You have $500 to spend on anything and then get reimbursed for it. What would you buy?

Personal finance

My manager surprised me this week with a team recognition award that comes with a $500 “cash” award.

The catch is that the mechanics of the award are a bit unusual: rather than getting $500 as part of my next paycheck or receiving some sort of gift certificate, what I have to do is buy something (or some things) and then file an expense report with receipts to get $500 reimbursed.

The good thing about this, I’m told, is that this avoids payroll taxes. On the other hand, it also means I have to actually buy something.

Being the inefficient decision maker that I am when it comes to actually spending money on myself, the most pragmatic thing I’ve come up with is to purchase a Visa gift card at Safeway for $500 and pay the processing fee ($5?) so that I can spend the money at my leisure and wherever I’d like. (Or at least spend it at a more leisurely pace than if I had to buy something for $500 in the next month and half. I understand most these gift cards come with other hidden fees depending on when and how you use them. Er, if anyone has advice on which gift card with the best trade offs between flexibility of use and fees, let me know.)

The award certificate clearly states that I’m free to expense $500 for whatever I’d like, but obviously, my manager and Accounts Payable will get to see what I buy when approving my expense report. Not that I’d buy anything that weird, of course.

What would you buy?


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17 Feedbacks on "You have $500 to spend on anything and then get reimbursed for it. What would you buy?"


This week I would get car maintenance. I could use a replacement battery, windshield wipers, pretty much all the fluids, and possibly some new tires. It might not quite add up to $500, but it would be something that needs done.

New Reader

If it’d be completely fun money, I’d buy a plane ticket to either LA or Chicago, and get a Palm TX, probably from ebay.


That’s an interesting way of giving an award, but I guess it works out for everyone involved. (Is it legal to give an award in this manner, i.e. no one paying taxes? Or will you still have to pay taxes on your end, just not the company?)

The Safeway idea is a good one, because it is something you would have spent money on anyway.

I would buy a computer because mine is almost 5 years old. Other than that, I have no major expenses looming. So I would do something similar.


Hmm. I don’t know the answer to the tax question. Maybe I’ll ask “Don’t Mess with Taxes” and see what her take is.


Well, I personally would look at that kind of reward as exclusively fun money. I have a rubberstamping hobby and always can use supplies/goodies for that so that would be one option but must admit that $500 in clothes would be really nice too. Do you have all you need in your professional wardrobe? It’s like a mini What Not to Wear spree…



True, but reality is that I work in CA and Silicon Valley, and no one dresses up where I work :)

Angie Hartford

I would buy groceries, then put $450 from my grocery budget into savings, and spend $50 on doing something fun with my family.


Groceries? That’s no fun. I guarantee you’ll never get a “bonus” like that if that’s the kind story you tell them ;)

A meal at the French Laundry! Might even have enough for two.


Actually, my reference to Safeway was as a place to buy Visa gift cards, not a place to spend $500 on groceries. But it turns out it’s not a viable option for gift cards above $100 anyway.

To buy a Visa gift card, it seems you either have to go in person to a national chain bank (who will only sell you a gift card if you have an account there, and since we use a credit union, it’s not an option for us), over the internet (pay a fee + shipping costs), or go to a Safeway (and just pay a $5.99 fee). However, it turns out the $5.99 fee is per card, and the highest denomination sold at my Safeway was $100, making the whole thing not worth while. (Who wants to buy 5 gift cards and lose $30 in the process?)

In the end I just bought a series of golf lessons and went to the salon. I’ve submitted them for reimbursement, so hopefully it’ll all be resolved soon enough.

Personal Loans

I agree it is a free money for spending – vacation or some kind.
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