12 Expense Hacks for Your Small Business

Entry By Jason Brick

If you came to owning your business from a management background, you already know the importance of controlling variable expenses. If not, apply these ideas to cut your costs and find out just how much you can save. The trick to the best expense hacks isn't that they make dramatic day-to-day differences. It's that they add up to thousands of dollars a year when used in concert. 

Seen outside the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, CA

  1. Separate Storage
    Keep only what your team needs for a day next to the work areas. Store your spare consumables in a different closet or other space. Seeing large caches in the open encourages your staff to be wasteful.
  2. Go Digital
    Phone, fax, credit card processing, and all manner of other once-vital office gear can be replaced with web applications that have equal or better functionality. Jettison the expense and space the equipment takes up. 
  3. Switch to Open Source
    Google Docs works just as well as Office for most businesses, as do a variety of free -- or nearly free -- software applications for other purposes. It's rare that you would need to spend top dollar on software.
  4. Use a Blogging Platform For Your Website
    Instead of spending thousands on a hand-coded website, download a free blogging template from Wordpress, Drupal or a similar source. For 99 percent of small businesses, it's all you'll need. And it's free. 
  5. Find Freelancers
    Never hire a full-time employee for a job that only needs a part-time freelancer. You spend less money on wages, and no money at all on payroll tax or benefits. 
  6. Use That Rewards Card
    Business expenses, paid in full every month, is one of the few places a rewards or miles card can really benefit the user. Since businesses often run through expenses at several times the rate of personal budgets, it's just a matter of scale. 
  7. Look Into Interns
    Interns provide motivated, educated, low-cost labor in exchange for a polished resume and/or college credit. These workers are especially valuable for helping with that layer of busywork that keeps you from working on building your business.
  8. Form Alliances
    You might not need enough paper towels to qualify for your vendor's bulk discount, but it's a fair bet the combined need of your entire strip mall will. Work with other local businesses to combine your purchasing power. 
  9. Always Ask Twice
    Never leave a negotiation without asking one more time for a discount or bargain. The worst that will happen is leaving with the exact same deal you had before asking -- and most of the time, you'll get something better. 
  10. Go Paperless
    A truly paperless office isn't generally possible, but the more paper you cut out of your process the more you save. Less paper, less toner, less printing time, les s stuff to store. 
  11. Barter  
    Always look for "gift-in-kind" trades instead of spending actual money. Beyond working with people you know, you can join barter sites to get wider access to goods and services. 
  12. Re-Assess Marketing
    In the 20th century, publishers and broadcasters owned distribution of marketing -- and charged heavily for access. Now, you can publish your own messages via SMS marketing, social media and other venues. Ditch old-style marketing that costs more than it's worth. 

These twelve hacks are by no means the only tricks to make your trade less expensive. Comment below with what's worked for you. 

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