What a great year 2013 has been! I tried out many new tools this year and continued using some of the best ones from previous years. I wanted to take some time to share with you my absolute favorites for this year. Hopefully you can find at least one new tool that will help you make 2014 more productive.
1. Inventory Lab – I have to say this is by far the best service I began using in 2013. One of my least favorite tasks has always been book keeping. When I started using Inventory Lab in August I was hooked immediately. The workflow is very easy to understand and get used to. Not only does it make seeing my “real” numbers possible every month with minimal extra time, it makes my shipments easier to process! If you have not yet started using Inventory Lab, I highly recommend trying them out. You can even get a free month of service with no credit card needed at sign up.
2. Laser Printer – I purchased a laser printer in 2011 and it is one of my most used tool in this business. Not only does it save me time because it prints everything so quickly, I save money because I am no longer buying ink every couple of weeks. When I buy the Brother Brand High Yield Toner, I get at least 6 months of use out of one toner cartridge. This is the exact model that I use: Brother HL-2270DW. This one can do front and back (it pulls the paper back through, it doesn’t print both sides simultaneously), it is also able to be used wirelessly, which I have not actually figured out how to do yet :-/ If you don’t need wireless or duplex, then there is a less expensive model available as well, the Brother HL2230.
3. Dymo LabelWriter - I actually purchased my Dymo Label Printer at a yard sale, brand new in the box for $5 before I started selling on Amazon. I would say this is actually the most used tool still to this day, because we use it for printing all of our Amazon FNSKU labels (the ones that cover the UPC code to identify the products as ours) it prints 1,000′s of labels a month for us. In addition to the Amazon labels, we also use it to print expiration dates for HBA/Grocery items (see my post about items that expire here). If I run out of suffocation warnings, or this is a set stickers, I can instantly print those as well using the Dymo. Anytime we are working on Amazon items, this is always out and being used.
4. USB Barcode Scanner – I purchased this in June of this year and honestly didn’t start really using it until about August. It really does save time when you don’t have to type in every UPC code that you are selling on Amazon. Now it is an essential tool when we bring out the stuff to do our shipments! They really are just plug and play. No software to install or anything like that. I would recommend buying this on Amazon, or somewhere with easy returns because I have heard from more than one person that they get duds the first time around and then the next one works just fine.
5. Cell Phone Case With Credit Card Slot – I used to love fancy purses and bring a lot of things with me wherever I went, but now all I carry into a store with me is my cell phone! This case is awesome because it fits snuggly on my phone and holds the cards tight, whether I have 1 or 3 inside. It also isn’t as bulky as some of the other similar cases. When I had an iPhone 4 I had a similar case, but the back opened up. I prefer this style because I can easily see my cards where they should be. Sometimes I wish it held 4 cards so that I could have my Target Debit, Personal Card, Business Card and my ID, but it only holds 3. So, I sometimes don’t have my Target card with me which is a bummer since I like that 5% discount
6. Ebates – I know there are a lot of cash back sites available to use while shopping online. But, I only use Ebates in order to keep it simple. I have their browser bar installed and it reminds me to activate the cash back when I am on a major retail website. This year I have earned more than $300 cash back from them. One thing that is really cool about them, is you can earn cash back when you do store pick ups that you place online. I even earn extra bonuses when friends sign up (and so do they)! Hey, every dollar counts right?
7. TJ Maxx Reusable Shopping Bags – This one probably seems silly. But, I absolutely LOVE my reusable bags from TJ Maxx. They are way bigger than any of the regular ones stores like Target carry and they are pretty durable. Best of all, they only cost $1.00 in stores! I went in the other day to buy more (I have about 15 now) and they didn’t have them by the register. I hope they still carry them and had just moved them. I can usually fit the contents of 3 plastic bags in one of these large bags. Not only does this take up less space than having a bunch of smaller bags, but it is “green” as well. I hate throwing away all of those plastic bags I used to end up with. I know there are other things to do with them rather than throwing them away, but that is usually what happened with them. If you don’t have a TJ Maxx close by, you can get these Ikea bags on Amazon.
8. NeatDesk Desktop Scanner – Even with using a program like Inventory Lab, it is important to have a system to keep track of your receipts. We started using the Neat Scanner system in 2011 with the small mobile scanner. We upgraded to the Desktop Scanner at the end of 2012 and LOVE IT! We can pile in 10-15 receipts at once and it will scan them all within a minute. The program scans the receipts and pulls out the pertinent information such as store name, total spent, tax spent and if it was cash/check/debit. We even add our mileage to the notes section and can use that report for filing taxes. You can use it for other things besides just receipts too. Things like business cards can be “filled” as well as emails, important papers, etc. This can help you to scan a years worth of receipts in a day!
9. Price Blink - This is a browser bar add on that will tell you if the item you are looking at is available on any other websites for a lower price. So, if you are looking at an item you are currently selling on amazon, it will tell you where else you could buy it. I have been able to replenish items I could no longer find locally thanks to Price Blink. It also tells you if there are any coupon codes available for the website you are currently on. Best thing about this add on…It’s FREE! Below is what it looks like when the item is found at another website.
10. Self Sealing Poly Bags – Thanks to these little babies I rarely have to use my impulse sealer anymore. I use these bags for everything from multi packs to protecting open face toys/plush. I used to buy them without a suffocation warning and then add my own label, but now I can get them with the warning label printed on already. If you need to bag a lot of items (amazon is really going overboard on requiring bags) this can be a huge time saver. We keep 4 sizes of bags on hand at all times: 6×8, 8×11, 11×14 & 14×20. I need to find a source for an even larger bag for those times we need them, but these 4 sizes work for just about everything we send in.
Alright, so these are just my top 10, and of course we use more tools than this. It was hard to choose what to put on the list. But, I put the ones we use the most often, or make the biggest impact on the business
As far as tools go for next year, there are quite a few things I would like to get and try out. Some of them are: A backup battery charger, 3″ packing tape and to start using my scan fob again.
I would love to hear all about the tools that make your business more effective.