How to Stretch a Small Business Budget

Can’t make your business’s income grow overnight? Do the next best thing: Cut unnecessary costs so that any money you spend contributes to outcomes that drive growth and profits.

Here are four simple ways to stretch your budget.

1. Reduce your faxing and printing costs. Still spending on paper-based operations, including printer ink, toner, and bulky equipment? Turning to affordable cloud-based apps can help you cut the costs that hard copies present.

With paid plans starting at just $9.99 a month, HelloFax enables you to send and receive missives with your current fax number without a fax machine or paper. Whenever clients send you a fax, HelloFax emails it to you as a PDF. Meanwhile, HelloSign allows you to sign documents via a browser or mobile device for $15 a month. The encrypted, e-signature-compliant app sends notifications when the parties involved provide a signature and reminders to those who haven’t. Copies of the final document are emailed to everyone as a PDF.

2. Stop using high-interest credit cards. A limited budget may mean using credit cards to “float” expenses until your clients pay. But with variable-interest rates on credit cards averaging more than 15 percent, there may be cheaper ways to access the funds you need.

Nonprofit micro lenders, for example, often help small-business owners who need to borrow amounts of as little as a few hundred dollars. With interest rates starting as low as 9 percent, loan terms are typically flexible and geared toward shorter-term borrowing. Some micro lenders, like the Opportunity Fund and Atlanta Micro Fund, target small-business owners in a specific geographic area. Others, like Accion and Kiva, make loans nationwide.

3. Be strategic with professional services. The costs of using accountants, lawyers, and consultants are often outweighed by the potential risks your business bears by not having the guidance of an expert. But you can stretch your professional-services budget by handling rudimentary tasks yourself. Day-to-day accounting can be done with QuickBooks and basic legal agreements can be facilitated by online sites like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer.

David Wacks, director at CRB Problems Ltd, trimmed his communications budget by managing his own public relations. “We looked for any media reference to our type of business and contacted the journalist who wrote the piece directly. We found that they could develop an ancillary article in something they are already interested in, with minimum effort on their part. In this way, [we] got publicity for our new business.” Tools like Help a Reporter Out can also help you connect with writers in your industry.

4. Standardize your basic operations. 13 years ago and with just $500, Michael Epstein  founded his gaming accessories business eDimensional, which earned accolades for growth on the Inc. 5000  list from 2007 to 2010. To keep his expenses low, he also handled his own public relations. Another pivotal budget-stretcher, he says, was to create templates that made it easy for data-entry staff to perform myriad tasks, from product entry on retail sites to basic customer service.

“Creating good processes can really improve efficiency and productivity without risking accuracy or performance,” says Epstein. “This allowed us to remain incrementally profitable, even in industry segments with low margins.”

About Stephanie Taylor Christensen

Stephanie Taylor Christensen holds a master’s degree in marketing and has 13 years of marketing management experience for Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. She is a regular contributor to sites like ForbesWoman, Real Simple, Mint, Minyanville, and SheKnows, and writes for several private business clients. Her work is frequently syndicated and sourced by Yahoo! Finance, SFGate, TodayShow.com, and The New York Times. She is also a small business owner, having founded WellnessOnLess.com, and Om for Mom Prenatal Yoga in Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Twitter @WellnessOnLess.
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2 comments
Robert Cole
Robert Cole

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K and C Consulting
K and C Consulting

Nice, this is an important topic. Maximizing the value you get from your investment often depends on your willingness to plan ahead, learn from past mistakes, and to develop and implement a consistent strategy to fully leverage all elements of your program. Thanks for the ideas you that will allow us to achieve results and stay within budget.

~cody

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