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Truck Driver Money Saving Tips: Holiday Edition

October 13th, 2023

Samantha Dwyer

Samantha Dwyer

Samantha joined the Anderson Trucking Family in November of 2012 as a specialized driver manager and managed a fleet of mixed company and contractor drivers. In the spring of 2014, she transitioned to the driver administration department and began working in contractor services. While in contractor services, Samantha familiarized herself with all processes, procedures and information in regards to driver contracts, pay and settlements. She is currently the operations support manager and oversees both the contractor services department as well as the driver settlement department and leads both of her teams to ensure our drivers receive the highest level of service required to help navigate their accounts and settlements on a daily basis.


Can you smell the Thanksgiving turkey and hear the jingle bells ringing? 

No? Just me?

Okay, maybe it is a little bit early to be thinking about the upcoming holiday season (unless you’re me — in which case you’ve been saving for Christmas gifts since February and you’re nearly finished buying gifts for everyone on your list), but if you’re a truck driver, it’s certainly time that you at the very least plan for the upcoming home time you’d like to take.

Making a holiday budget as soon as possible — as early as late summer— will set you up for success. It’ll give you the chance to save up enough money for holiday purchases and operating costs while you’re not on the road. 

It's time for drivers like you to start planning your home time. Whether you're a company driver or an independent contractor, making a holiday budget early on is crucial. Without a plan in place, you may not be able to go home for the holidays.

As a family-owned company, Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) understands the importance of spending time with your loved ones during this special season. That's why we've put together five tips to help you save money and get your finances in order, ensuring you can take home time this holiday season.

Communicating your home time expectations, creating a budget, sticking to it and finding ways to save money on the road are just a few strategies that can make the holiday season more enjoyable and stress-free for truck drivers.

Once you've finished reading, you'll know exactly which steps to take next.

1. Schedule Home Time

Before you can start saving for the holidays, you need to figure out which holidays you’d like to go home for. If you’re an independent contractor, the decision is yours about which holidays you want to go home for (and which holidays you can afford to go home for). 

If you’re a company driver, it’s a little different. As an employee of the company, you need to request time off and have it approved. Your company may have specific rules for how many company drivers can be off at once. After all, freight doesn’t stop moving during the holidays. 

You may actually decide to work through the holidays because you have the opportunity to haul a lot of freight. Depending on your company’s policy, you could receive extra pay for working on holidays. You may decide to take time off right before or right after the holidays. 

Make sure you understand your company’s holiday policy and ask questions if you don’t. Then, request the days off in a timely manner. Remember, if you’re a company driver, the company may provide paid time off (PTO) you can use. 

If you’re an independent contractor, always communicate to your dispatcher what your home time expectations are. Let them know when you want to be home for the holidays and when you plan to get back on the road. Try to give them as much advance notice as possible. If something changes with your home time request, be sure you communicate that as early as possible.

Advanced planning will allow your dispatcher to get you where you need to go by utilizing the most cost-effective method possible. For instance, they may be able to book you on a load that delivers just an hour from your home, rather than having you deadhead the entire way home.

A flat lay of holiday food. There are several pies, rolls, side dishes, and a large partially sliced ham in the center.

2. Set a Budget

Realistically, drivers should be saving money all the time. It’s always a good idea to have funds regularly set aside in case of emergencies or a rainy day. If you encounter a bad breakdown and you have to be out of the truck for a while, you’ll have funds to cover it. 

Depending on which holidays you celebrate and which ones you’d like to go home for, you should also start setting aside additional money as we approach the holiday season. It’s a good idea for you to start saving as early as possible — August or September is ideal. It gives you a few months to save up and we’re still in a summer freight market when rates are generally higher. 

Consider all the holiday expenses you might have. You might want to save money for the perfect gifts for your family members. Perhaps you love decorating for the holidays and want to budget for that. Maybe you and your family do a lot of entertaining and you’ll spend more money than normal on groceries. Or maybe your family travels to somewhere tropical for the holiday — or just to grandma’s house a few states away.

You’ll also need to cover your normal home expenses and the cost to operate your truck (if you’re not a company driver). If you take home time, you’ll need to cover those truck expenses — insurance, lease payments, etc. — while you’re not generating income on the road. Covering truck expenses doesn’t apply to company drivers.

Think about the earliest holiday you’d like to be home for. Make a list of all your expenses and how much money you’ll need to save by the holiday. Determine how much money you need to set aside each paycheck to reach that goal. If you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving and a winter holiday, like Christmas, establish a budget for each holiday. Again, don’t forget to include your usual expenses at home, your truck payments and so on. 

If you want to buy gifts for loved ones, go so far as to set a budget for each person you’ll buy for. 

Create a realistic budget. I know many drivers want to shower their loved ones with gifts and other items, but you can still make them feel loved and appreciated while sticking within a budget.

