3 Ways to Track Supplies Expenses

Ideas to help you manage your office's budget.

Tracking your supplies expenses is a vital first step toward improving budget management. When you can quickly zero in on your biggest expenditures, you can pinpoint the actions that yield the biggest savings.

Getting a clear, comprehensive view of your spending can take time, but you can make things easier by streamlining the process. Here are some tips to help you save time as you manage supplies expenses:

1. Consolidate Buying

Consolidating your buying under one supplier — or even just a small, select group — brings a number of benefits, such as better relationships with those suppliers and special discount offers. But it also significantly simplifies expense-tracking. When you only use a few suppliers for the majority of your purchases, your spending is centralized and easily referenced. Many companies offer digital data on your buying habits as well, helping you further analyze where your money is going.

2. Set Up a Subscription Service

With a subscription service, your essential supplies are automatically delivered to you at regular intervals. For example, if you need fresh ink cartridges for printers roughly once every two months, you can set your settings to get cartridges delivered on that schedule. No further action is required unless you want to cancel an order or update its frequency or quantities.

Setting those subscription services makes these expenses regular and predictable, and easier to track. Also, some services deliver a batch of various items at once, so you reduce the individual small purchases that you need to monitor. Evaluate what supplies you order regularly, and consider setting up automatic delivery with your favorite vendor. That way, you can predict spending, save time and ensure you always have the supplies you need.

3. Take Point on Managing Supplies

Office supplies tend to be communal, with employees stopping by the supply closet to grab pens, a ream of paper or a few packs of sticky notes. This can make it tough to know where your supply budget is going. To help combat this problem, take simple steps to track usage. For example, start making a tally every time you re-order an item, maintain a spreadsheet with each category of purchases on it, or dig into the data your vendors provide and analyze it there.

It is also often helpful to require that more expensive supplies — such as ink or technology pieces — be approved before they're used or ordered. Put them in a locked cabinet, require that coworkers come to you or another designated person with their request, and then track usage.

Once you better understand where your money is going, you can see where it might make sense to start buying in bulk or switch to a less-expensive alternative for that product.

Tracking your supplies expenses can be time-consuming, but a few changes can help simplify and streamline the process. With better data in hand, you can make better decisions — and ultimately, save money.