Budgeting as a New Truck Driver Over the Road
Tuesday, Mar 6 2018 admin
If this is your first truck driving job you want to start out on the right track, and not head over heels in debt. As a truck driver, you are in a unique situation. You spend the majority of your days at work, which for you means you are out on the highways and byways. Here the essentials like food and cleaning supplies are a lot harder to find and cost a lot more than they do in box stores or discount shops. Yet you have to keep on trucking, spending as you go when you need to. To help you get started check out the most common areas where you will be spending money over the road, along with ways to keep track of your spending.
The Essentials—Fuel, Food, Parking
Three things you can’t live without as a trucker—fuel, food, and trucker parking. Depending on the trucking company you drive for or if you are an independent contractor, you might be responsible for shelling out for all three. With some trucking companies like Schneider National or CRST International, you most likely will get a fuel card. This way you can charge your diesel and fuel additives to your employer. Otherwise, you can expect your employer to give you the cash you need to cover your fuel. But if you find yourself going over, you’re stuck paying out of pocket and waiting for a reimbursement after you turn in your invoices.
Fuel for a trucker, in the form of food, is another high priced commodity. Start with the places you can buy food. Truck stops, fast food restaurants, and gas stations all charge a premium for food and beverages. If you depend on these places for meals and snacks you can easily spend $75 or more a day on two meals, snacks, and beverages. If you do that every day you will be driving just to eat. Forgetaboutit. Go with purchasing foods at places like Walmart over the road or stocking up your fridge when you are at home. Yes, you’ll need to spend a little more time preparing your meal and figuring out how to store and cook food in your cab, but it is far more affordable to eat this way.
Truck driver parking is fast becoming another expensive item. Nowadays with the way the trucker parking is at a premium truck stops are charging anywhere from $7 to $15 a night for a driver to park. Over the course of the week that adds up to $50 to $100—and no, you probably won’t get reimbursed for parking by your employer unless that’s part of their benefits package. Instead of throwing away your money on pavement rentals, try these tips:
- Look for truck stops that offer free trucker parking when you buy fuel. Plan your routes so you fuel up at the end of your workday so you can park overnight without having to pay.
- Stop at rest areas to park. You will never have to pay for a public rest area or state trucking parking spot because you already do through highway use taxes. Of course, other truckers know this, too, so you’ll have to be strategic about getting this parking. Go earlier in the evening rather than waiting until the middle of the night when parking spaces are already taken.
- Find a Walmart or other department store parking lot near you that allows truck drivers to park overnight. You won’t have to pay, and you will also have the opportunity to run in and grab some more cheap food. In fact, places like Walmart sort of expect you to shop there in exchange for free parking.
Now we have those extra expenses that you can’t often plan for. Toll fees, emergency room visits, roadside repairs, paper towels, a trailer clean-out…there are always last-minute events that come up that cost you money. You can’t predict when these happen, but you can keep these in check.
Grab a notebook or a spending tracker app and write down every single thing you buy over the course of a truck driving trip. Whether you spend $2 or $200, write it down. Make note of the date, describe the purchase, and write down where you bought it. This will help you in a number of ways:
- You will identify those sneaky purchases that come around on a regular basis, such as truck washes and trailer clean-outs. Then you can start budgeting for these seemingly routine expenses rather than wondering why you are $150 short in your account each month.
- You can cut out those purchases that happen more regularly than you’d like—and that you can save money by buying elsewhere. Been grabbing a bag of chips and pack of cookies every day? Why not buy those in bulk at the grocery store and save 75 percent?
Free Budgeting Apps for Truckers
To help you out there are several budgeting apps you can download on your phone or tablet for free:
- Goodbudget Budget Planner
- Fudget: Budget Planner Tracker
- Expense Keep: Monthly Spending Tracker
- Penny: Track Spending and Bills
- Truebill: Expense Bill Tracker
- YNAB (You Need a Budget)
- QuickBooks: Self-Employed Truckers
- Checkbook: Spending, Income, Cashflow
Try out a few different apps until you find a system that is easiest for you to use regularly. Once you have tracked your spending for at least one month you will have a solid idea of where you are leaking cash. From there you are accountable for your cash flow and better able to say no to purchases or make smarter spending decisions over the road.
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