50 Ways Your Business Can Save Money Right Now
It’s still a struggle for many businesses, and finding new ways of cutting costs to keep your prices keen is a daily challenge. Here are some of our favourite ideas for saving money – they may not all work for every business, but we’re sure you’ll find something here you can start doing to ensure you stay competitive:
1 Make use of modern ways of communicating: Do you really need to travel half way across the country to seal that deal, or bring all your Sales Reps to Head Office for the weekly sales meeting? Skype and Face Time are just two examples of the kind of low cost video communication now available to businesses, while conference calls have never been easier.
2 Cut your print advertising: Advertising online is much cheaper than getting leaflets, flyers and catalogues designed, corrected, printed and mailed – and if you’ve used well-researched keywords as well, you’ll probably reach a lot more potential customers.
3 Review all contracts regularly: How long is it since you last checked that your contracts with your existing suppliers are still competitive? No matter how good or long-lasting the relationship, someone else may be able to provide the same goods or services cheaper.
4 Aim for a paper-free office: Paper costs money, as does the ink you need to print on it. It also costs – whether in time or money, or both – to stuff it into envelopes, store it, recycle it, file it and unjam it from the photocopier. You may never reach the nirvana of the totally paper-free office, but every step on that road will help.
5 Reduce the amount of packaging you use: Good quality packaging is an essential item for any business selling online – using too much, however, is wasteful and gives your customers a very bad impression of your business priorities. It can also be expensive, whether in terms of materials or unnecessarily excessive delivery costs. Find out just how expensive it can be and how you can keep control of it here.
6 Prune your mailing list: If you are sending flyers and leaflets out, is your list full of promising leads or even up to date? Have you checked, for example, if people you’ve been sending mailouts to for the last five years have ever responded in any way, shape or form, let alone actually brought you any business? Indeed, are you sure they’re still at the same location or even still in business at all?
7 Monitor personal expenses: Is everything being claimed as a business expense necessary or even justifiable? Did your Chief Exec actually need to stay in the best hotel in town, and just how much alcohol did your Sales Rep really need to drink to conclude that deal? On a more prosaic level, if everyone working in the office brings in their own sandwiches, why does someone on the road get the cost of his lunch refunded?
8 Save by bulk buying – but don’t go overboard: Everyone knows that the best savings can be made by buying in bulk. But what kind of saving is it when you end up buying more than you actually need? We do the same at the supermarket, when we buy three for the price of two when we really only need one.
9 Lean audit: If you’re really serious about cutting every unnecessary penny, carry out a thorough review of how every function is carried out within the business. Chances are you’ll find ways of doing many of them quicker, more efficiently and with less waste.
10 Take your marketing online: This is the 21st century and the best place to engage with your customers is where they’re spending their time – on social media. One good Facebook post could put your business under the nose and into the thoughts of a lot more potential customers than you might think.
11 Only pay your bills when they’re due…: So, you’ve got your invoice from your suppliers and you’ve got 30 days to pay. Why do it now? Interest rates aren’t very high at the moment, but when every penny counts it can quickly add up. Put another way, would you rather you were earning that extra bit of interest, or your suppliers?
12 …or take advantage of early payment incentives: Of course, if your suppliers are offering a discount for early payment, take it!
13 Invoice asap with incentives for early payment: By the same token, try to organise your own invoices to your best advantage. Don’t hang about sending them; many people really do like to pay them as soon as they get them. And try to think of a cost effective incentive to encourage them to do it even quicker.
14 Review your insurance: There are 1001 things you can insure yourself against, but do you actually need to? Review your policies and see if there’s anything you can do without, or even better, consolidate as many as you can into one deal.
15 Open source software: You don’t need to pay exhorbitant amounts for word processing, spreadsheet or database software. There are some really good – and free – options available online. Open Office, for example, does most things that the Microsoft version does, works on any common computer and can read and be read by other office software packages.
16 Location Location Location: Yes, that Central London office adds to your prestige and the kudos of your business, but it also adds a phenomenal amount to your running costs. Of course, it depends on other things in your life as well, but would you prefer a) a prestige London address, b) an office where rents and wages are vastly cheaper or c) no office, or business, at all?
