I received the following email last week:
I was hoping you could throw this one out to the group of readers:
I’m a relatively frugal recent college grad, working hard to save as much as I can. I left my job at Bear Stearns in April and started a new position at a small but stable financial services firm last Wednesday. The analysts on my team frequently go out to lunch, and have been inviting me each time. I went with the group on my first day, and we all paid for our own meals. I viewed that expense as part of team building rather than as the cost of a meal which I would have otherwise brown-bagged, but I am not interested in spending money on lunch more than once a week or so, and when I do spend that money I’m not terribly interested in eating with work colleagues (my wife works nearby and when she’s not around I enjoy relaxing alone with a book and my food). What to do?
I think you have to ask yourself what you have to gain by eating with your colleagues. If you’re the new kid on the block, it may be a good idea to forge some relationships with your new colleagues. If the only way to do that is by eating lunch with them, then perhaps you should consider doing so once or twice a week. I definitely don’t think it is necessary to eat out with them every day.
Another way to build friendship with colleagues would be to go out to lunch with one or two of them at a time. People are more likely to talk if they’re not in a large group.
The main thing is to be careful that you don’t become the office loner.
Now it’s time for AFM readers to weigh in. What’s your advice for Jay? How do you balance frugality with camaraderie?