3 Ways to Seriously Cut Small Business Costs

Last Updated May 15, 2011 7:44 PM EDT

Reducing operating expenses often involves doing business in a manner that's counter to convention or expectations, like putting mustard on tuna fish or vacationing in Detroit. There are a lot of ways to apply this lesson to your own business without eating a terrible sandwich or spending a dreary summer in Motor City. And while some conventional wisdom doesn't really pay off -- being a miser with the light switches will likely have only a negligible effect on your total operating costs, for example -- here are three great ways to put a real dent in your balance sheet:

Stop printing. I would suggest getting rid of your printers entirely, but honestly, that's impractical. Instead, if you have multiple printers in your office, you might get rid of all but one and put it somewhere inconvenient. Establish a policy that favors using electronic documents and only print things that absolutely, positively, can't stay in digital form. After all, as I've already mentioned, you may be blowing as much as 3% of your annual revenue on printing-related costs.

Move to Open Source. How much are you spending on Office? Do you absolutely have to have it? Because if not, LibreOffice is free. So is GIMP, and it's a practical alternative to Photoshop. In fact, there's an open source alternative for pretty much every category of commercial software out there. If you need help finding and evaluating open source options, check out osalt.com, which lets you browse the alternatives by logical category.

Store Stuff in the Cloud. You learn interesting stuff when you price hardware to build SharePoint servers and shared storage for a growing company: while desktop hard drives are cheap, redundant, reliable server storage is not. It gets expensive very quickly to support all the storage space you need for your employees. Instead, step up to the cloud, and let an online storage service do it for you. It's almost always less expensive (and less of a headache) to outsource your storage. For a comparison of your options, check out our review of the top 5 cloud storage services.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Andrew Magill
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