After reviewing all 3 development firms' estimates, there was a quite a bit of inconsistencies, so I used those inconsistencies to bring down the cost. Basically, I used the number from a firm who offered the lowest estimate for a function, and asked the other two firms to match it. By doing so, I was able to lower the development cost by almost 5%.
But that wasn't enough, so I looked at other places to shave the cost. I asked the development firms to:
- Remove the QA hours because I'll be doing the QA.
- Remove the Project Management hours because I wanted to work directly with the developer.
But even after that, the estimate was still higher than what I had budgeted for development. So I had to make some hard decisions and cut out some of the features from the prototype. At first, I felt crappy for having to do that, but soon I realized it was forcing me to prioritize and figure out what are truly essential features of this app.
So in a way, having a low budget was a blessing in disguise (let's just hope that I won't have to cut anything else out anymore lol).