7 ways to stop throwing money down the drain

There is nothing worse than the feeling that most small business owners are familiar with, checking your bank account and feeling that sense of disappointment at how low the balance is. It's frustrating, especially when we work so hard and put so much into our business.

Of course there can be lots of reasons why there is not money left, some of the big reasons, for example, not charging enough, not managing cash flow properly and simply not generating enough business to cover the bills But at the same time, I've found that there is a lot of money wasted by business owners because of 7 simple things that they fail to do.

Now I'm not saying these savings will turn a failing business around, but I am saying that you will be surprised at just how much money you can save by making a few simple strategies part of your daily routine.

1. Make the time to check prices on a regular basis

One of the problems we face when checking prices of services like power and telecommunications is that it takes time and it is generally a frustrating experience. But it's probably worth the effort if you can make a substantial saving. Look at the saving over a 12 month period and work out how much you've actually made simply by investing some time working to get a better price for a service or product you are already receiving.

2. Try the "when in doubt go without" approach

Often we buy new products or replace old items out of habit as opposed to there being a real need for them. Are there things you are buying that you really could go without? Recently I visited a large Japanese company and they actually asked their staff to bring in their own scissors and staplers - in the space of a year, they estimated that this simple gesture saved approximately $50,000. In other words, challenge habits and conventional thinking and reap the rewards. The staff in this case were very happy to chip in and do the right thing.

3. Work out how much particular items cost you for the year

Things like stationery and office supplies have a way of adding up. If your stationery bill is $200 a month, it's not really a big deal, but when you consider that to be $2400 per year, the shift in framing to an annual cost suddenly makes it a big deal. Work out the cost of everything in your business on an annual basis and realize just how much you are spending. It might make you negotiate a little harder or perhaps use a little less.

4. Whatever you do, don't pay late fees

Many businesses pay way too much in bank fees and credit card fees because they miss payment dates. Generally paying late fees is not related to cash flow, it is simply disorganization. The best way to avoid paying late fees is simply to take five minutes to set up automatic payments on your regular bills which could in turn save you hundreds of dollars a year.

5. Get everyone involved in saving money

Saving money isn't just up to you the business owner, it's the responsibility of everyone involved. But that doesn't mean that everyone will instinctively leap on the cost saving band wagon. Get creative, offer incentives, make saving money part of your daily conversations without becoming obsessed or downright mean.

6. Negotiate on everything you possibly can

I remember going into a big department store and watching in awe as my friend started to negotiate with the sales assistant to buy a microwave oven. I thought these big stores were not open to negotiation, apparently they most certainly are and in fact most businesses are negotiable. When it comes to negotiating, most of us tend to be quite conservative, but we might need to rethink this philosophy. By simply asking for a better price or a better deal, more often than not you will be rewarded with a discount.

7. Lousy record keeping is probably the easiest way to lose money, and lots of it

Poor record keeping and accounts is a sure fire way to lose money and many businesses are guilty of this, often because they don't value accurate records. When you do have great records, and you can see what you are spending (and earning) at the press of a button, a lot of changes. This current and accurate information gives you a much more engaged snapshot of the business at any time and we can be more proactive as a result of that.

Clearly, with a few simple changes, and a new way of thinking, most businesses would be able to save considerable amounts of money that could be better used elsewhere. Give it a go and see what impact this has on your business.

RELATED: 15 things you can stop wasting your money on

15 things you can stop wasting your money on
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15 things you can stop wasting your money on

1. Cable TV

With the advent of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Apple TV, there's hardly a reason to splurge on a fancy DVR system or even basic cable — so long as you're willing to be patient.

Most shows are added at least 24-hours after airing and some networks won't give them up until eight days.

See some great alternatives to cable TV here.

Via Business Insider

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2. Bank fees

Banks love to slap you with fees at the drop of a hat, but that doesn't mean you've got to put up with it.

"Consider going with a credit union, which are better than banks in many ways, to avoid some of these fees," says Andrew Schrage, founder of MoneyCrashers.com.

"If you travel abroad often, make sure you use credit cards without foreign transaction fees, otherwise you'll be paying an extra 3% to 5% on all your purchases."

Via Business Insider

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3. Extended warranties

Retailers push hard to sell you extended warranties — and conveniently pump up their sales figures at the same time.

Don't do it, Schrage warns.

"The only instance I'd recommend a warranty is in the case of a laptop. Otherwise, the warranties themselves can often cost as much as simply buying a used or new replacement for your item, or repairing it," he adds.

Via Business Insider

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4. The roof over your head

If you're blowing most of your income on a loft in Midtown, you're making a big mistake, says Jeremy Gregg, executive director of the PLAN Fund.

His organization provides loans to low-income entrepreneurs, who Gregg says he often sees spend more than half their income on rent and utilities.

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development recommends spending less than one-third of your income on housing.

Via Business Insider

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5. Unnecessary smartphone data

"Many of us (including me) pick a cell phone plan, then never check to see if it's the right one for us based on our usage," writes author of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," Ramit Sethi. "Because the average cell phone bill is about $50, that's $600 per year of money you can optimize."