3. Stick to Your Budget 

It’s not enough to set a budget — you have to put some action behind it. There are a few ways you can go about this. 

First, consider if you will get any sort of holiday bonus pay. That’ll make a huge difference in your budget. Some drivers wait for a bonus check to come in and save it for their holiday expenses. 

However, the holiday bonus can be very misunderstood in the trucking industry and is often a source of driver confusion. Some company drivers simply get a bonus for working at the company. Other carriers require drivers to meet specific requirements. Be sure you understand what you need to do to earn this bonus; your dispatcher should be able to clear up any confusion. 

Most, if not all, trucking companies allow contractors to have a reserve, saving or escrow account of some sort. You can always use that account to put in additional funds — be it on a cents-per-mile or percentage basis. Have this auto-deduct from your settlements. That way, it’s out of sight, out of mind and you don’t miss the money. 

Drivers who don’t have this type of account access can establish a secondary bank account and deposit a set amount of money weekly. 

There are several different ways you can save money on the road. For starters, make sure you have a clear understanding of how much you can spend week to week on food and other personal items. Then, take advantage of reward cards whenever you can. 

Utilize the reward cards that give you points and other incentives when you use them. That could mean earning free showers at the truck stop and getting discounts on your groceries and fuel. Don’t be afraid to use online apps for coupons and cashback bonuses. You need to find ways you make your dollar stretch. 

When you’re shopping for gifts, if you’re hunting for specific items, try not to splurge on the special item the first time you see it. To ensure you stay within your budget, shop around to see if you can find the item elsewhere for a more affordable price. Impulse buying will make sticking within your budget constraints difficult.  

A blurred stack of presents. The bow and jingle bell on the top present are in focus.

If you’re an independent contractor, you can also save money by driving safely, following good fuel-efficient practices and performing regular preventative maintenance on your truck. Doing so gives you a greater chance of preventing major breakdowns and catastrophic vehicle failures. It’ll save you money in the long run. Of course, you should be doing this all year long, but don’t let the behavior slide during the holiday season. 

4. Put More Money in Your Pocket

Now that you know how to save money, how can you make more of it? You have to push yourself on the road to keep making money that’ll help you reach that goal — especially in the months leading up to the winter holidays. 

That means maybe staying on the road longer than you usually do, opening yourself up to freight opportunities and keeping those wheels turning. It also means operating efficiently and maximizing your Hours of Service (HOS). Trip planning will help you go a long way in this area.

Always be in contact with your dispatcher regarding when you’re about to be empty or when you’re on your way to your next load. This will help your dispatcher work with the team to secure your next load to keep you rolling. Update them on any delays you may foresee coming your way. 

If you’re an independent contractor, you also have to be smart about how you fuel your load. One of the worst things a non-company driver can do is over-purchase fuel. All your money goes into your fuel tanks. Fuel for the load instead of filling up your tank every time you hit the truck stop. Don’t put all your settlements in your tank.

5. Don’t Overextend Yourself 

Don’t overextend yourself while you’re trying to reach your financial goals. This should really be a rule you always follow on the road. 

You shouldn’t push yourself to the point of getting sick or feeling rundown. Your health — physical and mental — matters and you need to focus on your own personal well-being and safety. 

Goals are hard to achieve and you have to work for them, but don’t do so at the risk of your health. 

It also means you shouldn’t cut corners or try to break the rules. Driving safely prevents claims and claims prevent deductibles coming out of your settlements or reserve account. Practicing safety also prevents unnecessary downtime for any repairs caused by those claims or accidents. Be alert and practice safe driving behaviors — especially as the roads become icy and snowy.

You might come to the point where you realize you won’t be able to afford to go home for both holidays and you’ll be put in a position where you have to choose one over the other. Ultimately, choosing one holiday over another might mean you reach your financial goals quicker and you’ll be able to fully enjoy the holiday you do get to go home for rather than stressing about money.

Know when it’s time to make that decision rather than overextending yourself. That being said, it’s a very personal and difficult decision. You have to do what’s best for you, your family and your business. 

The view from the cab of a pickup truck driving through the Colorado mountains on a two-lane highway. There is a blue semi-truck and van trailer close by.

Enjoy the Holiday Season

Planning ahead and setting a budget are essential for truck drivers who want to take home time during the holiday season. By scheduling home time, creating a budget and sticking to it, you can ensure you have enough funds to cover holiday expenses and operating costs while off the road.

Additionally, finding ways to save money on the road and maximizing earnings through efficient trip planning can help you reach your financial goals. It's important for you to prioritize your health and not overextend yourself in pursuit of these goals.

By following these strategies, you can enjoy a stress-free holiday season with your loved ones. So, start planning early, communicate your expectations and make the most of your time on the road to achieve a successful holiday season.

Here at ATS, we want happy drivers. We’ll do everything we can to help you achieve your goals. Simply communicating your goals to us is all we need to help get you there. 

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