As an owner-operator, there are many ways to save money on fuel, truck maintenance, taxes, and business expenses. You can also be sure you never pay more than you have to in taxes, always have an up-to-date profit plan in place for your business, and keep an eye on your business performance each month to find ways to improve! If you are currently working with ATBS, you know that we can help you with all of these things!
But on top of all of this, it’s more important now than ever before that you don’t forget about your personal spending! It’s a downright scary time when it comes to paying bills given the current economic environment, so we wanted to give you a few tips on what you can do today, right now, to try and save money on your personal spending.
With any kind of change, little steps are what lead to big results. We hope some of these ideas will help you shore up your finances during this uncertain time.
Here are some of the quickest ways for truckers to cut personal spending:
#1) Have a Budget or Spending Plan in Place
Building a Budget (or, “Spending Plan”) is the single most important action you can take to weather any financial storm. It’s extremely difficult to take control of your money tomorrow if you don’t know where it’s going today. Consider this plan your roadmap, and it’s going to help you reach your destination of being financially secure during hard times!
During times of financial crisis, narrowing your spending focus to the absolute essentials can help you prioritize. Dave Ramsey talks about focusing on your “Four Walls” when this happens:
Once you nail down those key areas, focus on budgeting for the near-term right now. Our economy will bounce back, but we don’t know when. So, focus on keeping your head above water until this turns around!
#2) Stay Healthy
Serious illness has the potential to be a double-edged sword: If you can’t work then you can’t earn money, and if you couple less money coming in with large medical bills going out, your financial situation can degrade very quickly.
Do everything you can to keep your health your top priority on the road! There’s nothing easy about doing this while driving in your truck, but there are ways to do so, and there are many great resources available to help you manage.
#3) Dust Off Your Negotiation Skills
Debt and obligations takes up a large chunk of the average American family’s monthly income, and right now you should be doing everything you can to find out what, if anything, you can do to save money on those obligations. Dust off those negotiation skills and do the following:
Make a list of all of your debts, including:
Credit Card Debt
Call everyone (and we mean everyone) that you owe money to each month and ask about the options you have regarding your monthly payments (and, if applicable, interest rates).
Are they willing to reduce your payments/interest rates or suspend them entirely? If they are, for how long?
Once you know those two things, be sure you COMPLETELY understand the ramifications of making a change.
Will your monthly payments (or overall obligations) increase? Will your contract be extended? Will interest rates change?
Be sure you know the answers before you pull the trigger and make any changes!
Don’t forget about daycare/childcare
Many families are struggling right now because school, daycare, and childcare facilities are closed, and that means parents are watching their kids at home.
Be sure you contact any daycare or childcare providers you pay for, and double check to make sure you aren’t being charged for services not being rendered.
Every provider/facility is different, and some may have longer-term contracted rates for payment in place, but it’s still worth a call to see what options you have available to reduce the amount you’re paying, even if you aren’t able to reduce that amount to $0.00.
BONUS: Travel Plans
The reality is, most people’s travel plans are going to be affected by COVID-19 in the near-term. If you have travel booked and you know you aren’t to be able to travel, start calling the airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, AirBnB’s, etc., and start figuring out if you can:
If you can’t get a refund, try to obtain travel credits for future use.
If neither of those work, see if you can reschedule your travel!
#4) Review Your Personal Car Insurance
Do you have any cars that you aren’t using back home? Talk to an insurance agent about your coverage options! The reality is that many people aren’t doing much driving right now, and it doesn’t make sense to pay insurance on a car you aren’t driving - here are some thoughts:
If you aren’t going to use a vehicle at all, consider dropping or suspending coverage entirely.
For vehicles you still need to use:
Drive whichever vehicles have the best fuel mileage
Consider moving to liability-only coverage for vehicles that are completely paid off.
Consider increasing your deductible on other vehicles that require full/comprehensive coverage. This is obviously specific to your financial situation, so be sure to speak with an insurance agent prior to making any changes so you are still properly insured as needed!
#5) Review Your Other Recurring Service Subscriptions
Let’s review some common services folks pay for each month that you should review to see if you can find more affordable options:
Did you know most major carriers offer discounted services that use the same towers as the major provider? Look into a few of these:
Verizon: Visible, Total Wireless, Xfinity Mobile
AT&T: Cricket Wireless, h2o Wireless, Consumer Cellular
T-Mobile: Metro by T-Mobile, Mint Mobile, Republic Wireless
Sprint: Boost Mobile, Tello Mobile, Twigby
First, decide if you really need Live TV!
