Budget control tips for online small business owners

ways_to_make_moneyAll businesses are taking extra care with budgets and there is no room for waste. However, because small businesses don’t benefit from the same economies of scale as large businesses, it’s even more critical to take control of the budget. Why not spend a few minutes working your way through this checklist in case there are any new ideas you haven’t tried yet?

Aim Low

Most businesses work to targets, whether that’s a sales target, or a footfall target. So, a good way to motivate yourself to improve your budget control is to set yourself a reduction target. For example, if you set yourself a five per cent budget reduction target for the next year, then that is much more likely to motivate you into sitting down and looking for areas to cut. To ensure that you’re on track, it’s a good idea to put regular budget slots in your diary. That way, you have time planned to deal with budgetary matters.

Power Down

Gas and electricity prices can be a worry but there are lots of ways to cut down on usage. For example, take a look at your opening hours. Many small business owners are on the premises a long time before opening and a long time after closing. Consider whether this is really necessary, or whether you’ve been drawn into the habit. If you’re not the first in and last out, make sure that your employees aren’t falling into the habit of face time at the cost of your power bills. To get a better idea of power peaks and troughs, invest in a small wireless monitor. This can be installed in minutes and only costs a few pounds. Very quickly, you will be able to establish whether power usage is matched by productivity and you’ll be able to adjust your opening hours accordingly.

Staff Hours

No one likes to cut staff hours or lay people off. However, in difficult times, sometimes there’s no choice. Before going ahead, it’s worth finding out whether anyone would like to reduce their hours voluntarily. It may be that one or more of your staff would like to work shorter hours so they can pursue another interest, take a part-time course or spend more time with family. Before taking any action though, it’s well worth checking the ACAS website to make sure you’ve taken account of all the ins and outs first.

Surprise Suppliers

Scrutinise your suppliers and determine whether you could get more for less money. Many suppliers rely on customer inertia to get away with pricing that is less competitive than it might be. Even if you’re otherwise happy with your suppliers, it’s worth opening up discussions. They may be willing to cut a deal with you as it’s usually cheaper for them to retain loyal customers than it is to go out and find new ones. Work your way methodically through every supplier, from your gas provider through to the window cleaner and get the best deal you can.

Don’t be Stationary with Stationery

Carry out an audit of working practices and ask yourself (honestly) whether they’re as effective and efficient as they might be. For example, if you regularly send out festive cards to your customers, consider whether an electronic message might be just as well received. This will save a small fortune in time, stationery and postage. Similarly, if you regularly send customers reminders and other letters, why not think about putting in place an email reminder system? Again, this saves time, stationery and postage and may well be more convenient for your customers.

By setting aside a small amount of time on a regular basis, it is possible to make a significant difference to your outgoings. Keep up the good work by scheduling a yearly budget meeting with yourself to review the year ahead and ensure that your business is not paying out more money than it needs to. That way, you can minimise the impact of annual inflation on your company.

Would you like a copy of my latest workbook, Make That Decision! Your ultimate procrastination-busting guide to what to do next? Just click the link!

5 easy steps to cut the cost of driving

For many of us, driving is a necessary part of our everyday lives. But with the average car costing us around £3,000 per year, it can be a highly expensive necessity.

However, with a bit of careful driving, the right car and the right car insurance, you can ease the cost of driving considerably. So here is our easy five-point guide to cutting the cost of driving. [Read more…]

I started a business when expecting: Stefanie Shedd of Itsy Bitsy Bargains

Tell us a little about your business

Itsy Bitsy Bargains (www.itsybitsybargains.com) is a ‘deal of the day’ website that offers fabulous baby and children products at discounts of between 40-70% off their retail price. I was surprised at how expensive things were when I was pregnant and I struggled to find things I thought were fun and unusual in my price range.   So our goal is to make shopping for children fun again, even in this difficult economic environment. Its not all doom and gloom!

What was your job before starting your business? [Read more…]

Energy saving for mumpreneurs: 5 must-know tips

Mumpreneurs – the somewhat unflattering term used to describe entrepreneurs who also happen to be mothers – are often forced to compare business electricity prices as they strive to save money on energy bills while earning a living. Provided below are five must-know tips about business energy that can help mumpreneurs control their overheads.

