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20 Ways to Cut Business Expenses

Take some pressure off the bottom line with these money-saving tips.

Postage rate hikes. Selling fee increases. Rising gas prices that affect the cost of… well, everything.

It seems that the costs of running an online business are continually going up—free shipping, anyone?—while selling prices are getting pressured downward. Between these two opposing forces, online sellers may find their profits being squeezed.

We’ve put together some ideas you can use to reduce your everyday business expenses. Use some, or all, of these tips to really add up your cost savings.

Save on postage

For simple shipments that don’t require special services that can only be purchased at the counter, it makes sense to buy and print your shipping labels online. Not only will it save you the time and expense of traveling to the postal center, you’ll usually get a discounted postage rate, too.

Look for online services that charge only for the postage you buy, without tacking on additional transaction or membership fees. Third-party eBay listing services like Auctiva.com provide this service, free of charge, for USPS shipping.

You can cut postage costs when you pay your bills, too. If your bank offers free access to online bill paying, take advantage of this service to pay your bills electronically and save the cost of stamps.

It’s only a good deal if you can use it all, so consider whether the quantity you’re purchasing is realistic before deciding whether the price is right

Save on packing materials

As much as possible, use the free shipping supplies offered by your preferred carrier. The U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx all provide free boxes, labels and other supplies to account holders. You can also talk to local business owners or managers of chain stores about taking surplus packing materials off their hands. They have to pay to recycle it, so you’re doing them a favor.

You can also find quality shipping supplies at a lower cost when you purchase in bulk on wholesale sites, or from bulk dealers on eBay. Frequent your local dollar stores and overstock retailers like BigLots, where you’ll find some of the best bargains around on tissue paper, tape, labels and stickers.

Save on office supplies

When you shop for office supplies online, you’ll often find better prices and selection. But be sure to look for online coupon codes before you buy, join frequent buyer clubs to get discounts and exclusive offers, and take advantage of those free shipping deals whenever possible.

If it makes sense, buy in bulk to save cost. Warehouse clubs like Costco often have good prices on bulk office supplies, and so do online wholesale suppliers. Keep in mind, it’s only a good deal if you can use it all, so consider whether the quantity you’re purchasing is realistic before deciding whether the price is right. Or consider splitting the order with another small business owner in your area.

Save on operating costs by going green

Do you print invoices and packing slips? Save money and natural resources by sending electronic versions of these instead. If you can’t do without a paper trail, change your default print setting to draft mode to save ink. And when that printer cartridge runs out of ink, don’t replace it; refill it. You’ll save money and keep a perfectly good ink cartridge out of the landfill.

You can also reduce your energy costs by turning out lights you don’t need, and power down your computer, monitor and printer at the end of the work day. While today’s electronic devices are often designed to consume less power, leaving these running around the clock is usually not necessary.

And did you know that your power strip continually draws power, even when all the devices plugged into it are turned off? Switch this off at the end of the work day, too. Every little bit helps.

Save on bills

It can pay to pay your bills early. Find out if your suppliers will reduce your bill by a percent or two for early payment. If they won’t, then it makes sense to pay your bills at the last possible moment—without racking up late charges—to keep control of your cash for as long as possible.

Using a rewards card for business-related purchases, you’ll rack up points that, by the end of the year, can amount to significant savings

Get preferred treatment

Sign up to receive “preferred customer” discounts, coupons, rewards and advance notices of sales at office supply stores, club stores and other retailers in your area. Also, keep an eye on sale circulars, and clip coupons for items you buy on a regular basis.

Get extreme

Here’s a trick used by so-called extreme couponers: Often, retailers and supermarkets will let you double up with manufacturers coupons and store coupons on the same item. If that item also happens to be on markdown, or you have store rewards you can apply to the purchase, you can significantly reduce your cost, whether the goods you buy are for your business operations or for resale.

Reward yourself

When you shop for business needs, use a credit card that pays rewards. Cash-back rewards are the easiest to use, but if you have an account with a specific retailer you frequent, you might receive credits toward future purchases, which is also a nice benefit.

As you make business-related purchases, you’ll rack up points that, by the end of the year, can amount to significant savings. Just make sure to pay the account balance in full every month to avoid also racking up interest charges, which can quickly negate the reward benefits.

Save marketing costs

Find out what free marketing services are available to you through your e-commerce provider or marketplace, and put them to use. For example, free email newsletters, like those offered through eBay Stores or listing services like Auctiva.com, are an efficient and effective way to remind past customers to shop with you again.

Turn your expertise into a promotional tool by becoming an “expert” on LinkedIn, Yahoo Answers, Facebook and others. Posting regularly on forums and networks related to your product or service niche will increase your marketing reach without adding costs. Friendly and helpful posts with no sales push are the best way to make a good impression.

Did you find any money-saving tips here that you hadn’t thought of or tried before? What other ways have you found to cut your business expenses? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About the author

Crista Souza
Crista Souza is founding editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. A journalism graduate of San Jose State University, she spent 13 years as a business and technology reporter in Silicon Valley. Crista has been writing about B2C and C2C ecommerce since 2008. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Georgefox

    Nice article, but hardly relevant for anyone not living in the USA!

  • 1paulsparts

    I go to the local bread store. The ones that make the bread. The wheat and flour come in large triple thick brown paper that works great for packing. Been doing it for the last 3 years. Always ask first before you remove them from the recyle ben.



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