With a few easy tricks, business travelers in the right situation can turn per diem allowances into healthy bonuses, but just because company-provided travel funds can be used to help supplement income, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is always the most ethical of choices. FlyerTalk weighs in on the pros and cons of stretching a per diem for profit.
There are as many different travel policies as there are employers who require travel on the company dime. For some business travelers being frugal with a per diem can make nights away from home a bit more happy and much more healthy, but for others counting pennies will only help their employer’s bottom line and add unwelcome hassles while on the road.
The FlyerTalk member who first posed the question, “What are your best tricks for making money off of Per Diem?” says employing money-saving tricks creates an extra $900 to $1,300 in income annually. The frugal business traveler says eating meals from the grocery store rather than restaurants not only saves money, but allows for a healthier lifestyle. Choosing fast casual dining options or eating off happy hour menus, on the other hand, saves time and money but doesn’t include the same diet-friendly advantages.
Even this industrious employee confesses that turning per diem allowances into disposable income can be something of an ethical minefield – noting that company policy requires deducting any hotel-provided breakfasts from the claimed stipend. Exceptions for dietary restrictions, but not for other considerations, further muddies the waters.
One U.S. government employee suggested that the per diem allowance is just that and workers traveling for Uncle Sam are very much entitled to keep the change when using a per diem for travel expenses. This information led to yet another interesting tip for keeping meal expenses below budget: staying at extended-stay hotels where lunch and dinner are sometimes provided and kitchens and outdoor grills make preparing one’s own meals much easier and more cost-effective.
Other business travelers say that in their situations, any per diem money not spent is expected to remain in the company coffers. One business traveler said that the unnamed company went as far as auditing flights to see if meals were provided (and considered employees who still used the meal per diem guilty of double-dipping by making the business pay for the same meal twice).
Other travelers noted that the whole idea of pinching pennies while on company business is an unnecessary distraction. One experienced road warrior offered that grocery shopping and planning a menu while on company business might not be the most productive use of time and energy.
“Why stop there? If you really want to make money eat at a food bank or soup kitchen,” FlyerTalk member Badenoch wrote with a wink and a nod. “If you have an accommodation per diem find a homeless shelter. You’ll save a fortune. I’m there to do business not preoccupy myself with trivial matters like searching out cheap food. I don’t scrimp on food or room quality just so I can scam a few bucks on my per diem.”
What are the best ways to save some per diem cash as mad money? Is doing so ethical? Is it even worth it to deny oneself comforts while traveling in the hope of having a few extra bucks at the end of the year? These questions and more are being answered right now in the TravelBuzz forum.
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