17 Manage your own website: Unless you’re running a complex e-store, it’s easy these days to manage your own website using templates available online. Get really clever and you can also do your own search engine optimisation, by researching your keywords and using the results as a basis for writing informative blogs that people want to read.
18 Turn off unused electrical items: We’re getting better at doing this at home – it does make a difference when it’s your own money – but the same principle applies at work. How many monitors, photocopiers, drinks machines, faxes, printers and computers are routinely left on overnight, over the weekend and over the long Christmas break, burning up electricity and running up the bills?
19 Group your buying power with other small businesses: There are many opportunities to network with your fellow business leaders these days; take it beyond the drinks evenings and inspirational talks by getting your heads together and working out what you all buy in common; then see if you can negotiate better prices with your suppliers as a result.
20 Network for advice and experience: And while you’re at it, take some time to find out what the others have been doing to cut down on their costs and see if there are any new ideas you can apply to your own situation.
21 Let your customers do some of your marketing!: Why spend money telling people how good you are when you can encourage other customers to do it for you? Word of mouth has always been the best way of generating new business, and review sites like Trustpilot let people share their experiences – good or bad – dealing with a company for anyone else who cares to look.
22 Seasonal staffing: A lot of businesses run on seasonal cycles; that can mean having staff who are sitting idly doing nothing during the quiet times, or clocking up time-and-a-half when it’s busy. Review your spending on your staff and see if there’s a way you can do it more efficiently. That could mean fewer full-time employees, with temps brought in for when it’s busier.
23 Employ v contract out: Similarly, you may not be getting the best value out of other essential tasks such as cleaning, recruitment, payroll and IT support. Depending on the nature and size of your business, you may find you can save by contracting some tasks out; or, if you’re already doing that, see if it’s cheaper bringing it back in-house.
24 Watch that petty cash: Just the term means people tend to treat the petty cash box as something unimportant that can be dipped into for this, that and everything else – but it’s still money that’s going out of the business. Keep a close eye on it and make sure every penny is accounted for.
25 Flexible working: There are many tasks that can be carried out just as well from a computer in someone’s own home as one in the office. You wouldn’t want them out of reach all the time, but your employee may appreciate not having to deal with the rush hour one day a week, and while they’re using heating, lighting and electricity at home, they’re not using it at the office.
26 Use any down time to train staff so they can multitask: If you’re paying expensive rates for contract staff during times of illness or holiday, develop your own people to spread their skills more widely so that they can cover instead. Most people have some quiet time they could use more productively, and they’ll appreciate the fact that they’ll have a wider skillset as a result.
27 Use energy efficient appliances, lighting & office equipment: The clue is in the title: energy efficient equipment and appliances use less energy which means lower energy bills. And these days, they don’t cost much more than their energy-guzzling equivalents.
28 Piggyback your marketing: Reduce the number of mailings you send (and therefore pay for) by including your marketing literature with customer invoices, statements and even orders.
29 Use refillable ink cartridges: Aiming for that paper-free office is, of course, the ideal, but we all have to print things out occasionally and new cartridges aren’t cheap. So why not look into getting refillable cartridges for your printer? They’re easy to use and not as fiddly as you might think – even better, the savings can quickly add up.
30 Turn monthly bills into annual ones: Rather than paying for services on a monthly basis, you can often pay less by doing it in one go.
31 Compare the market: We do it at home, so why not at work? Find out at least once a year if there’s a better deal available on all your phone, internet, energy and insurance needs.
32 Cloud storage: Every business needs to store certain historic information. You’ve already made the switch to doing that digitally, rather than having a room (also known in some circles as a fire risk) packed with thousands if not millions of sheets of paper, but now go one better by storing it all externally. Hosting companies remove the need for doing your own back-up, buying your own hardware, and training your own IT staff to stay on top of changing and developing technologies.
