December 13, 2021

How to prevent recurring expenses from ruining your budget

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How much do you think your company is spending each month on recurring expenses? There’s a good chance that the number is significantly higher than what you’d expect.  Even if you think every dollar in your budget is being properly leveraged, you may have a few surprises awaiting you if you haven’t completed a monthly expense audit

What are recurring expenses?

A recurring expense , or recurring cost, is any operating cost a business incurs on a consistent basis. This could be monthly, bi-monthly, or annually. Some examples of recurring expenses include:

  • rent
  • real estate or mortgage payments
  • Utility bills
  • salaries and wages
  • software
  • property taxes
  • car insurance
  • marketing services

Many people assume their business’s financial ruin will be caused by large, unforeseen expenses, but monthly or bi-monthly charges incurred on a regular basis can siphon away enough money to cause problems over the course of a normal quarter or fiscal year.

Why are recurring expenses so easy to ignore? 

There are multiple reasons why fixed expenses go unnoticed. Financial statements like the cash flow statement or balance sheet typically don’t go into enough detail to uncover these costs. Balance sheets, which list spend by business expense category rather than individual line items, allow recurring charges to blend in with other company essentials. When they fall under indirect costs or operating costs, it can be easy to assume paying them is just a regular part of running a business. Even if you have the time to keep up with receipts for expense reimbursement, features like automatic renewal may allow month to month charges to slip under your radar.

We know you don’t have time to go through every charge that comes out of your bank account. Spend management software can break down where your money is going so you can find and eliminate wasteful spend.

4 ways to save on recurring expenses

1. Invest in AI-powered software that surfaces spend insights

Rather than wasting your time looking through last accounting period’s receipts and comparing them to your company’s expenditure plan, save time by employing software that continually monitors your cash flow and delivers actionable insights to you. When you use spend management software to track your business expenses, you’re giving yourself the tools you need to make informed decisions.

To uncover this type of wasted spend, you need software that can surface the right information. It must be capable of:

  • Automatically sorting transactions based on merchant and category rules
  • Tracking monthly spend and spend over time with any given vendor
  • Advanced search and filtering, so you can have full visibility into every expense
  • Identifying upcoming recurring payments
  • Sending notifications in real-time, so you don’t have to open up a special app or dashboard to know what’s happening

Once this type of data is out in the open, it’s much easier to see where change is needed and create a strategy to effect it. 

2. Use pricing intelligence to identify inflated bills and budgets

Business finance software that crowdsources pricing intelligence can help you optimize your spend by identifying factors that often lead to operating budget waste. Data on what other companies are paying is often a wake-up call to leaders who have mismatched expectations or are being overcharged by a vendor or service provider. 

It’s common for companies to lose money because no one at the company knows what it “should” be spending: a Shopify analysis of 150 aspiring entrepreneurs and 300 small business owners found that the aspiring entrepreneurs expected to spend 12% of their budget on online fees while established companies spent only 9% for the same purpose. If your budget is 3% over what you need, you’re giving your employees permission to spring for unnecessary tools or sign up for an overpriced plan rather than looking for ways to save. 

Sometimes the spend starts at a reasonable level but increases yearly, so you end up budgeting whatever the vendor is charging. The cost of switching from a service you’re fully integrated with is high, so you find yourself willing to pay more just to stay with it. Many companies eventually hire a procurement planning specialist to negotiate lower prices with longtime partners, but by that point, they’ve already spent much more than they should.

A finance platform with integrated pricing intelligence can flag when costs rise above what’s typical for a business like yours. When your system can negotiate prices based on industry-wide data, you get a great deal of savings with minimal effort.

3. Automatically limit purchases from unapproved categories or vendors

With automated spend control software you can create merchant and category rules to tell the program how to classify and control purchases made with company cards. Using finance automation to enforce spending rules has two major benefits: first, these types of controls have the ability to prevent spend rather than requiring you to track down surprise charges. Second, telling credit cards to automatically decline certain charges means you won’t have to play “bad cop” or constantly issue reminders about what is and is not appropriate on a work account.

