If your business operates out of an office, you’ll probably need supplies like pens, paper, paperclips, toner, computers, flash drives, labels and furniture to perform your daily operations. It’s a regular overhead expense incurred by most businesses. For small and medium-sized businesses with a limited budget though, office supplies can take a toll on their finances. Many of these businesses end up overpaying for office supplies, which brings down their profits for the fiscal period. Thankfully, there are ways to save money on your business’s office supplies so that it doesn’t impede your business’s long-term success.
Exploring the Cost of Office Supplies
Before we reveal ways to save money on your business’s office supplies, let’s first discuss the cost. Different businesses have different budgets allocated for office supplies. However, over the course of a year, a business can easily spend thousands of dollars on everyday supplies used in its office. According to a report by LAC Group, most businesses spend an average of $200 per worker per year on office supplies, while law firms – because of the heavy paperwork involves in their operations – spend an average of $1,000 per worker per year on office supplies. If your business has 20 employees, for example, you can expect to spend about $4,000 per year on office supplies, assuming your business isn’t a law firm or other legal service provider.
Conduct Regular Audits
Saving money on office supplies begins with conducting regular audits. Like other organizational, internal audits, this involves keeping a record of what office supplies your business currently owns, where those supplies are located, and which worker or workers have access to them. This will give you deeper insight into your business’s usage and consumption of office supplies.
If an audit reveals that your business is using an excessive number of paperclips, you can encourage workers to reuse paperclips from discarded documents rather than using new ones. Alternatively, if one worker is using significantly more office supplies than the rest of your business’s workforce, perhaps you talk to him or her to find out why they are going through so many supplies.
Refill Toner Cartridges
Printer toner isn’t cheap. Statistics show that it costs about 3.9 cents to 5.5 cents to print a single page using black ink and 8.3 cents to 8.9 cents to print a single page using colored ink. However, when a printer in your office runs out of ink, you may assume that replacing the toner cartridge is the only way to keep it operational. If you’re trying to save money, though, consider refilling the cartridge yourself.
The specific steps to refilling a toner cartridge vary depending on whether it’s for an inkjet or laser printer, as the manufacturer’s design of the cartridge. For most toner cartridges, you’ll need to perform the following steps to refill it:
- Purchase a DIY refill kit that’s compatible with your toner cartridge.
- Open your printer and remove the cartridge.
- Access the cartridge’s refill chamber.
- Squeeze the bottle of refill ink into this chamber until it’s about four-fifths full (don’t overfill it; otherwise, it may leak inside your printer).
- Gently shake the cartridge so that the new ink is evenly distributed.
- If applicable, reset or replace the embedded microchip that tracks the cartridge’s ink levels.
- Install the newly filled cartridge back into your printer, and you’re good to go!
There are also companies, both locally and online, that will refill your business’s empty toner cartridges. This typically costs more than refilling the cartridges yourself but less than buying new cartridges.
If you decide to replace your empty toner cartridges with new cartridges rather than refilling them, don’t throw the old ones away. Some of the nation’s biggest office supply stores offer rewards for recycling empty toner cartridge. At Office Depot, for example, you can drop off up to 10 empty toner cartridges per month to receive $2 off in-store credit rewards per cartridge. That’s an extra $20 in free money each month to use towards the purchase of other office supplies.
Sign Up for Loyalty Rewards Programs
Take advantage of loyalty rewards programs to save money on your business’s office supplies. Loyalty rewards programs live up to their namesake by rewarding you for being loyal to a particular office supply store. The more you spent at a particular store, the more rewards you’ll earn through the program.
Some of the top loyalty rewards programs offered by office supply stores include:
- Office Depot and OfficeMax Rewards: 2 percent back in store credit, as well as $2 back in store credit for each product review you submit (maximum of three per month). If you spend $700 on office supplies, you’ll earn $14 in store credit.
- Staples Rewards: Two different loyalty programs are offered to Staples customers: Base and Premier. The Base program rewards customers who spend less than $999 per year at Staples with 2 percent back in store credit, whereas the Premier program rewards customers who spend $1,000 or more per year at Staples with 5 percent back in store credit. The Premier program also includes other exclusive perks, such as $25 off print and marketing services and $20 off tech services. However, you’ll need to spend at least $1,000 per year to join the Staples Premier program.
Buy Office Supplies Through a Contract
You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your business’s office supplies each year by purchasing them through a contract. With a contract, you agree to purchase a pre-determined amount of supplies from a vendor, typically as an ongoing expense. For example, you may agree to purchase 50 boxes of paper, seven boxes of pens and 20 boxes of paperclips from a vendor each month. Until you cancel the contract (or it expires), the vendor will continue to send you these office supplies each month.
