Saving money as a small business can be tricky—if you’re a startup especially, money might be tight already. You probably don’t have a big portion of your income that you can tuck away as savings, and you welcome opportunities to make your operations more cost-effective. We’ve compiled a list of money saving tips—ways for you to trim overhead here, and increase efficiency there, until you’re on your way to better financial health.
In this list, I will cover:
- Nearly-Universal Tips
- Office and Home Business Related Tips
- For Those Outside The U.S.
No matter your industry or location, you should be able to apply most of this advice, even if you need to tweak it a bit to suit your needs.
1. Go green
You’ve heard it before and it’s still true: going green saves green. Whether it’s a home business, office, storefront—whatever kind of space your business is using, the more energy efficient your space is, the lower utility costs you’re going to have. So go out and buy those compact fluorescent bulbs already—they can save you three quarters of your lighting bill per year! For more information on greening your spaces, check out Energy Star, a program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
2. Use open source and cloud computing
Every startup will use some kind of software, for things like book keeping, word processing, and presentation. Sourceforge has an index of open source options. For most things you need to do, you can find an open source and/or cloud version of it. “You do not need to buy that expensive office software and servers when you can switch to a cloud vendor—Google is an example—at a fraction of the cost,” says Ali Asadi of A Profit Maker.
3. Use own-brand or generic brand goods
It’s always tempting to buy name brand, but it’s almost never worth the money. If you’re looking at buying goods for your business, just go with generic (or as they say in the U.K., own-brand); the box may not be as pretty but the product will be the same.
4. Sponsors for events
There’s a wide range of reasons why a business may need to throw an event, but you likely will need to at some point, and they can certainly be costly. Joining together with another business as a sponsor to throw an event can mean a higher quality event and more press for all involved.
Especially with other businesses, bartering might seem old-school but can definitely still be effective. Chris Hoyt of Langua Travel has used this method to great effect with his business, using trade for B2B compensation. If you need a good or service and have something of value to offer in return, this could be a good route.
6. Cut down on meetings
This is crucial, and can be so easy. Take a look at both your own and your employee’s calendars—how many hours per week are spent in meetings? Really evaluate the cost and benefits to the company. More than likely, you can cut back on some meeting time and up time for completing tasks.
7. Hire capable employees with little work experience
This might initially seem counter intuitive, but people with little work experience are looking for entry level positions and salaries, which saves your company money. Of course there may be times when a more experienced candidate makes the most business sense, but often a solid employee with little work experience just needs a foot in the door, and you’ll find them competent and eager to do well. We all had to get our start somewhere.
8. Allow employees fewer hours
In a similar vein to the previous tip this might sound odd at first. But there may be employees at your company who would transition to part-time (or even just four days a week) if given the opportunity. This can be a touchy subject for an employee to bring up themselves, but if you as a business owner make it known that you’re open to shorter work weeks for those who might want or need them, this can save you from paying those full time wages without having to lose a good team member (and their work product) completely.
9. Retain your good employees
A high performing employee or an employee who is integral to culture and keeps up morale is a valuable asset. They make you money, and keeping them around will save you onboarding costs down the line, or the loss if their replacement isn’t as valuable to the company. Check in with your team, make sure they’re happy and that their needs are met.
For those moments when you have smaller tasks that don’t warrant a new hire but that you just can’t add to your already full plate, Simon Slade of Affilorama suggests microcontracting. He suggests sites like Elance and oDesk for those tasks that you just need to delegate.
11. Review your operating expenses
If you buy bagels for the office, is there a different bagel shop that will give your business a bulk or loyal customer discount? Have you ever looked into it? The day to day expenditures on simple things—coffee, maintenance, and supplies, for example, all add up. Taking a chunk of time to go through things and see where you might be paying more than you need to can save you a lot over the long haul.
Business coach Jennifer Martin suggests comparing vendors and getting quotes at least once a year to make sure everything you’re paying for is a fair market rate, including your merchant card services. Martin notes that the more money you process, the more clout you’ll have to negotiate a more favorable contract.
12. DIY marketing and PR
Learn everything you can about marketing and public relations for your industry, and make sure you’re putting your best foot forward when you promote and talk about your business. Hiring a PR firm can be very costly, and if you’re passionate and knowledgable, you could be your own spokesperson.
Lori Cheek of Cheek’d offers this advice on DIY public relations: “My number one marketing tip is ‘Don’t just think outside the box; Get rid of the box!’ Be creative. Think guerrilla. And if that doesn’t work, sometimes it just doesn’t hurt to ‘ask.’ I’ve ended up on the news many times by just calling up the news channels and asking them if they’d be interested in featuring my business. It’s sometimes that simple. I would say the most crucial thing in getting media coverage is a subtle yet persistent approach.” You can read more about Lori’s approach here.
