I never understood why news stories about “found money”
have such strong appeal. A story about a
man who finds a paper sack with a large amount of cash, and who turns it in to
authorities isn’t news, is it? The money
didn’t belong to him, he notified the police.
That’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do with things of value that don’t belong
to you. I guess it has to do with a
sense of entitlement that people feel toward things. “I may not have earned it, but I certainly deserve
to have it” is an all too common mantra these days.
While on travel, I hear the phrase, “get whatever you
want, the company’s buying!” as if “the company” is a vast pit of undeclared
free money that’s just waiting to be found and claimed. The truth is, every penny the company earns
or spends on expenses is scrutinized by somebody, especially lately. Now, more than ever, is the time to be
careful and frugal on a business trip; especially if it’s your first business
On your first business trip, it is imperative that you
resist the temptation to stay in whatever hotel you want, eat whatever you
want, buy new clothes, ride in limousines, etc, all at the expense of your
company. That money is allocated to your
department and monitored by your boss.
If your peers travel, then someone in the management chain is comparing
your expenses to their expenses for business travel and trust me, that is a
list that you don’t want to be at the top of.
The key to making this work is the phrase, “Would I pay for
this if it were my personal trip?” The
hotels you book and the meals you eat are likely a bit different than the ones
you’d consider if an anonymous donor gave you an unlimited budget. Eat what you normally eat, stay where you’d
normally stay, be frugal with your incidentals, avoid expensing every little
cup of coffee, and you’ll be just fine.
Save all of your receipts, and make sure you keep the
itemized copy of your receipt as well.
It’s your first trip; you may not be 100% of which receipts will be
required at reporting time, so keep them all.
Even if you don’t have to turn them in, it’s a good idea to keep them,
and to file them in folders for each trip just in case you get audited. Auditors love receipts and you can use them
to show a pattern of spending behavior over time. When you do your expense reports, pay close
attention to exactly which receipts the system decided to make you turn in
(usually these are the bigger ones, hotel, rental car, etc). Obviously, those are the ones you want to be
sure to target in the future, and those are the ones you want to keep as small
Re-write the dates on your receipts, and circle the
correct total. Receipts are printed on
the cheapest paper made, with the cheapest ink available. The print will fade to blank in 6 months and
it will easily smear, fade, or otherwise become illegible within a week or
so. When it’s time to do your expense
report, having a larger, legible, hand written date (along with the printed
date being circled) will make things MUCH easier for you, your accountant, your
manager, auditors, and anyone else doing any reporting on business expenses. Highlight any non-business expenses on your
itemized receipts (hotel gift shop purchases, or alcoholic beverages in
restaurants, for example), and mark them as such. Be sure to exclude those from your report
you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc,
please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your
questions will be recorded and sent to him.
Many of Ken’s blogs come from your questions and observations, so don’t
hesitate to ask!