5 expense management mistakes that can kill your business

Written by
Galih Gumelar
Last Modified on
June 6, 2024

Maintaining a positive cash flow is essential for any business. To achieve this, not only must revenue be maximized, but expenses must be carefully managed so that they do not exceed revenue.

Unfortunately, many companies fall into the trap of viewing expense management merely as a way to reduce spending. They tend to forget that effective expense management should also be about gaining complete control and visibility on their spending.

This narrow view can lead to companies adopting spend management practices that seem normal but endanger the long-term sustainability of their business. You may be wondering what these mistakes are so you can avoid them and gain better control and visibility of your spending.

5 spend management mistakes for businesses

Manual processes

Expense management is traditionally a manual and labor-intensive task that puts a heavy burden on finance teams. Not only is the repetitive processing of expenses time-consuming, it is also highly prone to human error. Errors such as incorrectly recorded figures, misallocated expenses or duplicate entries can occur all too easily and lead to various detrimental outcomes.

Manual input errors can lead to unreliable output data, which in turn affects financial analysis and projections. This misinformation can lead to decisions that are not based on reality and result in strategies that do not serve the company's interests. Decisions based on incorrect data can lead to ineffective or flawed business strategies. Over time, this can lead to financial losses and undermine a company’s competitive position in the marketplace.

In addition, these errors also make it difficult to track and monitor actual spending, leaving you struggling to understand your own spending patterns. This lack of transparency makes it difficult to understand spending patterns and identify areas where cost savings can be made.

Businesses are also fed up with manual errors, with 29% of 106 senior finance professionals in the 2024 Payhawk survey stating that human error is their biggest challenge in the spend management process.

In addition to the risk of human error, manual spend management processes can also lead to higher labor costs.

The tedious manual process of collecting, processing and analyzing spend data is not only time-consuming, but can also require additional staff. Companies may need to hire additional staff to handle these tasks, further driving up existing labor costs.

Overlooking small and insignificant expenses

Businesses deal with a variety of expenses on a daily basis, including seemingly insignificant costs such as bank transfer fees or the cost of office supplies such as pens and paper.

However, newly established businesses sometimes overlook these small expenses because they are seen as insignificant and do not have a significant impact on their operations. What they do not realize is that continuing this practice can affect the financial health of their business.

The danger lies in underestimating the cumulative effect of these small expenses. Individual items such as bank charges or stationery may not seem like much, but when incurred regularly, they can add up to significant amounts. This gradual accumulation can slowly eat away at finances, a scenario that often goes unnoticed until it becomes a significant financial burden.

Such a bad spending habit causes these businesses to lose track of how much money has been spent on these small expenses. As a result, they will struggle to find ways to cut costs and implement efficiency measures when times get tough.

Complicated spending policies

Setting spending policies is a crucial step for any business, as it can ensure that every expense makes a positive contribution to the company's goals. While setting rules for approving expenses and claims is beneficial, overly complex procedures can be counterproductive.

For example, some companies implement a centralized expense approval policy where all expenses must be approved at multiple levels, all the way up to top management.

While such policies serve to maintain control over spending, they can lead to lengthy approval processes. This becomes a significant problem when employees need to make urgent expenditures to respond to rapid market or macroeconomic changes. The delay in approval can affect the company's ability to act quickly and effectively.

Complex spending policies also lead to employees spending a lot of time dealing with bureaucracy instead of working on more strategic tasks that actually contribute to the growth of the business.

In short, a complicated spending policy only leads to operational inefficiency and makes it difficult for companies to adapt quickly to external changes.

No clear spending policy

As already mentioned, a complicated spend policy can lead to various problems. However, an overly permissive and unclear spending policy can also open the door to financial abuse.

Without clear guidelines, employees can take advantage of ambiguity to commit expense fraud, such as using company funds to make personal purchases or over-claiming expenses in order to pocket the surplus cash. This type of fraud not only leads to direct financial losses, but can also damage company culture and morale by creating an environment where dishonesty is overlooked or even tacitly accepted.

