April 4, 2022

7 Changes Owner-Operators Can Make to Save Money

One of the biggest challenges new owner-operators faces, when they begin working for themselves, is the surprisingly high cost of doing business. Many would-be drivers meticulously save up for their own rig only to abandon all that careful budgeting and preparation once they’re finally out on the job.

Being a successful owner-operator requires discipline to manage operating costs and keep spending low, particularly in an age of staggering fuel prices. Here are a few seemingly small changes drivers can make to keep costs down, avoid unnecessary expenses and get the most out of every job.

1. Track Your Monthly Spending

We’re putting this one first because it will almost certainly highlight specific areas of improvement you can focus on below. Most people underestimate how much they spend when they’re on the road. As an owner-operator, you could be on the road for 20+ days in any given month, so all of those small daily purchases can quickly turn into a surprisingly large bill at the end of the month.

Carefully analyze whichever card you use for your business purchases and try to identify variable expenses you can realistically eliminate. Start by breaking down your monthly credit card statement into specific categories like food, fuel, repairs, clothes, emergency supplies, and so on. You’ll be surprised how quickly a few of these figures seem to add up.

Once you have identified what your monthly costs are for each category, you can more easily see how much of your monthly costs are going towards miscellaneous items that you can stand to cut back on.

someone doing a budget

2. Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

After taking a closer look at your bank or credit card statement, you might have noticed how easy it is to spend a lot of money on grab-and-go foods while on the job. Fast food feels like a necessity at times — truckers are on tight deadlines and don’t generally have the means to produce a home-cooked meal within the comfort of their cab — but a little preparation can go a long way towards helping you reduce your monthly food costs.

Before your next trip, take a few minutes to stash snacks, sandwiches, and drinks in a cooler. This is a simple way to help alleviate some of your food expenditures and improve your health and energy levels. Healthy snacks like fresh produce, granola bars, and trail mix can often be more satisfying than many fast food options and give you an extra boost of energy to get you through the day.

3. Don’t Overextend Your Data When Free Wifi Is Available

Finding free internet is getting easier all the time. Many rest stops and local businesses now offer free Wi-Fi as an extra perk to help draw in visitors. Instead of maxing out your data halfway through the month, post up in places with free Wi-Fi.

Make sure you take full advantage of the free Wi-Fi services by also downloading content for future use. Many apps like Netflix and Spotify have downloadable content, so you can save your favorite playlist or show it to your phone while you have a strong Wi-Fi connection, then enjoy it during your next break without the need for excessive data charges.

4. Take Advantage of Automatic Bill Payment Discounts 

For the bills that don’t change from one month to the next, consider enrolling in auto-pay. Auto-pay ensures your bill is automatically paid on time every month so you never have to worry about incurring late fees from accidentally forgetting to submit your payment before the due date.

Enrolling in auto-pay is usually a fairly simple setup process. Most credit cards and banks try to encourage all of their customers to use autopay since it ensures payments are always made on time. It’s not uncommon for them to offer extra incentives to make auto-pay more appealing to users, so be sure to check into any special promotions, discounts, or rewards upon initial sign-up. Then, just set up your payment schedule and forget it. By remembering to pay these bills off your plate, you will have more time to focus on bringing down your more miscellaneous expenses.

5. Know Which of Your Major Expenses Are Tax-Deductible 

There aren’t just deductions available for truckers through the IRS website — there’s an entire trucking tax center detailing the latest tax news and updates for owner-operators. It’s not the most exciting read in the world, but the information within can save drivers thousands in taxes if they pay close attention to which fees, services, and equipment purchases are tax-exempt.

The trucking tax center is also your best resource for forms, frequently asked questions, and just about everything you need to legally operate your own trucking business. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with this resource so you can take full advantage of the many savings offered through tax exemptions and deductions.

tax documents with a sticky note on it reading "tax deductions"

6. Take Advantage of Special Deals by Joining an Association 

Being an owner-operator doesn’t mean you’re completely on your own when it comes to shouldering the financial burden of moving freight across the country. Millions of drivers contribute a critical service to the country’s economy every day. That’s why trucking associations exist.

Joining an association plugs you into an extended network, sometimes with established access to valuable discounts. For example, the American Association of Owner-operators (AAOO) gives its members access to several perks that can save you money and hassle.

7. Utilize Motor Carrier HQ’s Library of Owner-Operator Resources

Here at Motor Carrier HQ, we’ve pieced together several resources to aid owner-operators in keeping their costs to a minimum. These cover everything from DOT compliance forms and checklists to help avoid costly fees, to tools like the cost-per-mile and start-up cost calculators. Everything you need to financially and legally prepare to start life as an owner-operator can be found within our own stack of resource pages — and as a bonus proof of concept, our own Haulin’ Assets podcast documents the exact steps our team took to build a successful trucking company from scratch.

Being an owner-operator can be a game-changer for drivers who know their way around the industry. A little planning and a dedicated analysis of your monthly expenses will help you keep unnecessary costs low and spot certain areas inflated by needless spending so you can maximize your profits and reap the rewards of owning your own trucking business.

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