Costs are up – what can we do?
By now, we are all only too familiar with the ‘cost-of-living crisis’ headlines that continue to saturate the national news. Consumer prices are up 9.1% compared to the same time last year and forecasts suggest more hikes are yet to come for 2022. During the same 12 months, domestic gas prices increased by 95%, domestic electricity prices rose by 54% and road fuel prices saw a hike of approximately 40%.
Of course, this is only half the story for dental technicians and lab owners in the UK. The cost of everything from gold and other dental materials to business overheads, recruitment and postage have gone up too. All of this sets the scene for what could become the perfect storm in the profession, with many already concerned about their future.
So, what can we do? Sadly, we have no influence on inflation and the prices faced every day, but there may be ways to reduce the impact of the rising cost of living from both a personal and professional perspective.
Firstly, there is much reassurance, advice and support to be gained from being an active part of the dental lab community. Whether you build your own network, join professional associations or regularly attend industry events, it is essential to remain connected. With a united front, we can better lobby for government grants and financial support, communicate with our dental practice partners and work together to find innovative solutions.
On a more day-to-day basis, there are small, yet potentially powerful things you can do to combat the increasing cost-of-living. These might include:
• Monitor your spending so you know exactly where your money is going – now’s a good time to cancel the unnecessary extras you’ve being paying for but not really using!
• Regulate the temperature inside the home or lab without overuse of the air conditioning or heater. Using the blinds/curtains, windows and personal cooling items to keep temperatures comfortable without using lots of electricity will help keep bills down.
• Bulk buy and cook your food for the week – it’s worth the hour of prep on a Sunday afternoon! It has been estimated that Brits spend £1,840 a year buying lunch at work, while those who pack their own lunchboxes spend just £552 annually.
• Switch to energy-efficient appliances if you haven’t already, don’t use the tumble dryer too much (especially at this time of year) and don’t leave devices on standby – you could see a considerable difference in your utility bills.
• Make your money work harder for you – there are savings and investment options that offer a much higher return than some standard ISAs and current account. Have a look around for a solution that might suit you so you can save a little extra.
For lab owners, making savings may be more difficult and a little more involved, but it is certainly still possible. Keeping a tight handle on expenses and cashflow is crucial, and budgeting carefully will help to make sure you are spending in the right areas. It is also worth looking at all your existing contracts with utility companies and suppliers – speak to them to see if they can offer more competitive prices if you work with them another year or recommend them to a friend.
Finally, it is very important to understand and fully utilise all your options when it comes to tax breaks and financial support currently available for small businesses. For example, the Employment Allowance went up in the Spring Budget so you can claim up to £5,000 off your employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs). It may be helpful to contact a financial advisor to ensure you are maximising on any small business rate relief, capital allowances and other tax reliefs or grants as well.
Ultimately, there is no denying that dental labs are facing tough times. While much bigger changes need to be implemented, small adjustments can be made in the meantime to combat the cost-of-living crisis in some way.