Benjamin Franklin—and many grandparents since—have used the phrase: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” This concept is particularly important during times when dollars earned are scarce and profits are down. To that end, I’ve listed five creative and thrifty ways that small business owners can stay mindful of their spending . . . and help decrease their expenses:
Employ Bartering. Although this age-old form of commerce has pretty much fallen by the wayside, it’s a valuable tool that can help you meet the needs of your business and save money on your expenses. Do you own a hair salon? Perhaps you can barter your services with a local plumber, who could assist you with the maintenance of your salon. Are you a CPA? When tax time rolls around, your expertise will be highly sought after—you could trade for lawn or landscaping services, event catering, or items that you’ll use for employee recognition.
It’s important to define your needs, know their approximate value, and be prepared to offer services in kind. The terms of the arrangement should be determined in advance—and preferably put in writing—so that there’s no gray area about who will do what and when.
Take On an Intern or Apprentice. If you’re in a field where hands-on experience is a valuable part of job education and training, then you may be in position to place an intern or apprentice. You’ll not only be contributing positively to the future of your field, but you’ll also gain an additional pair of hands for your business. The extra help might allow you to subsidize production, or simply free up more time to network and drive business through the door. Check with your local schools and colleges to see if this might be an option for you based on the requirements for the position.
Maximize Your Online Marketing Efforts. Are you spending a lot of money on mailings for your business? Offer your customers the opportunity to receive emails from your company instead. You can accomplish this by simply placing a sign-up form near your register or passing out info cards with each purchase that direct customers to a sign-up form on your website. With email as the preferred method of communication for many people these days, your customers might appreciate the connection online . . . and you’ll save on the postage.
In addition, if you’re spending a lot of time answering the same questions over and over and explaining the same things to different people, it might be helpful to add content to your website that provides this information to your customers on-demand. This will save you valuable work time, and it will get valuable information into the hands of your customers 24/7.
Use Coupons and Savings Cards. These money-savers aren’t just for your household. Keep an eagle eye open for deals on products that you use regularly at your business. If you see a lower price on an item at a store other than the one you prefer to shop at, ask your store to match the price. Many retailers will do so to ensure that they keep your business.
Coupon websites such as Coupons.com and RetailMeNot.com have become incredibly popular, and they’ve made it much easier to find the deals you’re looking for. Bookmark a few sites, and then do some quick searches before you shop for supplies or furniture (make this a habit for your grocery list as well).
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Cutting down on paper waste at your business and recycling appropriate items will help you save money . . . and have a positive effect on the environment. Companies like Staples®, OfficeMax®, and Office Depot® will give you rewards credit for returning used printer or toner cartridges to their locations. Used cell phones, PDAs, and other small electronics are also candidates for recycling for cash.
If you don’t have any options locally, conducting a simple search online will lead you to companies that will take your old items off your hands and provide cash in return. Before you reach out to a company you find online, be sure you check out their reputation through a group such as the Better Business Bureau®.
What tips can you share about saving money at your business? I’d like to hear from you.
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