13. Minimize inventory
“Lean is in. Inventory is nothing but locked-up cash. Ensure your inventory stays as small as possible without hurting your business,” says Asadi.
14. “When in doubt, go without.”
This tip comes from Chris Hoyt, and can really apply to every business. Should you actually make that purchase? Do you truly need to replace something? Think it through instead of just going for something larger or newer. Use what you have until you are certain you need something else.
15. Join a trade association
Often, these groups will do industry research that you can then access to make the best financial decisions. Additionally, they can sometimes set up deals for bulk discounts or lower insurance rates. You can learn more from the Federation of International Trade Associations.
16. Stay on top of your accounting
Asadi notes that when money is tight, things like late fees on bills or a client who doesn’t pay on time can be a huge problem. “Pay your dues on the due date, and take pains to ensure that your collections are on time and that the outstanding balances are minimized,” he suggests.
17. Ask for a discount
So simple, yet often very effective. Just ask whatever vendor if they have some kind of promotional offer or rate and what it might entail. This won’t always be the case, but when it is, it’s so easy and worth it. “I’ve found that 90% of the time, asking for a discount and then preparing to walk away if it isn’t granted will actually be the trick to save you money and secure that discount,” says Nima Noori, of Toronto Vaporizer.
18. Invest in new technology
What can you create in-house? What can you do on a tablet that saves time and office supplies? Dee Dee Meevasin of Dee for Dentist points that for her dentistry practice, adopting new technologies has allowed staff to automate previously time consuming tasks, increased overall efficiency, and cut down on third party costs.
Office and Home Business Related Tips
19. Paperless, as much as possible
This is a must in this day and age. Not only can saving on materials save you money directly, this can also be a time (and thus, more money) saver. Meevasin notes “the use of tablets eliminates the time our people spent on printing, scanning, and filing forms.”
When you do have to have hard copies, look into having regularly used forms printed and on-hand as opposed to photocopying them, as this can be a less expensive route.
Printer cartridges, cans, bottles, batteries, mobile phones—if you can, recycle it. Most recycling centers will give you money for some items (such as bottles and cans) and some (such as donating mobiles to domestic violence shelters) will be a tax write-off.
21. Buy used office equipment and furniture
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Craigslist, yard sales, eBay, etc.—if it doesn’t absolutely need to be new, get a nice, functional used one and save the money.
22. Short duration leases
Matthew Reischer, CEO of legaladvice.com, suggests this as a way to stay flexible in times of growth while saving money. If you don’t need the bigger office now but project that you will in a year, look to lease on the shorter term. He notes that his company has been able to use short duration leases on office space to their advantage as prices in the area went down over time.
23. Sharing office space
Another option for cutting costs on leasing is to go in on a space with another business. Of course this carries its inherent risks, but this could be a viable option if you’ve got a close business connection, especially if you don’t need a ton of space.
24. Remember your tax write-offs, especially if you’re a home business
Entrepreneur reports that for a home-based business in the U.S., “In addition to being able to deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage interest and utilities as a business expense, you can also deduct a percentage of various home maintenance expenses, along with a portion of the cost of services such as house cleaning and lawn care.”
Outside the U.S.?
There is so much business content that is oriented toward those that live in the United States, and while many of you reading are in fact, hailing from the U.S., we know that lots of our readers come from various countries around the world. And no matter where you’re from, for a lot of you, business will require travel. So I’m including some money saving tips that are more particular to a few different countries, but most of the tips in this article are good for wherever you might be.
25. Check out the South African Savings Institute
The South African Savings Institute is a good resource for South Africans, with news, savings tips, and information on participating in the national Savings Month.
26. Free investment workshops
If you’d like more information on making wise investments in South Africa so that you’re not wasting money and hopefully instead growing your savings, you can go to Standard Bank Securities trading workshops. Many are free to attend.
27. Use Skype
Instead of traditional phone lines to save money on calls, especially if it’s international.
In the U.K.
28. When in London, get an Oyster Card
An Oyster Card is “a plastic smartcard which can hold pay as you go credit, Travelcards and Bus and Tram season tickets. You can use an Oyster card to travel on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London,” according to their website. You can lend it to coworkers or clients as well.
29. Train travel
If you live in the UK and take the train frequently, you can purchase tickets in bulk at a discount. Also, if the train is late, most companies will give you at least a partial refund.