.
Taking a Cab:
Step 1: Hailing a Cab – Sometimes you get lucky and there are plenty of cabs. However, in my cab-taking days, I OFTEN found myself in an area that didn’t have cabs rolling by or had so many people that competing for a cab made the process a struggle from the start.
Step 2: Getting in the Cab – It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while you will get in a cab that smells TERRIBLE. And you are stuck there. Sure, you could get out and go through the hailing process again (sacrificing another $3-$4 just to sit down), but either way, you are screwed.
Step 3: Traveling – This may be a personal preference, but I am MUCH more likely to feel nauseated in a cab (terrible shocks, aggressive driving, other cars) than I am in the subway. Not to mention “the cab close call” or “cab crash”! Every new Yorker has a story.
Step 4: Arrival – Phew, you finally made it! And 9 times out of 10, faster than you would have if you had taken the subway. But not THAT much faster. Traffic in New York is bad and you never know how long it will take you. Is saving 10 minutes really worth all this?
I will admit that traveling by subway is nowhere near perfect. The MTA has its delays and struggles, but I actually think the experience is BETTER and you can’t argue the cost.
Taking the Subway:
Step 1: Waiting for Train – Sometimes this can be a long wait, no doubt. But at least you don’t have to out-maneuver other people. You don’t have to “hail” a subway car. And, unlike when hailing a cab, you can bring a book!
Step 2: Getting on the Train – The potential of entering a gross subway car is a very pungent reality (you all know what I’m talking about). But, there are also warning signs. Here’s a tip – if one train car is significantly less crowded than all the others, there is probably something wrong with it. You can avoid this smelly situation altogether (if you’re paying attention). And if you do get stuck in a terrible cabin, you’re only one short stop away from being able to switch.
Step 3: Traveling – This is the biggest downside, especially late at night. For people that have to switch subway lines, it can definitely add some time to your journey. BUT…
Step 4: Arrival – Every once in a while, you will actually BEAT someone who took a cab. I have seen it happen and have done it myself. Most often, you will not, but you won’t be too far behind. And you will have a fatter wallet at the end of the day.
So my suggestion? NEVER take a cab, it’s not worth it. Yes, there are the rare emergency occasions when you should. But being lazy is not an emergency.
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