Small business owners may be in for a rough ride in 2013. Increased tax rates for higher income earners could leave you paying more tax, and if you don't offer healthcare to your employees, you may be subject to government penalties. Rather than throwing in the towel, it's time to roll up your sleeves and start to trim your budget. One place to start is your IT costs. Here are four ways small business owners can impact their IT budgets to remain viable in the coming year - and beyond. (For some background reading, check out 6 Common Business Mistakes Small Businesses Make.)

1. Review Maintenance Contracts

Just like you'd review your personal monthly billing statements, it's also important to take a look at your IT maintenance contracts. Is your vendor fulfilling the terms of its contract? Have you perused the competition to see if you can find a better rate? It's these questions and more you should ask yourself with your IT maintenance contracts. It seems simple, but so many companies fail to review their statements regularly, and end up paying more than they have to as a result.

2. Outsource Short-Term Projects

Instead of hiring full-time staff when an IT project pops up, consider outsourcing to freelancers. To find qualified professionals, check out websites such as Elance, Guru and Freelancer. Just make sure you thoroughly vet any potential candidate, and always contact references.

3. Trim Staff and Cross-Train

It's an unfortunate reality, but in uncertain economic times, you have to be prepared to reduce labor costs. Your IT department may be one place to look to make those cuts. Make sure your organization is prepared for the fallout in case cuts are required. Cross-train key IT staff members on other duties and create a backup plan for redistributing responsibilities among fewer employees.

4. Reduce Energy Output

Another way to save on IT expenses is to reduce the amount of energy your IT products are consuming. For example, you could streamline your organization to work off of one networked printer, and look for more energy-efficient PC products. Although this may seem ancillary, when it comes to saving money in a small business, every little bit helps. (For more insight, check out 5 Reasons Why Green IT Is Pure Gold for Business.)

Final Thoughts

If you decide to cut back on an area such as advertising, there is generally one direct result: reduced exposure for your business. Cut back on IT, and the situation gets a little muddled. An effective IT department works its tentacles into many other aspects of a businesses, such as sales and even customer service, so IT costs need to be adjusted carefully. The last thing you want is to save a few dollars on IT, only to have your business run less effectively overall.

Do you know of any additional ways to cut back on IT? Let us know!