10 Unusual Ways to Cut Costs in the Office

The expenses that go with operating an office feel like they're very set. You need certain software, a coffee pot and the right furniture, o
August 27, 2010

The expenses that go with operating an office feel like they're very set. You need certain software, a coffee pot and the right furniture, or it isn't really an office. That doesn't allow for a lot of savings. If you're willing to think outside the box when it comes to the costs in your office, there are some ways to reduce the money you spend.


1. Audit Your Energy Use


Utilities can be a big expense in the office and cutting your costs there can help a lot. You can often arrange to have your local utility company provide you with an energy audit free of charge. This will help you find a lot of quick fixes. In his experience helping businesses go green, Shel Horowitz has seen some easy fixes: "Plug computers and peripherals (and copy machines, etc.) into power strips and turn the strips off when the office is closed, saving quite a bit of electricity." His other suggestions include using a duplexing printer and improving the insulation on your electrical outlets.


2. Share Equipment with Other Offices


How often do you use a copy machine? A fax machine? Any of the other equipment that seems to be standard for an office? Provided you're in an office building where other companies also have space, there's no reason to get dedicated equipment. If you carefully plan trips to another office, you may be able to share that equipment even if you don't work nearby. Create a common fund to buy and maintain the shared equipment and both companies can cut costs.


3. Outsource What Someone Else Can Do Cheaper


Sandra Baptist doesn't run errands. Instead, she uses a courier service: "They consolidate deliveries and deliver to certain areas on certain days, e.g., they go to the post office on Mondays, one of our banks on Wednesdays and Fridays, etc." Because the courier service can take several companies' mail to the post office in one trip, the overall cost is cheaper than if individual companies handled things on their own. Furthermore, Baptist can spend more of her time on work that will bring in income for her business.


4. Look at Alternative Spaces


Finding office space can be an expensive proposition, but the costs go up if you only look at spaces that are officially meant for housing offices. Depending on your company's needs, anything from a warehouse to an apartment might be just as adequate. You do have to make sure that zoning and your lease allow for your business, but you can find alternatives more often than you might expect.


5. Barter for Services and Products


If you have the availability in your schedule, trading your work for another company's can be worthwhile. Bartering isn't a good way to handle every client, but if there's something that you really need, you can often get it for below the price tag if you barter. It's important to make sure that you're getting a fair value for what you're offering, of course. When you're bartering, it's not always easy. Take into account what you would make if you simply sold a service or product, as well as what it will cost you to give it away for free.


6. Join Local Organizations


Just by being a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, you can often get discounts on services or products from other members. While discounts certainly aren't universal and you shouldn't join for the sake of discounts, it's worthwhile to take a look at organizations operating in your area to see if any members offer discounts specifically on those services or products you actually need.


7. Consider Where You're Getting Your Power


We typically just call up the utility company and have them start our service when we set up a new office. But Miles Lee, the president of Alliance Cost Containment, points out that there are other options. There are some things you can power yourself. Lee says, "Check out solar or micro wind turbines for outside lights and closed circuit TV." He also notes that, depending on your state, you may be able to bid out your power and gas usage.


8. Encourage Your Employees to Get Healthy


Whether or not you can offer health insurance, healthy employees are less expensive. You don't have to worry about as many sick days, lost productivity or even hiring temps. The same thing goes for you, as the boss. Losing time to mild illnesses can be a big drain on your business, so take junk food out of the vending machine or organize group trips to the gym.


9. Get Rid of the Printer


Having a printer means that you have to buy paper and ink, along with the occasional replacement for your current printer. Peggy Duncan got rid of her printer and hasn't missed those added costs at all. While her office isn't entirely paperless, she handles most paperwork by sending PDFs — which can be signed digitally — and by scanning the receipts and other paperwork that people send her way.


10. Ditch the Phone Line


As long as you have an internet connection in your office, you can reduce or even eliminate your costs for telephone service. There are a variety of voice over IP tools that not only let you take phone calls through the internet, but also give a phone number or call out to a regular phone line easily. There are also a variety of fax services. Sonia Gallagher relies on Skype for her consulting business: "I coach clients via telephone and give them the option of doing it via web camera. This way they have the choice of seeing me through the computer or just speaking to me via phone."


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