Saving Money in the Office

Want to put some extra money in your pocket? As Benjamin Franklin said, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” In these tough economic times it behooves us all to look at what we are spending money on and cut back where appropriate. Not only will that help the bottom line, but it will free up some of the cash you may need for areas that need bolstering such as web marketing, employee benefits, or computer service.

To that end here are nine simple things that will cost you little or nothing that can net you some significant returns in the long run.

  1. Cleaning – What does cleaning have to do with saving money? Other than age and power surges, the biggest killer of computers and printers that I have seen is heat. That heat is caused by the ventilation being blocked by dust, pet hair, or other debris. Once every few months take the time to make sure the fans and vents on your computer, monitor, and printer are unobstructed. If you keep your equipment clean it will run cooler and therefor last longer. And the longer it lasts the less often you have to pay to replace it – or pay for someone like me to come fix it.
  2. Faxing – Not sure if you want to buy a fax machine or replace that old one? Well don’t! Most companies are using email not fax these days, and those that aren’t should be. Not only are emails easier to keep track of but they save time and paper. But what if you need to send a fax? Go down to your local office supply store and they will charge you a small sum to send it, or you could just do it from your computer. Online services like FaxZero.com will let you send small faxes for free and longer faxes for a minimal fee. So there is absolutely no reason to have that expensive fax machine sitting around gobbling up power.
  3. Electricity – And while we are talking about power, let’s talk about all those cell phone chargers, sleeping printers, and other dormant equipment you have around. Each of those devices is drawing current even when you are not using it. How can you tell? Is the little light on? Are they warm? Is that power brick humming? Then it is drawing power. If you aren’t going to be using the device for a while, then unplug it entirely. Or just plug them into a power strip and turn that single power strip switch off. Not only will you be saving electricity, but you will be adding extra insurance against power surges and voltage shocks.
  4. Upgrading Software – About to upgrade to the newest version of Microsoft Office? Ask yourself, “Why?” If the current version is serving you fine now, what feature is it that you are paying for? If it is just to get compatibility with the new file formats, consider downloading the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats. With it you can open, edit and save documents, workbooks and presentations in the file formats new to Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007. With other software, ask the same questions – “why am I upgrading this” and “is there a free update or patch that will let me do most of those same things?”
  5. Security & Backup Software – Tired of paying for McAfee or Norton anti-virus? Take a look at the free version of AVG by Grisoft. This is great and non-memory hog system protection. Even if you need the paid version it is still less expensive than most of the alternative. (Note: It also works in the beat of Windows 7!) As for doing offsite backups, take a look at Mozy. You can get 2 gigs of backup space free to help protect you from disaster. If you need more than that, unlimited space is available for about $5 per month. This works on both PCs and Macs, and is considerably less expensive that tape drives or, worse yet, data loss or recovery services.
  6. Open Source Software – If you are looking for a new word processor, photo editor, or email program, don’t be so fast to browse the isles of Best Buy or Office Depot. There is a lot of great quality software out there for all sorts of purposes that will not cost you anymore than the time to download it. If you are looking for an office suite, take a look at OpenOffice.org. The OpenOffice.org suite of products is not only free, but it is Microsoft Office compatible. It will even open and save Office 2007 documents. And for photo editing, check out GIMP. It has many of the same features of Photoshop, many more than most people need, and again is entirely free. There are instant messaging programs such as Pidgin, server side database like MySQL, and even operating system virtualization software like VirtualBox. So, before laying down cold hard cash, check online first.
  7. Office Supplies – OK, let’s talk a bit about saving on things like paper and pens. Sure you can buy at places like Costco or Sams, and most of you know that office supply retailers like Staples and Office Depot have customer loyalty programs. But did you know that Staples, Office Depot, and some others have printer cartridge trade-in? This is not just turning them in to be recycled, but turning them in to be recycled and getting some cash added to your customer loyalty account. The amount varies but is usually around $3.00. So not only will you be doing the right thing by being green and recycling, but you will be rewarded for it with discounts! And while you are at it, please buy the recycled paper.
  8. Transporting Files – Unless you are making a permanent backup, there is really no reason for burning a file to CD or DVD any more. If you are moving files from one machine to another or just keeping a temporary backup to have with you, these things should be on a USB memory key. USB memory keys, or thumb drives, have gotten ridiculously cheap and even though the price of blank CDs and DVDs has fallen, when considered over the long run it still cannot match the price of the USB memory. Plus, there won’t be as much in landfills later. And instead of mailing that CD or DVD to a client, consider using a service like DropBox or Microsoft’s new SkyDrive. The files will get there faster and you won’t be spending money on disks and postage.
  9. Email not Mail – It may sound like common sense to a lot of us, but I am still astounded by the number of things I get in the postal mail that could have easily been sent via email. Not only would that have been less expensive for the sender, but again, it would have been better for the environment. Not to mention the fact that the information would have gotten to me quicker and I would have an easier time keeping it on file. If your mailing lists are getting to big to manage in Outlook or whatever your email program may be, then a service like MailChimp or iContact can help. Not only will you be able to send out your mailings and stay legal with all the CanSpam anti-spam legislation, but with MailChimp you will get detailed statistics on who received the email, who opened it, etc. And best of all, the base plan is now free, so there is no reason not to give it a try.

So there you have it – a few simple ways to save some money around the office thereby putting a few extra dollars into your budget. As an added bonus more than a few of them will help you in your quest to go green this year too. I am sure there are many more ideas out there, and even these could be expanded further. If you have any comments or question about saving money around the office, or any other related topic, I would welcome your input!

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