I recently traveled to Brazil and Mexico for work. That’s damn cool, I admit. I’m lucky to have that opportunity, grateful to meet so many wonderful people on my journeys and see so many awesome sights.
But, as with many things in life, there’s also a downside. In this case, I am owed thousands of dollars in hotel, airfare, meal charges, etc., so—of course—I need to file an expense report. And doing that in three different currencies is no fun, no fun at all.
Procrastinating this effort even further, I just wrote up a blog entry on my company’s internal blog system, but then I realized… heck, maybe others could benefit from my tips. So without further ado, here they are 😀
- Sweat the small stuff. “Oh, it’s just a $4 coffee and energy bar!” er, it all adds up, trust me! Keep track of this. Along these lines, don’t forget to take into account (and expense) ATM surcharges, reasonable tips (which may not show up on your receipt), etc.
- Put as much stuff as you can credit cards. On the downside, this’ll likely result in an extra 1-3% fee when you are outside your home country, but… you’ll often get extra protections (such as lost luggage assistance, purchase protection, etc.) and as noted above you’ll have backup evidence of expenses in case any of your receipts are lost or stolen. It also gives you an extra 30-6o days to cover the bills (and get your money back from your company!), which is especially important if you’re on a tight personal budget!
- Write down a quick note after every expense, e.g., “Sat Sep 20 dinner, incl 2 colleagues, 1 partner $R152, on Amex.” Note the pertinent details here: the when, what event, who, how $much, and on what card (or “cash”). Add this to an “Expenses” note in your Blackberry or iPhone, or on a handy notecard in your wallet, etc. I can’t tell you how much I’m frustrated with myself for overlooking this to-do this trip; now I’m having to piece together, er, which was the dinner where I treated a friend (my expense) or took along a colleague (Google’s expense), etc. I’ll get it right, but it’ll take a lot of extra time.
- File your expenses in a timely manner. Wait too long and you might not even get your money! (there are actually tax laws about this!) But even waiting an “acceptable” amount of time… you forget stuff. Some receipts may have gotten misplaced in the interim. Don’t risk it.
- Be smart about currency values. If you’ve been somewhere that has a rapidly fluctuating currency, use reasonable conversion rates from the days you converted your native currency, using your credit card and ATM charges as a guide. Don’t just go on xe.com (admittedly a very cool currency exchange site) and plug in the single conversion number you see today; you could be substantially cheating your company or cheating yourself :-(.
Hope these tips have been helpful 😀