I'm over my head....

I just pulled the receipts for all the personal purchases for my FRC and FTC team this season. I was stunned when the bottom line was $993.99. :eek:

Our PO system is so cumbersome and slow that it takes over a month to process and get to vendors. i end up just saying @#$* it and buying it myself so we can get on and finish the build.

How are other mentors and coaches handling this or is this just a cost of doing business when running teams? I’ll eventually be reimbursed but it takes at least 120 days to get the reimbursement processed. How do other teams get large expenses through in a timely manner?

Yeah…I’m whining but I’m definitely due. My robotics widow just put the quash on any more spending! Am ready to not do this anymore after 7 years of this crap. :ahh:

Head mentor has a school credit card.

Sorry to hear of your troubles.
Everything is relative, but do understand that each person has their own contraints or financial strains.
Our team thinks money grows on trees.

I spent over $10,000 on my credit card this season.
We went through 4 iterations of our climber. v.1 was over $500 and all of the parts on it, we arent using for our final version.:frowning: Spare parts for a future season.:o

We also spend a ton on food as the mentors, volunteers and teachers help feed others at times also.

This is why I hate FRC also besides the strain it puts on my personal and family life.

Its nice though when kids and parents say thank you…

School credit cards are not available to employees. I need a beer!:eek:

Lucky. Someone in our system went and used his card on gambling and vacations here. No more credit cards.

PO system is a huge struggle for our team. We raise all this money and then we have to jump through 10 hoops to use it. We’re looking into forming a booster club, or something.

That being said, I think all of our mentors contribute a little, but we don’t do as much as this thread is tossing around.

All our stuff comes from sponsors, vouchers, entry fees, parents (for food), or out of mentors’ pockets. So we either have extremely generous mentors, or we just don’t buy that much stuff (probably both).

I’ll quit whining…geez…I was thinking I was alone. I wonder if our team might be better off if we weren’t associated with a school and just did this through the Boys and Girls club or just formed our team and charged to play. It works for sports…why not for FRC?

Something to consider might be an “open PO”–I believe AM and VEX both support that. (cue Billfred) If the school will set it up, that may be the best option. (Essentially: The PO is set up so that items can be added at any time, by authorized persons, and balance due is paid on a regular basis.)

If you can work with someone in the school administration to set one up, and arrange to get proper approvals through in a timely manner (say <1 week), that may be the best route.

You’re definitely not alone in this - I think many teams do see it as a cost of doing business. The mentors on my team (and other teams that we are close to) put thousands on their credit cards over the course of the season for similar reasons as you - POs take too long when time is tight (although not as long as yours take) and they are inconvenient when you can just order yourself and then get reimbursed later.

In regards to being reimbursed, timelines vary from school to school for us. Some schools (who have secretaries that are on the ball) can get you a cheque the next day after you submit the receipts to them. Others can take a week or two. But 120 days is crazy!

You might need to have a discussion with your school and/or school district about the unique needs of robotics programs and how their finances don’t necessarily fit into the standard template that most school teams would be in. We’ve had to do that a few times over the years and it has allowed for some processes to be streamlined. If they know that most of the purchases that sustain the program are coming from personal credit cards, perhaps they would be willing expedite the process given the circumstances. But you’ll probably have to find the right person, high up enough in the organization, to make that happen.

Open POs are verboten by our Finance Department. Even POs “not to exceed” are forbidden. Truly sucks…

I’ve already had “the conversation”. As a teacher, you’ve heard the answer…“it’s our policy”. haha…just more smoke up my posterior

We had some of that our first year or two, then we started a non profit (Cochise Robotics Association) to accept donations (501c3) and be able to buy stuff for teams. It mostly works…but for little stuff that I buy myself to save time, I don’t add it up, because I don’t want to know. Usually $100-200 for robot parts during build, then there’s the travel, wear and tear on my cars, gas money, food, etc.

School reimbursement can work, depending on the district, and how helpful the admin folks want to be. The time thing…if you can get approval ahead of time to spend money and not have all the details worked out before hand (“we’re going to spend up to $1000 on robot parts”, it’s very helpful. That may or may not be something you can do where you are.

Our school has specific rules about spending club funds, and also the source of the funds seems to put them into one of three different categories, each with it’s own rules.