1. Apply for tax relief

Mumpreneurs in the UK who work from home should be aware that tax relief may be available on gas and electricity used for business purposes. If it is possible to calculate how much energy is used by the home office, mumpreneurs can apply to have this figure offset against tax. If this figure proves too difficult to calculate, tax relief of £3.00 per week will be awarded as a flat rate reduction. Unfortunately, tax relief is not available to those who volunteer to work at home under the ‘homeworking arrangement’ unless employers contribute the £3.00 weekly deduction.

2. Install solar panels

Solar photovoltaic panels offer a number of incentives to home owners, particularly those who work from home and have applied for tax relief on gas and electricity.

Solar panels are typically fixed to the roof of a property, where they capture and convert sunlight into electricity. This most green of energy sources can be used to provide power throughout the home. Any surplus energy can be exported to the National Grid for a fixed price under the feed-in tariff system (FITs). FITs guarantees a fixed level of payment for green energy for up to 25 years, which is more or less the lifespan of a typical solar PV installation.

In addition to using less electricity from a conventional energy supplier, a mumpreneur whose property is fitted with solar panels should also benefit from tax relief on energy costs while earning additional income through FITs.

3. Insulate cavity walls and lofts

This tip should be followed by all home owners in addition to mumpreneurs looking to save money on business-related expenses.

Poorly insulated cavity walls and lofts waste substantial heat, causing central heating systems to work overtime to maintain an acceptable temperature throughout the home. While mumpreneurs put in the hours to build a business, they cannot afford to waste money through unnecessary heat loss.

Insulating cavity walls and lofts can resolve this problem to a significant degree, trapping heat inside the home to ensure that boilers use less energy in maintaining temperatures.

4. Compare the energy market

The energy market is both competitive and confusing. However, it is by no means impossible to find a good deal. Mumpreneurs can utilise services such as uswitchforbusiness, which searches the market for the most affordable and suitable tariffs based upon the energy bills submitted by its users. Switching to a new energy supplier can save hundreds of pounds over the year.

5. Upgrade technology

Old technology is invariably slow, insecure, unreliable and energy inefficient. Mumpreneurs can save significant amounts of energy by investing in new technology. Old desktop computers, for example, are notorious energy wasters, comprising power-hungry motherboards, hard drives and processors. In contrast, the latest technology is usually more environmentally friendly. Furthermore, it can assist in creating a more efficient working environment and should prove to be more secure and reliable. Desktop computers should be set to sleep or hibernate after any extended period of inactivity (15 minutes or longer) in order to save energy over the long-term.

Photo: Images_of_Money

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Ten Ways to Stretch Your Maternity Pay

It’s not easy starting a business when you’re on maternity leave, so here are a few tips to make your money go further.

  1. You are entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment while you’re pregnant and a year after the baby is born. Don’t forget to book in a dental check up before your child is a year old (easily done when you’re busy with a baby!).
  2. Shop around for home and contents insurance and car insurance. If you can’t find time to do that, phone your insurance company when your renewal letter arrives and ask them if they can give you a better deal.
  3. Shop around for gas and electricity too. Often the best deal is the web tariff, so you don’t even need to pick up the phone.
  4. Have you got baby equipment that seemed a good idea before the little one was born, but has hardly been used? How about that heavy travel system that fills your entire car boot and that travel cot that turned out to be too small? You can sell these now and spend the money on kit for your older baby such as a play pen, garden toys, a bigger travel cot and a baby bouncer. You can buy and sell at Netmums.com, eBay, car boot sales and notice boards at some Sure Start centres.
  5. Look up new recipes using seasonal ingredients. Seasonal ingredients are usually cheaper than ones that have been grown overseas, they are better for the environment (less travel) and you could support local farmers too.
  6. Try planning your meals for the week before you go shopping. This saves you having to throw away food that has gone out of date because you bought too much. It also saves you from popping to the supermarket mid-week when you run out of food. That means you won’t be tempted to spend £20 more than you expected! Meal planning sounds a pain, but with a bit of practice it’s hardly any effort at all.
  7. Check to see if your mortgage company will let you take a payment holiday for a few months.
  8. Sell your maternity clothes on eBay.
  9. If you have credit cards and or accounts with home shopping companies, make sure you pay them on time. I never used to miss a payment, but I was a bit disorganised after my babies were born and I missed the payment deadline by a couple of times. Once you’ve added up the interest and late payment fee, it can be surprisingly expensive. Check to see if your credit card company will take a minimum payment by direct debit – at least you won’t have to pay the fee then.
  10. Check out www.babybudgeting.co.uk for loads more ideas for saving money when you have a baby.

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