If you do, there are a ton of affordable options out there that could potentially save you some money each month - here are just a few:
Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, AT&T TV Now, Philo
All of these options range from $20 - $65/month (as of the original article published date), which is considerably cheaper than most, if not all, major cable subscriptions today.
Want to replace Live TV with a subscription service?
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+ (the list goes on & on) are all different companies offering streaming services these days.
Take an honest and critical look at these services to figure out which ones you really want - if any - and cut the rest!
Keep in mind that Netflix alone has (by some estimates) over 34,000 hours worth of content available to stream. Consider that before purchasing multiple services to get access to “more content! Those monthly fees for each service can add up quickly, even if they’re each a small dollar amount.
Do you really need to pay money to buy each song or album you want to listen to in the future?
How about paying money each month to listen to your music without ads?
If not, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and many others offer you all the music/podcasts you need to get through the day at $0.00 to you!
You just need to sit through a few advertisements every now & then, and everything you could ever want to listen to is at your fingertips!
Home Energy Bills
Energy bills don’t typically come to mind as something we can cut expenses on, since they’re not really “discretionary” because we have no choice but to pay them.
However, there are plenty of ways to make sure you are running a tight ship at home to make sure you aren’t paying more than you have to!
Update your light bulbs to CFL or LED to save on energy consumption
They may cost more up front, but they last longer & use far less electricity, so they pay for themselves in the long run!
Keep an eye on the thermostat!
Chilly? Put on a sweater! Too hot? Open the windows! Do what you can to regulate your body temperature without breaking the bank to do it.
Consider lowering the temperature on your hot water heater
DOE (Department of Energy) recommends keeping your temperature at 120 degrees, but most default settings are 140+ degrees - take a look and make sure you aren’t wasting money on keeping that water hotter than it needs to be!
Unplug unused electronics
“Phantom” or “Vampire” charges are small electrical currents that stay connected to the item when it’s plugged in but not in use, which is a totally unnecessary waste of money, and is easily saved by unplugging devices that aren’t being used!
Turn off the lights!
Turn the lights off & any electronics when you leave a room/space that you aren’t using - simple, but a big one to remember!
Seal off air leaks
Check the doors and windows to see if you can find any areas you can seal off to keep that thermostat steady!
#6) Reduce expenses on the rest of your personal spending
Cut out the Vices (Smoking, Drinking, etc.)
There are plenty of ways to manage stress, have fun, and keep a positive outlook on life during times like this without spending money on those items - just do it!
Make a list before you go!
Studies say up to 70% of impulse purchases that happen when shopping for groceries take place when you don’t have a defined list to work off of.
Use coupon/rebate apps to cut down on costs and/or each cashback!
Ibotta, Checkout 51, Paribus, etc. All are free, and all are easy to use!
As the world moves to a delivery-only environment for the short-term, consumers will be forced to do more of their shopping online. Here are a few tips:
If you DON’T NEED it, DON’T BUY it!
However, if you really want to purchase an item, wait 24-48 hours after you put that item in your online shopping cart.
Many times online retailers will email you rebates/discounts as items sit in your cart. Not only will this potentially save you money, but you may decide you don’t really NEED that item in the first place after the initial excitement of purchasing it wears off!
Preventative Maintenance (for your personal life!)
You’re already a pro at preventative maintenance on your truck, why not take the same disciplined approach for the rest of the belongings in your life?
Take care of your home, your vehicles, and your appliances!
It’s foggy (at best) when we look into the future to figure out how our belongings are going to be fixed when they no longer function properly during this viral outbreak.
Build time into your schedule to take care of your things, so that you:
Don’t have to spend money to fix them
Don’t have to leave your home, or invite someone into your home, unnecessarily during this outbreak
Finally, consider decluttering your home and selling or donating what you don’t want or need.
There are many online marketplaces where you can sell your items. And, there many, many people/families who will be in need for a lot of items in the coming months. If you’d like to give back, I’m sure folks would be extremely grateful for your kindness during this difficult time!
This list is full of ideas, but it doesn’t include all the ideas out there! Do your research, ask around for advice, and we’re sure there are plenty of ways to reel in your finances and make it through this challenging time!
We hope this list will help you make some purposeful decisions regarding your finances during this challenging time. Our goal at ATBS is to always provide you with as much help and guidance as we can, and hopefully this will help you prioritize your spending during this challenging financial time.
Thank you to all truckers for keeping the world moving forward!