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Per Diem travelers, tips to save money, how much you "made" off per diem,ethics, etc.

Per Diem travelers, tips to save money, how much you "made" off per diem,ethics, etc.

Old May 8, 19, 9:10 am
  #1  
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Per Diem travelers, tips to save money, how much you "made" off per diem,ethics, etc.

I thought I'd start a thread for Per Diem travelers.

What are your best tricks for making money off of Per Diem?
Some of mine:
- Eat dinner at a grocery store (also much healthier)
- Choose fast casual restaurants
- Eat off happy hour menus

How much do you "make" off per diem each year? What do you do with that extra money?
I make between $900 and $1,300 per year off of my per diem savings, depending on the year. I put this toward travel excursions while I'm on work trips (such as visiting the zoo in San Diego when I was there for work recently) or toward my personal travel budget.

Also, what are some ethical considerations of Per Diem?
My organization, for example, has written into our policy that, if the hotel or conference provides meals, you must deduct those from your per diem. So, for example, if there is breakfast at the hotel, you have to mark in our system that you had breakfast provided and it deducts it from your per diem allowance for the day. The only exception is if the conference or hotel serves food you can't eat, then you can take the per diem and buy something you can.
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Old May 8, 19, 2:53 pm
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I sometimes buy prepared meals (hot and cold) from a nearby grocery chain and bring it back to the hotel to eat. Cheaper than a restaurant. If my hotel room has a mini-kitchen with fridge and microwave, then I might buy some groceries for the week.

Per Diem is meant to be just that - an "allowance"... so if you don't spend any of it, you get to keep it... nothing unethical about that.
But if corp policy overrides this, I will ignore it... I have yet to encounter this with clients or corps I've worked for though.

So what if someone buys you lunch? You have to deduct that too? Screw it.
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Old May 8, 19, 2:57 pm
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Many companies now offer free lunch and dinner to employees and guests. Reach out to an old friend who works at one of these companies in your destination city, and eat for free while simultaneously catching up on life.

I am pretty sure the Whole Foods hot buffet is the same price nationwide. It is a decent and healthy meal for $10-15.

Subway is everywhere and even cheaper.
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Old May 8, 19, 5:16 pm
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You're not counting your savings correctly. First, when you're on per diem you aren't spending what you might have spent at home. If your per diem is $50 and that happens to be exactly what you spent that day on the road you're still ahead because you didn't have to spend on meals at home. This can easily exceed whatever savings you get from spending less than $50 that day on the road. Second, you would have had to buy those at-home meals with after-tax dollars. When you consider these savings, you might scrimp a bit less and treat yourself a bit better when you're on the road.
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Old May 8, 19, 5:25 pm
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I've seen staff members (with too much time on their hands) go through travel schedules to verify whether meals were served on flights.

Is happy hour in a hotel or airport lounge considered to be dinner?
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Old May 8, 19, 6:13 pm
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In a true per diem system, you are allocated a specific sum per day (or perhaps half day) and it is yours to spend or not as you wish. Many businesses use this system because it costs them a lot less to process as there are no receipts for meals. You are free to stick a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly in your bag and live of that if you wish.

If your employer has policy limitations, then you have to ask whether it is worth risking a job on petty fraud. Whether the employer's policy is a good one is not material to the question of whether it's worth the job.
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Old May 8, 19, 7:10 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
I've seen staff members (with too much time on their hands) go through travel schedules to verify whether meals were served on flights.

Is happy hour in a hotel or airport lounge considered to be dinner?
And how do they prove that you ate a meal on the flight? Maybe you weren't hungry? Maybe you were allergic to most of the food and decided not to eat? Maybe they ran out of food or the specific dish/food you wanted? etc. etc. etc. What about lounge access prior to the flight? Maybe you did or didn't eat some food there first? etc. etc. etc.

Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
In a true per diem system, you are allocated a specific sum per day (or perhaps half day) and it is yours to spend or not as you wish. Many businesses use this system because it costs them a lot less to process as there are no receipts for meals. You are free to stick a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly in your bag and live of that if you wish.

If your employer has policy limitations, then you have to ask whether it is worth risking a job on petty fraud. Whether the employer's policy is a good one is not material to the question of whether it's worth the job.
Exactly. Not worth working for companies with dumbass policies.
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Old May 9, 19, 6:44 am
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Why stop there? If you really want to make money eat at a food bank or soup kitchen. 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.
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Old May 9, 19, 7:40 am
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Originally Posted by Badenoch View Post
If you have an accommodation per diem find a homeless shelter. You'll save a fortune.
Brilliant! I'll get on that, STAT!
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Old May 9, 19, 7:45 am
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Originally Posted by Badenoch View Post
Why stop there? If you really want to make money eat at a food bank or soup kitchen. 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.
My attitude is the same as yours, but I end up paying for some stuff myself on business trips. It's the worst of both worlds when meal per diems are applied to each meal individually with reimbursement capped by that amount but based on actual expenses, receipts required.
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Old May 9, 19, 8:02 am
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Originally Posted by Badenoch View Post
Why stop there? If you really want to make money eat at a food bank or soup kitchen. 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.
Your last sentence is the reason why many companies don't allow for a per diem for lodging. I have heard of instances in the past where employees stayed at very low cost motels to conserve their per diem but put themselves at risk due to location or hotel quality.

The group for which I am responsible has a per diem policy that requires an employee on per diem to be on expense, with meal receipts, for any day where a meal is bought for them. Our accounting department considers claiming per diem when someone else buys a meal double dipping and a violation of our ethics policy.
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Old May 9, 19, 10:05 am
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Uncle Sam does so many things so poorly, but this is one where I think he's got it right.

The hotel portion of the per diem is a location-based max: you are reimbursed what you spent, up to that amount. You're welcome to spend more out of pocket, but you can't keep the difference if you spend less.

The meals portion of the per diem is also location-based, but it's a flat payment; whether you eat peanut butter from the jar or go to a Michelin-starred restaurant, you get whatever the local rate is. The only time it gets messed with is if a meal is separately paid by Uncle Sam, e.g. if a conference fee included lunch, you don't get to keep the lunch part of that day's per diem. Free hotel breakfast and airline meals don't count.

There's a reason so many cheapskate civil servants love Residence Inns--free semi-edible breakfast, some dinner-ish food a couple nights a week and a fridge to fill with beer and other dinner supplies means it's easy to spend $15 a day on food and keep the rest if you're so inclined.

I was never that cheap, but I liked making my own dinner for another reason--it makes it easier not to get fat(ter)
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Old May 9, 19, 10:13 am
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The one and only company I worked for that had one had me "entertaining" a lot, because that was not part of your per diem budget.
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Old May 9, 19, 11:46 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
I've seen staff members (with too much time on their hands) go through travel schedules to verify whether meals were served on flights.

Is happy hour in a hotel or airport lounge considered to be dinner?
I don't count happy hours or lounges as dinner or lunch.
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Old May 9, 19, 11:47 am
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Originally Posted by HomerJ View Post
The one and only company I worked for that had one had me "entertaining" a lot, because that was not part of your per diem budget.
Ha! Yep! I've had colleagues at other organizations, who are also on per diem, ask to check the bill and, if it's lower than their per diem, they want to pay for it themselves so they get the per diem.
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