Wednesday, April 9, 2014

what to expense

Last week on ask a manager, someone asked about expensing asprin while on a business trip. They were insulted that the firm wanted to be repaid the $4 for the asprin.

All the organizations I've submitted expenses for (college and grad school research, work, travel under a grant) required a strict accounting for those expenses. And they all had a definite and short list of qualifying expenses. Over the counter medicine was out, unless you were stocking up for a large field job and you could justify a giant container of asprin as a health and safety item for the project.

It was interesting to read the comments on that post. Several people suggested that the mere fact that they were traveling meant that various items should be covered by the firm (dry cleaning, random inessentials like gum) since they were away from home. I had an oddly visceral reaction against this, and I think it's because I work so hard to be perceived as professional.

I travel for work. Because travel is an expected and necessary part of my job, I am prepared for it. Just like I had to buy whole separate outfits for office and fieldwork, at great aggravation and expense, I also bought a complete and separate set of toiletries, sunscreen, migraine meds, and other stuff that I know I'll need. Those things are dedicated to my travel bag so that I can just grab and go as needed.

If you travel for work, how much do you get away with (or try) for your expense reports? Am I just sucker for sticking only to the essentials?

1 comment:

greenlandgem said...

My opinion on this is a bit convoluted. For the specific example given of a packet of aspirin: would I expense it? Well, it depends.

If I am visiting another office for three days and expensing meals and travel and get a headache - no, I wouldn't expense it. If I am in Greenland for three months working sixteen hour days and have had colossal headaches from the stress and I am in the pharmacy for five minutes to buy a new first aid kit and sunscreen on the company card - heck yes, that aspirin goes on there.

I travel a fair bit and my boss is very easy with expenses so long as we keep it reasonable. Things I don't expense that I have seen others do include things like snacks. If it's mid-afternoon and I'm peckish and DANG that Kitkat looks good, that's on me. But if I'm in transit in a small regional airport and we've been delayed for three hours and I've not eaten since breakfast and the only food source is the junk kiosk, then yeah, I expense it.

I consider that I'm quite lucky to be in the position I'm in so I tend not to push it. My rule of thumb is, if I have any doubts over which card to use, I consciously stop and think, will I feel uncomfortable defending this expense if my boss queries it?