Many successful others have already blazed trails for you and they know first-hand exactly what shouldn't be on your to-do list or shopping list just yet. This is the stage when you need to be securing funds--not spending wildly. Of course, you do need to spend money to make money which makes this entire venture even more confusing.
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement, especially if you're fortunate enough to come into a generous amount of seed money, capital, or even an angel investor. However, there are a lot of things that will suck up your time, energy and finances faster than you imagined. Here are the biggest items early stage entrepreneurs may want, but should shelve for awhile:
1. Commercial space
Obviously this doesn't apply if you're opening a brick and mortar establishment like a bakery or bookstore. However, it's very likely that your startup could do without any such overhead at all. The popularity of telecommuting, virtual offices and the like are thankfully making it clear to investors and your audience that you don't need physical space to be a "real business." This is by far the most expensive investment you can make--and you might not need to.
2. Certain permanent employees
Hire carefully and, if possible, let an HR contracting company do it for you. In the early stages, there will certainly be professionals and skills you need from website building to a CPA. However, especially in a state that isn't at-will, hiring a permanent employee can get you stuck with a money suck. Instead, hire contractors and freelancers on an as-needed basis.
3. Marketing swag
Is it really exciting to see your logo plastered across coffee mugs and t-shirt? Of course! Is it necessary at this stage? Probably not. The purpose of such swag is that the advertisement offers an ROI--and the investment can be costly. Instead, focus on digital marketing efforts that require less financial commitment.
4. A launch party
There are obviously exceptions, and if it's very much the norm in your industry and/or region, make sure you pull it off on a budget. However, this is really just a party with you footing the bill. Ask yourself if a launch party will bring you enough paying clients, reputation building or other value within one year to justify the costs. If not, move on because it's just as easy to get swept up in overspending for a launch party as it is for a wedding.
5. A certain type of business structure
Carefully asses the business "types" available in your state and consult a CPA and small business attorney along the way. It might sound more official if you become an S-Corp instead of a sole proprietor, but you need to choose a business model based on your needs and best interests--not on what looks god on paper.
6. All brand new equipment
There are certainly some items you need desperately, such as a certain type of laptop if you're a graphic designer. Otherwise, don't get fooled into thinking, "But it's a write-off!" That doesn't mean you'll get your money back, and every big write-off might make the IRS start sniffing around.
What you do need? A great CPA and endless ambition. This isn't the time for a shopping spree, but rather careful and frugal spending.