It's well known by now, but I started a Lego business a while back in August and have been, like most of you, working to make it the best that it can be. I work in an industry where efficiency is not only the key, but it is expected to grow and thrive with every new iteration of a product or service. Without progress we have nothing, right? Well, I bring this same mindset to my business everyday. Anytime I do something, no matter if I have done it 100 times, I say "how could I have done this better?" and "How could I have spent less time?" or "How could I do this for less?". While I don't want to skimp or do things the wrong way, keeping these questions in mind are the only way to stay afloat in the economic world. Everything is about adaptation: If you aren't ahead, you are behind.
So looking into that, I wanted to write a blog to do a couple of things. First, I want to give you some of my favorite money saving tips, and then encourage people to post in the comments some of the ways they save money when they buy and work for their business. To make this not 100 pages long, I am really looking at buying materials and merchandise, not necessarily efficiency from a time or bookkeeping standpoint. Here we go!
Reuse Packaging from your Prior Lego Purchases
When I see people throw away a good box, it hurts me inside! Boxes are very simple, but some of the most amazing materials you could ever use. Why? It folds up flat!!! I understand sometimes you get a Lego set in and you are so excited to open it, you just toss the box it came in inside the trash can. Believe me, I am seriously lazy too. Instead, cut the seals and flatten that box - you can store it somewhere really easy and re-use it. A lot of people have posted on the forum about where to buy boxes. Unless you are buying in B&M stores or need a special box size, you should never have to buy boxes. I have not bought boxes for a normal Lego set since I started this.
Some people do have storage issues and that is understandable. One smart thing to do is keep all of your investment sets inside storage boxes. It definitely takes up time, but they are ready to ship later on and you can stack them much easier without hurting the set inside at that point.
As far as packing materials, if you can, keep these as well. I keep as much packing material from each set I buy as I can. As a business, things are up and down and any time you run out of packing material and have to go buy it, you are losing money. I normally will put packing material that doesn't take up a lot of space, like brown paper, into big bags and flatten it out as much as possible and save it. For all my normal shipments, I will use the big stuff like shipping bubbles in my normal packages. When a fast period hits and I run out, I have an accessible stash of materials I can pull out so I never have to buy any.
There are a lot of other things that work well as packing material also. When I go to the grocery, I save all my plastic bags. If I open something in the mail with brown paper, or plastic bags around it, I dump it in my packing pile (after removing labels). The people you are sending these sets to don't care what you protect it with - it just needs to get there intact. Get creative with anything that comes to you - if you buy packing material, you are just wasting money!
Buy in bulk
When you first get started with a Lego business, or any business really, its hard to think about the future when you buy supplies. Most of us are on a limited budget and we look at rolls of tape and say "I am sending 3 packages day, why should I buy 100 rolls to save 50 cents a roll"? Everyone has to make their own decisions, but if you trust your business will grow, take the plunge on buying in bulk - especially in the first year.
First off, as you do use them, you will appreciate the money you are saving off those rolls of tape (100 rolls x 50 cents = 50$!). When I first started, I was buying padded envelopes at about 25 cents a piece in 100 counts. After a while, I realized if I bought 1000, I could get them 8 cents each! That makes a big difference to your bottom line, especially if you do that with everything: bubble mailers, tape, paper to print labels, etc.
Another big reason to do this early: taxes. As I saw my business growing and my amount of materials needed growing, I went ahead and took the plunge on a lot of materials early. Since I need this and capital to allow my business to keep growing, I now can worry about my product and not worry about materials for a while and I can write all of this off my taxes my first year, meaning I get to keep more of my earned profits. Next year my tax bill will be bigger, but in theory I will have increased profit enough to counteract it.
Obviously you have to make your own decisions about where you want your business to grow, but don't hesitate to buy something in bulk just because it is a lot of money. I never thought I would spend 80 bucks on bubble mailers, but I am so glad I did.
Buy Supplies on Ebay
I see a lot of people buy supplies on Amazon quite a bit with two day Prime shipping. While i love Amazon, I think Ebay is the best place to get supplies for a couple of reasons. Ebay bucks and auctions.
Ebay bucks is a program Ebay has that gives you 2% back on every ebay purchase you make. They add up until the end of each quarter when Ebay basically gives you a gift card for the amount of money you have in Ebay bucks to spend on the website. Now most people are going to say "I get 3% on my Amazon card!". When you go to pay for your Ebay purchases, assuming you don't have a balance, you can select to pay from one of your credit cards rather than your bank account, reaping the rewards they provide also. Most credit cards provide between 1-2% on everyday purchases so this stacks. If you have a paypal mastercard, paypal gives you 2% cash back meaning you will be earning 4% for those Ebay purchases.
Combined with this, I check out auctions for packing materials constantly. A lot of the vendors on Ebay will put their packing materials on 99 cent auctions (not sure why) with free shipping. If you watch these, you can sometimes score great deals on the big bulk lots. Smaller lots seem to go for the same or more than the Buy It Now prices, but larger bulk auctions usually have less people watching them meaning a better chance you will score. Though it requires a bit more effort, you only have to do it a few times a year if you are buying in big bulk.
A side effect of using Ebay for this stuff: I am on it more and more. I notice deals while going to watch my packaging materials and end up scoring Lego sets too. Win-win!
This is a really awesome website that allows users to sell their giftcards to cardpool for a percentage of the value on the card. Cardpool then sells the giftcards at a preset discount based on the vendor to people like us who want them. My favorite vendor at this site is Toys R Us. You can buy online giftcards for 4% off. If I am about to spend $100 at Toys R Us, I buy a giftcard for $100 at Cardpool for $96 using a credit card that gives me 1% cash back. I then buy the 100$ worth of stuff on TRU's website using the giftcard, and getting 2% in rewards from Toys R Us.
The website does not have Amazon or Ebay, but does have Target (although Redcard makes more sense), Barnes and Noble, and Walmart as well as many other retailers.
This leads me to the last one
Plan your purchases around Credit Card rewards:
I already wrote a blog about making money off of rewards programs from credit cards and membership cards.
Expanding on this, Credit Cards are getting more and more aggressive about giving their customers rewards. I have 13 credit cards (how that affects credit is a discussion for another time - please don't just go get 13 credit cards) which I know by heart what percentage I get where with them. For example, for online Walmart purchases, Discover gives me 5%. Discover and Chase give 1% cash back on everything - Citi is 1.5%, etc. Using this info, as I am about to make a purchase, I immediately know which card to use in every situation.
Most credit cards do quarterly and monthly promotions; Make sure you sign up for these and the emailing lists to be notified about them and take the time to know them inside and out. You can get a serious amount of money back each month (My Amazon card was $125.50 this month!!!).
Use Brickpicker.com Affiliate Links
What's an affiliate link? Well, over in the Daily Deals Forum (you must be a BP member) we post deals all day we find online. These links are embedded with a special tag that tells the online retailers that Brickpicker directed the purchaser to the site to buy something. When you make a purchase through this, the retailer gives Brickpicker a percentage kickback for the referral. This is extremely important to Brickpicker as it is free and this money goes to keep this site running and updated with new features.
How does this save you money?
Without Brickpicker, I and probably 90% of the people on here would be investing in Construct-a-Zurgs and Prince of Persia and wouldn't have made much money at all, found many good Lego deals, or learned as much about Lego as we do everyday here. This is by far the best way we can give back to Brickpicker and save ourselves money in the future by helping Brickpicker be the best it can be so it can continue benefiting us the most possible.
Anyone got any other good money saving tips?