A Truck Drivers Guide To Saving Money OTR
Small Investments Can Equal Big Savings
If you don't own the truck, check with the company before you make changes or add equipment to the truck. Owner Ops ... It's your truck, do want you want.
If you don't have much money to start with, that's fine - take baby steps.
There are three things that can cut road expenses fairly quick. One - something to keep food/beverages cold. Two - something to cook your food. Three - depending on your set up, an inverter and one or more deep cycle marine batteries.
You notice I said "something". Most people would say a refrigerator and a microwave Duh!? Not necessarily. If you don't own the truck, you may be limited to a 12v cooler - and that's fine, but try to get one somewhere other than the truck stop - you'll save a few bucks. Do be prepared to buy another one in a year or so - also, they only keep things 40 degrees below the ambient temp - don't put it in a cabinet, the heat it puts out won't allow it to cool your food in that enclosure.
A microwave is not your only option for cooking food. We have a microwave in our truck, but we also have a propane tank with a burner attachment and some small cooking pans. Not only can we cook food, but when our truck broke down, we had no heat except for the propane tank, so it can serve for other purposes and you don't have to make any modifications to the truck - just don't get careless and start a fire in the cab.
We also bought a small collapsible propane grill so we could grill up hamburgers, hotdogs, steaks, chicken, etc.
Going For Upgrades
Of course you can always get a truck with all the bells and whistles. If you're like us, we have an older truck so we aren't going to shell out 10k or more to redo the sleeper. Instead we invested roughly $600 total and have a fairly nice set up.
We have a deep cycle marine battery in the side box. It is wired to the battery bank so it gets it's charge. We have a 2500 watt continuous, 5000 watt peak inverter hooked up to that battery. This inverter runs both our small microwave and our small refrigerator. As a back up we also have a 2500 watt peak inverter installed next to the other, we just don't turn it on unless we need to plug in the laptop or the vacuum cleaner.
If you are going to use a similar inverter please don't think that the other two hook ups for cables are optional - they are not. There will be four very heavy gauge wires going from the inverter to the battery. I have seen some people claim that you need 4 separate batteries just for the inverter - we have been using this setup for well over 6 years without issue.
Go To The Grocery Store, Not The Truck Stop
Eating out is the norm for most truck drivers but that adds up quick. If you figure two meals a day plus snacks you could easily come up with $20 or more a day - I'm being cheap there, but that's me. That comes up to $100 a week if you are only out for 5 days.
Between the two of us we had 3 meals a day plus snacks all from our stock in the truck. I would make coffee with our propane burner and we either had microwave breakfast sandwiches or cereal. If we felt like it we were perfectly capable of bacon and eggs! Lunch was usually sandwiches and chips and maybe a cupcake for dessert. Supper was the big meal - our main course was one of those Hormel Simple Ideas or the ones by Tyson, a package of flavored Idaho mashed potatoes, and a veggie. Of course, we had our bag of popcorn with our movie too! We ate way better and a lot cheaper than in the truck stops.
Since neither one of us are soda drinkers, we would stock up on Clear American flavored waters from Walmart
These are the meals we buy. They also make side dishes. Be creative. It wouldn't hurt to pick up some plastic storage dishes for leftovers.
You Will Save
We buy all kinds of food to keep in the truck including drinks and loads of snacks (healthy ones too) and our food bills for 2 people that spend anywhere from 4-8 weeks out are probably around $250 to $300 depending on what we splurge on. Since we are not limited to just the microwave, we also buy fresh meat and have grill nights. It's nice to just pop out the chair-in-a-bag and slap some steaks on the grill.
I know we have spent $30 on just one meal in the truck stops or on fast food and half the time didn't even get dessert!
There is no reason more truckers can't do this. You do not have to be at the mercy of the truck stops and fast food joints. Don't get me wrong, there will be times that you don't want to cook, but even an occasional meal out is better than every day.
Get Your Points!!
Another way to save money is to get those loyalty cards. Come on, you are buying fuel anyway use the card!!
It may take a while to get points, but your large franchises are coming up with "bonus" points now. You buy so many gallons of fuel in a month and can get anywhere from $5 to $10 in free points. There's your meal out - and it cost you nothing, you were going to get fuel anyway. Of course, those points can be used for other stuff too, showers, movies, snacks.
If you have a loyalty card don't forget to scan it on your birthday - some places give out meals or desserts on your special day.
Enjoy the money you're saving!!