Chatting About Work Trips and Expense Guilt

mad men laMike: Meaghan! I am leaving this site in your hands again while I go away for work.

Meaghan: Oh my god. No you are leaving it in Ester’s hands. Ha.

Mike: It’ll be in everyone’s hands. Teamwork! Originally I thought I might do a post about all the money I’ll be spending while I’m away, but I realized that most of it will be paid for, because: the ability to expense things.

Meaghan: Expenses are the best thing about work trips. But also very fraught. Or in the hands of people like us, very fraught. EXPENSE GUILT!

Mike: Oh totally. I am bad about expensing things—or maybe I feel bad about expensing things. For example, I will be taking public transportation to the airport even though I can just hail a cab or order an Uber and expense it.

Meaghan: Okay I get the idea of not wanting to waste money just because it isn’t yours — even though that is very fun sometimes — but taking public transportation is too far, Mike! You’re working. If it weren’t for this trip, you wouldn’t have to get on a plane. So it should be as comfortable as possible.

Mike: Hah, yes, I totally understand the reasoning, and I am sure everyone who is going on this work trip will be calling cabs and not even thinking twice about it. I think this says something about me as a person who views money in a specific way. I am not a person of excess! So even if I were someone who made a million dollars a year, I would still be taking public transportation.

Meaghan: I get that. Even if there is a lot of money to be spent, it’s finite, and waste is waste. I guess where we differ is I get so stressed about traveling that I think it’s worthwhile to spend money on a car to the airport. What about other expenses? Do you feel bad when you turn in your receipts? Would you maybe order one more drink if YOU were paying for it vs. the company? Which is basically the opposite of how other people handle it.

Mike: I don’t feel bad about it when there are other people involved. So say, if I were sharing a cab, I would be like, “Oh, we’ll expense it.” Or if we’re out for drinks or dinner during this trip and I get the bill, I’ll just be like, “No problem, I’ll expense it.” I think my issue is when the expense is an individual cost. Maybe it’s because if I am the only person benefitting, I feel the need to pay for it out of pocket.

Meaghan: Yeah, when it’s a group trip I feel like it’s much easier. I’ve been on trips where I am the only person going to a city to represent the company, and I basically selectively turn in receipts. Maybe I will expense one meal or something. I figure I have to eat anyway, whether I am on this trip or not… which is stupid. I really doubt anyone is judging my expenses. I guess it’s relative to where you are working, too. Like, how much money they have.

Mike: I really do need to view it as, “I would not be here eating at this restaurant if it were not for this work trip.”

Meaghan: Yes, you would be eating a sandwich you made at home, at your desk. Not a $12.99 airport burger.

Mike: In my personal life, I am also the kind of person who refuses to spend any money at the airport! Not if I can help it anyway.

Meaghan: Do you pack snacks? Omg. Do you bring a water bottle to fill up? They have those fountains now with the count of how many water bottles they’ve saved, I loove them.

Mike: Hah, I do pack snacks. Or I just starve. Or go thirsty.

Meaghan: You are so stubborn! I usually buy a magazine and snacks. And it’s like $18 somehow. Again, anxiety soothing.

Mike: Like, sometimes I’ll go into one of those airport stores and pick up a bottle of water and then see $4 and am like: NOPE.

Meaghan: Ha, yes. Where you are like, stumbling around with your luggage, thirsty and rushed and knocking things off with a backpack and you pick up a $5 Kind bar and want to fall to the ground and cry. The difference I guess is I buy the KIND bar.

Mike: This does sound like a very SPECIFIC story. But also, if I am traveling with other people, I’ll be like, “Oh do you need anything? Let’s get things.” I guess I care about other people being comfortable and not for my own benefit. Like if I were to have a kid, I’d buy my kid a $4 bottle of water and not be the dad who says, “I am not paying for that—you will wait until we get on the plane.” Maybe I hate myself. Is this a breakthrough.

Meaghan: Lol. No, it makes sense. But you need to think of yourself as your own best friend. You must take care of yourself first so you can better take care of others. This is like a mom mantra. You have mom tendencies. Ha!

Mike: Just wait until you’re in a car with me, and I put out my arm to protect you when we have to make a sudden stop.

Meaghan: You mean when we are on the bus you made us take to the airport?

Mike: Lol, yes. But I’ll expense it!

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