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How to Cope When Your Co-Workers Are Making You Broke

Empty pattered wallet held open
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One of the most important aspects of your career is forming good relationships with your co-workers. You want to feel like you can go to a team member to discuss problems you’re having with a project, and you need to have a solid network of other professionals for whatever the future holds. But sometimes the time you spend creating these relationships places you under financial strain.

If you’ve found yourself spending more money than you can afford on lunches, happy hours, and all other office events, then you need to have a strategy for saving yourself money without burning any bridges.

Learn to say no.

The first step is learning that you can decline invitations to spend money. As an adult, you have the right to say no. If you’re constantly being asked to go to lunches, on coffee runs, or to chip in for something that you really don’t have to help with, then say no. You don’t have any obligations to spend money you aren’t comfortable spending.

My team likes to go to lunch together once a week and typically a happy hour every now and then. I eventually realized I was spending too much money eating out so I started turning down the invitations. Of course, I was polite when saying no, but I didn’t let the peer pressure sway my decision. I had to put my financial needs above the desires of my team, and I’m glad I did.

Explain your reasons.

It’s important to explain yourself when you say no to these invitations. You don’t need to go into detail about why you don’t want to spend money, but you should explain that you are making an effort to be more conscious with your spending. If you don’t provide some kind of explanation then your co-workers might assume you don’t like them or even just think you’re being a bitch. You won’t feel so great if that happens, not even if you have a full wallet.

When I started saying no to team lunch, I also explained I was trying to be more aware of my spending habits and following a meal plan that didn’t account for eating out all the time. My co-workers weren’t happy I was skipping out, but they respected the fact I wanted and needed to be more of a cheapskate. The simple act of explaining my reasons saved my working relationships.

Offer alternatives.

Instead of saying no every single time, try offering an alternative to the invitation. If your co-workers want to go out for lunch three times a week then suggest everyone bring their lunch one of those days to sit outside to eat together. This allows you to save money and still spend that important time connecting with your peers.

I didn’t want to spend money eating out all the time, but I also didn’t want to miss the opportunity to bond with my teammates. My solution was to suggest everyone bring their lunch on a certain day and eat together in the office lobby. This saved money, kept me on my meal plan, and also gave us all a chance to talk about things other than work. My co-workers and I actually look forward to these lunches. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Set limits.

A good way to reduce your spending and continue to be involved in the office’s social events is to set limits on how much money you spend on it each week. You can set limits to how many times you eat out a week and to how much money you spend at restaurants.

For instance, set a $10 max on work lunches (not counting tip) so you don’t buy more food than you need and waste money. You can also make the rule that you’ll only eat out one lunch a week, so you can have an excuse to miss the lunches that aren’t worth it and save it for the good ones.

Of course there are days when I really want to join the team because it’s someone’s birthday, the restaurant is really good, or I simply didn’t have any food to bring from home.

To create some wiggle room I allow myself one meal out a week. I can use it for team lunch or a dinner out with my friends, but there’s only one per week so it helps me prioritize between girls’ night and just eating at my favorite hibachi grill. This rule is extremely helpful because it keeps my spending in check and prevents me from eating calorie-laden restaurant portions that I don’t need.

Follow Terra on Instagram: @terrabrown3

Last modified on January 6th, 2017

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