When buying a new cell phone, Sethi likes to pay a little bit more upfront by choosing the unlimited data and text messaging plan. He then sets a three-month check-in on his calendar, and analyzes his spending patterns after a few months to see where he can cut back.

You can use this method for any usage-based services, he says.

Via Business Insider

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6. Online shipping

Nearly all retailers offer some sort of option that gets your purchases to your doorstep without additional fees.

Zappos and L.L. Bean are among the rarest breed of businesses offering free shipping on every single purchase, but most companies will demand a minimum purchase.

To help track down deals on shipping, use Freeshipping.org. The site stores information on expiration dates, tells you much to spend to qualify, and lets you search by store name or product.

Otherwise, check out CouponSherpa or Retailmenot, which offer discount codes for free shipping.

Via Business Insider

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7. Cheap art

Environmental designer Pablo Solomon says picking up knockoff prints and other art is a great way to blow cash for no good reason.

"Nothing sends me through the roof like the art sold on cruise ships and at resorts," Solomon says. "(They're) basically glorified posters being sold as originals."

The best way to score deals on art is to track up and comers, he says. You can nab their art early on and laugh your way to the bank after they've made it big.

Via Business Insider

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8. Fast food

You're only hurting yourself (and your wallet) if you're feeding yourself out of the bodega around the corner from your home or office.

"I am shocked at how many people live paycheck-to-paycheck and yet routinely spend $10 per day on fast food and convenience store food," Gregg says.

If you're looking for an alternative to brown-bagging it, check out how to shop for the healthiest foods at the grocery store for the least amount of money, and start preparing your own food.

Via Business Insider

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9. Piecemeal insurance

Buying overpriced insurance for things like accidental death and diseases is an easy way to blow your funds.

"Instead of buying piecemeal insurance policies, get good term life insurance and disability insurance," says Sally Herigstad, a certified public accountant and Creditcard.com columnist.

Take a look at the types of insurance you should buy at every age.

Via Business Insider

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10. Lousy gifts

Personal finance expert Dani Johnson suggests you think twice before rushing out to buy Dad another tie this Christmas.

"You should make a pact with your friends and family to give back instead," Johnson says. "Pool a percentage of money you were going to spend on gifts and give a secret blessing to somebody who is truly in need."

If you want to buy a great gift without completely breaking the bank, check out these holiday gift ideas for under $50.

Via Business Insider

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11. Weight loss traps

Weight loss pills and supplements marketed as miracles for overweight couch potatoes are most likely traps.

"Not only are there enough pills and potions that you could start a new one each week, but the negative effects on your health outweighs the money you will waste," says nutritionist Rania Batayneh.

"This is a billion dollar industry and the truth is that a lean body does not come in a pill," Batayneh says.

Via Business Insider

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12. Lottery tickets

"Sure, you can (buy a lottery ticket) every once in a while just for fun, but never make a lottery purchase with any real expectation of winning," Schrage warns.

"The odds are significantly stacked against you, and why waste your hard-earned money on lottery tickets when you could be saving for retirement or treating yourself to a nice meal?"

Via Business Insider

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13. Brand new cars

"People get bored with cars quickly. They always want a new car and so they're always dealing with a car payment," says certified financial planner Michael Egan. "But it's a hugely depreciating asset. You don't want to be putting a lot of money into something that's going to be worth nothing after a certain number of years."

Look for used car options, which could save you a substantial amount of money. Check out Kelley Blue Book to get an idea of how much you should pay for a used car.

Another option is leasing a car. You can determine whether or not this is a good option for you by following this flow chart.

Via Business Insider

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14. Subscriptions

Subscriptions — to magazines, newspapers, and the gym — can add up, and oftentimes, we don't use them as much as we had originally planned.

Sethi recommends implementing what he calls the 'à la carte' method, which takes advantage of psychology to cut our costs.

"Cancel all the discretionary subscriptions you can: your magazines, TiVo, cable — even your gym," Sethi explains in "I Will Teach You To Be Rich." "Then, buy what you need à la carte. Instead of paying for a ton of channels you never watch on cable, buy only the episodes you watch for $1.99 each off iTunes. Buy a day pass for the gym each time you go."

It works for three reasons, Sethi writes: You're likely overpaying already, you're forced to be conscious about your spending, and you value what you pay for.

Via Business Insider

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15. A morning latte

Author of "The Automatic Millionaire," David Bach, coined the term, "The Latte Factor," which basically says that if you ditch your $4 latte every morning, you'd have quite a bit of money to contribute towards savings — about $30 a week, or $120 a month). Over the course of a few decades, that money could grow substantially.

Rather, invest in a nice coffee maker, even if the price tag is a bit steep. Oftentimes, spending more on high quality items can help you save in the long run.

It can seem counterintuitive to make purchases to save, but that's what some of the most successful money-savers do. They're not just buying things, they're investing in things — tools and services — that will eventually save them money over time.

Via Business Insider

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