Bootstrapping. The very word conjures visions of Ramen noodles, re-worn shirts, and sleeping on the floor.
But it doesn’t have to be torturous. I’ve personally saved over $2,550 a month while living like a king using the tactics below.
That makes a big difference for a fledgling business (and fledgling business owner).
These tactics are battle tested and non-obvious for many. Yes, you need to cut back on the $6 lattes, expensive vacations, and yacht parties: but you don’t need to read that here. Instead, here are some tried-and true tactics that will save you lots of money without sacrificing the things that matter most.
Move into the main room and Airbnb your room
This is a revenue generator or a cost saver depending on how you look at it. Either way, it is the simplest way to rock your budget while you’re bootstrapping.
Put your room up on Airbnb. In cities like NYC or San Francisco you can charge AT LEAST 2x what you pay in rent per night. Which means that if you have a guest two weeks out of a month, you have your rent covered. Any more than that and you transform your single biggest expense to cold hard cash.
Know what else is awesome? You can meet AMAZING people.
I met a guy who does Infusionsoft setup and I’ll definitely solicit his help when we switch over. I met a designer who created a book cover for us for free. I met a guy who has several million dollars worth of equity in a mobile startup. Believe it or not, Airbnb counts some serious ballers in its ranks.
Cold hard cash plus potentially awesome relationships, all at the cost of sleeping on your couch a few nights a month? Yes please!
Want to take it to the next level and make it a part-time job? Check out this article.
Total saved: $1,000+ depending on the city you live in.
Most people in their mid twenties spend HUNDREDS of dollars a month on alcohol. Even when they’re broke they’ll pickup a six pack of beer or a handle of Vodka on a Friday night. Then they’ll top it off at the bar once they’re sloshed and their wallets have loosened up. With late night food, taxis, and phone(s) lost while hammered, drinking likely adds up to your most expensive discretionary habit. Add to that the lost productivity of your Saturday and Sunday mornings…you can see where I’m going with this.
When you drink, you are literally paying money to ingest poison. The costs are steep, both financially and physically. Conversely, going out sober has the benefit of forcing you to develop social skills WITHOUT the aid of liquid courage. Think that might come in handy when pitching or networking?
I recommend going cold turkey on alcohol. You can still go out as much as you like, but your nights will be 90% less expensive and you’ll actually get stuff done on weekend mornings.
Total saved: $400+ plus 6 hours a week in productivity
Learn bodyweight exercises and lift outdoors
Bootstrapping is all about cutting out the inessential and an expensive gym membership is definitely inessential, even if you’re a fitness buff. A playground has everything you need to get shredded. Sprints, pull ups, push ups, dips, handstand push up, lunges, high jumps: none of these require a fancy gym membership. All can provide a great workout if done with the right intensity. Add yoga and cardio intervals and you can get in the best shape of your life for free.
What about during winter? Buy yourself a pull up bar and go to town. There’s really no excuse.
When you decide to drop the gym, be careful to check your credit card statement. I’ve cancelled my account at a certain gym (cough**NYSC**cough) and been billed for months after. My recommendation: cancel in person AND THEN cancel the credit card they’re billing. Unfortunately vampiric billing seems to be common in the industry and this is the only way to ensure you’re not paying for gym time you don’t use.
Total saved: $200+
Buy cheap, healthy foods that require no prep and no cleanup
No one wants to live on Ramen. It is bland and is awful for you in the long run. Grocery shopping gets you higher quality food for cheap, but you’ve got to prepare, cook, and clean wasting valuable time (not to mention the hidden costs of spices, oils, dressings, pots and pans etc). It feels like you’re being pulled between cheap, high quality, and easy to make and you can only choose 2.
What to do?
Discover the hidden group of cheap, healthy, tasty, and low-investment foods and go bonkers. That’s exactly what I’ve done for you here 🙂
All of these take zero cooking and less than 2 mins prep/cleaning.
Chipotle ($7.50 for double meat and guac when hacked, delicious, extremely healthy when you get the right ingredients)
Canned Tuna and Avocados ($3.50, delicious together, and awesome for you)
Pre-Cooked Rotisserie Chicken and Bagged Spinach (<$11, healthy, spinach adds much needed leafy veggies)
Greek yogurt (<$3/serving, healthy, protein-chocked and cheap – buy in tubs for best savings)
Almonds and dark chocolate (<$1.50/serving high in calories, delicious, and health). My personal favorites for cheap but still delicious are here: Almonds and Dark chocolate
Lunch meat (<$3/serving, healthy and cheap – turkey tends to be the least expensive)
Bonus: buy using Amazon shipments on non-perishables to save like crazy
Amazon shipments will save you 15% per shipment, plus time wasted in the checkout line. Enough said
Bonus #2: All you can eat buffets
Every town has a buffet with decent food for approx. $20. Park there midday and bring a book. Some places have wifi so bring your laptop, too. If you go often and make friends with the wait staff, they won’t ever rush you out.
Total saved: $150 – $300
Buy stuff with work/life crossover potential and expense them
Eventually you’re going to need to replace those shirts with holes and those ratty shoes. The good news is that as an entrepreneur, some of your life expenses are also legitimate business expenses. You just have to do some planning.
So go ahead, buy yourself a nice button down shirt for a pitch meeting. Then wear it out at night to the dive bar (no drinking though!)
Need new shoes? Buy one pair of black dress shoes that go with slacks or jeans. Wear them everywhere, from business casual meetings to hanging out with friends. Legitimate business expense.
Also, DO THE WORK UPFRONT to establish an office area in your apartment so you can expense it. This can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars of tax refunds come April 15.
Total saved: $100, potentially much more if you set up a home office.
There are a lot of skills you’re going to need to start your business. And I promise you, no matter how smart you are, you don’t have all of them. You can try to do everything yourself, but that is going to take a long time. You might sink before your business can keep you afloat.
This is where coaching trades come in. If you’re starting a business, you must be good at something. Capitalize on this. My partner, Ben, for instance teaches charisma with me. While at an entrepreneurial meetup, he managed to make a good impression on some super successful entrepreneurs. One of them was impressed enough to ask for coaching. Instead of treating him like a dollar sign, Ben proposed a trade. You help me develop my business, I’ll help you become incredibly confident and charismatic.
Two months later that coaching trade has generated us thousands of dollars and some awesome contacts. On the other side of the equation, the guy Ben works with has said he’s never been happier and that Ben’s coaching has been one of the most impactful decisions of his life. Everybody’s happy, everybody wins.
When you have a would-be customer, ask yourself, “What if I just GAVE them my product or service? What could we exchange that would create more value for both of us?”
Total savings: none, but huge potential upside
Yes, this is technically spending money. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to photoshop an image or format an ebook and wasted hours. The next time you’re going to try something outside of your expertise, check fiverr. There just might be somebody willing to save you 3 hours for 5 bucks.
Total savings: several hours and your sanity 🙂
There you have it: 7 proven tactics to cut expenses while you bootstrap WITHOUT living like a pauper. Implementing just a few of these could buy you the precious time you need to get your business funded or profitable. I’ll be happy to accept retroactive donations once you’ve built your empire 🙂
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