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Work Meal Expenses: Advice, please.

I freelance.

On the job, everyone gets catered breakfast & lunch & THE BEST SNACKS! However, my work requires a lot of prep days out in the world. I can expense lunch, sometimes a quick dinner if I’m up to my eyeballs & still in my workshop getting things ready. My assistants, too.

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Because I freelance & work for different productions, there is no industry standard on what the meal per~diem is (we are non~union) and it’s a question I never ask because I’m of the mind that lunch/occasional dinner should be fast & inexpensive. If I have the time to stop and eat~in for a half hour instead of eating while driving, I go to a pizza place or an inexpensive ethnic restaurant.

I never bill more than $10 per person for lunch, even when it means the tip comes out of my pocket. No one would ever flag a $7.00 sandwich/entree & a soft drink. And, no one ever has. If I have 5 prep days but was able to be home for lunch for all or some of them, I MAY bill a $40 dinner for me and one assistant at jobs end. No one has ever flagged that either. Our work is stressful & physical & they pretty much own us. Small mercies go a long way.

I’m doing my math problems to get an invoice out tonight for a job from 2 weeks ago. It was HUGE & I had to bring on 3 more assistants than usual. They are also freelancers. I brought one on who I delegated a big chunk of an even bigger chunk to & am paying her only a couple hundred less than my own day rate....which is 3 times a regular assistant day rate. Which I’m happy to do. She deserves it & does beautiful work for me. We have a great work history together & she considers me a mentor (which deeply moves me). I’ve taken her for her first winter clamming experience & we have bonded outside of work.

Here is the thing: Her lunch receipts are ....expensive. $35 per day average for her & another assistant. They are both vegetarians & I get that it costs more. I love her & would never deprive her or her assistant of a good working meal.

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However, in addition to the main dish, there are Cleanse beverages or smoothies that cost $7.00 x 2, desserts or chips that cost $4.00 x 2, ALL ON THE SAME RECIEPT!!! One receipt was $40 for 2 people for lunch. So, entree, beverage & dessert every day. I’m a bit gobsmacked by this. For reference, me & my first assistant eat lunch for an average of $15 per day FOR BOTH OF US.

I want your advice & expertise, GT. I have had some other “hard talks” with her about her work & what I need & expect from her and she has always been receptive to gentle guidance. I’ve also learned a great deal from her, as well.

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Here are the options I’m considering, all of which, except #1 and #5, include calling her to discuss, not confront, and say:

1) This is a not problem. According to the GT advice I just accept this as okay & say nothing. Move myself th’fuck along & learn something.

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2) This is a problem. I am going to slide it in to the invoice “as is” this time and see what happens. And ask her to be more mindful of beverages & desserts in the future. An entree is always fine, but limit the $7 beverages/$4 desserts to one OR the other.

3) This is a problem. I’m going to do some creative receipt making & slide it in as other expenses so we don’t get flagged for this & hold up payment for everyone. Please limit dessert OR beverage in the future.

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4) This is a problem FOR ME. Perhaps it has never been one for you, which is great. Please give me guidance on what you have billed in the past. I may need to update my thinking.

5) I won’t submit the receipts at all & take one for the team. Never say anything. I’m reluctant to make her feel anything at all about eating.

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6) Any other suggestions, GT?

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