|Hulk hates debt!|
In my attempt to take over the world, one word at a time, I wrote an article for Pilot Travel Center's Challenge Magazine and it was published in the February edition.
I have linked it under the tab Other Published Stuff but you have to click, like, 3 things to get there and who has that kind of time?
So, because I care about your time, I am posting it here in all its wordy glory.
Freedom on the Road and Freedom from Debt
My husband and I have been trucking for so long that our shirts have a seat belt shadow; a dark, diagonal stripe that doesn’t match the rest of the sun faded cloth. Of course I could replace those shirts with new ones, but frugality is a hard habit to break and I consider those stripes a badge of honor.
Nine years ago we got the idea that trucking would be an interesting life and a good way to see the country. We went to truck driving school, hired on with Schneider National and began driving as a team. This was a disaster. Neither of us could sleep while the truck was moving, and the truck was always moving; a thousand miles a day leaves no room for stopping. After criss-crossing the continent several times, going the same route over and over, we realized that team driving wasn’t the life for us. I also discovered that while I liked the traveling, I hated the driving.
So when a new dedicated route with Schneider opened up in Wyoming, we decided to quit team driving and leave the Sunshine State for the Cowboy State. For five years, my husband drove 495 miles of Wyoming, five days a week by himself, while I got a “normal” job. If you’ve ever driven anywhere in Wyoming, you know what a lot of empty miles that is! It wasn’t the most exciting job for him or me, but we had to recoup our losses and rethink our plan of seeing the country, a dream that never left us.
We decided the best way to earn a living and see the country together, without both us us driving, would be to own our own truck. We planned and saved for a year. We forced ourselves to live on my husband’s paycheck and put mine in the bank to save for the truck. We lived below our means, had no other debt than our modest house, and saved, saved, saved. Did I mention we saved?
We bought our 1999 Freightliner Century on eBay for less than $20,000, put in another $15,000 to get it road worthy and signed on with Crete Carrier Corporation as own-operators. We got a small personal loan to cover what we lacked in savings and set out for the open road. I am the bookkeeper, navigator and chief radio button pusher, and my husband drives and maintains the truck. It is the best of both worlds for us; we can see the country and earn a living at the same time.
We began as owner-operators in 2007 and in that time we have had our engine rebuilt, replaced the clutch, rear differential, radiator (twice), the bull gear, and every a/c component know to man. We have seen the price of diesel fuel fluctuate wildly and even hit the $5 mark. We’ve seen freight boom and bust. We have sat empty with hours to run and no freight to haul, and we have run so hard and used every hour on line three and four that we didn’t know what day it was, when freight was good. During all of the inevitable ups and downs though, we have been consistent in one thing: we live below our means. We pay cash for every repair, whether it be routine maintenance or a side of the road emergency.
What I have learned in the four years of running the business of our truck, is that while I can’t control the freight, the fuel price, or the never ending need of maintenance, I can control the impulse to buy things I don’t need. Every dollar that didn’t go into the truck went into savings, even though for the first couple of years it seemed the truck ran on dollar bills instead of diesel. We lived pretty frugally during that time but we had a goal in mind: saving enough cash for an emergency fund of six months of expenses. We didn’t go on vacations or spend frivolously at Walmart and we ate a lot of sandwiches instead of eating in restaurants. We saved with focused intensity and with each dollar closer to our goal, a little weight seemed to lift off our shoulders.
Here’s the thing about being debt free and having an emergency fund that trumps all the boring facts and dry arguments of personal responsibility; it feels good. The freedom of being in control of your own life, knowing that if life throws you a curve ball it won’t put you out of the game. The freedom of wiggle-room, the freedom of being beholden to nothing but your future, the freedom of a good night’s sleep, the freedom to plan. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but living in constant debt will never buy you freedom.
I am enjoying the trucking life, seeing the country in all its diversity, looking out my “office” window everyday to a new view, and being my own boss. We have reached our savings goal and everything looks a little brighter and the truck seems to run a little smoother. I can afford the money for new shirts now, but those stripes were hard earned. I think I’ll wear them a little longer.