5 Unexpected Ways You’re Wasting Money On Your Business

Are you wasting money on your business? Or trying to make a budget for your business? You might be spending money you don't need to spend. Read on for tips to tighten up your business budget! #FIRE #personalfinance #budgeting #moneytips #savemoney

We’re wrapping up the go-through-your-bank-statement-with-a-highlighter exercise with my money and happiness group when I notice one of my students shifting uncomfortably in her chair. She’s doing that fidgety, lip-biting thing many of us do when we’ve just received unpleasant news. I tiptoe over and do ask how she’s doing.

“Welp, I just realized I’ve been spending almost two grand a month on my business that I don’t need to be spending. So!” she plays it off with a laugh and a shrug and tucks the offending bank statement under her other worksheets so I can’t see it.

I want to hold her bank statement aloft and yell dramatically about how I’ve seen this many, many times before! And knowing is the first step to changing things! And if she can figure how why she’s making all these regrettable business purchases she can build new habits!

But that’s sort of weird? And probably not what she wants in her most vulnerable moment? So instead I give her the ol’ sympathetic arm pat and move on to the next student.

Maybe you’re not wasting $2,000 a month on ‘totally justifiable’ business expenses. Maybe you’re ‘only’ wasting $500 or $300 or $75. No matter the number, wouldn’t you rather be spending your money on things that improve your business or make you happy?

Yes? Yes.

5 unexpected ways you’re wasting money on your business

You’re paying for something you could get for free

Let’s be honest. Photoshop is better than Picmonkey or Canva. ConvertKit is better than the free version of Mailchimp. But if I’m just using Photoshop to crop photos and add text, is it really $700 better than Canva? It is not.

If I don’t understand how to use ConvertKit’s many bells and whistles, couldn’t I just use Mailchimp’s free version for my email newsletter? I could! And in the process, I could save myself hundreds of dollars each year.

It can feel professional and next-level-y to upgrade the tools we use for our business. Sometimes the cost is 100% worth it (Tailwind, I’m looking at you). But before we drop an extra $50 a month on yet another business tool, what if we spent, like, 10 minutes googling “free photoshop alternative” or “free social media scheduling”?

Related: 7 awesome sources for free stock photos

You’re confusing buying stuff with taking action

My friend Anthony calls this The False First Step. It feels sooooo good! And it is suuuuuuch a waste of money! As we all know, buying a DSLR is not the same as actually using a DSLR. Buying an ecourse about writing your first book isn’t the same as, ya know, writing your first book.

If you have tech equipment, ecourses, or business books gathering dust, you might be confusing purchases with action. Next time you find yourself hovering over the ‘buy now’ button, ask yourself “Am I willing to put in the time and effort to use and learn this right now?” If the answer is no, maybe you should tuck that url into your favorites folder and revisit it when you’re ready to commit.

You’re making excuses about your equipment

Real talk: you can absolutely run a successful online business with a blogspot blog, a Paypal account, some free stock photos, and one headshot your friend took on her phone. I KNOW BECAUSE I HAVE DONE IT MY DUDES.

You don’t need a $1,500 Macbook. You don’t need Photoshop. You don’t need a ringlight and a softbox and a giant mic. You don’t need 17 monthly memberships to 17 different apps and platforms.

Does good equipment make life and business easier? Yes. Is it as important as talent and hard work and good customer service? Nope-ity nope nope.

You’re trying to buy a sense of legitimacy

When our professional peers get new headshots every year, attend fancy conferences every few months, and mention their “team” in every Instagram post, it’s tempting to keep up. When we don’t have those things, we might feel like we’re falling behind. We might think those things are “the secret” to a successful business – and for someone else, they might be!

But before you redesign your site (again) and outsource another aspect of your business, take a second. Ask yourself “Why am I buying this REALLY?” You might be surprised by your own answer. Click To Tweet

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to feel more polished, professional, and legitimate in business without spending any money!

  • Re-read some of your most glowing testimonials
  • While you’re at it, update your testimonial page
  • Join a meetup group in your city and meet other people in your field
  • Reach out to an internet friend and see if they’d like to do a ‘mutual brain pick’ call
  • Update some of your most popular archived posts
  • Schedule a bunch of social media updates
  • Unearth some of those ecourses you bought and actually start doing them
  • Email your alma mater and offer to speak to current students
  • Spend 20 minutes cleaning up your desktop and hard drive. Empty your cache, delete some apps and plugins, change your passwords
  • Pitch an idea to a website or peer your admire

You don’t understand how you learn best

Are you someone who needs external motivation to get ish done? You can keep commitments to other people but you can’t keep them to yourself? If that sounds like you, that’s probably why all those self-paced ecourses are sitting, unused and unlearned, on your hard drive.

Do you find one-on-one check-ins and calls suffocating? Is talking on the phone The Actual Worst? Then don’t work with a coach, dude! You’re going to hate it and constantly reschedule your meetings!

Are you a world class introvert? Do you do your best work at home in your yoga pants? Do you hate milling around cocktail meet-and-greets, asking ice-breaker questions? Then you probably shouldn’t be registering for that conference.

When you understand how you learn best, it’s easier to find learning opportunities and support that are right for you.

Are business expenses a financial blind spot for you? When have you wasted money on your business? Share in the comments so we can learn from each other’s mistakes!

P.S. Everything I use + recommend to run my business

photo by Sylwia Pietruszka // cc

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  1. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    I know so many people who just buy and buy instead of taking action. Luckily, I’m not one of them when it comes to business. When it comes to workout clothes, though… that’s a whole different story!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Meghan Hartman

    This is soo true! I wrote a post a couple months ago along the same lines of that “false first step” concept. And I’m definitely guilty of feeling like I’m making progress just by buying a course. As if I’m moving forward in my business by doing that…

  3. J.H. Moncrieff

    How have I wasted money on my business? OMG, life coaches! I’m a rare extroverted work-at-home writer, and I was clearly craving more social interaction. Having someone listen to me go on and on about my goals and whine about my challenges each week was so lovely…until I realized I was basically paying thousands of dollars for something friends do for free. (It has to be a two-way street, of course.)

    Not that life coaches aren’t helpful. Mine had some good pointers and advice in the beginning, but three or four sessions were all I really needed. After that, it just devolved into “check in” talks that weren’t moving me forward. Unfortunately, it took almost a year before I realized it.

    I’m always lured by the promises of someone who says they can solve all my problems and turn me into a 100% productive human with a gorgeous home, perfect relationship, and thriving career overnight. If only it were that easy.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I have a friend who’s a fellow work from home extrovert and getting a spot at a co-worker space saved her! Is that an option for you?

      • J.H. Moncrieff

        I’ve actually considered it before, but I love working at home and not having to commute so much! Plus, I need complete silence to write. I just need to make friend time and socialization a priority…without paying thousands for it. 🙂

  4. Shirley Dulcey

    The key is to sort out which things are important business tools for you. The dSLR and softbox and ringlight and Photoshop are important… if your business is photography. The Macbook is important… if you are a macOS or iOS developer. And so on. Every business will have a couple of tools, perhaps costly ones, that are essential, and a much longer list of things that are nice to have but that you can do without.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yup! Well said, Shirley!

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