Life and Money With Helaine

Dear Helaine: My husband's job requires he attend a number of conferences and workshops in his field. It's usually two to four times a year. Not going to these meetings is not an option, as it would certainly affect his merit reviews and, potentially, his employment.

His employer will not provide credit cards to purchase airline tickets in advance. They expect my husband to pay for any expense and then will reimburse him after he returns. My husband submits his request for reimbursement the first working day after his return. However, his employer can take six to 10 weeks to process the reimbursement. Inquiries seem to extend the time between the request and actual reimbursement.

My husband is currently waiting on reimbursement for two trips taken at his boss's request between six and eight weeks ago that rang up $2,789 on our card. Obviously, we can't pay off these credit card charges every month, so we're paying interest on these expenses. His employer says they aren't responsible. What can we do to reduce the impact of business travel expenses on our personal finances? -- Unhappy Travels

Dear Unhappy Travels: This is a tough question. Even in the states where the law requires employees be reimbursed for expenses like the ones your husband is racking up, there is no language in the statutes about what a reasonable time frame for repayment actually is. That being said, it is generally customary for companies to pay employee expenses, once they are submitted, within the next pay cycle or 30 days.

So where does this leave your spouse? First, can your husband ask if his company could make the arrangements, so he doesn't accrue expenses for the big-ticket items like flights, conference registration, hotels and the like? If they won't do that, in the short run, I'd suggest your husband attempt to minimize his expenses: buy tickets as far in advance as possible to save money on flights, stay at a lower-cost hotel and so on.

But I've got a bigger piece of advice: I think your husband might also consider starting a search for a new job. At the very least, this behavior demonstrates a lack of consideration for employees, and if these sorts of delays are common, it might also speak to bigger corporate financial problems.

(To ask Helaine a question, email her at

(EDITORS: For editorial questions, please contact Sue Roush at

More like Life and Money With Helaine