The Reel Deal: The Shift to Thrift
Posted Dec 31, 2008

For most of us, 2008 was a wild ride, financially, and I hope 2009 will be better. However, as a small business owner, you need to be prepared for less income as our clients think twice about what they spend. What you can spend on your business is related to your personal finances just as what you can spend in your personal life is related to your business income.

Remember, as the saying goes, “It’s not what you make; it’s what you keep that counts.” Before purchasing something, ask yourself this question: “Is it a want, or is it a need?” Skip the unnecessary “wants” until you have paid off all credit card debts and started an emergency fund.

Because I continually marketed myself (without spending any more money) throughout the year, I had a better year in 2008 than I did in 2007. I even booked a last-minute wedding by recently adding a “cost-conscious” video package. The package covers only the actual ceremony and 2 hours at the reception (1 hour of which includes the cocktails). This way the bride can get the introductions, first dance, cake cutting, and toasts done before dinner if she wishes. There is no artistic editing in this package. My editing hours are greatly reduced, and the bride gets a great documentation of the main events. I am not giving anything away or discounting my prices—I am just offering less product at a lower price.

The key to adjusting to this economy is becoming thrifty in a thriftier world. How do you become thrifty if you weren’t before? You can start by reading books on personal finance. For a list of my favorite business books, visit my blog, www.ChicagoWeddingFilms.typepad.com. Read the business section of your newspaper and read blogs on saving money. One of my favorite money-saving blogs is www.SavvyFrugality.com.

Everywhere you look now, people are sharing their favorite money-saving tips, and in this column I’m going to share a few of mine. I would love to hear about your favorite money-saving tips, so please take a moment to share them with me.

First, repair what you have instead of replacing it. Do preventative maintenance on your house and car. One day recently, on one of my cars, the red engine light came on. My local garage wanted $89 just to diagnose the problem, but AutoZone did the diagnosis for free! It turned out I just needed a new $5.99 air filter.

We do visual work, so our vision is critical to doing it well. Need glasses? Check out Zenni Optical. You can order glasses online, and the price starts at $8 per pair. You can get single vision, bifocals, progressive lenses, etc. I tried a pair for myself and my sons, and they came out great and saved me hundreds of dollars. For reading glasses, the ones sold in the grocery store or warehouse club work just fine.

Many stores and restaurants offer discounts and coupons for signing up online. Sign up online at all your favorites spots. These companies typically do not sell your information, but you get great coupons and discounts emailed to you. Check out www.NaughtyCodes.com for online shopping. The Entertainment book is a coupon book that offers buy one-get one free lunches and dinners along with discounts for services, hotels, and so on. The book is only $20 and quickly pays for itself. One year, I saved an additional $200 on a vacation by using two of the coupons in the book.

You can save a bundle on food shopping by clipping coupons. For even greater savings, plan your menu around the sales and and use coupons to save even more on items that are already on sale. The Sunday newspaper is great for this. You can also go online to get coupons. Check out www.CouponMom.com and the Printable Coupons site.

On a recent shopping trip, I saved $21 by using manufacturer coupons, $31 by using the stores-preferred card, and $32 by stocking up on buy one-get one free items that I normally use (total savings: $84). I also get great savings at www.Overstock.com, a site that sells the overstock of other companies’ products at greatly reduced prices. There are bargains galore along with user reviews, so you can see if the products are worth buying. I picked up a beautiful, $300 four-piece bronze kitchen faucet for only $119. Shipping is only $2.95 no matter what you buy, and I’m always getting emails for free shipping, 10% off, etc.

I’ve had great success with craigslist. This past summer I sold my pop-up camper on craigslist for a profit. I like craigslist because you are dealing with local people who pay in cash; you don’t have to deal with people’s credit cards or bother with shipping things.

I donate old clothing and other items to my local Goodwill store (don’t forget to get a receipt for taxes). I have also found great designer shirts there for only $3 and picked up other items at greatly reduced rates. This may not sound like business advice, but what you save in personal expenditures can be put back into your business.

Last but not least, even in unstable financial times, I continue to make charitable donations to my church and other causes I support. What you give always comes back to you tenfold—an important thing to remember, even when you’re struggling. Being thrifty isn’t new, but sometimes a little financial basic training can help you get back on track.

Kris Malandruccolo (kris at elegantvideosbykris.com), an EventDV 25 honoree and 2007 WEVA Hall of Fame inductee, is the owner of Chicago-based Elegant Videos by Kris and Elegant Storybooks by Kris. She is a certified Master Wedding Vendor through the Association of Bridal Consultants, WEVA Public Relations Chair, an international speaker, and past-president of the Illinois Videographers Association.