WWYD: Too Many Work Expenses At Once

In this installment of WWYD, a problem with expensing things at work:

I have a job I kind of like and with it comes frequent travel. We don’t have corporate credit cards, so travel comes out of our own pocket and then we are reimbursed after filing expense reports (I’ve asked if we could get corporate cards, and the response I got was “We had those once and it was a nightmare. No one used them properly.”). For some scope on the cost of the trips, I recently had to take two trips in a row and it cost me about $2,000. For people who make more than I do, this isn’t such a big deal (I guess), but I live in a big city, have some already high credit card bills I’m trying to pay off, plus student loans. Since I’ve had this job, I’ve been trying to throw all of my extra cash towards those debts. This means, at the end of the pay period, my checkbook is pretty low, but I feel good about myself for not getting into more debt.

My plan for these travel expenses at this point was to put them all on a credit card that I use solely for business travel, then apply my reimbursement check directly to that card as payment. Good deal, because this means I’m paying the card in full every month. The problem: This past week I was asked to take another trip. I haven’t yet been reimbursed for the other recent travel (the reimbursement is processing), which means that I cannot put this one on the credit card as it would put me over the credit limit. I have about $600 in cash in my checking/savings, but the $600 would not cover the cost of the trip, not to mention, I’d be flat broke at that point.

Today I had to tell my boss that I couldn’t afford the trip—he mentioned something about it being “embarrassing.” I assured him that it wasn’t embarrassing for me, as I don’t know a single one of my friends who would be able to float their job a $3,000 loan, but I agree, it does put me in a bind.

What on earth am I meant to do? I’m not financially at a point where I have tons of money socked away and even if I was, I don’t want to spend it on work travel (even if reimbursable). If I had an extra $3,000 I’d like to take an actual vacation, not keep it in limbo just in case I’m asked to travel again for work. How do other people handle these types of expenses? — A.

I can’t believe your boss described this situation as embarrassing. Did he not offer up any solutions? I hope he didn’t just say he found this predicament embarrassing and shrug his shoulders.

At one of my previous jobs, I was sometimes asked to travel or take clients out for dinner or drinks, and was told I could expense anything that was job-related as long as it was approved by our CFO. Like A.’s situation, we weren’t given a corporate credit card, so we charged these expenses on our own cards, and were reimbursed when we received our next paychecks. The more savvy of us put them on credit cards that offered rewards like cash back, or airline miles, but everyone appeared to have high enough credit limits that waiting for a reimbursement wouldn’t be a problem.

That didn’t mean there weren’t problems of course. The finance department had petty cash on hand in case someone needed money immediately (petty cash is usually a small sum of money a company has on hand to pay for expenses that don’t require a check, but our company also had money around for emergencies). Employees could also ask the finance department to expedite reimbursement checks so that they arrived much sooner. There are also instances where, for one reason or another, my boss would use his credit card to pay for something for me and would deal with the filing of expenses himself. My boss and I had a good working relationship, and if I explained to him that I couldn’t charge a trip on my own credit card, he’d simply pull out his own card and take care of it for me.

Perhaps I was in a luckier work situation, but if I couldn’t get my reimbursement check expedited, or if my boss didn’t offer his own credit card as a solution, I would call up my credit card company to ask for a credit limit increase. The credit limit increase is likely to be approved because you’ve shown that you are responsible by paying off your credit card every month. If for some reason that doesn’t work out, it should be up to your company to figure out how to make travel arrangements for you, not for you to worry about not having enough credit or savings to do your job.

 

Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.

 

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