33 Use VoIP: You can reduce your phone charges, especially if you’re dialling people in other countries and on different continents, by making your calls on the Internet. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) needs very little extra equipment and isn’t charged by the minute. And if you’re calling someone who’s also using VoIP, there’s no added cost to your existing internet bill, no matter where in the world you both are!
34 Reuse, reduce, recycle: The mantra of the green movement is also a good mantra for cutting down on waste.
35 Water coolers: If you’re still paying for and storing those large bottles of filtered water, try installing a mains-fed water cooler instead. Supplies are taken straight from the mains, filtered and cooled, without taking up valuable storage space, needing someone strong on hand to load a fresh supply or, indeed, ever running out at all.
36 Apprenticeships: Make use of government subsidies for apprentices and interns – there are schemes available to subsidise school leavers’ wages, making them cheap to hire.
37 Ask your suppliers if you can pay less!: If you work in Sales, you’re probably getting customers asking if they can get a better deal all the time. And if they’re good customers who spend a lot and pay on time, you may well think it worth your while. Now think about yourself as a customer and see which of your suppliers might do the same for you!
38 Reduce thermostat settings on heating and/or hot water by one degree: Who’ll really notice, apart from your Finance Director when he or she comes to pay the bills?
39 Reduce the time before computers and monitors go into standby: If you’re going to be away from your desk for a while, you don’t want to turn everything off, but reducing the time before computers and monitors go into sleep or standby mode by five minutes will add up to a noticeable saving over the course of a year.
40 Finish an hour early on a Friday: Seriously, how much actually gets done that last hour on a Friday afternoon? For many companies, reducing the working week by an hour – without necessarily reducing wages to match – will cut running costs without impacting in any serious way on sales. It’ll also do a lot for staff morale!
41 Cut out magazine subscriptions: Obviously, you want to stay on top of the latest developments in your industry, but how many of those magazines do you ever get round to reading? And even if you do read them, digital versions are usually cheaper.
42 Fiverr: Things you’d normally pay industry rates for – illustration, graphic design, copywriting, translation etc – can be done by freelancers at a fraction of the cost. In fact, everything at fiverr.com is on offer at $5. Other low cost freelance sites are also available.
43 Make use of existing skills: Of course, you can bring that down even further by seeing what skills you already have in your organisation. Why pay for a professional photographer to do those product shots when one of your staff could do it just as well for free? There are all kinds of little things you may be paying freelancers to do which could be done via the hidden talents of your existing workers!
44 Organise your part-timers: If you’ve got part-timers working different hours, try to organise them so that you’ve got as few in at any one time as possible; that could mean they can share desks and computers rather than having one each of everything.
45 Use motion detectors to control lighting: If you’re heading out of the staff kitchen with a few mugs of tea in your hands, turning the light off when you leave can be a bit tricky – and by the time you get back to your desk, with the phone ringing and people demanding your attention, chances are you won’t get go back and do it. Motion detectors turn on the lights when someone goes into a room and turn them off again after a pre-set period of inactivity.
46 Switch to laptops rather than desktop pc’s: Laptops aren’t just useful to those who work in more than one location. Because they can use up to 90% less energy than a desktop pc, they’re also a very economical option!
47 Invoice your customers by email: Automate your systems so that your customer is emailed the moment the sale is made or their order is dispatched – thus combining the benefits of items four (the paper-free office) and thirteen (invoice asap) on this list.
48 Double-sided printing: If you do have to print off a long document, set your printer to do it on both sides of each sheet of paper – thus cutting in half the amount of paper you end up using.
49 Get cheaper stationery: Does it matter if you buy the cheapest ballpoint pens, sticky notes, staplers and rulers you can find, as long as they do the job?
50 Ask your staff!: If it’s been a while since you were an ordinary employee, you may have forgotten just how many good ideas there are floating around among the people who actually do most of the day-to-day work. Give them a chance to share their own ideas and, as an extra incentive, offer to share 10% of what you save in the first year as a direct result as a bonus.
If you have any examples of how any of the above helped you cut your costs, we’d love to hear from you! What are your experiences and have you found other ways of cutting costs that you’d like to share?