How to Get Transportation Assistance and Build Transportation Costs into Your Budget

When money is tight, the last thing you need to worry about is how you’ll get to a job interview, work, or the grocery store. But this worry is common. Transportation costs are typically the second largest spending category in a person’s budget.

In fact, SaverLife found that, on average, our members spend 25% to 50% of their monthly income on public or private transportation.

Not having the transportation you need when you need it can be disastrous. But there are assistance programs that can help if you’re struggling to afford transportation costs. 

Let’s look at how to get transportation assistance and build transportation costs into your budget.

Assistance Options

Before thinking about building transportation costs into your budget, let’s go over possible transportation assistance programs that might help you out. 

It’s important to keep in mind that some of these programs might not be available in your area. When you find programs in your area, be sure to understand the qualifications and how you fit the requirements. 

If you need help finding programs in your area, a great resource is This website allows you to search by zip code and by the type of assistance you’re looking for.

TANF Transportation Assistance

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal program offering support to low-income families, including transportation support. 

While TANF is a federal program, benefits are managed by the states. To find out if your state offers any transportation support TANF programs, the Federal Office of Administration for Children and Families website has a map that breaks down benefits by state. Find the map here, and if you have questions, be sure to contact your state office to get more information.

Medicaid Transportation to Doctor Appointments

Medicaid in the United States covers the cost of emergency medical transportation for Medicaid beneficiaries. This means if you’re experiencing a medical emergency, you may qualify for free transport to an emergency medical facility. While routinely scheduled appointments like Doctor visits and checkups don’t fall under the emergency category, Medicaid might still cover them.

The Medicaid program states, “Medicaid beneficiaries can get rides to and from providers when necessary.” Since Medicaid is implemented at the state level, check with your state to see what qualifies and is necessary. 

Depending on where you live, the type of transportation you take might vary. It could be a shared ride, a public bus, the subway, or even a taxi. For more information on the ride program, click here. Be sure to check with your state to see what services they provide.

Low-Income Transportation Assistance

Depending on where you live, you might have public transportation available. While this can get expensive if you rely on it each day, some cities offer assistance. Check with your city to see if there are low-income options that could offer you access to public transportation for free or for a reduced price.

LyftUp Rideshare Support

Sometimes, lack of transportation can be a barrier to new opportunities. For example, those without access to transportation might not be able to get to job interviews to increase their income. 

The rideshare company Lyft has partnered with United Way and Goodwill® to provide rides to those in need of assistance getting to interviews. The program is called LyftUp. It’s only available in select cities at this point but may offer an option to help you get to your next job interview on time. 

For information about the program, to book a ride through LyftUp, and to apply for access to the program, visit

Community Resources

There may be other community assistance programs available in your community. Take time to look around and see what is available. To find valuable resources and options in your community, use

Building Transportation Costs into Your Budget

Understanding your options in terms of transportation assistance is important. It’s equally important to see how your personal transportation costs fit into your budget so they don’t break the bank.

Understand Your Transportation Costs

The first thing you need to do is understand your transportation costs. 

Look at a few months of your bank records and credit card statements to see how much you typically spend on transportation. Look at costs for public transportation, rideshare apps, gas, parking, tolls, insurance, and any other costs associated with getting you and your family from one place to another.

Add up each month’s spending, then take an average to determine how much you spend on transportation in a typical month. Once you have your monthly average, see how this expense fits into your overall budget. If you’re currently spending more than you bring home, but your transportation costs are essential, see if there are other areas of your budget you can trim.

Factor in Maintenance and Upkeep Costs

If you own a car or bike that serves as your primary mode of transportation, you’ll want to factor maintenance costs and upkeep costs into your budget. 

This will help you stay on track if something happens to your car or bike. It also will allow you to take better care of your transportation to ensure it runs smoothly for years to come. 

If you wait until your car or bike needs work, the expenses can be bigger and harder on your budget.

Instead, review your last year of spending on maintenance and upkeep costs. Don’t forget to include insurance premiums if they are paid annually and registration fees. Take the amount you spent in a year and divide it by 12. This will get you an approximate monthly value for maintenance and upkeep. Add this into your budget as its own line item. 

Then each month, commit to saving your monthly maintenance amount in a separate account. 

By saving it each month, you’ll have the money when you need an oil change or tire rotation. It can also help you build a bit of a buffer for unexpected expenses that always pop up with vehicles.

Look for Less Expensive Alternatives

When you review your transportation expenses and maintenance and upkeep costs, it may be time to consider less expensive alternatives if you can’t find room in your budget. 

Here are a few questions to consider as you look at your options. 

If you need a car to get around, would a less expensive car still get the job done? If so, selling your car to get a more affordable vehicle might help you save on gas and insurance. 

Do you need a car, or will public transportation work just as well? If you’ve relocated from a more rural area to a city or even moved within your city, you may find you no longer need a car and can more affordably use public transportation. 

Do you need multiple vehicles? If you’re a family facing high transportation costs with two cars, maybe selling one car can help lower your costs.

Being realistic about your situation is important as you consider less expensive alternatives. Identify your transportation needs and find the most cost-effective way to reach them.

The cost of transportation can be a burden on your budget. But it is also key to your daily life. It’s necessary to have adequate transportation to find and keep a job, visit the doctor, get your kids to school, and get groceries. 

If you’re struggling to pay for transportation or build it into your budget, it’s important to know that resources are available to help you. 

Remember, when looking at your budget, it’s helpful to understand your transportation costs. It can also be helpful to factor in maintenance and upkeep costs and consider less expensive alternatives. 

But no matter what, know that you’re not alone, and help is available if you’re struggling with transportation costs. 

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