We show how series expansions of functions of bosonic number operators are naturally derived from finite-difference calculus. The scheme employs Newton series rather than Taylor series known from differential calculus, and also works in cases where the Taylor expansion fails. For a function of number operators, such an expansion is automatically normal ordered. Applied to the Holstein-Primakoff representation of spins, the scheme yields an exact series expansion with a finite number of terms and, in addition, allows for a systematic expansion of the spin operators that respects the spin commutation relations within a truncated part of the full Hilbert space. Furthermore, the Newton series expansion strongly facilitates the calculation of expectation values with respect to coherent states. As a third example, we show that factorial moments and factorial cumulants arising in the context of photon or electron counting are a natural consequence of Newton series expansions. Finally, we elucidate the connection between normal ordering, Taylor and Newton series by determining a corresponding integral transformation, which is related to the Mellin transform.