Ramp offers three valuable tools to prevent maverick spend from eating into your budget:

  1. Employee cards can be created to decline transactions from a certain vendor or category. You can restrict at the merchant level (a wellness stipend card does not cover Netflix subscriptions) or entire categories (a wellness stipend card will only work at gym and healthcare vendors). This will help prevent new recurring expenses not in line with company policy.
  2. Spend limits allow you to tailor employee cards for specific purchases or recurring stipends. Your employee who needs Grammarly to function can spend $9.99 each month and no more.
  3. You can create custom approval workflows to ensure you see big purchases before they come out of your account. When your free trial of Asana is about to roll over into a $6,594 yearly charge, Ramp can automatically alert senior leadership and route the approval request to the right person. 

You can also use our spend limit features to prevent zombie spend or surprise charges from auto-renewing subscriptions or increased service prices. When setting up a trial with a new service, you can create a Ramp card with a spend limit of $0 to prevent 30-days-free from rolling over into hundreds each month. To prevent unexpected increases in recurring bills, set a card limit (daily, weekly, monthly, or annually) that reflects your expected spend.

4. Cut overlapping and unused subscriptions

SaaS subscription management is essential in a world where nearly one in three employees has expensed a SaaS application. Companies lose hundreds or thousands each month to SaaS creep when IT is no longer the only team purchasing software and apps.

Simply by combining two active Amazon Web Services accounts, Eight Sleep was able to reduce AWS costs and saved $5,000 a month.

For instance, smart mattress and sleep tech company Eight Sleep paid for SaaS subscriptions out of company accounts and through employee reimbursement. With so many purchasers (and inefficient SaaS management software), the finance team had no way to see how high software-related monthly expenses had climbed. Upon switching to Ramp, the financial controller finally got a full view of the company’s burgeoning administrative expenses. Right away, she identified multiple SaaS subscriptions set up by past employees and found duplicate accounts. Simply by combining two active Amazon Web Services accounts, Eight Sleep was able to reduce AWS costs and saved $5,000 a month.

These expenses can take a few forms:

  • Multiple subscriptions and/or accounts with the same service or vendor
  • Different teams using similar (but not identical) solutions
  • Old solutions that are no longer in service, either because the employee using them left or your team has moved on to different processes and workflows
  • Services that cost more than they add in efficiency or productivity

Ramp’s vendor management tools pull all your subscriptions into one dashboard and even identify upcoming renewals. In one glance, you can tell if you’re about to pay for something that’s not essential to business operations and could negatively affect your profitability.

If you’re on the fence about whether a service is worth it, our software allows you to sort and filter data, so you can see your total spend with a vendor and how it has changed over time. If you don’t have time for this, no problem: Ramp uses AI to analyze spending and find duplicate subscriptions. We’ll send you an alert whenever we find an opportunity to save.

All-in-one recurring spend management with Ramp

Ramp takes the pain out of the spend management process, saving you time and money. If your finances are a mess, you can start fresh with the capabilities our software offers. Ramp also integrates with popular accounting and finance apps, adding the advanced functions you need to automate your spend control. It automates the busywork while AI-powered alerts make sure you see the important and actionable insights our software discovers.

Sr. Content Marketing Manager, Ramp

Stefanie Gordon is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Ramp. A former financial journalist and content strategist, she is excited to help Ramp develop new, engaging content.


What are non-recurring expenses?

Non-recurring expenses are operating expenses necessary to a company that are generally not repeated. Some examples of non-recurring expenses are things like unforeseen repairs, lawsuits, and real estate purchases. These are generally less common for business operations but can be very costly.

How can Ramp help with recurring expenses?

Ramp’s advanced expense management features help businesses control and monitor spend. Business leaders and managers can get notifications when duplicate recurring expenses or charges occur, set spend and purchase category limits for corporate cards, and monitor expenses in real-time.

What is considered a recurring expense?

An expense is considered recurring when it is incurred multiple times and at regular intervals over a period of time, whether that’s weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.

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