Life is expensive.
We all have huge monthly costs to pay – whether that’s a mortgage or rent, council tax, utilities or other essential bills that we can’t escape. Then there’s our other commitments like monthly subscriptions, the cost of running a vehicle, our hobbies and other almost-essentials. Finally, there are the things we love to indulge in. That takeaway coffee on a Monday morning, a hair treatment or, in my case, a shopping trip to IKEA.
There’s not a great deal we can do to reduce the costs of living… but one area we do have control over is how much we spend on our little luxuries. When it’s a few £s or $s here and there we give ourselves permission to spend it freely, but it’s surprising how quickly these little amounts add up to a figure that could really make a difference.
This year’s going to be a big one for me and my business, so I’ve been looking at my expenses and outgoings more carefully. I’m having a more relaxed month in May as it’s been my birthday and a few other celebrations, but once June hits I’ll be back on track to reducing my outgoings in order to invest in my future.
And when I say invest I don’t mean saving thousands – I’m talking small, manageable amounts that grow over time to become a resource for paying for a membership community or a digital resource for my business. The kinds of things we all see and would love to buy but don’t have the funds immediately available. Saving small amounts helps us to build up this fund over time, ready for when something special comes along.
Today I wanted to share some practical ways to spend less, reduce your outgoings and start saving for your business – with real examples of where I’ve done just that.
How to reduce your monthly outgoings to build a future fund for your business
1. Cut out what you don’t need
This might seem obvious, but actually there are so many things we end up paying for that we just don’t need, want or use. If you run a business, especially a digital one, you might have a ton of subscriptions to services and software – and I bet there’s one that you haven’t used much but haven’t got around to cancelling yet. I know it’s true for me.
Take some time this week to look through your monthly subscriptions and write down a list of those you use and see value in, and those you don’t use or don’t see value in. Next, cancel your subscription to everything on that second list. Or, if you do see some value in them, try negotiating with the support team for a better deal – they’ll often offer an attractive deal to persuade you to stay longer.
As a social media manager I sign up for and test so many different social media schedulers and tools. Most of these come with a free trial, but you have to be careful to cancel before you’re billed. If it’s a busy time or I’m not looking at my outgoings closely enough it’s easy to stay subscribed to something that I’m actually not using at all.
My most recent example of this is Tailwind. I’ve been using Tailwind on and off to grow my Pinterest following, but with life getting busy and no clients requesting Pinterest support, my need for it dwindled. Yet I still stayed subscribed, paying for something I wasn’t using. Two months ago I cancelled my subscription and now focus on manual pinning to maintain my account, and will simply repurchase in the future if and when I need to.
Saving from cancelling Tailwind: £11 / $15 per month
Here are some other ideas on services/products to cut or reduce:
- Dedicated gadget insurance (if it’s covered by your home/contents or business insurance)
- Monthly IT support or cover (consider creating a fund instead to replace if anything breaks)
- Access to membership communities or masterminds you don’t enjoy or make the most of
2. Find a cheaper alternative
Sometimes there are monthly costs we need to be able to run our business. For some of us this might be physical resources like stationery and ink, or it could be purchasing stock photography to accompany a blog post or ad.
Often we stay loyal to a provider, brand or business because of convenience, ease of use or familiarity. But what if we’re paying over the odds, or could find a similar quality product/service at a lower cost? One area that springs to mind here is stock photography. There are some amazing free stock photography websites but if it’s become a habit to search the same few places each time it’s easy to miss these and opt for a monthly subscription to unlock ‘better quality’ or more relevant images. My favourite stock photo website is Unsplash, which is full of gorgeous and sometimes unusual lifestyle photography – perfect for blog posts or to accompany a social media post.
We can also look to our lifestyle to find costs to cut too. We can swap a weekly takeaway coffee for preparing one at home in a flask, or cancelling a gym membership in favour of going for a run or exercising at home watching videos on YouTube.
- Saving from switching from Shutterstock (10 images/mo) to Unsplash: £29 / $39 per month
- Saving from ditching a weekly takeaway coffee: £10 / $13 per month
Here are some other ideas:
- Preparing lunch or snacks at home instead of buying them en route while travelling for business
- Trialling a lower tier of your software/tools – e.g. social media management platform
- Clubbing together with other business owners to share resources – e.g. books, photo props or equipment
3. Know where to invest and spend more
Seeking out a cheaper alternative saves you money but it also takes more time. As a business owner you know how precious, and scarce, that resource is. When time is money, there are some things which are worth spending more money on – in order to save you time.
As a digital service provider, an area this is especially visible to me is when it comes to using technology to stay organised. I use a number of tools to keep me organised and to make my workflows more simple. This means I spend less time on manually carrying out a task each time and more time getting results for my clients. There are so many amazing tools out there that handle client management, invoicing, accounting, task automation, time tracking and more. If a service costs you £10/$13 a month but saves you an hour or more per month it’s an investment worth making!
I couldn’t think of a better example here than one of my favourite tools – Dubsado*. I use it as a client management system – inputting my clients, creating and sending invoices, communicating and storing files and information for easy reference. It’s also home to a whole host of other features I barely use yet, like automated workflows, detailed and integrated proposals with contracts, and full integration with accounting services. As an early user I pay around £9/$12 per month (it’s now £18/$25 per month) but saves me countless more hours than the monthly expense. It’s one of those expenses that’s a no brainer for me – I’m sure you have tools and subscriptions that give you the same feeling too. If you don’t, maybe Dubsado* is yours?!
Saving from using Dubsado compared to spending 3 hours per month extra on admin: £57/$77 per month
Some more ways to save time by investing wisely:
- Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) to manage your emails and business admin, instead of procrastinating on it
- Working with an accountant to make sure you’re claiming all the legitimate business expenses you can each year
- Outsourcing your social media to a social media manager, instead of worrying about what to post
Saving for the future doesn’t have to be grand or difficult
Starting small and eliminating one or two monthly expenses can free up a good amount of money to invest in growing your business.
Choosing the right programmes, support and equipment to invest in means your small investments will deliver bigger, better results.
If you’re stuck on what to prioritise, my personal preference is to either spend money on a tool that saves me time or to look for a membership community or mastermind that’s focused on results. The right equipment and support can make a huge difference on your mindset, profitability and success.
If you’d like to see a post on what I personally invest in for my business let me know!