So, I’m most of the way through my trip — if the weather doesn’t interfere too much I’ll be home tonight. It’s kind of, as it were, up in the air, but luckily I’m staying with friends, not in a hotel, so if I need to extend my stay a day or two it’ll be ok. Wish me luck 🙂Anyway, I’ve mostly had a wonderful time; the conference went well, and I’ve also been seeing a succession of people I love. (I’m in New York, where I went to grad school and lived for eleven years, so there are a fair number of people to catch up with.)
But OMG I’ve completely lost track of where my money is at!
The problem is, since this is a work trip, I’m being reimbursed for meals and expenses like local travel (subway etc.) So my plan was to put all that stuff on my credit card. I also brought about $50 in cash to cover whatever else came up. But being here’s been like a return to the bad old days of having no idea what’s going on. (Don’t be alarmed; we’re talking about $100 or so at most here, it’s not a big deal, I’m just trying to look at this as a learning experience so that in the future I can figure out a better system.)
There just keep being situations I didn’t anticipate:
1) The easiest to handle: restaurants that forget you asked for separate checks. This has happened once in an easy way to handle; my friend and I split the bill and I took the receipt and will circle what I had and get a reimbursement. A bit of a pain but fine.
2) No separate check, four people out to dinner and one of them forgot her wallet. For long and complex reasons, what ended up happening here is that one person put in cash, and two of us split the bill on our cards, and then split the cash from L (and covered the walletless friend’s meal since she got married and had a birthday recently, so we were all, don’t pay us back, please.) Again, I took the receipt, and I’ll get compensated for the meal I actually had, but I have more $$ on my card than that and I got some random amount of cash that I didn’t actually look at the amount for.
3) I’m staying with friends in lieu of a hotel. I bought them pastries as a host gift. I seriously considered submitting the bill for that to work (since it’s $30 vs the $1000 I would have spent on a hotel) but I don’t actually think that’s copacetic so I’m just going to pay the $30 myself.
4) Another no separate checks situation: out to dinner with a friend and I ended up putting the whole thing on my card and when I told her how much to give me I forgot to calculate the tip into it, so I got, again, some random amount of cash, paid more than I’ll get reimbursed for, and now I’ve spent the cash on…something? I’ve bought a gift and a book and paid cash for those, and —
5) I also have paid cash for a few things I’ll be reimbursed for — coffees or meals or tolls that are so cheap it feels silly to break out the credit card, but I did get receipts so will get a reimbursement for them.
6) A few men friends have insisted on buying me food/coffee, even though I explained it would be reimbursed if I paid for myself and really, I have a real job and everything (women do not seem compelled to do this, but some men are quite insistent) and I gave up and let them, but insisted on putting in some random amount for tip and to defray the cost, so most of the cash I had/received has ended up leaving my wallet without my having much idea where exactly it went.
The upshot of all of this is that tracking business and personal expenses simultaneously is hard when you’re going out to dinner with a lot of people and can’t reliably get separate checks 🙂
What I’m going to do this time is add up my credit card bill, add up my reimbursements I actually turn in, subtract one from the other, and pay the remnant from my travel fund. Like I say, I don’t expect it to be much more than $100 when all’s said and done, maybe less. But I need to think more about how to handle this stuff in the future because I’m absolutely sure all these situations will come up again when I’m doing these half business half pleasure trips. Ideas welcome!
[ETA: After I finished this, I went for a walk and realized that this is one big reason why I never had much idea of what was going on with my budget in NY. These were all pretty typical situations I was in a lot! I basically just took out cash when I was out of the last round, and when I had side income in cash, for example from occasionally babysitting, I didn’t keep track of it, just stuck it in my wallet until it was spent down. Granted if I’d really been focused I could have come up with a system and spent less, but the half-cash half-credit card splitting-with-friends thing is actually quite difficult to handle. Maybe next time I travel I’ll operate only in cash so that I’m never splitting a bill via credit card.]