Carnegie Mellon University

Purchasing & Spending

Purchasing and spending money is part of managing finances as a student organization. The Authorized Signer is responsible for the overall purchasing for the student organization. The Authorized Signer may not be the individual that is planning events and initiatives for the organization, so it is very important that the Authorized Signer educate these members on the information, documentation, and receipts/invoices needed to pay for goods and services in a timely manner.


Defining Terms

When purchasing goods and services, you interact with suppliers, University entities, like the University Contracts Office, and more. Before you begin to spend or purchase prizes and gifts, you first need to understand the difference between goods and services, and their relationship to the suppliers.

  • Goods refer to physical and tangible items.
  • Services are when someone/something provides skills, support or labor. 
  • Suppliers are the vendor being used to fulfill a request for goods or services.
  • P-card (University credit card)
  • Payment Request (Purchase Order; cuts a check to the vendor). Any purchase ≥ $2999 must be paid via Payment Request (Purchase Order / check payment) and include a Purchasing Checklist & Bid Summary Form. Be sure to attach competing quotes from similar vendors. The bid checklist form helps to ensure that we are getting the most competitive pricing for goods/services.
  • On-Campus Purchase (On-campus vendor purchases, such as the Bookstore or Entropy)
  • JE Transfer (Electronic transfer of money between 2 on-campus accounts)
  • Expense Reimbursement (Out of pocket purchases, receipts submitted for reimbursement)
  • P-card (University credit card, for general services like rentals and printing (NOT professional services); must cost less than $2999; and a contract with University Contracts' approval is included with receipt)
  • Payment Request (Purchase Order; cuts a check to the vendor)
  • JE Transfer (Electronic transfer of money between 2 on-campus accounts)
  • On-Campus Purchase (On-campus vendors such as the Bookstore and Entropy)
  • Payroll (If the student has a position on campus, payment must be paid through Workday)

Important Note: You CANNOT reimburse for services. A contract is REQUIRED for services.

Special Types of Purchases & Spending

In addition to the everyday spending your organization does, you may want to utilize additional spending options, like making Amazon purchases, capital and travel purchases, external donations, and even purchases like hazmat/hazardous materials and prizes/gifts/awards.

You have the ability to make purchases through Amazon without a p-card meeting by filling out the Amazon Purchase Request form.
Orgs can request meal vouchers to give to members to use during meetings/events where they may not be able to meet together. Vouchers are loaded directly to recipient’s personal Uber account. Vouchers can be requested for a specific date, time, and dollar amount. Request UberEats meal vouchers here.

If you were allocated funds for a capital purchase from the Joint Funding Committee (JFC), you must go through the Student Body Vice President for Finance (SBVPF) to make the purchase. Please submit the JFC Capital Purchase FY21 form to obtain approval.

Capital purchases are not part of your JFC allocation but are housed in the JFC Capital budget. Generally speaking, capital purchases are used over a period of multiple fiscal years. You can access your budget to see what capital items your organization has been approved for.

For a donation to an external organization, send a completed payment request form to the SLICE Finance team. A member of SLICE’s Finance team will confirm the amount available to donate. JFC funds cannot be donated to external organizations.
Please visit SLICE's Making Travel Arrangements to learn more about the different types of travel purchases.
SLICE staff must be notified prior to making any hazardous material purchases even if you plan to buy out of pocket. It is strongly preferred that students avoid purchasing hazardous materials out of pocket. This can prevent the University from tracking the storage location for hazardous materials. SLICE partners with CMU’s Environmental Health & Safety department to ensure all hazmat purchases are shipped safely, accounted for in our ChemTracker software, and stored properly. This helps the University to maintain safety on campus. Students purchasing or using hazardous materials must complete the Student Affairs Hazmat Purchasing Training.

Hazardous materials include, but are not limited to: propane, epoxy, lighter fluid, acetone, aerosol sprays, paints and dyes, etc.

For questions about hazardous materials, please email SLICE.

