Cut the cost of… Expenses
Business Traveller offers tried-and-tested tips on getting more for your money. This month: Expenses and entertaining.
- Don’t delay admin
The sooner you sort out your expenses, the less likely you are to forget putting them all through. Always carry an envelope with you that’s designated for receipts – don’t stuff them in your pocket.
- Every little helps
According to a study by expense management company Concur, 22 per cent of us are “too embarrassed” to claim back small amounts. But remember these all add up – the study also found that 20 per cent of workers have unclaimed expenses of up to £270 a year.
- Know the rules
Understand what you are entitled to claim back – each company will have a different policy. Don’t spend money on things you won’t be reimbursed for.
- Try a receipt app
Expense Magic’s free iPhone app allows you to photograph and log your receipt with your phone. At the end of each month, the company sends you a typed report listing what you’ve spent.
- Use an expense management system
Concur’s Small Business Edition for SMEs costs £6 per employee per month. Part of the package is the Receipt Store service. “It allows you to take a picture of a receipt and email it to the Receipt Store,” says Isabel Montesdeoca, senior vice-president and general manager at Concur EMEA. “When you do your expenses, just go to this data warehouse and attach the images.” Email invoices from airlines can also be forwarded.
- Book wisely
Would it be cost-effective to book a hotel with free wifi? Or one close to the city centre to reduce taxi fares? Think about how you can cut down on incidentals.
- Use a club lounge
Consider booking a club room – not only do they come with extras, they can be good if you plan to entertain clients. Many hotel club lounges provide an attractive setting for this, with city views, a sense of luxury and free drinks often on offer – hotels will usually charge for drinks or food for non-club room guests, but sometimes discretion can play in your favour.
- Take public transport
Most city-centre transport networks are reliable and good value for money, so avoid instinctively hopping into a taxi if you have time to spare.
- Team up
Sharing a taxi to the airport or getting a group rate on a hotel will save you money. Concur’s Salesforce Connector allows people to share their itineraries with each other so they can co-ordinate their travel plans.
- Ask for tips
Online itinerary-planning app Trip It can help connect you with people in the know. You can also use online forums such as businesstraveller.com/discussion to ask like-minded travellers for good-value recommendations.
- Become a regular
Having a local restaurant that you take clients to frequently can be invaluable. Once you start bringing in regular business and get to know the manager, you’re in a position to negotiate a deal.
- Search for deals
The boom in websites such as groupon.co.uk means it’s easy to save money on entertaining without compromising on quality. A Gourmet Society card (£69.95 per year, gourmetsociety.co.uk) entitles members to two-for-one offers or 25 per cent off at more than 6,000 UK restaurants.
Tastecard (£79.95 per year, tastecard.co.uk) offers two-for one dining or 50 per cent off at 6,469 UK restaurants. Squaremeal.co.uk and toptable.co.uk also let you search for restaurants with deals – just be discreet about it, as you wouldn’t want people to think you are penny-pinching.
- Join a club
Joining a private members’ club may be expensive but it gives you kudos and can prove value for money when entertaining clients, as you benefit from lots of extras, such as use of the restaurants and leisure facilities, and reciprocal access to other clubs around the world. Membership waiting lists can be lengthy, though.
- Entertain a group
Instead of taking one person at a time to dinner, organise a meal for several contacts at once if appropriate. “The bill might be a bit bigger in singular terms, but compared with four or five individual evening meals, it’s cheaper,” Montesdeoca says. “Also, when you have a group of people together they get to know each other, there’s more conversation flowing and this turns out to be a much better investment of your time.”
- Do lunch
Evening meals generally rack up greater bills, as they last longer and more drinks are consumed. Express lunch menus can also offer good value for money.
- Go for a set menu
Ask restaurants if they offer a fixed menu option, particularly for bigger groups – à la carte dining will be more expensive if your guests opt for all courses.
- Pick wine carefully
Going for the most expensive vintage on the list may flatter clients but probably not enough to make it worth the expense. Ask your guest if they’d like to choose the wine – that way they’ll be happy with it and will likely opt for a cheaper one out of politeness (bear in mind that this can backfire).
Have a tip to share? Visit businesstraveller.com/discussion
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