Expense fraud is a serious problem as employees are very likely to commit fraud as long as there is a loophole in their company’s expense policy. This problem is illustrated by a 2024 survey by Emburse, which found that 24% of 1,000 employees admitted to claiming expenses for personal purposes because their company did not have a well-defined expense policy.

Too lenient with budgeting

Budgeting is an essential tool for businesses to ensure that their expenses are in line with business needs. The problem, however, is that not all businesses consider budgeting as an important element of expense management.

Some businesses, especially new ones, sometimes do not take budgeting seriously. New businesses are often run by people who have limited experience in financial management, so they tend to spend money on expenses that are not included in the budget.

As a result, their expenses exceed the budget every period, making it harder for them to make a profit or accumulate cash to expand their business.

How to avoid spending management mistakes

Developing a clear and effective budget policy is a critical step in gaining control of your company's spending, avoiding overspending and reducing the risk of fraudulent activity. Here are some key aspects to consider when creating your budget policy

Develop a clear budget policy

Developing a clear budget policy will help you gain control over your company's spending to avoid overspending and fraudulent activity.

Define eligible expenses. You need to create a list of specific expense items that are eligible for reimbursement. This transparency helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that employees know exactly which work-related expenses they can and cannot claim.

Set spending limits. Implement spending caps to encourage employees to manage their expenses responsibly. By setting these boundaries, you reinforce budget adherence and discourage excessive spending.

Develop a clear reimbursement policy. Set specific conditions that employees must meet if they want to submit a reimbursement request. For example, you can start processing reimbursements when all claims are accompanied by receipts and submitted within a specific time frame, such as before the month’s end.

Define policy exceptions. There may be times when the standard expense policy needs to be bypassed, for example in urgent situations where following the usual procedures is impractical. To anticipate such a situation, you need to define specific circumstances or activities that are exempt from the standard spend policy.

Use Corporate Cards

Corporate cards are an important tool to increase transparency and control over your expenses.

By using corporate cards, your employees can spend within their budget, while at the same time giving you an overview of how much money has been spent and where the money is going. Corporate cards also provide spending data that can help you evaluate spending patterns and find savings opportunities.

Expense Management Automation

Automating the spend management process can help you eliminate manual tasks, which can also help you avoid financial problems caused by human errors. Automation also gives you a better overview of your expenses as you can track them in real time.

In addition, automation also helps you to deploy your employees more effectively. For example, employees who were responsible for manual tasks such as reconciliation can be reassigned to more strategic tasks such as analysis and forecasting.

However, you need to be mindful when choosing an expense management platform. You need to make sure that the platform has features that can solve your expense management problems and meet your business needs.

Aspire helps you avoid expense management mistakes

Aspire offers a comprehensive expense management system that not only saves you time, but also gives you better control and visibility over your expenses. Here's how Aspire can help you better manage your expenses.

1) Keep spending organized with budgeting. You can create budgets at the client, project or team level along with the purposes of these budgets. You can also designate individuals who are responsible for these budgets and they can add additional members to manage spending within their own teams or projects.

2) Virtual cards for better spend control. You can eliminate the time-consuming reimbursement process by issuing an unlimited number of virtual cards, for every use case, subscription or employee, which can be customized according to your expense policy.

3) Painless claims management process. Aspire allows your employees to submit claims by uploading receipts, while giving you the ability to review, approve and disburse claims from one dashboard.

4) Integration with accounting software. Synchronize Aspire with your accounting software to eliminate manual errors and save hundreds of hours.

Keen to learn more about how Aspire can help you improve your organization’s financial operations and streamline workflows?Talk to our sales team today, or sign up for free to get started.

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About the author
Galih Gumelar
is a seasoned writer specialising in macroeconomics, business, finance and politics. With a writing history at CNN Indonesia, The Jakarta Post, and various other reputed organisations, Galih leverages his broad range of experiences to create insightful resources for those wanting to start a business.
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