Manage Expenses Strategically Look in these areas to find things your business can live without.

By Joseph Benoit

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

During these challenging economic times, managing expenses has increasingly become a priority for many small-business owners. In fact, many have taken inventory of their expenses and are taking steps to control costs in 2009.

If you are a small business owner looking for ways to manage expenses, you can begin by reviewing your finances to determine if are you incurring losses, breaking even or just barely making a profit. If you are losing money, it may make sense to trim enough costs to counterbalance those losses.

In your effort to cut costs, examine each expense, no matter how small, and determine which items you can do without. Don't hesitate to cut items that don't directly contribute to your bottom line. Consider trimming extras or perks, such as snacks for the breakroom.

Create reports every week to examine both your expenses and revenue. Make adjustments as needed, especially when you notice that you are spending more than your budget allocations. Areas important to your business's revenue, such as production-related expenses and marketing, should be among the last items cut.

When reviewing your expenses, consider cutting in the following areas:

Inventory. Review your inventory and determine which items are not selling as well as other products. Consider discounting products with slow turnover and only placing orders for products with committed orders.

Vendors. Consider contacting small-business partners or associates to ask if they'd like to share the expense of certain products to obtain quantity discounts. Contact longtime suppliers and ask whether you can negotiate payment terms and/or get a discount. If you've had a good relationship with suppliers, remind them that you've been consistently committed to prompt payment.

Energy. Examine your energy costs and find ways to reduce expenses. Consider turning lights and equipment off when not in use, using motion sensors or automatic timers for lighting or adjusting your thermostat settings.

Staff. If an employee leaves, consider keeping the position unfilled and either split the duties among other staff members or enlist the help of part-time, temporary or consulting services.

Office supplies. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions and services. When re-ordering supplies, look for discounts and consider items that do the job without the frills. Perhaps you can reduce costs on items such as paper with the efficient use of e-mail.

Space. This may be a good time to simplify and consolidate your operations. Consider either leasing or subleasing unused office space, moving to a more affordable location or renegotiating lease terms.

Travel. Consider using mobile computing sources, web meetings and other virtual collaborations to save on travel costs.

If you need assistance reviewing your expenses, consider contacting your banker or another trusted financial advisor. By taking steps to manage your expenses today, you can instill positive habits that can serve your business well into the future.

Joseph Benoit is the small business banking executive for Union Bank , N.A. Visit

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