Here are some tips for saving money in starting and operating your home-based business
1. Any tips/advice for saving a services (e.g. Internet)? Are "unlimited" capabilities for things like long distance a good idea? How about "bundled" services (such as cable TV, Internet and long distance on one bill)?
Having unlimited capabilities is very beneficial for entrepreneurs. For example, with unlimited phone services, you can talk freely and don't have to worry about being on the phone too long with potential clients and even your regular clients. Plus when you have unlimited services you find you have more ways to use your services, such as offering coaching. Unlimited Internet is almost always a necessity. Not only do you need the Internet for connecting with clients, but you also do research, marketing, networking, etc. You want to be able to have access to this freely.
You can often save money by getting services bundled. For example check to see if you can get a lower rate on combining services such as long distance phone service, Internet service, etc. It's important though to check your bill monthly and make sure that you are getting what you signed up for and nothing additional. Also, if you are unsure if you have a package added, call and find out before you utilize the service to make sure you are covered. For example, if you aren't sure if your calls to Canada are covered, call and find out. Don't just assume they are and make a call. You don’t want one large unexpected phone bill to negate the savings you receive.
One point that Kelly Poelker, my co-author of VA the Series points out is when bundling have a back-up plan in place as one down side to bundled services is if one service goes down, typically they all do. Use caution in selecting a provider and get the most reliable one.
#2 – Any tips/advice for saving on regularly purchased office supplies, such as toner and paper? Are generic versions usually acceptable quality? Where can home business owners find wholesalers or suppliers at wholesale prices?
Always buy in bulk whenever you can and shop until you find the best prices. Also shopping at wholesale or non-office supply stores can save you money. Today, I purchase most of my office supplies, including toners, at Walmart. I also find places such as Costco or Sams Club can save a bundle. However, I will still look to the sale ads at places such as Office Depot to see their sales. Once in a while their sale price will be cheaper. Also, Office Depot and many places offer Rewards cards. By using your rewards card, at the end of the quarter you can get a gift card back that you can use for purchases. The amount is dependent on how much you spend. Shop online as well. Often you will then get email notices of sales.
Generic versions do work for some products, but I’ve found for toners, etc for quality I want to go with name brand. What you can do is try out one to see if it works for you. It’s worth the experiment if it works and you save monthly from then on. And it’s not a large investment if it doesn’t. But always keep in mind, professional image for entrepreneurs is the most important factor in determining price.
3. Any tips/advice for determine which services are necessary and which can be cut?
Focus on your particular business and what needs relate directly to that keeping in mind that your business is unique. Even though some businesses might need some services, you might not.
Now consider what services you used in the past year and how often you used that service.
4. Any tips/advice for comparison shopping and/or negotiating?
There are times of the year that certain items routinely go on sale. Take note of these times and plan accordingly. Also, be aggressive and ask sales personnel when they routinely have discounts. For example, when new computer models come out, you can get cheaper prices on the older models.
Buy bulk and go for volume discounts with vendors you purchase from routinely. Also check into a commercial accounts for contract pricing. Share the costs with your colleagues and save even more.
Any other tips/advice
Write out a budget for your business and prioritize what your needs are. This is invaluable. Many add this to their business plan when starting a business, but a separate budget can be a real asset. It helps to see things in black and white.
Also, stick with products that you trust and look for the best prices on them. For example, I normally purchase Hewlett Packard computers. I keep an eye on their products and always look for the best prices before I need to make a purchase.