save money

Looking for ways to save can be a challenge for freelancers and small business owners. Whether you’re under pressure to reduce costs, keep more profit for yourself or whatever the reason, it can feel like an ongoing, uphill battle. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can still reduce costs and maintain a certain standard of quality  that requires little effort to implement.

1. Hire when absolutely necessary.

Well-known author Tom Corley of Rich Habits and Change Your Habits, Change Your Life explains that “successful businesses keep the employee staffing levels at the bare minimum, even during growth phases.” He points out that they, alternatively, depend on a solid group of team members that are central to bringing in 80% of sales. Seasonal and part-time help can handle the remaining  20% of the work load.

2. Schedule nap time for utilities.

When Pablo Picasso was starting out as an artist, he had little money.  He not only poured his creativity into his work, but also stretched a dollar quite well. He and a fellow artist split a living space that was only meant for one person. Since there was one bed, they shared it. One would work at night while the other worked during the day.

Though you  might not have to take such drastic measures as a business owner, it can’t hurt to think outside the box when it comes to stretching your dollar. Though your sleeping arrangements don’t have to be affected, think about putting some utilities to sleep. Equipment such as computers, monitors, scanners, copiers, printers and other devices can be put into sleep mode when not in use. Less energy is spent this way and you get the added bonus of not having to completely turn something off.

Lights are another utility that you can schedule a rest period. If you don’t have natural lighting in your work area, think about turning off lights in other rooms when not in use. Also, consider using task lighting and natural lighting whenever possible.

3. Reevaluate your relationship with paper.

Save money on supplies when possible. Use paper only when necessary. If something can be accessed by a mobile device, use that. When traveling, I will write down certain details for backup by reusing paper from the recycling bin. You can put the address of your hotel in your wallet or write down any phone numbers you might need to access. Though easily accessible on a mobile device, if you go through a tunnel or subway, you might not have access to that information while in transit.

I also keep a copy of confirmation numbers of any kind, just in case I can’t access them digitally for this reason. A hard copy can also come in handy if you have technical difficulties. Jot down essential information just in case. For example, when I travel to conferences, I sometimes write down important details like the location and address of the conference.

If I’m in a rush, I sometimes print information. You can once again use the blank side of  a sheet of paper that would have otherwise been recycled.  Just make sure you only print the necessary pages. Think about using a setting that doesn’t use as much ink and try to avoid printing logos or photos.

Also, think about writing your to-do list on a dry erase board. You won’t need any paper or planners. You can write the tasks on the board. Then cross them off once you finish or even erase them to make more room on the board for new tasks.

Be more careful when printing. Find more cost-effective ways to purchase ink, consider only printing when necessary and when you do print, only include needed parts of the document to save money on how much ink you use.

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4. Get financial x-rays.

If you’re not doing well when it comes to cutting expenses and for whatever reason you aren’t able to bring more money in, get a financial x-ray. We get x-rays when we think our bones are broken. An x-ray shows a photo of what is really going on inside. You might have to do the same in order to better your business finances.

See what’s going on inside financially. Is something broken or just fractured? Keep good records of expenses and be sure to have a profit and loss statement. You can see if you are making any mistakes or just get a true assessment of what is coming in and going out. You’ll never know what you need to work on until you do this. Maybe you’ll find that you can scale back on the amount of conferences you attend, rely on some seasonal help instead of full-time workers, or just find a more cost-effective way to invoice.

5. Save money putting utilities on an energy diet.

If you find that you are spending too much on energy. There are ways to fix this. While scaling back usage always helps, there might be more sophisticated ways to save that require professional help. Look into a local energy program in your area. They may be able to to improve the energy efficiency of your business. Energy Star has joined forces with service product providers to do just that. Consider having a pro evaluate your situation and look into ways to save money.

The website also offers a wide range of free and low-cost ways to save energy as well as other strategies that can benefit you down the road with some investment up front. If you don’t have any room in your budget to purchase or replace equipment, start with the free or low-cost ways to save energy. The savings you reap from implementing the these ideas over time can potentially  allow you to replace equipment down the road that will help you save even more money in the long run.

The Bottom Line

Cutting costs doesn’t always have to equate to sacrificing quality. It also doesn’t have to feel like a ongoing deprivation marathon to save money. See where your money goes on a regular basis to get a handle on spending. Also be mindful of how many workers you bring on board as well as where your money goes on utilities and other expenses. A little effort can go a long way.

 

Karen is a Nationally Syndicated Personal Finance Writer who sharpens her skills at US News Money. You can also find her placing clients on podcasts and reading about home office organization, productivity and habits.

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