Got the Gas Pump Blues?

Small business may be the fuel of the economy, but small business owners need fuel as well. And just when you thought it was safe to drive up to the pump, you realize that price on the side of the pump is per gallon, not for the entire tank. Long gone are the days when we could refuel for less than a $20 bill. Now it feels as though we have to take a second mortgage just to cover our monthly costs to commute.

It doesn’t look like the prices will be coming down soon…and yes, it is counterintuitive that even with the prices as high as they are that there appears to be even more traffic on the road. Here are five tips on how you may be able to keep the cost of gas down for your business.

Research, research, research
My sister will drive across town for a penny or two difference in price. While that is certainly extreme (and probably costs her more in the long run), it doesn’t hurt to shop prices in your area. Use some of the websites or smartphone apps to locate lower costs fuel within a reasonable radius of your location.

Check out alternate pumps, including ones affiliated with your favorite grocery store, where you can often receive grocery credits or discounts. If you are a member of a warehouse club, their prices are usually lower than the average. And the next time you are stocking your pantry with those gallon jugs of olive oil, you can fill up your car.

Leverage Technology
For your continuing education needs, rather than taking an on-site training class, see if they offer an online alternative. Not only will you be saving gas, you can take the class in the comfort of your own surroundings. Use Skype, conference calling (there are many free services) and webinar technology to host or attend meetings. Yes, you will lose the pleasure of one-to-one in person interaction, but you not only save fuel but the commute time.

If you reimburse your employees for mileage, consider changing their work week so they have an alternative for work-at-home one or two days. They can be as productive with tools such as remote access and VPN. Or if that isn’t feasible because of the nature of their work, consider changing their schedules and have them work 4 10-hour shifts rather than 5 8-hour ones. That way they save at least one day of commuting.

Plan Ahead
Use mapping software to plan your route so you can make your stops in a logical way. Schedule appointments in the same vicinity on the same day to reduce back and forth travel. If you work virtually, meet clients, prospects or networking partners at a central location and schedule all of your meetings on the same day if possible. And you can enjoy a latte in between.

Know Your Vehicle
Vehicles consume gas under different speeds and conditions. If yours gets better mileage under freeway conditions and at or above the speed limit, drive in the manner that best optimizes your vehicle’s fuel consumption. Dig that operator manual out of the glove box and find out what is recommended for your vehicle – not only speed, but tire pressure, tune-up frequency, filter and oil changes parameters that will keep your transport operating at its best.

Consider Alternatives
If you frequently drive to the post office, look into their home pickup services, flat rate shipping and/or Click-N-Ship labels with postage that you can print at home. When you are at the grocery store or warehouse club, pick up stamps to save yourself a trip. If you have sufficient volume, consider a postage meter.

If you ship substantial quantities, look into forging a relationship with an LTL (Less than truckload) carrier who has available space. Office supply companies may offer a flat rate or reduced shipping to deliver supplies as long as you have a minimum dollar amount.

Evaluate where it makes sense to do the work. If you typically bring work back to your shop, look into whether it may be more timely and cost effective to do work on your customer’s site.

These five tips may be helpful in helping you with your bottom line when it comes to expense control. Happy Saving!