“A penny saved is a penny earned.” That might sound old-fashioned, but it’s surprisingly apt for today’s small business.
Why? Because, while small business owners spend the vast majority of their time figuring out how to earn more pennies, they would be wise to devote equal attention to saving them. To help guide you …
We asked small business owners for their favorite money-saving idea.
1. Pay your taxes—on time and correctly.
Good tax “etiquette,” as in never missing a deadline, means you’ll avoid a host of penalties as well as interest payments. It also means you’ll be less likely to get audited. Obvious? Sure. But in the rush of daily business, many owners put taxes on the backburner … only to end up paying for it later.
In addition, the vast majority of small businesses and self-employed workers need to make quarterly estimated taxes. So make a note to send in your 2019 payments on April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15. Even better, use a free online tax calculator to get started.
2. Manage advertising costs.
Many businesses have great success with a robust social media presence. But relying on organic reach is harder than ever, so it’s often wise to devote a portion of your budget to sponsored posts. Invest some time in the many free resources available online and through the social media sites themselves to get up to speed on how you can develop optimized posts to serve your ads to the target audience.
3. Monitor your marketing.
If you’re investing in advertising, confirm it’s paying off. While online analytics are relatively easy to track, you want to do the same for your offline advertising as well. One great way to track reach, especially for print media, is to include coupons in a publication and track how they’re being redeemed.
At the same time, you want to make sure your expenditure is paying off, you also want to prevent them from being used too much; for example, returning customers repeatedly entering the same online code. Figure out if you need to tweak the date range, price or any other component of the offer to make it a win-win for the customer and you.
4. Find a credit card that pays you.
Devote an afternoon to researching credit card rewards program to find the one that earns you the most—whether it’s cash back or miles that you apply to future business travel.
Then use the card for virtually every business purchase—provided you pay it back without fail each month rather than accruing interest charges.
5. Negotiate all your services.
From cell phone service to digital marketing tools, shop by price for any service that has comparable features. And don’t be afraid to negotiate providers against each another by telling one supplier that a competitor is offering a better price or incentives or a deep discount if you commit to multi-year service.
Often the stated rate can be highly flexible, so it’s worth having one-on-one conversations.
6. Reduce your credit card fees.
Credit card processing fees accumulate quickly. Thankfully, those fees can also be highly competitive so shop rates until you find the lowest. Offering credit cards is always a benefit for customer service but keeping your costs as low as possible means more money in your pocket.
7. Even better, use ACH.
ACH payments—more commonly known as electronic funds transfers or direct deposits—can pile on the saving compared to other methods, especially for businesses that have higher transaction amounts. For instance, QuickBooks online ACH payments are free, compared to 2.9% for most credit card providers. You can also incentivize payment by ACH, as is often done by gas stations and other retailers who offer a small discount for cash payments.
8. Be ruthless about cutting software services you don’t use.
Subscriptions to software programs and other online services can add up. Take an hour once a quarter to review your digital expenses and dump anything that is no longer useful. Consider where you might have overlap and consolidate services where you can and also look for special features you might be paying for but not using.
9. Take advantage of all your membership benefits.
While you should scrutinize membership fees to make sure it’s a group that’s beneficial, don’t overlook money-saving opportunities that membership may offer, such as discounts on travel, insurance, and retail purchases. And take into account the value of educational benefits, such as access to free courses and networking opportunities—and again, take advantage of them.
10. Buy fuel-efficient vehicles.
If you use a car regularly for deliveries or frequent client visits, saving money on gas is essential. So when you are looking at replacing a vehicle, take into account the gas mileage competing models get. It can also save time (which is money!) if you have to fill up less frequently, especially if you travel long distances for appointments.
11. Keep your costs predictable.
Some service providers, such as those who supply electricity, heating, internet or phone service, offer a fixed rate plan rather than variable prices, based on how much you use each specific month.
Contact your provider to find out whether such a plan is available and consider whether it would be a smart choice for you to help avoid surprise charges and make it easier to budget.
12. Consider energy efficiency as well as costs when making purchases.
Don’t focus solely on the cheapest appliances or devices when you go shopping. Energy costs can take a big bite out of monthly bills. Instead, consider energy efficiency when making your purchase.
13. Reuse packing materials.
If you regularly ship goods, save the materials you receive, such as paper filler, bubble wrap, popcorn and cardboard to use as packing material.
Not only does it keep you from having to spend money to buy it, but it’s also an effective way to recycle—and might even reduce your recycling costs if your municipality charges.
14. Only buy necessary equipment and office supplies.
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest type of wireless mouse or fancy storage organizing items that you believe will allow you to finally “Marie Kondo” your space, but only buy items that you truly need and will use.
Also, buy items in bulk when it makes sense, even splitting with a nearby neighbor for more savings.
15. Buy used when appropriate.
Whether you’re outfitting a restaurant or just need a reliable copier, look into lightly used equipment as an alternative to buying new.
Do your due diligence to ensure the used item still has enough “useful life left” for your needs, considering how often you will use it and thus how much wear and tear it will need to endure. Sometimes buying new with a warranty and maintenance plan is more cost-effective in the long run, so it’s important to compare.
16. Keep staffing lean.
You already know hiring employees can be very costly. Adding employer taxes and other expenses intensifies the price. Use contractors whenever you can when starting out, especially for specialized tasks such as marketing or design.
It can be both cheaper and more effective to use a professional who is highly skilled in a specific area for just that work, rather than having a generalist on staff.
17. Work virtually if possible.
Office space is a line item that can take a hefty bite out of your budget. Work from home if you can, or be judicious about not taking on too much office space.
Co-working space can be a great option and can also save on equipment costs through shared printers, meeting rooms, etc.
18. Take it slow.
When you first start a business, it can be tempting to jump in with both feet and take on everything, but that can often lead to burning through cash and needing to take expensive loans.
It’s wiser to do your research and wade into the market, starting your business with good processes and then ramping up when it becomes clear the business will scale.
19. Know what advice is worth paying for.
Don’t skimp on professional-level work. Often you do indeed get what you pay for so prioritize top-notch financial and legal advice. For example, spending money to work with a reputable accountant can save money over the long run when they help you take advantage of all the tax deductions you can legitimately claim.
20. Don’t overestimate the value of a business deduction.
And yet, related to the point above, don’t spend money on things, but tell yourself it’s ok because, “Oh, it’s a deduction.”
Remember that just because an expense is deducted for tax purposes, it’s still not as good as a full dollar in your pocket.