7 Ways to Instantly Cut Down on Business Expenses

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Looking to earn more money? There are two ways to do that: increase income or reduce expenses. In the event that you're not in a position to increase your prices (or are afraid you'll lose customers if you do), crack down on unnecessary spending to put more money back into your business. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

1. Eliminate (or Reduce) the Need for an Office

When you think about it, does your entire staff really need to be located in-house? By letting your team work virtually, you could save $10,000 a year on real estate costs per person. If you decide to release your staff to work from home, realize you will have some initial costs up front, such as equipping them each with a laptop and a printer, as well as expenses for setting up software for teleconferences, file sharing, and internet service that will offset some of that savings, but you'll still come out ahead in the end.

2. Outsource for the Services You Need

Full-time staffers are one of a business' largest expenses, but they're not always necessary. Before you take on the expense of hiring a new full-time employee plus benefits, consider what your needs really are. If it turns out you just need another set of hands to work the cash register while you pay bills in the back, a part-time employee can fit the bill. Depending on your business, interns and independent contractors can also give you the support you need without the commitment and expense of a full-timer.

3. Negotiate a Better Merchant Processing Rate

If the bulk of your payments are credit card transactions, you're probably paying hundreds of dollars in transaction fees to your merchant card processor for the privilege. But did you know these fees are sometimes negotiable? If your number of transactions has increased, you may be able to leverage that fact to get a lower percentage per transaction fee. Also, pay attention to your itemized monthly statement to ensure you're not being charged for, say, a credit card terminal you're not using. And if you can process your transactions online or using a mobile device, it may be cheaper than using a terminal.

4. Use Free or Low-Cost Business Apps and Software

Many common tasks that used to require pricey software suites can now be done using low-cost productivity and marketing apps. Mobile apps are available for managing contacts, staying on top of projects, and making business travel easier — all right from your smartphone or tablet. MailChimp makes sending email marketing messages turnkey, and Evernote puts everything you need to write, research, collaborate, and present in one package. Both have free versions. Take advantage of them.

5. Buy Inventory in Larger Orders to Save

Rather than ordering the products you sell each month, consider ordering more, once a quarter. Then ask your supplier to negotiate a lower bulk rate for the bigger order. If they're not willing to do that, shop around for better pricing elsewhere.

6. Upgrade to Better Technological Solutions

Take a hard look at the technologies you rely on every day and see if there are better, less expensive alternatives. Do you really need a landline? With VOIP as an established and competitive solution, using Skype or other services for phone and video calls makes fiscal sense for a small business with a small budget. Depending on how many employees you have and how much you and your staff use the phone, you could cut your current landline bill by as much as half. Maybe you've been using the same web hosting service forever and have been paying more than you need to. Web hosting is now a fiercely competitive market. Compare prices and services other providers offer, and switch to a provider that's more affordable and with more cutting-edge options. For example, GoDaddy offers domain, website, and email hosting starting at $1 a month and offers innovative features like unique domain extensions (think .guru rather than .com) and search engine visibility services.

7. Hit Craigslist for Equipment and Furniture

Before you pull out your credit card for that major equipment purchase, browse your local Craigslist to see if anyone's selling what you need. Often, companies will go out of business and liquidate their assets through online classifieds. You can score great office equipment and furniture in fantastic condition at a fraction of the price it would be brand new. Also, keep an eye out for auctions and estate sales in your town.