The Most Costly Consumables for Any Business and How to Better Manage These Expenses

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Running a small business often comes down to figuring out how to balance cash in with cash out. Even small expenses add up over time, but costly consumables may be one of those things eating into your budget and holding you back from ultimate success.

What is the best way to manage one’s costs? It all starts with a budget and seeking savings where you can find them. However, you also should spend some time studying your consumables, seeing which ones are costing you money month after month and cutting corners where you can.

What Are the Top Consumable Expenses for Businesses?

The industry you’re in can impact what your consumable expenses are. However, there are some items almost every type of business uses. If you constantly replace particular items, these are some of the top expenses for your company.

Consumables are those things you buy, use up and have to purchase repeatedly. Off the top of your head, you might think about things such as coffee for the break room coffee machine, but that is fairly low on the list of costs. Here are some of the top consumable expenses for any business.

1. Batteries

The cost of batteries are on the rise. Even if you purchase them in bulk, you have to continuously replace them. For example,  your workers might have wireless mice, which eat through batteries in a flash. Other places you might use batteries include clocks, remote controls and lighting in some areas of your building.

You could invest in rechargeable batteries, but you’ll have to make sure you have enough extras to keep some on charge at all times for when others run down. Train your employees to place their dead batteries on the charger when they go get charged ones for their devices.

2. Printer Ink

The cost of toner cartridges and ink is high for companies. While many of your files may have gone to digital, there are still occasions to print various items for business processes. If you’ve ever bought a single printer that comes with an ink cartridge, you might have found it cost almost as much to replace the ink as to buy the machine in the first place.

You could buy a huge stockpile when ink goes on sale. However, toner and ink cartridges do expire and dry out. You can usually find an expiration date on the packaging or the toner itself. Buy only as much as you can use before it goes bad.

3. Paper

Not only does the cost of paper add up but there is something to be said for reducing your carbon footprint by using less paper. Paper goods can include anything printed, envelopes and catalogs.

Start by taking a hard look at the items you print out. Is there anything you can move to digital? When sending out snail mail, look for ways to reduce the size. Can you say the same thing on a postcard and skip the envelope? 

4. Computer Cables

Over time, cables get moved around, stop working or pins break. Although you may not have to replace them frequently, the cost to buy new cables is prohibitive.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce your expenses in this area. First, go with the same brand and style of computers so everything is interchangeable. Buy cables in bulk to save a bit. You may need to do some comparison shopping, You could also ask for a discount if you buy  more than the typical person.

5. Toilet Paper and Paper Towels

Your company likely has to frequently replenish toilet paper rolls in the bathrooms. Even if you have air hand dryers installed, you’ll still need paper towels or napkins for your break room.

It isn’t likely you’ll convince people to use less of these items. Your best bet is to find the best price per square foot for them and stock up. For extremely small businesses, places such as Sam’s Club and Costco often have discounts on certain brands. Don’t be brand loyal and you can probably save quite a bit.

6. Product Packaging

If you sell a physical product, you put it in some type of packaging and perhaps a shipping box as well. While you want the product to look professional, you also can save quite a bit by cutting a few corners. The key is to find the balance between quality and cost.

For example, do you really need to use a heavy plastic for your store display items or will a heavy cardboard work just as well and be easier to recycle? Look for ways to reach your customers and stand out from the competition while saving money on the materials.

7. Pens and Markers

Whether taking notes or drawing on a whiteboard at the weekly department meeting, having enough pens and markers available to brainstorm is a must. These items are used up over time. Perhaps someone doesn’t put the lid back on a dry erase marker and it dries up.

As with most other items, look for discounts and plan to buy in bulk. Depending on what you do, you may be able to get one of your vendors to supply you with some of these items with their name printed on them.

Conduct an Audit

The best way to start saving money on consumables is to take a full account of what you use and how much it costs. Once you have an idea of what you’re spending, you can figure out how to reduce expenses.

Eleanor Hecks is the founder and managing editor of Designerly Magazine. She’s also a web design consultant with a focus on customer experience and user interface. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dogs, Bear and Lucy. Connect with her about marketing, design and/or tea on LinkedIn.