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29 ways to save on home-office expenses

If you're thinking about starting a home-based business, or already run a business out of your home, you know that office expenses -- furniture, equipment and supplies -- can eat up a lot of cash. Gary Foreman, founder, editor and publisher of "The Dollar Stretcher," and Shel Horowitz, owner of and author of "Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World," offer tips on how to make the most of your budget.

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"Cash flow kills more businesses than lack of profitability," says Foreman. Saving money is as critical as your marketing plan and your product pricing. It's an essential part of your business.

Tip No. 1: Don't spend money on appearances. "If it's a home business, you're not likely to have people come into your office," says Foreman. "But even if you have a small business with visitors, people will recognize that you're wise to not spend money foolishly."

Tip No. 2: "New ventures ought not to spend lavishly on furniture," says Horowitz. "Get by with the bare necessities. You need a desk and a place to put your computer."

Tip No. 3: That said, "Don't stint on the chair," says Horowitz. "You'll spend more on a chiropractor than you would have on a decent chair." Moreover, you don't need to pay $500 for a good chair. Good quality desk chairs can cost less than $100.

Tip No. 4: Shop around. "Some business owners make a checklist of the things they need, then go to the office supply store and fill the order like it was a grocery list," says Foreman. That's not the best way to get the most for your money.

Tip No. 5: Think about whether you need to own the equipment. "Can you share or rent it when needed?" Horowitz says. He creates mini-co-ops with others, and the group shares use of the equipment.

Tip No. 6: Be creative. "You can find resources without spending a lot of cash," says Foreman. Use items already on hand to serve your needs. A coffee mug can double as pencil holder.

Tip No. 7: Put the word out. "Someone may be getting rid of a piece of equipment," says Foreman. If people know what you're looking for, they can direct you to low-cost (even free) resources.

Tip No. 8: Be patient. "You may not need a fax machine right away," says Foreman. "You can wait until you find one at the right price."

Tip No. 9: Get value for your money. You can buy cheap file cabinets from a mass-market discounter, but they won't last very long. "We bought a four-drawer file cabinet for about $200, 10 years ago, from Quill; a quality office discounter. It's in new condition," he says. "We bought a good quality lateral file at a tag sale for $5 or $10. But the cheap plastic ones we have are wearing out and need to be replaced."

Tip No. 10: Everything is subject to negotiation. "I don't just ask for a lower price," says Horowitz. "I ask them what else they can do to sweeten the deal. They can add something that has high perceived value but doesn't cost them much. For example, when I bought a computer, they threw in the modem and printer. They could offer free delivery."

Tip No. 11: You need to talk to a real person to negotiate, says Horowitz. Ordering online doesn't allow you room to negotiate.

Tip No. 12: Bring someone else's price to a retailer that you want to patronize. Ask if they can offer you the same deal, says Horowitz.

-- Posted: Aug. 26, 2005




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