We looked at millions of expenses from our aggregated, anonymized, direct customer data from December of last year to identify trends in unauthorized (as in, out-of-policy) spend being submitted for reimbursement during the holiday season. Below are our findings.
According to the National Retail Federation, spending on gifts is expected to surpass $730B this year, an all-time high. So it’s no surprise that it was also the biggest area of unauthorized spend last year. In fact, our AI identified over $783,000 of out-of-policy gifts, which is nearly 9x the monthly average of out-of-policy gift spend we caught the rest of the year. In contrast, the approved gift spend in December was $134,000.
According to the Deloitte 2019 holiday retail survey, holiday shoppers are spending significantly more on experiences, including socializing with family and friends. This trend is consistent with our data on unauthorized business meals, which in December of last year spiked to $52M, which is 7x higher than the monthly average of the rest of the year.
Americans double their drinking during the holidays, according to BeverageDaily. Even more dramatically, we saw unauthorized alcohol spending in December of last year quintuple from the average for the rest of the months. These aren’t small expenses, either. The average incident of unauthorized alcohol spend was $573, which is 6x the monthly average of unauthorized alcohol spend during the rest of the year, and 12x the amount of authorized alcohol spend in December.
According to a Consumer Report survey, 60 percent of Americans tipped their service providers during the holidays last year, averaging $45 per person. While the holidays are certainly an appropriate time to show your appreciation, unauthorized gratuities in December of last year was a whopping 109x higher than the monthly average of unauthorized gratuity spend.
While we don’t recommend extinguishing the atmosphere of holiday cheer with a strict expense policy this season (there’s certainly a benefit to rewarding employees and adopting expense policies to recognize their hard work), there’s a limit to reasonable expenses on the company dime. AppZen gives you 100 percent visibility into your expenses and flags unauthorized, out-of-policy spend to your attention, so even your finance team can relax and enjoy the holiday season.