The company budget for recreational activities is limited, to say the least. There’s the annual holiday party and the yearly department lunch, but that’s literally where the buck stops.
But that’s not where your team stops socializing. In fact, you’ve never worked at a place where hanging out with colleagues was so standard—and fun. Unfortunately, as much as you’d like to join the crew for the standing Thursday happy hour or participate in the organization’s sporting events, it’s simply not realistic based on your own limited budget.
While honesty is typically the best policy, it’s understandable that you might be reluctant to be 100% truthful about your situation—though, to be sure, you have no reason to be embarrassed. After all, who knows if Jocelyn from IT is racking up credit card debt with each lunch invitation she accepts.
Still, assuming you’d rather not get into the nitty-gritty details of why you can’t afford to go out with the group, here are three pain-free options for declining:
1. Blame Your Absence on Another Commitment
People are busy. That’s going to come as a surprise to exactly no one. It’s natural that you’d want to spend time socializing with friends you don’t see every day.
Regardless if it’s a weekday lunch with folks from the marketing team or an invitation to check out Larry’s band playing at a bar with a $15 cover charge, you’re so sorry, you’d love to, but you’ve got something else going on. Maybe next time.
You don’t actually have to go into details about why you’re declining. Simply say:
“Ugh, my life is crazy right now! I’m bummed I can’t make it, but one of these days, I swear things are going to settle down…”
2. Suggest a (Cheaper) Alternative
If the thought of spending $10 on a single glass of wine has you perspiring, but you’re also experiencing FOMO, consider seeing if your team is up for splitting a bottle in the office kitchen or in a conference room. This way, you don’t seem anti-social, and you also save big bucks over time if this becomes a regular thing.
You might say this the next time the group starts making plans to go out:
“Oh, that place is always so crowded, and I have to get home for the dog, so I’d rather not venture too far. What if we grabbed a bottle or a six-pack and found a chill spot in the office to hang out for a bit? I should probably finish up a couple of things here anyway, and I know I won’t do that if I leave the building. Have a drink with me and then head out.”
3. Say You’re Focused on Your Saving
And that every little bit counts. Just as people understand that everyone’s busy, they also generally understand that financial situations vary by a great degree. You don’t have to get into your mounting bills, nor do you have to discuss the finer points of your student loan debt or the fact that, at this stage in time, you’ve allotted just $75 toward recreational use each month, and you’ve already spent $63.50 with a week to go.
Keep it casual:
“I’ve been wanting to try that Korean spot too! But, sadly, I’ll have to pass. I’m making an effort to bring my lunch so I can be more spend-y elsewhere. Can’t wait to get the full report though!”
A caveat though: If you actually do want to join in on the fun with your co-workers, consider putting aside enough for one lunch or one drink out every other month, so you don’t always say no, and you don’t run the risk of becoming a social hermit.
Most of us, if we really try, can scrounge up a few extra dollars here or there by cutting something else out.
Do you, for example, have a strong sense of the little ways your daily spending habits might be costing you? Here are seven to be aware of. If your relationships with your colleagues matter to you (and you’re tired of being the broke guy or girl all the time), take a closer look at your habits and see if you can find a way to a put a little toward hanging out with your co-workers.
Photo of women hanging out at the office courtesy of David Lees/Getty Images.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author