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The fees you put on your company card can feel quite harmless. New desk chair, weekly lunch with colleagues, renovated office space; all of this falls harmlessly within the confines of every business owner. If this doesn’t eat away at anyone’s income, what’s the problem with spending a corporate credit card from time to time?
There is nothing wrong with business expenses and no one is proposing that entrepreneurs stop spending money. Unfortunately, the need to spend often gives way to spending that is not so harmless or innocent. The opportunity to make purchases at work that you would not do on Sunday with your family is exactly how so many business owners find themselves in the throes of financial infidelity.
Unlike traditional infidelity, financial appearance can be distorted, manipulated and ignored, even when it happens in broad daylight. However, the consequences of fraudulent business expenses can damage trust and relationships irreparable.
Be honest with your partner
It’s not a terrible idea to separate your working life from your home life. After all, no one wants to bring their problems home to scatter them on the kitchen table.
This way of thinking, although healthy in one respect, can turn small white lies into catastrophic financial problems. When a company finds itself in a difficult time, the proud entrepreneur chooses to keep this information secret. In an attempt to solve the problem quickly and quietly, he or she decides to use the family home and get some cash flow. The plan was to never steal from her husband, but that’s exactly what happened. If the company goes up, the family is on a spending hook they never knew.
Year after year, finances are one of the leading reasons for divorce. It is natural for couples to disagree about saving and spending, but it is a big problem when these disagreements are combined with dishonesty. When undisclosed business debt plays a role in this conflict, things get really sticky.
If the costs of the company are accumulating and you feel willing to keep this information from your husband, it is good to be lenient. Even if you maintain separate bank accounts, your financial life is very intertwined.
Related: 5 rules for entering into personal debt as an entrepreneur
Be honest with yourself
Financial infidelity thrives on people’s best intentions. More often than not, secrecy comes from a place of concern.
A wife with a startup does not want to bother her husband, so she gets a small side loan without his knowledge.
The husband tries to court a new client with fancy dinners, but feels guilty about the cost and hides the credit card statement.
These events, especially when isolated, seem innocent enough. In some cases, they succeed and never come to light. Most of the time, however, a hidden expense turns into a dozen. You will soon be spending to cover the costs. By the time you clear up, the debt is out of control and has invaded your personal finances.
Most problem behaviors, from intrusive spending to gambling to substance abuse, are exacerbated by the constant lie that comes as a byproduct. Lying in most cases is a means of self-preservation. You don’t want to talk about dubious expenses in your company because it shows you in a less flattering light. Instead, it is easy to hide the problem and continue your habits, hoping that the situation will be resolved miraculously.
As the person in charge of the wallet, you need to see when business expenses may soon enter your personal life. You need to be honest with yourself when considering how company expenses can affect your spouse. If you choose the path of secrecy, it is a slippery slope that descends a long, long way.
Related: You suck at money, so never mix business and personal expenses
The amount invested back in your company is not always something you can control. Inventory, staff, transport – some costs are simply inevitable.
However, you can still create a cost philosophy that allows for prioritization. You can budget in a way that makes sense and, more importantly, allows you to be honest and transparent with your loved ones. For starters, you can make a list of your necessary and discretionary expenses. If you are not sure which category an expense belongs to, assume it is discretionary.
The budget will not only help you spend wisely, it will fight the thinking “all business expenses are good expenses”. Too many CEOs set out to use the company card as a demonstration of wealth and success, and this behavior is largely financial textbook infidelity. When it’s easier to spend money on a new standing desk at work than to get your kids to watch a movie, your priorities need to be rearranged.
Set boundaries. Take precautions. Don’t give in to desires when it obviously doesn’t work, especially if you know you’re prone to spending more than saving.
Very rarely will you hear someone in the twilight of their life want to spend less time with their family and more time ordering lunch at the office. The work may feel all-encompassing right now, but you have a commitment to your family and your future. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your spouse and don’t lose sight of the things in your life that make you really rich.
Related: 9 business costs that you can reduce or eliminate to save thousands