It’s hard enough to compete with big-box retailers without paying big-box prices for the things that make your brick-and-mortar run smoothly. But 14the great thing about being a small retail business is that you’re more nimble and able to experiment with more affordable products and services.
These tools will help you save money that you can put back into your business:
1. Cell Phone
We’re past needing complicated PBX phone systems, especially for stores. If you’re the only employee, a cell phone with a large minute plan should be enough to handle business calls. If you have other staff, set up a free Google Voice  number and route it to whoever’s working.
Money-Saving Tip: Set up your Google Voice to direct calls to the appropriate person. For example, you can record store hours and address, then callers can push 1 to speak to a sales associate, 2 for accounting, etc.
In this era of DIY, it’s become unnecessary to hire a designer and fancy printer for your signage needs. Use an online option like StoreSigns , which offers stock photos and signs you can customize for a fraction of the cost of more traditional options.
Money-Saving Tip: Buy holiday-themed signs when they’re on sale and reuse each year.
3. Mobile Payments
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I noticed many restaurants and shops accepting credit cards through an iPad and Square  card reader. While mobile payment technology was born in the Bay area, it’s not exclusive to it. You can avoid costly merchant card processing service fees and equipment rental or purchase by paying a per-transaction fee and using a card reader.
Money-Saving Tip: Investing in an iPad to process your credit card transactions may seem like a large expense, so make sure it serves multiple functions. After hours you can use an inventory app or update social media using the tablet.
4. Social Media
Twitter. Facebook. G+. Foursquare. Daily Deals. We’ve got a deluge of social media marketing options, and they’re all free or inexpensive to use. As consumers become more accustomed to checking business Facebook Pages for promotions and specials, retailers are jumping at the chance to connect with customers more affordably.
Money-Saving Tip: Daily deal sites are struggling to get new clientele. Negotiate the rate you’ll get paid on a deal with newer deal sites that don’t have the clout of Groupon, and help promote the deal to get foot traffic.
5. Online Sales
When in-store sales are slow, it’s great to have the backup of selling online. But who wants to set up and manage an online store? Etsy, eBay and Amazon offer built-in ecommerce solutions; all you have to do is provide the product. They take a fee on every sale, of course, but working through channels that do their own marketing makes the cost of entry ridiculously low.
Money-Saving Tip: This isn’t so much a money-saving tip as it is a money-making. If you’re an Amazon seller, using Amazon Fulfillment  (they ship your products from their locations) can get you more business, because people can use their Free Prime Shipping service with your products.
Mobile Payment Photo  via Shutterstock