8 Tips for Stretching Your Company’s Budget

You got in business to make money, and sometimes you need to find ways to save money that aren’t so obvious in order to stay afloat. Cutting corners is smart only if you can do it without sacrificing quality of work.

Here are some tips to saving money wherever you can.

Smart Marketing: Strategy

The general rule for marketing budgets is to spend as much as you can afford up front. Most strategies call for businesses to spend big in the first three years — up to 20 percent of their total budget in some industries — and then taper off to single digits after establishing brand credibility and a returning customer base. If you’re over the initial hump, consider squeezing even more loose change out of your marketing budget by examining your social media marketing strategy.

Smart Marketing: Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, and (more commonly every day) Pinterest are connected to more than one-seventh of the world’s population combined. They make it easy to break down their user base into categories specific to your business’s niche — and they’re perfect for dialogue and contact with customers.

Facebook for Business allows you to create a business page that can serve as a home base for your business’s social media operations, with the ability to expand from a free service to one that includes paid, targeted ads. With Twitter’s powerful search feature, as well as its unique hashtag (#) and @ searches, you can listen in on conversations about your company, hear what customers are saying, and save big dollars on marketing by getting your story out for free.

Use the Cloud!

In 2013, nearly 50 percent of businesses and software developers budgeted resources for cloud-based computing — and for good reason. Cloud-based computing can take huge pressure off of business budgets in several different areas. Whether it’s cloud-based storage or customer relationship management, businesses can save big on hardware, security, and maintenance.

With CRM, for example, all but the biggest financial or healthcare firms can benefit from going to the cloud. Your data is stored on large, expensive servers and databanks, all of which are purchased, maintained, and secured by the hosting company. You don’t need to pay for or license expensive, complicated software or training seminars. The only thing you need to access your information is a laptop or even a smartphone. The subscription fee you pay is the only real expense, and that’s nothing compared to IT costs alone.

Reevaluate Payroll

There are two ways to handle payroll: Outsource it to a third party or handle it in your own office with your own employees. The right way to go depends on several factors, the most obvious being the size of your business. If your business has 50 or more employees, you almost certainly need to outsource your payroll. Small businesses, however, have the ability to handle it themselves. If you’ve been doing your own payroll, take four pay periods and analyze what it’s costing you pay the employees dedicated to it. Although man-hours are the most obvious expense, payroll mistakes can become very costly — especially at tax time. Everything from bank fees for overdrawn accounts to IRS penalties add up quickly, and professional payroll companies almost never make these mistakes and often guarantee their work. Be warned: If tax errors are made, the responsibility is yours and yours alone — even if a third party is the one at fault.

Reevaluate Your Fleet

If you have company cars, even just one or two, take a second look at how often they’re being used, how often they’re not being used, and how often multiple cars or trucks were used when one could have been shared.

Vehicles are part of overhead. Gas, insurance, and payments are recurring expenses that could disappear if you’re able to thin the fleet. Not to mention, selling a vehicle or two would bring a nice injection of cash, which is always a welcome thing.

Buy Used

Refurbished goods are almost always acceptable – and always cheaper – alternatives to buying new. Used or refurbished furniture, electronics, copying machines, and other office equipment and computers can all save you bundles of money and allow you to purchase more of the things you really need.

If you absolutely want a new tablet or whatever, great, but how many times have you bought something new out of ego instead of necessity?

Refill Old Ink and Toner

You would think that printer ink could cure disease, it costs so much. If you blow through ink at even a fairly quickly pace, hundreds of dollars quickly turns into thousands.

The little secret that ink manufacturers don’t tell you – and don’t want you to know – is that ink cartridges can be used over and over. They make kits that allow you to refill them yourself, but they can be messy and time consuming. But if you’re into cutting corners, businesses such as Cartridge World can refill them for you. If you refill old ink cartridges instead of buying them new, you can save a ton of cash for your business – around 50 percent.

Use Good Software

One of the hardest things about budgeting is doing it regularly, doing it without mistakes, and doing it on time. That’s where software comes in. By not cutting corners on software, you’ll actually save money by reducing mistakes. Software such as Mint can eliminate human error, integrate into your payroll and invoicing software, and save you tons of headaches – and potentially costly errors – at tax time.

Business budgeting is rarely easy, and it sometimes seems that there’s never enough money. You don’t ever want to shortchange the quality of your work, but there are instances in which cutting corners can help your business work smarter and cheaper.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about business budgeting and reviews budgeting software.

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