Newbies - Financial Considerations
Budgeting, Spending and Saving
A truck driver's income varies from week to week. After the payments for your house and your car, one of the largest monthly expenses a driver's family will incur is the phone bill. You will feel as if you are a part owner in your local telephone company if you don't watch these fees. Be sure to review all of the various calling plans and choose the one that will fit your situation.
Cell phones are becoming more and more affordable, and the calling plans make this an option for more drivers and their families. You can put a bag phone in your truck, which usually has more power to pick up the tower signals, or you can choose a portable cell phone to keep in your pocket. It may not work in all areas or inside some warehouses, so you might want to consider adding voice mail for those missed calls. Cell phones allow your family to reach you most of the time, but watch your long distances charges and tower fees so you can keep track of these costs.
With the technology available today, you don't have to rely on the telephone to keep in touch with your family. If you have a laptop in your truck or if you subscribe to an Internet service with kiosks at truck stops, you can send your family emails (to get a free email account from layover.com click here). Some carriers have Qualcomm units in their trucks and you might be able to send messages home this way, but first find out if personal use is allowed.
Calculate your own weekly on-the-road needs and take enough cash to cover those expenses. This could include meals, motels, showers, snacks, personal care items and entertainment. If you allow yourself a certain amount each week to spend on your personal expenses, you will have a better plan and can cut back on video games or movie rentals if you are running short. If you don't know how much you have been spending on snacks or sodas, then write it down. Once you see how much money goes into buying cigarettes, it may give you the incentive to cut down.
When you have an idea of your weekly personal expenses, give yourself a weekly "allowance" to cover these items. Take enough cash to cover these needs and maybe a little extra in case of an emergency. Don't rely on your carrier to advance you more money for expenses that you should have prepared for. Remember, stay away from borrowing off next week's check if you can.
As a driver, you never know when you might need a large amount of money to cover an unexpected cost. You might not have the cash to cover a new briefcase or flowers for your sweetheart's birthday. Carrying a credit card is a good idea if you know how to manage your spending. A good rule of thumb is to never pay for something on a credit card that you can't pay off when the bill comes. If you can learn to use the card issuer's money for a few weeks and then pay the bill in full, you will be much further ahead. Once you start making the minimum payments on your credit cards, you will only fall deeper and deeper into debt. The interest will add up faster than you can say, "I can't afford it."
With automatic teller machines (ATMs) in most truck stops, you can also have access to cash from your checking or savings account when you are on the road. If you can avoid these machines you will be better off. The fees can add up quickly each time you use your card for this purpose. Think of the fees as interest and you will be amazed at how much it costs you to take an advance when you are away from home. Plan to use your ATM card only in emergencies if at all possible. Bring enough cash with you to cover your expected costs and you will save money in the long run.
If your carrier offers payroll deductions, ask them to transfer money into a savings account so it's set aside before you even see your paycheck. If you have direct deposit of your payroll check, then you can have the bank transfer an established amount into a savings account and it will be a painless way of saving. If the money is deducted before you get the remainder of your salary you will be more likely to save part of your check for your future needs.
If you can be aware of the dollars that you spend, you will be able to control your expenses and stay within your budget limits. It takes discipline and effort to walk away from the video room or to leave the M&Ms behind. If you know what you will need ahead of time, you can spend within those limits.