David Bakke runs a small business and writes about money management tips on the blog, Money Crashers Finance. Many small business owners are looking for any way possible to cut costs, especially with the potential for higher tax rates in 2013. Companies that need to trim expenses often slash employee benefits and perks - but there are still many ways to keep your employees motivated. You're going to need your staff to remain productive, so read on for some free and inexpensive ways to keep morale at a high level. 1. Partner With Other Business Owners I worked in the restaurant industry for years, and instead of giving my staff free meals, I found fellow restaurant managers and traded my gift cards for theirs. Shake hands with other business owners in your area, and see if you can establish a bartering system. This is one way to reward your staff for very little real cost. 2. Offer Telecommuting If it's viable for your business, offering your employees a few work-from-home days is an excellent way to keep them motivated. They'll save time and money, and you just might find yourself with a more productive staff. It could even become a permanent facet of your operations. 3. Allow Employees to Write Their Own Schedules Many people would also love to be able to tweak their work schedule a bit to make it more conducive to their needs. If you let your staff members occasionally create their own schedules, they're likely to be less stressed and more motivated. 4. Provide Additional Paid Days Off By being creative with your scheduling, you can offer a paid day off (or even a half-day) to reward your staff with little net effect on your business finances. Just make sure all the bases are covered during peak times. 5. Implement Creative Promotions One idea I used was a "Boss Does Your Work for You" as a prize for a sales contest. Having the opportunity to see the boss perform their tasks can be highly motivating for your employees. The more creative ideas you can come up for rewards and inexpensive (or free) promotions, the healthier your business can potentially be. Final Thoughts When coming up with ideas to reward your staff, consider getting some feedback from them to find out what they would most enjoy. Why waste time on something they won't appreciate? It's important to save money on employee perks, but you also must ensure that you'll get a decent return on your investment, no matter how small. What other inexpensive ways can you think of to reward your staff members?