Money and Food for Work, Lunches, Events Etc. What Do You Do?

Updated on January 03, 2011
K.B. asks from West Jordan, UT
8 answers

So, my workplace has Birthday lunches, treats, holiday and Summer get togethers and and charity events that they ask employees to pitch in money or food for throughout the year. They say it is voluntary but I don't see how things would occur if people didn't donate or participate due to tight budgets. Of course, there is always the "want to go to lunch" dates that some colleagues like to do as well. Sometimes I get annoyed at the $3 here, $5 there, $10, $20 there that I've spent for work events and haven't kept track of yearly what it is costing me but I'm sure it's close to $75-$100. I am a social butterfly and enjoy participating in these things but it is NOT necessary for the event to still occur due to other people participating. I think everyone is participating but maybe some feel like I do. I feel guilty at going or attending if I haven't contributed something. What have you done to fit this in your expenses or plan for this? Do you pick and choose what you can participate in or how exactly do YOU handle it? I don't want it to be awkward w/my colleagues but I truly can't afford to be giving my money to work all the time.

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answers from Seattle on

My husband and I each get a "set" amount of personal money every paycheck (in our case $100 each). It pays for *everything* personal, from lunches out to spa stuff, to girls or boys nights, to clothes, to toys.

My husband, prior to this, was grumping at me that we never had any money because I spent it all on groceries. Come to find he was buying coffee every day and going out to (cheap) lunch every day. At $15 per day he was spending $150 every 2 weeks just on his own lunches and coffee... and that's half our grocery budget. Yep, hon, it's the "groceries". Adding in after work drinks with coworkers or friends and he was spending $500 every 2 weeks. He had no CLUE how much he was spending on "work" related stuff until we went to a pure cash system. I mean, I could show him on the statements, but it didn't register with him because they were all "little" purchases. $3 here, $10 there, $6 here, $2 there.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

We had this problem a lot. What we decided to do was create a committee of people who planned these informal things at the beginning of the year (I'm a teacher, and we have a lot of departmental "stuff" - babies born, new houses, big birthdays, etc). Everyone kicks in a set amount at the beginning of the year ($15, I think) and then it's rationed out throughout the year. Of course if something huge and unexpected happens, people might be asked to kick in a little more, but for the most part, it works pretty well, and people are much less resentful about being nickeled and dimed.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

I really can't afford those things often either and am simply honest. If someone says they're ordering Chinese and wants me to order, I might just say "not until pay day." Coming up for Christmas, I pitch in about $5 for my manager and $5 for my supervisor for their gifts (we usually pick a store or restaurant for a gift card as a department) and it adds up for the gift. I don't think we've had any pay-for lunches, but I do not go to the company Christmas party because I'm not spending the money on it. It is simply not there and it is not a priority to me. We do sometimes have "dress down for charity" days and we can pay $2 and wear jeans, and if I have the change I'll do that, but if I don't, I don't. It is not in my budget though. I don't mind making and/or bringing food for events if I can. That is easier for me than finding money.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

We had the lame tradition of "surprising" a co worker on their birthday with a cake and card signed by all, but guess what? It was the same two of us collecting the $1/mo/person and the same two of us running out like a maniac to get the cake & card every time.
We suggested "bring your own treat on your birthday" and it has worked out great--and it's WAY more fair.

Always, I feel you should just donate what you can IF you want to--if you don't want to contribute--don't participate in the "event." If you don't want to pitch in for Chinese--just say "no thanks, brought my lunch..."



answers from New York on

A lot depends on whether or not it's truly voluntary.

For example we have dress down day on Friday and everyone donates a $1, I have been asked to and expected to donate on the Friday's when I don't dress down or when I've been on vacation. We also have a charity dinner dance every year, which it's politically correct to attend or make a donation, there are a few who don't, and it's noticed. Christmas gifts are truly voluntary, but I do enjoy getting small gifts, so I participate. I just make these things part of our budget.

I don't think it's right to attend if you don't contribute. So if you can't afford it just opt out. Usually when everyone's ordering lunch or pitching in for pizza, I simply say "Maybe next time, I brought my lunch today".



answers from Provo on

Do it and enjoy it, within reason, of course. It will help you build good relationships with your coworkers. But, if you have a choice about what to bring, make it yourself rather than buying it already made at the store. That will save you many, many $$$.



answers from Denver on

When our company has birthday luncheons or other events, the company picks up the tab. Sometimes, individual people will want to have a big group take a co-worker to lunch or have a birthday cake for them or something. In those cases, we pitch in if we attend or if we want to donate - otherwise, no contribution is made. There is no pressure one way or another. If your company is actually "throwing the party" they need to pick up the tab. I wouldn't feel any need to contribute at all if they refuse to do so. Maybe you need to let HR or whoever know that you are not in a financial position to contribute anymore.



answers from Las Vegas on

Yes, did you forget to mention the annual charitable donation to the United Way? They expect that we contribute an amount on paper, then put together 3 fund raisers, which we donate time and purchased items. It is all a good cause, but in the end it all adds up.

Our Holiday dinner is not free either. We have to pay for that, however, a group of ladies in the office bring snacks and sell them, which usually pays for part or all of our holiday dinner. Any guests must be paid for out of pocket.

I usually participate in what I want to. We also do our birthday lunches too. Our lunches are usually some sort of theme and they ask that you bring something specific. I am a picky eater, so I often have reservations about who made the pasta salad, what's in it, do they wash their hands, did their children participate in preparation, and so on. I would really often much rather eat my own food.

I just put a check by my name and don't list that I am bringing something. Then I don't eat it. As for the "Secret Santa" I borrow one from someone who has already been gifted and leave a copy at my desk so they skip over me. I hate for anyone to spend money on something I may not use and I don't want to buy for someone who I don't know personally what they would like.

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