I was prepping my taxes this weekend (last minute much?) when I noticed something about my expenses. (Aside from the fact that it was a holy mess of receipts and barely legible notations.)

It had to do with food and brainpower.

Quite often, I have people get in touch with me looking to meet up and chat. The conversation usually starts with the phrase “I’d love to get together and pick your brain” or “Can we meet for lunch? I’d love to get your opinion on something.”

I always jump at the chance to meet with anyone who reaches out to me. I’m flattered and I’m honored to be a part of their lives. It is one of my most favorite things to do, quite frankly. I love collaborating, giving advice or even offering a unique perspective on a project.

What I discovered through the process of tax preparation is that more often than not, I end up paying the price for these meetings. And I mean that quite literally.

If you care to Google it, you’ll find no shortage of articles, blog posts and podcasts devoted to the discussion of why your personal time is valuable and how you should avoid the “pick your brain” meetings. Many advocate charging for your time and intellectual property. I, personally, have a hard time with that philosophy. I believe in sharing your knowledge with others as often as you can.

What I recently discovered, however, (thanks to my good ole IRS preparation) is that I usually end up paying double – both with time and with money. I was shocked at how much money I spend each year doing favors. No lie… I have at least $450 worth of expenses where someone asked me to out to a meeting to solve a problem for them as a favor and then never even picked up my coffee or lunch. (Some were even complete strangers who were referred by friends.)

Ugh. I had no idea it was that bad.

One would assume that if you ask someone out to a lunch meeting in order to “pick their brain” aka get advice or council on a project, you would at least offer to pick up the tab. And coffee meetings? What is an hour of someone’s time as compared to a two dollar cup of java?

I was always shocked when the bill came and they didn’t attempt to pay. Until now, I didn’t realize how many times it happened.

Now, I’m sure all of those folks were appreciative. No doubt. And as I said, I truly enjoy meetings of that nature. But I I’m thinking twice about my time and money this year. And I’ll be much more aware and courteous of how I use other people’s time as well.

Have you ever had this experience? What did you do?