How can buying office supplies through a contract save your business money exactly? Well, most vendors offer discounts to business owners for contractual purchases. This is because vendors will sell a larger volume of supplies to a business owner through a contract. Therefore, vendors pass the savings down to their business customers in the form of a lower per-unit cost. If you haven’t done so already, contact your preferred office supply vendor to inquire about setting a contract and how much money it will save you on the purchase of office supplies.
To take advantage of the cost-savings benefits of purchasing office supplies through a contract, you shouldn’t agree to buy more supplies than what your business is expected to use. Again, this is why conducting an office supply audit can prove helpful. An audit will reveal how many supplies your businesses goes through in a given period, and you can use this information to create a contract with an office supply vendor.
Switch From Paper to Digital Documents
According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), office workers in the United States collectively print more than 1 trillion pages of paper each year. Paper is relatively cheap when compared to other types of office supplies. You can buy a box of 2,500 sheets of printer paper for about $50 bucks. Considering the massive amounts of paper printed by U.S. businesses, however, it can still impact your finances.
You probably can’t eliminate your business’s usage of paper – and that’s okay. Regardless of what your business does, you’ll need to print paper documents on occasion. The good news is that you can reduce your business’s reliance on physical paper while saving money in the process by switching to digital documents. Reducing paper printing by sharing and collaborating in the cloud will also make your office more energy efficient, not to mention less cluttered.
Rather than printing out documents on paper, try saving them as a digital document, such as a Microsoft Word, Apple Pages or PDF document. Not only does this save paper, but it also allows workers to easily access important documents over the internet or your office’s Wi-Fi.
Buy High-Quality Office Furniture
Office furniture isn’t something with which you should cut corners by purchasing cheap brands. Although it may save you a few bucks initially, you’ll end up spending more money in the long run when you’re forced to repair or replace the cheap furniture. To get the most bang for your buck, invest in high-quality chairs, desks, tables and other furniture for your office. High-quality furniture generally costs more, but it lasts longer while offering greater utility in the process.
How do you know if office furniture is high quality? Here are some telltale signs for which to look:
- Premium materials, such as leather, Leatherplus or Caressoft for chairs and real wood or metal for desks
- Iron-clad manufacturer’s warranty
- Manufactured by a reputable, well-known brand
- 24-hour office chairs, which are designed with an emphasis on strength, stability, and comfort so that they can be used for long periods of time
- Ergonomic design that minimizes bodily stress and fatigue
Make Purchases With a Rewards Credit Card
Always use a rewards business credit card with purchasing office supplies (our personal favorite here at Office Chairs Unlimited is the Ink business card from Chase). A rewards business credit card will reward you with cash or redeemable points on eligible purchases. Most rewards business credit cards offer 1 percent to 5 percent in cashback rewards. If you use one to buy $1,000 in office supplies, you’ll earn about $10 to $50 in cashback rewards.
Like all credit cards, business rewards credit cards typically charge interest on balances carried from one month to the next. Annual interest rates can range from 10 percent to 30 percent, with some credit cards charging an annual fee as well. The key thing to remember is that you need to pay off your rewards business credit card after using it to buy office supplies. Otherwise, it won’t help your business save money.
Of course, you should already be using a business credit card to purchase office supplies. It creates a digital paper trail of this expense so that you easily record it in your business’s financial records. The bonus of a cashback card, however, is just icing on the cake that offsets some of the cost of office supplies.
Even if you have access to one or more local office supply stores, don’t ignore the cost-savings benefits of shopping online. Most national office supply stores have a website where you can purchase office supplies. Aside from the convenience of ordering over the internet and having the products delivered directly to your office, buying office supplies online often costs less than buying them in store. Online retailers charge less for products purchased through their website because it’s cheaper and easier for them to process these online orders than in-store purchases.
Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has a category on its website for office supplies. With more than a half-million products, it offers a quick and easy way to source office supplies for your business. Amazon is just one of many websites that sells office supplies. There are dozens of other online retailers that offer low-cost office supplies through their website, so feel free to shop around.
Check Craigslist for Free Supplies
With a little luck, you can find free office supplies for your business. Craigslist, the largest online classified ads website, has an entire section dedicated to free stuff. Here, you can find everything from used desks and tables to pens, paper, cardboard boxes and more.
Keep in mind that you probably won’t find new, premium office supplies available for free on Craigslist. However, if you’re in a financial bind and need a few basic supplies to keep your business running smoothly, it’s worth a shot to check Craigslist.
Buy Older Model PCs and Computer Equipment
When it comes time to upgrade your office’s PCs and computer equipment, avoid buying the latest models. Instead, purchase models that were released last year. Most experts recommend replacing your computer every three to five years. After five years, computers become somewhat obsolete, resulting in slower speeds, technical bugs, and compatibility issues.
However, new computers are sold at a premium cost because they feature the latest hardware. By purchasing a model released last year, you can save hundreds of dollars per computer. For an office containing dozens of computers and related equipment, this can save your business thousands of dollars.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.