Are you struggling to survive in these tough economic times? I’ve been self-employed for 30 years and know what it’s like to keep going through lean years. If I’ve one key piece of advice, it would be to watch the small stuff. You’d be surprised at how a few dollars a week can add up over a year.
Here’s are 16 penny-pinching ideas worth trying:
1. Check out thrift stores and garage sales. Don’t spend a fortune on office furnishings. Local thrift stores and garage sales are a good bet for desks, chairs, and filing cabinets. Even better, get stuff free through organizations such as Freecycle.
2. Buy used equipment. I’ve used refurbished computers for years and been very happy with them. The savings are considerable. Make sure you buy from a reputable dealer who has a warranty on parts and labor.
3. Meet over a coffee rather than lunch. A few business lunches a year can add up. Your local coffee shop is a more practical alternative. Better yet, invite a client to your home. The coffee’s cheaper.
4. Save on gas. Consolidate your car trips. If you’re driving to pick up groceries, combine it with a trip to the post office, office supply store, or library.
5. Use VoIP. Don’t spend money on long distance calls. Use a VoIP service such as Skype . It’s free and easy to set up and use.
6. Become friends with your library. Stop buying books and magazines and renting DVDs. They’re all free at your Library.
7. Go online. Before spending your hard earned dollars, check out the wealth of excellent free resources available on the Internet. To get you started, here’s a previous post I wrote 100 Free Resources for Personal Historians.
8. Only buy what you absolutely need. It might be fun to have the latest iPad and smart phone but are they essential items in your business? I’m still using a cell phone I bought 5 years ago. It suites my needs just fine. Don’t be seduced into spending money on electronic devices and software that’ll do very little to help your business.
9. Be a savvy shopper. Clip coupons, check out sales, and compare prices. And find out the best time of year to buy things. Here’s a start: The Best Times to Buy Anything, All Year Round.
10. Negotiate a good deal. Whether you’re dealing with a salesperson or a subcontractor, don’t be shy to ask for a discount. I always ask salespeople if that’s the best price they can give me. Sometimes paying by cash rather than a credit card will lower the price on an item. With a subcontractors, pointing out that you’ll be using their services regularly might lead to a reduced fee.
11. Market on the cheap. This is not the time to be producing glossy brochures and business cards. I’ve written about some low cost or no cost marketing ideas here.
12. Try bartering. This involves trading goods or services with another business. For example, you might arrange with a web designer to create a website for you. In return, if you’re a personal historian, you could organize her photo collection.
13. Monitor your energy consumption. Shut down your computer when you’re not using it for a few hours. Turn off lights that you don’t need. And avoid phantom energy loss by literally pulling the plug on all equipment that operates in standby mode such as computers, monitors, computer speakers, and cell phone chargers. Phantom loss can add hundreds of dollars to your yearly electrical bill. To make it easy, plug these standby mode items into a power bar that you can shut off with the flick of a switch.
14. Tax deductions. Don’t forget that if you’re home-based, you can deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage interest. And keep in mind that some of your utilities and home services such as security, cleaning, and yard maintenance are eligible for tax deductions.
15. Use recycled printer cartridges. Printer ink is hugely expensive. Check for a recycle dealer in your area or go to an online source such as Whole Toner.
16. Consider free web hosting. It’s not perfect but the price is right! For a list of some of the best, check out Best Free Web Hosting.
What are some of your penny-pinching favorites?
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Photo by Alan Cleaver