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3 Ways to make "fitting in" at work less expensive

How to fit in at work without spending too much money.

Q: I've finally found a new job and I really like my work. However, it seems that it's costing me a lot to "fit in" with everyone else in the office. What can I do?

A: Finding work that we like to do, in an environment that we enjoy coming to every day, contributes to our work-life balance and productivity. Feeling like we can't keep up or fit in with everything that goes with a professional environment can be difficult.

These suggestions might make it easier:

1. Keep your wardrobe in line with your salary

If you're expected to wear certain clothes or maintain a look, get creative with accessories so that you can make do with a few key pieces. Check out local consignment stores where you can pick up some higher-end clothes for a fraction of the cost.

2. Budget for fundraisers

Making donations and supporting causes that we believe in makes us feel good and helps those organizations survive. However, with a diverse workplace and ongoing fundraising campaigns, it can be hard to say no when a co-worker asks for help. Decide ahead of time how much you can afford to spend on giving. Then either donate a one-time lump sum or give token amounts in line with your pre-determined budget. Some workplaces discourage ongoing personal fundraising and instead, choose a "charity of the year" that all staff can support with corporate initiatives.

3. Socializing with colleagues

Some people choose to eat out at lunch; other workplaces do a coffee run or have drinks after work. Buying lunch or coffee out regularly is a significant drain on your paycheque. Fortunately, it's one of the easier holes to plug. Plan your meals at home so that you have leftovers for lunch the next day. Only eat out once in a while to keep this cost in check. Plan inexpensive group activities to allow for socializing—potluck lunches or breakfasts, power walking on breaks, or volunteering as a group. Make your lunchroom a friendly place to meet and eat; clear the clutter, clean the counters and ask your employer if they can help out to make your lunchroom facilities comfortable and convenient for everyone.

Feeling financially out of place at work is frustrating. Plan reasonable work-related expenses into your budget and stay in control of your choices and your income. You may be surprised that you're not alone and others will start looking to you for money-saving tips.

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