A “hidden cost” you may rarely consider when budgeting time comes around is that steady flow of purchasing related to office supplies, equipment and certain types of inexpensive electronics and furniture. As a company grows, and the number of employees who have credit cards grow with it, such supply purchases can quickly get out of control.

Here are some ways to start putting controls on your office supplies spending.

1. Control who can buy what by setting up a corporate account.

If you have over 20 employees (and sometimes, fewer), large office supply chains like Staples provide corporate accounts that include an online portal that can be used to control who can purchase items on behalf of the company. It can also limit the items that employees can purchase to a specific set of products. Another incentive: the products can sometimes have a discount off the retail prices available in-store or online. Amazon has a similar program called Amazon for Business.

If you still are able to purchase supplies from a small or local company (there are fewer-and-fewer these days), talk with them about their supply-control options. Sometimes you will discover they have relationships with wholesalers who can provide the same types of inventory management and online ordering systems. Sometimes, local and regional suppliers actually use large companies like Staples to handle fulfilment of orders on some or all of their inventory ordered online.

2. Buy in bulk.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

For items your company orders a lot, buy in bulk. It won’t make sense on items you rarely need, but if you are using lots of paper, for instance, look for savings through bulk purchases. (Or even better, use less paper.)

3. Buy generic

Avoid paying extra for the branded product. Generic or “house brands” are more likely to go on sale, too. Here’s a tip: Test the product in a small quantity before buying generic brands in bulk. You won’t want to be stuck with mass quantities of an inferior product!

4. Create a supply station.

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(Image from Flickr via Dan Machold)

By setting up a common work space with a full set of office tools and supplies and space to use them, you will keep from having to purchase redundant items.

5. Don’t wait until you run out.

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(Image via deviantart.com)

By purchasing ahead of time, you’ll be able to keep impulse buys at bay.