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December 05, 2011

Adventures in Budgeting With The American Express Prepaid Card

*see disclosures at bottom of post*

image from i1137.photobucket.comMy new career blogging about technology began after I left full time employment in the field of technology consulting to focus on raising three wonderful boys. Blogging introduced me to an amazing social media community, not only online but also at meetups, conferences and social media events. Even though I had traveled plenty for business before having kids, I found traveling for my own business very different than traveling for an employer. It really started to add up. First a conference ticket, then a hotel and taxi. Add in food and a “must have” new pair of shoes, as well as other assorted travel expenses, and I seemed to always exceed my target for travel expenses. Like others who followed a passion that lead to a business, I too learned a little too late that when running your own company, budgeting is a must.

OK, maybe I did not need the new pair of shoes and a new outfit, but considering I spend most work days at home dressed in sweats, I like to spruce it up a bit for business conferences.

So instead of spending less - I increased the budget. This works for the trip - but when I return home reality takes over. I need better fiscal control.

Enter American Express Prepaid Card for my trip to BlogWorld LA and my first attempt to stay on budget.


Business Trip Tips Using The American Express Prepaid Card from Beth Blecherman on Vimeo.

For my trip to BlogWorld Los Angeles in November, I used the American Express prepaid card to manage my spending and pre-loaded it with, for the first time, only the amount in my budget. Because it is prepaid I could only spend the amount I loaded on the card.

As a first step, I estimated how much the hotel, airfare and travel expenses would cost for the trip. I even included funds for a new shirt. Next, I signed up for the American Express prepaid card a few weeks in advance so that I could load only the *budgeted* amount onto the card. Signing up for the card was easy, and although it took a few weeks to set up, I was happy that the validation steps were put in place to protect me. One feature that helped me manage my spending was not paying any fees: The American Express prepaid card has no annual, customer services, overdraft or transaction fees. No fees saves me money.

Before Blogworld, I used the American Express prepaid card to pay for airfare, register for an Expo pass and buy a new blue shirt.  Examining the card’s balance, I decided to close my eyes and walk past the beautiful new pair of shoes in the store window, wearing a pair from my closet instead. At Blogworld, I used the prepaid card for my hotel, meals, incidentals and taxis. Easily checking the balance online, I verified there was had enough left over to take a business associate out to lunch. Arriving home after Blogworld, trip complete and budget met, there were no remaining funds on the card. For the first time in a while, I had stuck to my budget.

Another neat feature of American Express prepaid card is that I can order up to three cards. if I hired a personal assistant, I can give that person a card to cover their business purchases. And when I hire a video editor (my son, he’s 12 years old and VERY talented, that is my unbiased opinion of course) - I can give him a card to buy new video editing software.  Because the card is prepaid, it would also protect me from any un-expected purchases my son may spontaneously decide to attempt (like a new video game or 2). He will need to wait for his birthday for that!

Disclosure: Travel Expenses for my trip to Blogworld were covered by (and on) The American Express Prepaid Card.


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