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Slash Your Home Office Bills

It’s the Monthly Bills that Really Add Up

By Carla Firey Shives

The one-time cost of your desk and computer may seem pricey, but it’s those monthly bills that really add up. In fact, services like long distance, Internet, and a fax line can total $100 or more each month—and that doesn’t include other regular expenses like toner and paper.

For many home business owners, making some small adjustments to monthly bills will dramatically lower expenses and boost profits. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save money on your regular expenditures.

Don’t Limit Your Services 

For frequently used services, unlimited capabilities may offer the most savings. If you often make long distance phone calls, for example, look for a company that offers unlimited long distance calling at a flat rate. “You’ll be able to talk freely with clients without worrying about the cost,” says Diana Ennen, President of Virtual Word Publishing (www.virtualwordpublishing.com).  Remember to look for unlimited calling when choosing a cell phone plan, too, especially if you often make calls when outside of your office.

Get “Bundled”

Many companies are featuring package deals—which include unlimited long distance, cable/satellite TV, and Internet—for one monthly rate. These are usually offered a discounted cost, because you’re purchasing multiple services from one company. “In most cases, the more you bundle, the more you save,” says Barry J. Izsak, Certified Professional Organizer®

(www.arrangingitall.com).  One warning: If one service goes down in a bundled package, typically they all do. So it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan (like a cell phone with Internet service).

Compare Prices

Shopping around for the best price on both goods and services is an effective way to cut your costs. Use the Internet to check prices for things like office supplies. Log on to the web site and type in the name of the item you want, such as “legal pads.” You’ll get prices from a variety of online retailers, so it’s easy to find the store with the best deal.

Ask About Special Discounts

When it comes to services like Internet or phone, oftentimes you can get the same, low promotional rates offered to new customers even if you’ve been using the service for years. Similarly, always ask retailers for a small business discount and remember to take advantage of frequent shopper deals like the Staples Rewards (SM) program, which gives you a 10% rebate on certain purchases.

Make Companies Compete

Companies are always competing for your business, so you’re in a great position to negotiate a better deal. Simply inform your provider that you’re thinking about making the switch to a competitor. For example, “if you are approached by a major telephone company with a better deal than you currently have, you can contact your current service provider and they will almost always match the price so they don’t lose your business,” says Izsak. Be prepared with details about competing prices and you’re likely to get your current provider to lower their cost.

Buy Store Brands

You probably already buy store brands for many of your household needs.  So why not make the same money-saving choice for your office supplies?  “Generic versions of toner and paper are definitely acceptable quality and can save you lots of money,” says Izsak. Most major office supply stores—like Staples and Office Depot—have their own (less expensive) versions of paper, pens and envelopes.

Cut Out Unnecessary Extras

Do you really need all those extra services? “For most businesses, there’s little need to have a dedicated fax line,” says Izsak. And you probably don’t need a business phone line if you’re the only person at home during the day. If you must have a separate telephone line, just get an extra residential line. It’s less expensive, and “your clients will never know the difference,” promises Izsak.

Stock Up On Deals at the Right Time 

“There are times of the year that certain items go on sale,” says Ennen, who recommends that you be aggressive and ask store clerks for the dates of upcoming sales. For example, back-to-school sales often feature deeply discounted office supplies like notebooks, folders, planners, desk organizers, paper, pencils and highlighters. Rather than buying these things every month or so, stock up on them when the price is low. If you buy in bulk, you might also get a volume discount. No room for storage? Split the supplies—and the cost—with a colleague. HBM

© Carla Firey Shives

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