5 Small Business Tips to Plug ‘Leaky Bucket’ Expenses

Here’s a small business tip to help you keep better track of your expenses. A new quarter can be a good time to hunt for leaks in your small business budget: “zombie” charges that you probably don’t remember you’re paying each month. Check your bank statements and credit card receipts for signs that these charges have grown out of control. You can start cost cutting by focusing on these five culprits.

5 Common Cash Diverters

1. Monthly Memberships

Subscriptions to magazines, clubs, websites, and software services can fly under your radar when you only get charged a few dollars each month. You might even be paying for duplicate sets of benefits across multiple vendors. List every membership and its benefits, condense them wherever possible, and eliminate the subscriptions you don’t use enough to justify the expense.

2. Credit Card Fees

Make sure you get your money’s worth if you pay an annual fee for your business credit cards. Unless you earn significant rebates, travel rewards, or other services that save your company money, transfer your balance to a card that offers no annual fee and a lower interest rate. If you tend to pay your invoices on time, consider switching to a credit card that offers cash back or “trade terms,” rebating your account by as much as 2 percent.

3. Communication Charges

Many phone and Internet service providers sign up new customers with promotional packages that expire after six months or a year. If your teaser rate has disappeared, request a new promotion or review competitive options. In this market, you may find a better deal, especially if you consolidate all of your voice and data with a single provider. Double check your wireless bill for errant charges.

4. Supply Deliveries

If you keep your office supplies, your kitchen pantry refills, or your coffee service on auto-pilot, you could be overpaying to stockpile your workspace. Amazon Prime offers unlimited 2-day shipping for a flat rate per year, enabling you to quickly replenish most office essentials. Many large office supply chains also deliver items free, on demand, if you work within a short drive of their locations.

5. Under-performing Advertising Campaigns

With Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other companies making it easier than ever to run self-service ad campaigns, it’s also easy for business owners to “set it and forget it.” Review your analytics to ensure that you’re paying for quality clicks that convert to actual business.

Once you’ve made a quarterly audit of your routine, small expenses, set up an automated report to keep track of other charges that could creep into your accounts. Many banks now offer online reporting tools that can alert you to charges that meet criteria you specify. They’re especially useful if you’re not the only person in your business authorized to make charges to your account.

Joe Taylor Jr. has covered personal finance and business for more than two decades. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, Fox Business, and ABC News. He recently completed a personal finance book entitled The Rogue Guide to Credit Cards; (Rogue Guide Books, 2012).

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