More Purchases & Spending Options

prizes/gifts/awards

Please complete the P-card Appointment request to make an appointment to purchase any Prizes, Gifts, or Awards.  Appointments must be made one business day in advance.

  • All Prizes, Gifts, or Awards will require the names of the winners to be submitted to the SLICE office to ensure that there is no conflict of interest in how prizes and gifts are awarded. 
  • Any Prizes, Gifts, or Awards valued over $75 will require a tax form to be completed by the recipient to ensure that the recipient does not receive an amount that would be considered taxable income ($600 per calendar year).
  • Gift Cards and Cash of any value will require a tax form to be completed by the recipient so that if the recipient does receive taxable income, their information is available to report the taxable income.

raffles/drawings

Raffles: Under Pennsylvania state law, 50/50 raffles or raffles of any kind are prohibited without a license. Please contact SLICE prior to your event if you plan to give away prizes or awards. Specific documentation may be required to ensure that the University remains compliant with the IRS tax law.

Drawings: If all participants have an equal statistical chance of winning, a drawing, not a raffle, may potentially be permitted.  Orgs interested in doing a drawing should email SLICE to ensure that the drawing is compliant with University policy.

Working with Suppliers & Tax Forms

When possible, students should aim to use a supplier that the University has negotiated a Master Service Agreement. These suppliers already have pre-established rates and terms with Carnegie Mellon University. Additionally, students should consider utilizing small and disadvantaged suppliers

To inquire whether an international or U.S. suppliers are in the database to acquire a tax form, email the SLICE Finance team with as much detail as you can provide. If the vendor is not in the database, a SLICE staff member will assist you with the forms. A W-9 form is also needed when adding a US vendor or service provider to the university financial database.

It can take 2-4 weeks from the time supplier forms are submitted to establish a new supplier in the system. The 2-4 week timeframe allows the suppliers a sufficient amount of time to complete the forms and also allows Accounts Payable to verify tax information and banking information that is submitted before entering the supplier into our system.

If a supplier is already set up, they do not need to complete the supplier forms. To find out if a supplier is already established, please email the SLICE Finance team.

Contracts & Services

All services require a contract regardless of how payment is made. Even if you plan to pay another student for their services, like graphic design or tech assistance, you will need to utilize a contract. The reason a contract is required is to ensure that the terms and conditions of the transaction are clear and agreed upon by both parties. Students should NOT contact UCO directly. Please work with SLICE regarding any contract-related questions.

Contracts & the University Contracts Office (UCO)

Any service that is provided on campus or as part of any official Carnegie Mellon University-sponsored event must have an agreement that is signed and executed by an authorized university official. Students are not able to sign and execute agreements or contracts as representatives of the university, so it is imperative that you communicate with SLICE.

 

The contracts' process is lengthy, so any contracts to be signed by a university official must be advanced to SLICE at least 4–6 weeks in advance of your purchase. This 4-6 week timeframe gives SLICE and the University Contracts Office sufficient time to review the terms and conditions to make sure our students and the University are protected and that the terms are reasonable, fair and compliant with other University policies.
Paying another student for a service still requires a contract. If the student has had a position on-campus, they can be paid through Workday, instead of using a contract. Contact the SLICE Finance team to check to see if a student can be paid through Workday or if a contract is needed.
Services provided off-campus as part of a non-university sponsored event can have agreements that are signed by individual students, however, you should still work with SLICE to ensure that you are looking out for the best interest of your organization as represented in any written contract. Our office advises giving at least 3–4 weeks lead time to ensure timely payment arrangements. There are multiple departments involved with processing payments. The 3-4 week time frame allows SLICE and Accounts Payable sufficient time to get the payment approved and processed.
Many vendors have a Master Service Agreement (MSA) that might apply to your service. Working with an MSA supplier works to an organization’s advantage because Carnegie Mellon University already has pre-negotiated rates and terms with these suppliers. Also, they are already established in the system. This will save organizations time and money. The list of vendors with MSA’s on file can be found on the University Contracts website. Even if working with a vendor with MSA, the University Contracts Office must still review and sign off on the quote or estimate prior to payment.