Seven Oaks

One way to save is to invest in an inexpensive grill and have your own BBQs during nice weather.

Trucking on a Budget

By Jennifer Hawks

     When you don’t have money to burn (and these days, who does?) saving money is a necessary evil. But it doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, in following these tips you might choose to save money even when times aren’t so tough.

     Sometimes the best way to save money is to simply not spend it. It can be that simple. And remember, small things add up. Start out by asking yourself what you spend your money on. Question your habits and consider substituting, eliminating, or even just cutting down some of those things. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Think Before You Click

     Computer games, including the games and ringtones you download onto your cell phone, can be addictive. A few bucks here, a few there, what’s the harm, right? More than you might realize. Besides the cost of the game, downloading it from an unsafe website could infect your computer with a virus. That can be costly too.

     Computer programs such as what you use to track your financials, schedule your appointments, or use to write your Great American Novel, can get pricey too. There’s no guarantee that even a legitimate website can’t be hijacked and put your computer at risk, but some sites are safer than others.

     Personally, my go-to site for games, demos, and even some free applications is CNET Networks at Owned by CBS Interactive, the site provides links to a growing selection of free, and almost free, entertainment. Check them out for free downloads and demos of just about anything you might want for your Mac or Windows computer and cell phone. Get free browsers, games, educational software, and even programs you can use to create your own ringtones.

     And if you don’t have Microsoft’s Office installed, but would like to use spread sheets, word processing software, and all the other goodies that the pricey name brand offers, try the competition’s free version. It’s called Open Office and is what’s known as open-source development software. It’s fully compatible with Office so if you send someone files, or get them in return, you can both read each others’ documents. Find out more at

Go Fish

     Something else to consider for low cost entertainment is fishing. It’s a great way to get outdoors and get some exercise without even noticing you’re burning calories. You can pick up a cheap rod at almost any Wal- Mart or discount store. Just putting a line in the water for 20 minutes can make a world of difference in your outlook. And if you catch something, well, even better.

     Strangely, as rods get cheaper, the cost for lures seems to rise. But there’s a way around that too. (And I’m not talking about a five-finger discount.) Make your own lures. It’s a great winter pastime and half the fun is inventing workable lures from spare junk you probably have rolling around in the glove compartment or the basement at home. One year I made a lure by attaching a treble hook to a ceiling light fixture mounting strap. Another one I crafted from a swivel hook. And I’ll be honest—when I hooked some good-sized Northern pike with those lures, it was a whole lot more exciting than if I’d used store-bought spoons. Get creative and have fun. If it doesn’t work, it didn’t cost you much, if anything.

     To find the fishing hotspots in your area or along your route, subscribe to a Google or Yahoo group. Forums are also good resources for fishing tips and suggestions. Become a member and plan your next fishing adventure, even if it’s only for as long as your lunch break.

Eat In

     What do Devil’s Food cake, mini pizzas, and barbecued ribs have in common? Well, they can all be cooked in a microwave. I kid you not. How much money have you spent eating out in the last 30 days? And how many times have you used that microwave in your rig? It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out the savings on preparing your own meals. The other advantage to eating in is that you can prepare meals exactly how you like them, and you can eat healthier too.

     If you don’t already, get yourself in the habit of buying the fixings for healthy meals you can prepare yourself with or without a microwave. Salads are easy, and with the prepackaged containers of prewashed greens, you really have no excuses. Or invest in an inexpensive grill and have your own BBQs during nice weather.

     One thing I swear by is canned peaches. They don’t need refrigeration until opened and even in the fridge they last a long time. They’re delicious as a dessert and healthy, too. Find yourself your own list of goodies at the grocery store, tempting enough to keep you out of the fast food joints and truck stop cafes, but not so bulky that they’ll overwhelm your limited storage area.

     For recipes, use your favorite search engine and the keywords “microwave recipes.” Yahoo has several groups focused on this subject. Once you start looking for them, you’ll probably find more microwave recipes than you ever thought existed.

Do More with What You Have

     Again, it comes down to not spending money unless it’s necessary. Think before you pull that wallet out, and then think again. Do you really need whatever it is? Or can you get by with less? For instance, if you smoke two packs a day, can you cut one cigarette out that day, then two the next, until you’re down to smoking one pack a day? Besides the health benefits, that’s money you can put in the bank or toward something else, like the oil changes you can’t avoid.

     The next time you’re out buying coveralls, can you get by with two pairs instead of three, or even one? Or can you mend the ones you have? Will that fancy piece of chrome you’ve been considering really help you make that next delivery? Instead of buying expensive, name brand tires, can you get the same mileage using the less fancy ones? Do you need to buy a larger iPod when you listen to satellite radio most of the time anyway?

     The trick to saving money isn’t about cutting everything fun out of your life and making yourself miserable. It’s about awareness and creating new habits. It can also make great dinner conversation. Over a microwave, of course. Just remember to use proper containers. Take it from somebody who’s learned the hard way. Microwaves smoke when they’re on fire. Go figure.

Jennifer Hawks is a freelance writer who loves the open road. Visit her travel website at