Sometimes it can be hard to resist the urge to spoil yourself after a long hard day of work, but as a truck driver, it’s important that you manage your money wisely. Saving all your money isn’t as fun as treating yourself, but which is better – having more money than you need because you saved well, or not having enough to pay your bills? I’d venture to say most people would choose living over having nice things that they don’t necessarily need. Today, I’m going to share five truck driver money saving tips for life on the road.
1. Make a Budget
If you’re trying to save money, the first task you should tackle is creating a budget. Don’t spend your money blindly – that’s how people get into debt. Ideally, you should know where every penny of your paycheck is going. The best way to keep track of that is through a monthly budget.
The first step in creating a monthly budget is calculating your average monthly income. As a truck driver your paychecks will vary from month to month, but fortunately you can still calculate a relatively stable average number with some simple math.
Here’s how to figure it out: round up every check from your current employer that you can find. You did keep your pay stubs, right? Add all of those checks together, and divide by however many months’ worth of checks that you have. This will give you an approximate monthly salary.
After figuring your monthly take home, make a list of all your mandatory expenses – food, rent, insurance, etc. Don’t forget that some expenses will overlap between two households. For example, you’ll need to budget food expenses for you and your family back home.
Setting your bills up to auto-pay online is the best way to keep track of your finances. This way, you won’t forget to pay that car insurance bill again. I’d also recommend setting up an alarm on your computer or phone reminding you that the bill will be paid on such-and-such date so you’re not surprised when your bank account has $300 less in it than you were expecting (though, some companies will send you an email notifying you that the bill was paid).
Budgeting can be summarized with this simple phrase: don’t spend more than you earn!
2. Skip Fast Food Restaurants
By now I’m sure you’re aware that eating fast food every day is not only unhealthy, it’s expensive!
Let’s say you stop at a drive through twice a day. Suppose a meal is between $6 and $7 at each restaurant. Two seven-dollar meals rounds up to $14, give or take a buck or two. Multiply $14 times 7 days a week, and you’re looking at spending $98 on fast food alone in just one week. Whoa. That’s no chump change.
How do you combat spending this much on food? By purchasing groceries at a local supermarket or discount store, of course! Walmart will become your best friend on the road. Buying groceries will not only save you tons of money, but you’ll also be able to find healthier options than you would at a truck stop or the local McDonald’s. Grab a sale ad at the front door to discount your trip even more. Also, don’t forget that dollar stores carry groceries too. They don’t have as wide of a selection, but they’re great places to go to pick up cheap essentials.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a mini fridge to keep in your cab. They may be a little pricey up front, but when you consider how much money you’ll save by being able to store food for an extended period of time, it’ll quickly pay for itself over time.
Would you rather spend $50 for a week’s worth of healthy groceries at Walmart, or $105 for artery-clogging fast food? The choice is yours.
3. Use Free WiFi When Possible
This is one of those money saving tips that doesn’t take a whole lot of effort. If there’s free WiFi available somewhere, by all means, latch onto it! Internet use can add up quickly if you’re relying solely on the 3G connection from your phone. Using free WiFi whenever it’s available is a great way to conserve the data plan on your phone and avoid overages on your bill.
4. Take Advantage of Deals
You don’t have to go all crazy with Extreme Couponing, but taking advantage of deals is another easy way to save a lot of money on the road.
Get a truck stop rewards card from the company you frequent the most. Or, get one for each if you’re always stopping somewhere different! Truck stop loyalty cards are really beneficial to drivers because they reward you for fuel and food purchases as well as truck maintenance, which you’ll obviously be making anyway! Usually you’ll get a free shower or drink when you purchase 50 or more gallons of diesel. You’ll also get points for each gallon of fuel purchased that you can redeem in the shop for WiFi, food, and merchandise.
You should also take advantage of any services provided at your company terminals. Many companies have laundry facilities at their terminals. This can save you a great deal of money. Pack enough clothes to last you while you’re on the road, stop at a company terminal, and do your laundry there for free.
5. Refrain from Cash Advances
As tempting as it can be when you’re hurting financially, refrain from taking out cash advances unless absolutely necessary. A cash advance allows you to withdraw cash from your paycheck before it’s been issued, either through an ATM or over the counter at a bank. There are sometimes fees for taking out advances – often between $15 and $20 per $100 you take out.
Think of a cash advance kind of like a baby-loan. Advances give you money immediately if you’re in a pinch, but they can often put you in a worse financial situation than you were before, because you end up spending money that hasn’t even been deposited into your bank account. This can cause a vicious circle. That’s why it’s better to refer to Tip #1 up there and make a monthly budget so you know where your money needs to go right from the start. If you plan out your finances responsibly, you shouldn’t need to take out an advance.
It can be difficult to manage money when you’re in a different place every day, but with these five tips, you can get on the road to becoming a little bit more financially savvy. Saving money all boils down to effective planning and budgeting – erratic spending will only make it more difficult in the end.