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Five Ways to Cut Costs in 2011

No business owner starts the month of January thinking, “This year I think I’ll try to increase my costs.” (Well, no successful ones, anyway.) Like you, we’re always on the lookout for ways to lower the price of doing business. Here are five easy ones that can absolutely, positively save you some cash in the coming year:

1. Encourage telecommuting

If you can arrange to have fewer people traipsing around the office, you’ll lower your energy bills and equipment expenditures, pay less for things like on-site insurance, and perhaps even downsize your office-space requirements. You’ll also create happier and, believe it or not, more productive employees, as evidenced by a recent Brigham Young University study.

2. Print “green”

Printing is so 20th-century. These days, smart businesses “print” all their documents as PDFs, which consume zero ink and paper (and require zero actual printers). Even better, consider cranking out PDFs that can’t be printed, thus enforcing your money-saving savvy on others. If you must have hard-copy, set all your printers to Draft or Economy mode, which will consume less ink/toner while still producing readable text. Reserve Normal mode for the stuff that goes to customers.

3. Rethink your phone system

When it comes to phones, every business has different needs. But if you’re still relying on regular old landline service, chances are excellent you could save a small fortune (and probably get a lot more calling features) by switching to a VOIP solution. Check out Grasshopper, which I mentioned yesterday, as well as longtime favorite Phonebooth.

4. Stop paying for security software

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, why are you still spending money on security software? As long as you’re running a current version of Windows (i.e. Vista or 7), an up-to-date browser, and a good freeware tool like Microsoft Security Essentials 2, you have all the protection you need from most kinds of threats. (Knowledge provides the rest, so train your employees on the dangers of phishing, bogus attachments, and the like.) For most small businesses, pricey, annually renewed security software is flat-out unnecessary.

5. Stop paying retail

It amazes me how many business owners fail to shop around for the best deals on computers, printers, printer ink and toner, network gear, and the like. Instead, they walk into the local big-box or office-supply store and pay exorbitant retail prices. Or blindly sign off on whatever their regular reseller charges. Folks, everything is cheaper online. If you’re in a browsing mood, hit up daily-deal sites like Woot and deal aggregators like Dealnews. Otherwise, just Google whatever you’re looking to buy (e.g. HP C6380 ink cartridges), then click Shopping Results.

Got any cost-cutting tips of your own to share? You know the drill: hit the comments! I’ll be waiting to see how your tips measure up against mine. ;)