By Amobi Okugo \\\ MLS midfielder and founder of Frugal Athlete
If you had to guess off the top of your head, how much have you spent on Uber since 2014? Over or under $3,500? I’m way over... $5,515.
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When I found out how much I spent on Uber rides I was sick to my stomach. I had no idea that I spent so much. Don’t get me wrong, Uber is a great service that offers a number of different benefits such as avoiding the hassle of parking, getting small errands done while heading to a destination, and having a responsible driver if you are having a night out. However, for all these benefits, I don’t think that justifies my $5,000 bill, especially when I already have to contend with a car note and insurance. Ideally, I’d save that money and use it to invest in Uber stock (…if they ever go public).
Looking back on my Uber habits, I can see why my total was so high. One time, I paid a surcharge for an Uber just to take me 8 blocks up the road to a restaurant because I was too lazy to walk. Yes, it was kind of cold, but still, $18 for a ride that short is probably not a good move. Another time, a group of friends and I each got an Uber to meet up at the same place instead of doing the logical thing: carpooling with one of our cars or sharing one Uber.
And I’m not the only one…. Wale (current Nigerian American top performing rapper) claimed to have spent $1 million on Uber in one year. He might as well have been co-founder of the company spending that much. Granted he is very wealthy and has the funds to pay for the crazy surcharges and expenses that come his way, but at that point you might as well have a personal driver. Did I mention that was in one year too, my goodness!!
Uber drivers will take your money and not lose a minute of sleep feeling bad about how much you had to pay. They even have a forum that talks about some of those things as well as other funny stories that happen during car rides. You could even write in one of the Uber driver forums if you follow in the footsteps of A.J. Francis, NFL player currently for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who is an Uber driver during the off season.
Now if you are in the NFL and feel like you need to be A.J Francis, no worries because you have a great partnership with Uber that allows you free rides. Just check on the exact fine print though, with the way those non-guaranteed contracts work added with the average career span of the NFL that Uber card may not last very long. Maybe that’s why A.J drives. Who knows, anyways back to my point…
Realizing some of my tendencies helped me draft a guideline on how to start using Uber without exceeding my previous costs moving forward. Uber is still great, especially if you don’t have a car, but you definitely won’t find me spending anywhere close to $1,000+ per year on rides. I’m not sure this will help Wale, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Here are some ways to minimize your Uber payments:
Avoid Uber Black
There’s really no use in spending the extra fee just to make it look like you have a private driver. By now, everyone knows it’s an Uber.
I’m still trying to fight my New Year’s Eve payment from 2013 for the absurd surcharge I got stuck with that night. Surcharges are killers. Sometimes, you just have to be patient enough to wait for the surcharge to end and then book your Uber ride.
Uber Carpool allows you to split the cost, although it may be with people you don’t know. Still, it’s great chance to meet new people and network while saving money on your ride.
Uber Fare Split
The best way to avoid the argument of who’s getting the Uber for the group. With fare split you and your group can get one Uber and split the cost without the hassle of picking who’s paying for this one. There’s always that one friend that either “doesn’t have Uber on their phone,” or says “I’ll get it on the way back.” With this alternative you avoid missed payments and fairly split the ride.
On the road when we travel, a good number of the hotels where we stay offer complimentary shuttle services. I’ve used hotel shuttles to take me to nearby restaurants I’ve previously used Uber for. Every trip adds up. But still tip the driver, you can be frugal without being cheap.
By the time you wait for the Uber to pick you up and then take you to your destination you would already be at your destination. Enjoy the scenery, fresh air and walk. Don’t you have a Fitbit goal you have to beat anyways?
You get the benefits of having a bike and you don’t have to worry about someone stealing it from you as long as you return it. Win-Win!!
Google technology is next level, there should be no excuse for not understanding public transportation via buses and subway with Google Maps.
Tax write-offs if you are using Uber for any “work-related activities.” No brainer.