As you're enjoying the income from your Q4 Amazon and eBay sales, you should be looking ahead to some simple year end/early 2017 spending and budgeting. Extra money is always easy to spend, but please do it wisely and with some forethought. To help you, I've aggregated some ideas. Take action!
Remember: the equipment, software, and resources you pay for in 2016 can help reduce your taxable income, and thus you'll pay less taxes overall for your fiscal year. Check with your accountant/CPA/tax professional to confirm this first, or if you're unsure.
Here we go:
1.) Invest in Your Efficiency - Take a look at your eBay/Amazon operations and see where you are spending too much time. As sellers, we have available to us countless tools, technologies and equipment to help make mundane business tasks more efficient.
- Consider purchasing shrink-wrapping equipment to help you package products more quickly and professionally.
- Expedite your packing and shipping with box re-sizers, bar code scanners and label printers.
- You may be able to streamline your inventory, contacts and databases by upgrading your laptop (I just did. Every few years I'll buy a sub-$500 laptop - my go-to brands are Acer and Toshiba. I avoid - due to some real horrific customer reviews lately - Dell and HP).
- Track what you spend with programs like favorite spreadsheet tracking tool, you may be able to decrease taxable income through business expense deductions.
- Save time with inventory listing tools like Inventory Lab (for any product(s)) or Scanlister (ideal for used books)
2.) Stock Up on Discounted Inventory - Just about every store and online site is running sales through December and into January to feed the shopping frenzy (and capture some profits - however slim - due to Amazon siphoning off their traffic). I spend this time to buy Christmas-themed merchandise (toys, home decorations, ornaments, etc.) at 80% off or more, and stockpile them for next year, when I enjoy selling the for 3x to 10x my purchase price. Take advantage of the great deals, rebate offers and rock-bottom prices for your Amazon business. Take the time to see what seasonal/holiday merchandise you sold (e.g., over the last Easter, Valentine's Day, Summer, Mother's Day, etc.). That way you can identify the recurring trends and popular items will top resell markets in coming months. Prepare ahead by buying inventory well ahead of the crunch.
3.) Bulk Up on Business Supplies - Buying almost anything in bulk will save you money. Take advantage and stock up on:
- Packaging tape (my cheap favorite is here)
- Shipping boxes (my cheap favorite is here)
- Padded envelopes (my cheap favorite is here)
- Labels and printer cartridges. I get mine from Amazon. For labels, I only go with major 'brand names', like Avery or Dymo official products (the non-Brand names tend to get stuck and it ruins everything). For printer cartridges I don't go for 'brand name' because of their price - Instead I find the compatible ink cartridges from top-rated sellers (those with the most positive reviews).
Supplies can be much less expensive when you buy larger volumes. Again, purchasing supplies before 2017 can help decrease taxable income. While you're at it, set up a tracking system of what you actually use in 2017 so you can make even better purchasing decisions one year from now.
4.) Bulk up on Services - Do you pay monthly for any software services, utilities, and/or subscriptions? I HIGHLY recommend you contact those providers (examples: cell phone, Internet, any/all insurances). Ask them for their 'best discount' if you upgrade to annual billing (or 'pay in full') now. Yes, I've done this. You can save a boatload in 2017 instead of paying monthly. And the added benefit is you reduce your taxable 2016 income by paying it before 2017. Still don't want to pay annually? Ask them (nicely) for a lower monthly rate to 'keep your business.' You'll be surprised how much you'll save!)
5.) Sell off your Inventory Laggards - I know you may be reluctant to reduce prices on your still-sitting-there Amazon or eBay inventory. There's some drawbacks to hanging on to it until 2017, though:
- Your accountant likely considers your leftover-into-2017 inventory an 'asset' and thus it's taxable (if you're unsure, ask your accountant), and
- You are going to incur storage costs (especially if your products are at Amazon for a few months).
So I generally liquidate (=lower my prices dramatically) what I can before the end of 2016. If I'm reluctant to liquidate and I'm 100% certain I can get at least $20 profit for a product in 2017, I'll have Amazon send the product back to me (via their removal service - it's inexpensive to do so) and store it at my home until the right time. Tip - if you use Amazon's removal service, be sure to select 'ship' not 'dispose.'
6.) Eliminate/Reduce Debt - One of the best things you can do with extra money any time of the year is to pay off debt. Not only will you be saving yourself interest that often accumulates every day, but you will be reducing your monthly financial commitments as well. Think of paying down debt as an easy way to give yourself a raise. If you have trouble managing your debt, consider investing in some money management programs or books to help you get your financial house in order (I'm currently reading this one.) If you can't afford to shake off all your debt soon, consider applying for (or using an existing) credit card with zero to 2.99% APR balance transfer checks. For instance, I have excellent credit but a small outstanding loan of $10,000. I'm paying 0% APR for 18 months via the consolidation checks my card (Chase) offered to me.
7.) Minimize Your Taxable Income via Savings Before the end of the year, you may want to consider taking some of your extra earnings and using them in ways to help reduce taxes. If you donate some money to non-profits, be sure to keep track of those donations as deductions next year. Consider the tax benefits of tucking some of your extra money away in a retirement savings account, which may have tax advantages. Business-related expenses such as supplies, new software and time-saving equipment may be deductible as well (check with your accountant if you're unsure). Again, check with your accountant or a qualified CPA/advisor.
8.) Invest in Your Online Selling Future- Quick story: As you know, we Amazon sellers got walloped with brand restrictions in 2017. Then we got a surprise in December '16 with new Health and Personal Care requirements. Then I (like some of you) I was suddenly barred from selling New-condition Hallmark products this December. I had to ask Amazon to remove 400+ ornaments, send them back to me, and then I had to re-label them in 'used' condition and send them back in. I still 'won' because I bought these ornaments in early January 2017 at 70-90% off retail (See the "Stock up on Inventory" section above.)
My point: Retail arbitrage is FAR from dead (still way too much opportunity there), but it's getting a LOT more complicated - and harder- than sourcing/selling wholesale and/or private label products. How can you do that the right way? Hang with me - within the next 4 weeks, three of my trusted partners are re-opening the doors to their wholesale or private label programs: The Wholesale Formula, Amazon Alliance (aka 'FBA Fast Track'), and Operation Physical Products. Sign up at each of those links and (where applicable) I'll personally let you know when they're available again.
9.) Splurge A Little ... On Yourself or On Others - Money doesn't mean much unless it's spent in a joyful and rewarding way. If you have something you'd really like to buy or do, set some of your extra income aside for a little year-end bonus. Or, take the extra income and treat a loved one to something unexpected and special. You might also want to share some of your extra wealth by supporting a non-profit organization in some worthy cause to help others. I ensure my money goes to legit, hard-working, non-scammy charities by using the trusted and free CharityNavigator.org. Many organizations out there need financial help; find one that inspires you and support them. Contributions can help you reduce taxes as well.
So before it's time to make New Year's resolutions, take some time to wrap up 2016 in a successful, thoughtful and wise way. It's a great time to generate extra income online, and it's a great time to invest in yourself and in the future of your business.
Good luck and keep me posted!