That non profit thing is a lot of work, and requires several dedicated mentor/parent type folks to start it and keep it going. But it seems to be worth it, for us.

Haha I am in the same boat more or less about $4,600 on my credit card for purcheses for the mentors and kids.

Been there done that! As FRC mentor (not part of school system) done this for 5 years due to minimal support from school. Every few weeks we send all bills for reimbursement and money will come after a month. Then you misplace or forget some bills… For our school to place orders, the vendor must be pre-approved, with FRC components, we sourced from every available vendor.

I can’t speak for Vex, but yes, AndyMark does accept open POs from schools. :slight_smile: But since that’s not an option for the OP…

Only that much? Between shirts, hotels, and robot parts, I put thousands on my personal card over the years for 2815 and 4901. Fortunately, I had people in the office that would get reimbursements going for the things I kept receipts on quickly. My two suggestions:

  1. Make sure parents know what you’re up against. Not in some woe-is-me kind of deal, but in a “hey, so you know, if I get hit by a bus this could be a real problem” kind of way. Parents have this magical ability to make administrators do things they weren’t gonna do.
  2. Get a really good credit card, so your inevitable spend can be rewarded. I’m partial to Chase Sapphire myself, though I book so much travel and eat out so much that I really milk the bonus points there. Chase Freedom Unlimited would catch more robot parts categories though, and it has no annual fee. (Or, as the points transfer, do both. By my math, I can get at least 2.25% cash back when I redeem on travel. More like 4.5% on restaurants.)

We have one account which mentors and older students can get reimbursed with. However, most of our money is in a school account which requires us to get 3 quotes per product, order from a company under nys contract or get a sole source letter. And… Even after that is done we have to wait quite a bit of time for some parts to come. I’ve definitely spent my fair share of money on parts during crunch time. It’s not something I really love to do but I do enjoy what I spend the money on so I don’t mind it too much. Between robotics, gymnastics and work I don’t have time to spend the money any other way anyway.

Well it doesnt help that FIRST doesnt accept PO’s from public schools in Hawaii for registration!
What started with a payment process for a workaround in October, is still going on where we only paid for 2 of our 4 events so far.
FIRST finance wont budge either after multiple pleas from our schools and our Hawaii organizing committee.
Sorry, that’s a story for another thread!

Our first couple of years I spent several thousand dollars out of pocket more than 5 our first year, and I know because my wife totaled up the credit card statement and nailed it to the front door…This was mostly due to the fact that POs took over a month to fulfill and required the team to have a meeting with submitted minutes to purchase anything using a purchase order. How you run out to get zipties or a box of bolts at 10pm on a Sunday with a system like that I don’t know. A sit down with the wife and a threat of being fired as a husband made me seek out a different path. Our team formed a parent booster that is a non-profit. They handle all of the money.

I still buy things from time to time, but maybe a few hundred dollars over the entire season…Doughnuts and stuff…but when I do spend my own money the booster club complains…

I’m sorry you are going through this. I’ve been there…Hopefully your team can form a booster club or non-profit so that you don’t have to get to the point that I got to.

Best of luck to you and yours.


I won’t get snarky because this is a pretty decent thread so apologize in advance if it reads tersely. I would not ever go with a “woe is me” story to my parents. We get minimal parental support as it is. It consists of bring kids, pick up kids. I won’t ask for more…been there twice and done that twice. :slight_smile:

I’m debt free (until now) and just won’t use my credit card for anything more than emergencies, car rentals, ER visits, etc. where I can pay it off as it’s charged. It’s taken years to get to this point. It’s also taken seven years for me to get to the point where I’m going to have to make a hard decision whether to keep supporting this program or closing the doors.

It seems to me we all share a common thread…we’re floating the local costs of FRC. It won’t change here unless there’s a quantum paradigm shift. Has there ever been a dialogue with FIRST about this issue? Probably a stupid question but I’m willing to look very stupid to get things changed. I don’t know what I would want FIRST to do since this is a local issue. Any thoughts from long term mentors would help. As stated originally, I’m treading water and frankly my spouse has had enough of me paying for the privilege of supporting my team. Something’s gotta’ give.:ahh: :eek: :confused:

That’s major suckage. I guess I’ll quit whining about my impending spousal issues if I don’t find another way.:eek: