No matter which department you are working in on a film or television set you will more than likely have to deal with petty cash or expense reports. The key to both petty cash and expense reports, is to BE ORGANIZED!
Petty cash is usually issued to members of the production team, such as the production assistant, as well as the art department but is not reserved for just them. Petty cash is a float of money given to an individual to cover costs of the job.
Petty cash can be given in any denomination, in some cases when the money is gone you don’t get any more but it is more common to carry a float for the duration of a project and get it topped up as needed.
The following tips are very useful when it comes to dealing with:
- ALWAYS GET A RECEIPT! This is a difficult habit to get used to if you aren’t already doing it for your personal finances. Always be sure to ask for a receipt, if you are giving an individual a cash payment, be sure to get a signed, hand written receipt or an invoice from them.
- Always keep your petty cash separate from your personal money. I have a separate account attached to my bankcard and use it only for petty. I also use a cash bag for any cash or loose change I carry.
- Keep all of your petty cash receipts and money together. Don’t keep your petty cash and receipts in your wallet, an envelope and a cash bag, this is how things get lost, keep it all in one location. Have one method of organization and stick to it.
- Don’t lose your money or receipts. The last thing you want is to be missing money, if you can’t account for it then it is going to come out of your pocket. If you have the time it is a good idea to jot down each purchase you make or input them into your phone as I do. There are also envelopes with grids on the back that you can write each of your purchases into.
- Make copies! Scan or photo copy all of your receipts for your own records. If you hand over your receipts and someone misplaces them then it is good to have a backup plan.
If you are on a longer show then it is likely you will need to get topped up on your petty cash. Keep an eye on the schedule, you should be able to plan for more expensive days and get topped up ahead of time. You need to complete an expense report and submit it to your Production Manager (check out this fantastic book on amazon about PM’ing!) for reimbursement. Your production manager will more than likely have a template that they prefer you to use. The report is for you to input your receipts and add up the money you have spent.
Here are some things to consider when it comes to:
- Try to organize like purchases together. When you are sorting your receipts keep similar purchases together, such as all gas receipts, all prop receipts, all food receipts etc. This makes life easier for the accountant dealing with your expenses.
- Hand over your remaining money. If you are not being reimbursed than you just need to fill in the expense report and give back any remaining petty cash you might have.
- Organize your receipts. Tape your receipts to blank pieces of paper in the same order that you have put them into your expense report and number them so they coincide with the report. You can either hand the receipts in with your report or scan them and email them to your production manager. Having a scanned copy for your own records is a smart choice.
- Personal Expenses. Expense reports can also be done for personal money that you had to spend in order to do your job. It works the exact same way except, the money you receive is a personal reimbursement instead of a petty cash one.
You need to be as organized as possible when it comes to petty cash, especially if you are given a large amount. I have had floats as large as $3000.00 and it can be very difficult to keep it all sorted in my brain. Write everything down and make yourself reminders. It is never fun at the end of a show to be left owing money to the production. Always ask for a receipt and keep everything together in one envelope. Figure out a system that works for you.
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