Cut Costs without Cutting Corners
By Michelle Collins | January 31, 2004
As a small business owner you’re probably used to finding creative ways to make your dollar go farther. You research every product to uncover the pros and cons of buying it for your business, and perhaps you’ve even developed some creative solutions to save money. Yet it can be difficult to stay on top of every solution.
You turn off the light every night before leaving the office, yet you may not be aware that there are even more savings to be had. BC Hydro estimates that you can save up to 75 per cent of your current lighting costs by making the switch to high-quality fluorescent light bulbs. While the initial costs of the fluorescent bulbs are higher than the common incandescent bulb, they are expected to last eight times longer.
Heating and cooling costs can quickly eat up your money, but they don't have to. In the summer months try keeping the windows open to create a cool cross breeze instead of using the air conditioner. Of course, there will be days when it's simply too hot no matter what you do. On these days Toronto Hydro recommends setting your thermostat at 25.5 C, which will save energy and costs.
In the winter you will need to turn on the heat. During these months you can save costs by turning the thermostat down in the evening when your office is empty. If you're working from home, keeping the thermostat at 15 C during the night can save money and keep you comfortable.
Another way to conserve energy and costs is to keep doors shut and check around any windows for air leaks that could be allowing your heat to escape.
A phone line is essential to operate your business but you could be paying more than you need to. Take the time to analyze your phone bills for any unnecessary expenses. For example, you may have three lines for your home and business, when two will do. Or if you're an exporter making a lot of overseas phone calls, you may not have the most affordable long distance plan. It's time to look for alternatives.
These guidelines apply to cell phones as well. There are a wide variety of rates and plans available as competition between these companies' increases. You shouldn't be paying for all kinds of airtime if you only have the phone for emergencies. However, if your business takes you out of the office on a regular basis you need a plan that lets you talk as long as you need to.
There is a wide range of software on the market that promises to help you manage every aspect you can think of. The problem is that not all are created equal. You don't want to find out that the package you bought isn't what you were expecting after you've taken the time to shop around and install the program on your office computers.
Take the time to research and look for reviews of software before you buy. The difference between an essential feature and a bell and whistle can result in big savings. On the other hand, robust and useful software can lead to more free time to spend on other areas of your business.
It's frustrating to stop by the fax machine and find a pile of marketing faxes that will end up in the trash bin. The cost of paper, toner, and a phone line can really start to add up for something you don't even want.
An alternative is a fax-to-email service. Starting around $4.95 a month, these services allow you to sort through faxes delivered to your email account. Junk faxes can be deleted while important documents can be printed off your regular printer.
You'll probably want to keep your fax machine though. There will be times when you need to send out a fax yourself.
It seems like every time you turn around there is a new computer product on the market. As computers become faster, cheaper, and smaller they can also save you money. One example are the new liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors. Not only are they nice to look at but they can add up to significant savings, especially if you're apt to leave them on most of the time.
Scout second-hand and auctions
Outfitting an office for even the smallest of businesses can cost quite a bit of money. However, you can accomplish this task and still leave a good impression by visiting second hand shops or possibly even auctions.
You can find a variety of styles, from a serviceable table to ornate antiques at these venues. Perhaps you'll even come across some used computer equipment that can serve your needs until you can afford something more updated.
In those first days of your business you may have secured a bank loan to help you get things up and running. On top of this you've got a mortgage, car payments, school loans, and other costs that you're trying to keep up with. While your plan to win the lottery may require a lifetime of waiting, you can try making an appointment with your banker to see if you can get some of these loans consolidated into one payment.
This consolidation will reduce the interest you are paying on each separate loan. If you are making extra payments to your loans, make these payments to the loans with the highest interest rates first, as these are the loans that cost you the most over their life.
Collecting outstanding accounts
As work comes in it can be difficult to keep up to date with all of your existing accounts allowing one or two to slip through the cracks. It may be time to go through your financial records and see if you have outstanding accounts that haven't been billed or collected recently.