Small businesses are often pinched for cash--especially if an unexpected bill needs to be paid right away or a check from a big customer gets mailed too late for you to cover your payroll for the month.
Your business should expect the unexpected. And one way to do that is to set aside a contingency fund that amounts to 10 percent of your monthly expenses. If you're looking for ways to get that rainy day cash, here are 12 expenses that are ripe for cutting and one more idea that will help you get more out of your people.
1. Cut food costs
Each employee in your company could save about $3,000 a year by bringing in his or her own lunch and brewing their coffee at home and bringing it into work. For example, while lunch at a deli might cost $12, people could make their own for about $3 and instead of paying $2 for a Starbucks, they could brew coffee at home for 45 cents. Spread this out over a year for all your employees and such savings add up.
2. Do tasks in-house
Some small businesses pay thousands of dollars to outsource projects. But your company may be able to save a considerable amount of cash by taking part or all of those projects in-house and give them to part- or full-time employees.
After all, outsourcing work can make it hard to communicate clearly what you want done--resulting in costly errors and delays. So it's worth analyzing whether hiring a dedicated worker could pay for itself within a year.
3. Use energy-efficient appliances
If you aren't using fluorescent light bulbs or keep your computers running when they're not being used, your company has an opportunity to save cash. Using fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent ones can save you up to $15 per kilowatt-hour. And turning off your computer in the evening can save $30 a year.
4. Cut unneeded technology
Many services are available for small businesses at low or no cost via the cloud. These range from computer backup and recovery to payroll processing. If you are paying for software or service providers to perform these tasks, you ought to consider whether you would save money over the next 12 months by canceling those contracts and replacing them with cloud-based services.
5. Keep up with credit card due dates
Many businesses make the costly mistake of not paying off their credit card bills each month. For example, a few years ago, the percentage of businesses that financed themselves with credit cards grew from 16 percent to 59 percent, and 60 percent of business credit card users did not pay their bills on time--making them liable for paying interest rates that are almost always north of 20 percent along with fees that pile up fast.
Keep track of your credit card due dates each month so you don't throw money away on interest and fees.
6. Cut back on trade shows
Trade shows can pay off--but they definitely require a big investment for travel and fancy-booth expenses. What's worse, if you go to shows that don't attract many potential customers for your product, all that money could go to waste.
So scrutinize each show you could attend, and go only to the ones likely to yield far more new sales than it costs to participate.
7. Trim postage waste
If your business mails packages, it may be throwing money out the front door if you use postage stamps instead of buying a meter. That's because you might be putting more postage on your envelopes than you really need. For example, a five-ounce envelope might require $1.69 in postage--but if you put four 44¢ stamps on the envelope, you would be throwing away a dime.
At 30 envelopes a week, that would amount to $3 in excess postage, or $156 per year.
8. Stop worthless advertising
It is hard to measure the effectiveness of advertising--especially if you spend your ad budget on TV, radio, or print media like newspapers or magazines. But there are wide variations in the advertising rates--for example, print advertising can be many times more expensive on a cost-per-impression basis than online ads.
Consider whether you could get more value by switching your advertising to Google AdWords, if you haven't already.
9. Dismiss workers who don't perform
One of the biggest ways to stop wasting money is to dismiss workers who don't contribute. What's more, you should make sure that all the workers on your payroll who do contribute are doing far more than the minimum required. If you can't motivate your C players to act more like the superstars, cutting them from the payroll will give you the money you need to hire more A players.
10. Team up with other small businesses to get volume discounts
If you regularly buy certain items for your company--such as printer cartridges for your inkjet or laser printers--consider getting together with other small businesses so you can use your joint purchasing power to negotiate volume discounts.
11. Track expenses
Your small company is almost certainly wasting money if it does not keep close watch on its expenses. You may think your time is better spent on selling or building new products--but if you don't track your expenses, you make sure you give that job to someone who is detail-oriented and trustworthy.
Even if everyone in your company is being frugal--if employees know someone is watching what they spend, they will be even more careful--if you keep and track a budget, you will save your company money.
12. Cut your insurance bills
Are you really paying the lowest possible rates for the insurance your business needs? You might be able to compare insurance policies using online services and spend less by buying insurance directly. Or, find an independent insurance agent who would go to bat for you when you have a claim. That agent should be able to find you the best deals to meet your business needs.
13. Tap employees' full potential
If your company employs people whose training would enable them to do bigger jobs--but they are asked to work way below their potential--then you might be able to save money by giving them more work that taps their skills.
Ask employees about their background and interests. There's a chance that they could do more for you--and get more motivated about working with your company over the long run.
These 13 tips will help keep your company from throwing cash out the window and provide some cash for a rainy day.
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Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.