Office supplies are fairly inexpensive on their own, but they can add up to a frustrating expense on your business budget. If you have a small team, here’s how to cut down on office supply expenses, while still ensuring you’ve got the materials you need to work effectively.
Tips to Easily Save on Office Supplies
1. Set Up Inventory Control
This is one of the top changes you can make to reduce unnecessary office supply spending. Keep records of orders, including the date of order, types of supplies, and amounts ordered. This data tells you a lot about your office’s true supply needs.
If some supplies take significantly longer to run out, consider skipping these items on the next order. Your office may be able to do without highlighters or liquid paper (especially if they were only ordered in the first place because one employee likes them).
2. Reward Smart Savings
Appoint an employee to manage office supply orders. This employee can track inventory, research price and quality options, and place orders as needed to make sure the supply room is stocked with the essentials. The deal is that the employee will get to pocket 10% of the amount they save on the supply budget at the end of the year.
3. Don’t Buy Ink in Stores
Ink cartridges are expensive. Some brands’ cartridges contain miniscule drips of ink (to encourage frequent orders), and the product can easily come at a 2000% markup, or more.
Buy in person, and you’re pretty much at the store’s mercy. Research online to find cartridges discounted well below what you can expect at your local office supply store. You may even find recycled cartridges that work like new (hello, ComboInk.com), benefiting the environment as well as your bottom line.
4. Buy in Bulk
When it makes sense, buying in bulk tends to cost much less per item than a smaller order. Identify some frequently used supplies that justify a large order, and get on the phone with your vendor. You may be able to negotiate an additional discount, or request a partial delivery, with the remaining supplies due in a month or two (ask them to waive shipping cost). This method may work better for ordering perishable supplies. Lining up the next delivery early also prevents an emergency run for supplies.
5. Clean Out Junk
If you had more storage space, you’d definitely buy in bulk. But when you crack the door of the supply closet, you’re not sure where you’d pack in boxes of paper. Here’s the thing: Old computers or printers languishing in a corner, or filing cabinets stuffed with paper you’ll “deal with later” eat up a lot of storage space. Schedule an office cleanup and you may end up with more room to accommodate a bulk order.
6. Go Paperless When Possible
As of 2014, the average office worker in the United States used 10,000 sheets of paper per year! That’s about 2.5 boxes of paper per employee, never mind the cost of ink and wear and tear to the printer.
Take steps to reduce paper use in the office. It’s a greener way to do business, and it can be a lot more efficient. (Compare setting reminder alerts in your email to putting a sticky note on your desk, where it could end up under a mug of coffee). Cutting your paper use in half could have a big impact on your office supply expenditures.
7. Go Thrift Shopping
Craigslist, estate sales, and thrift shops can be excellent sources of deeply discounted office furniture and supplies. You might find filing cabinets at a steal or even score good quality desks and chairs for a fraction of retail price.
8. Use Up Supplies Completely
Discarding supplies that still have use left is an easy way to rack up unnecessary cost. To get the full value, use the full product! We’re not suggesting you demand a waste report filed for each bent staple. But maybe think back to college days when everyone had a trick to extend the life of an ink cartridge (“blow on it,” “shake it,” etc.). A quick cleaning and refill could save you a trip to the office supply warehouse.
9. Turn Off Computers
Employees, and even managers, can slip into the habit of leaving the computer on overnight for weeks on end. Not only does this waste electricity, but component parts may wear down faster if they’re always on.
Most modern computers don’t need a regular reboot to maintain performance. In some cases, you might prefer to let a long list of updates and scans run overnight so they don’t interfere with work during the day. But at a minimum, ask employees to run updates and shut their computers down before they leave the office on Friday. The electricity savings benefit your budget and the environment, while regular maintenance and reboots can help keep your computers running smoothly.
Jessica Sillers writes about business, finance, and parenting for various companies and publications. Her favorite things include outings with her husband and daughter, Elena Ferrante novels, and perfecting the chocolate chip cookie. Read more of her work at www.dcfreelancewriter.com/portfolio.
What are some easy ways you save on office supplies? Let us know below or on Facebook and Twitter.