Stretching Your Lab Budget

Stretching Your Lab Budget

Lab work can be expensive and budgets don’t always meet the needs of the lab. However, with a few budgeting tips you can cut your overall costs and have more capacity to continue the important work that you do. So, we asked around and compiled 11 tips and tricks that can help you save money in the lab and improve your bottom line.

Reuse your buffers
As BiteSizeBio explains, “When running a western blot, a large amount of waste can be avoided by reusing both running and transfer buffers. Research has found that buffers can be reused up to five times and be perfectly ok. Of course, use your own discretion. If you observe cloudiness, or a strange smell, it’s likely time to discard it. Reusing the transfer buffer is also eco-friendly, as less methanol-containing waste is generated.”

Cut costs where you can
Sometimes you truly do need the absolutely best quality supplies, but other times you can get by and run your experiments successfully with things that are just good. Run through your expenses and see if there are any less expensive swaps you can make without compromising your outcomes.

Don’t let anything go to waste
Be clever about what items you may be able to reuse in your lab; your wallet and the environment will thank you! For example, can that empty pipette box become storage? Is that styrofoam box an ice bucket? Get creative.

Roam the halls
If you need new furniture or equipment for your lab, before you go out and buy something brand new, take a lap around your building and see if there is anything that is not in use. It seems every academic building has a few desk chairs and an empty filing cabinet lying around. Finding and claiming these items can lead to big cost savings.

Hire the right staff
Better trained staff may be more expensive, but they may also be more effective. Along the same line, more people might be better productivity but higher costs. When making hiring decisions, carefully consider which qualities are most important and focus on finding those. Be careful with overstaffing, which won’t pay off in the long-run, and be very careful when making decisions. The wrong hire can end up being very expensive.

Set-up standing orders
It can seem like a daunting task, but setting up automatic reorders on products you regularly use can lead to cost savings. Often, suppliers will offer significant discounts when you create a repeating order. The tricky part is ensuring that you don’t order too little or too much of any one product. Track your usage for a few months before you create the order to ensure you have the proper quantities.

Ask for help
Know that if you are feeling budget constraints, many labs around you are likely feeling it as well. Ask your work friends and colleagues what they do to save money and spread your own tips to them as well. It can sometimes feel taboo to approach this topic, but you’ll be surprised how much great information can be shared.

Shop around
It is easy to get in the habit of going to the same suppliers for purchases, which makes sense because you know you they are reliable. However, it is a good idea to every so often check the prices from other suppliers to see if you can get a better deal. Jumping from supplier to supplier can be more costly in the long-run, but you should do comparisons at least once a year to make sure you aren’t missing out on a good deal.

Protect your equipment
Equipment and supplies are a huge investment and you want to be able to get the highest value from them. Using protective covers and guards on your equipment can protect it from damage and help it have a longer life. Additionally, if you are buying a new, large piece of equipment and there is a warranty, take it! This is a small cost now, but could save you thousands in the future.

Increase efficiency
Take a close look at the processes and procedures in your lab and look for inefficiencies that could be wasting time or money. This fix might involve some costs upfront, for example, you may need to replace a piece of old or less functional equipment that is slowing things down, but in the long run you will see big savings.

Use free or affordable software
There are thousands of lab management and data collection sites out there, but most come with a heft monthly price tag or a big buy in from the get go. Using free or affordable software can create some wiggle room in your budget. We recommend Quartzy, a free lab management software, and Conseris, a data collection application that will store truly unlimited amounts of data for under $15 per month.

We hope by implementing these tips you will be rolling in the dough and may even be able to expand your research work. Do you have any tips for saving money in the lab? Let us know on Twitter, @Conserisapp. Happy saving!

Conseris is a data collection app designed with researchers in mind. The program makes it easier to digitally collect, store, and manage data all for an affordable cost. Learn more.