A survey from AXA[1] reveals the cost of the little things needed to run a business often come as the biggest surprise, the insurer reminds owners to look again at their smaller expenses when finalising budgets for the new financial year.

SMEs find the cost of sundries, such as tea, coffee and sugar isn't always so sweet

Stationary, phone bills and postage all hit surprisingly hard on the bottom line

A third could be flushing money away by failing to shop around for basics like toilet roll

Salaries are the overall biggest expense followed by fuel, materials, stock and rent and rates

The research shows many small business owners underestimate the money needed for the little bits and pieces needed to keep going - with 13 per cent saying that sundries and miscellaneous items such as tea and toilet rolls are the biggest shock cost.

The amount of cash required for stationary and printer ink is the biggest surprise for a further 13 per cent of business owners, while nine per cent reel at the size of their phone bills and six percent are amazed by the money they spend on postage.

Yet almost a third of bosses (32 per cent) confess they don't always shop around to get best value for money, meaning many could be squandering thousands of pounds a year because they don't have time to check their smaller costs or simply don't realise the need.

Overall, salaries remain the biggest expense for a third of small businesses (33 per cent) followed by fuel (13 per cent) materials (12 per cent) stock (11 per cent) and rent and rates (10 per cent).

With many small business owners now looking ahead to the new financial year, AXA is taking the opportunity to remind SMEs to remember the basics when it comes to budgeting.

Darrell Sansom, managing director of AXA Business Insurance said: "Little things can cost a lot and even if you have the best of intentions for your business budget, it's amazing how quickly unexpected costs stack up and start biting into your profits.

"Of course we all know the importance of spending money wisely, and being too thrifty isn't always best - there are clear benefits to be gained from paying your people well, using quality materials and investing in the right premises, products and services to protect your business and help it grow for example.

"But what about the basic items that slowly drain your profit margin day in day out? Do you really need to flush away thousands on expensive toilet rolls or buy biscuits for every business meeting? Maybe you do - but there's a good chance that there's money to be saved somewhere.  Carefully monitoring and controlling all expenses is essential and reviewing costs and switching brands or suppliers on some of those seemingly small things could soon see the savings stack up."

[1] The survey of 297 small business owners across the UK was carried out for AXA Business Insurance by Taylor McKenzie Research and Marketing Ltd in January 2015