12 Proven Ways to Make Friends at Work (Without Emptying Your Wallet)

By David

August 9, 2013   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

You’re stuck eating lunch by yourself again.

Perhaps this is exactly what you wanted.

Or perhaps, you secretly wish you could join your colleagues each time they gather at that fancy restaurant nearby. They must be having a great time. If only that place wasn’t so expensive!

So you’re here all by yourself. The office feels like one giant, empty place. While you slowly eat your food in silence, you start to wonder what your coworkers may be saying about you.

Perhaps they are gossiping about how poor you are because you don’t eat out like they do. Or maybe they are starting to think you’re anti-social. Worse of all, maybe they are not even talking about you. You just don’t really exist anymore in their world.

You’ve simply been forgotten.

Want to Make Friends At Work?

I’m not talking about the random colleagues you chat about the weather with at the water cooler.

Those don’t count.

I’m talking about real friends at work. People you actually like spending time with. People who knows more about you than just your job title and the latest project you’re working on. People who you can have a real conversation with on topics that aren’t work-related at all.

People you may even want to hang out with outside of work hours.

Why It’s Hard To Be Frugal and Still Make Friends

Think of all the typical things people do with their coworkers for fun: lunches, restaurant parties, and drinks after work. There’s nothing wrong with getting to know people through those methods. It’s just that every one of them costs money.

Sometimes a lot of money.

That may not be a problem if you have a fat budget to burn every month. But it just so happens that you don’t.

Don’t worry, there is still hope! I’ll teach you how to make friends even if you don’t go out as often as you may like.

You see, there are plenty of activities you can do with your colleagues which don’t require much money. I’ve personally tried quite a few, and I’ll share them with you here.

How to Make Friends At Work (On a Tight Budget)

1.Be the Chef Of The Day. Every now and then, I would bake some goodies and bring it to the office. You’ll be amazed at how people – who normally wouldn’t even make eye contact with you – open up as soon as there’s food to be shared. Maybe it’s because it’s free. Or maybe it’s because they’re just flat-out amazed I baked something edible. Either way, it makes for a memorable experience. And who knows? Others may encouraged by your example to share their home cooking too.

2.Save those leftovers. Who said spending time with your colleagues during lunch involves actually eating out? Whenever I want to catch up with people over lunch, I usually pack food from home (leftovers are awesome for this) and invite them to do the same. Yes, this takes a little more planning upfront. But you’ll save a lot of time and hassle by not having to rush to and from the restaurant. As an added bonus, I can focus more on catching up with the person and less on rushing through the meal.

3.Who doesn’t love a show and tell? If making food isn’t your thing, then perhaps sharing something you love to do outside of work may be a way to go. Perhaps you’re into soap-making, or woodwork, or making decorative pins. If so, then you can bring a few items to give away as gifts or to display at your office. Try it! You’ll find out quickly that this is a great conversation starter.

4.Battle for poker supremacy. Playing poker – or any other card games for that matter – at work with my colleagues is easily one of my most enjoyable times at work. Of course, we don’ t play for money (and you probably shouldn’t either). Without money in the equation, everyone can just relax and have a good time. You can also play chess, checkers, or whatever else that strikes your fancy. Just do stuff together.

We aren’t even close to finished yet so keep on reading for more fun and inexpensive ideas to make friends with the people you work with.


5.Work those legs. This is one of my favorites. If you want to stay in shape, start a walking group and get active for 30 minutes everyday. You get to hang out with friends and exercise, all for free. No more dragging your whiny and tired butt to the gym after work. You can now cancel that gym membership with pride (AND save money). How is that for a win, win, win?

6.Choose latte over lunch. If you want to go out but don’t want to spend too much money, go for coffee instead of a full lunch. There’s nothing wrong with a little compromise. Besides, this will be a nice opportunity to step away from the office and get some fresh air.

7.Fire up the latest TED talk. Everyone brings their own food, get together, and learn something or simply be entertained over the lunch hour. It can be related to work, or it can fun too. If watching TED videos aren’t your thing, then ask your colleagues what other cool things you can do as a group during break time. A group of ladies at my workplace once did a workshop on how to make handcrafted cards. Use your imagination here!

8.Take me (and you and everyone) to the ball game! Companies sometimes subsidize social events or sports teams for their employees. If they don’t, then organize one at your local sports league with your coworkers. Group discounts are readily available for large team sports, so playing in one doesn’t necessarily have to damage your wallet. The time you invest in these activities will reward you with many new friendships for sure.

9.Pick and choose your indulgence. Let’s face it: if your colleagues are accustomed to dining out every day at fine restaurants, it is OK to just pass sometimes. Otherwise, no amount of frugal tips will save your monthly food budget from exploding. You may just find other colleagues who secretly feels the same way as you do (and applaud you for having the courage to say “no”).

10.Dare to hang out outside of work. Who said you should only hang out with your coworkers at work? Include them in your evening or weekend plans. Ask them to join you the next time you are out with your friends. I know from experience that most people present only a fraction of themselves at work. Remove the work setting, and you’ll have a much greater chance of getting to know your coworkers for real.

11.Be generous with your time (if you can manage it). We all have crazy times at work when we feel like we just can’t keep up. It would be SO nice if someone would just offer a helping hand. Even if it was just for a day, we would be forever in that person’s debt. This is where you come in. Be that person WITHOUT being asked. People will remember you forever and would no doubt think a lot better of you afterwards.

12.Visit with no agenda attached. We’re all used to people dropping by our desks just to demand something from us. So try this instead: drop by your colleague’s desk next time just to say hi. I love how people’s faces light up when they realize I came all the way just to see how they’re doing. Of course, you have to be smart and not drop in when they are busy. Do it with genuine care in your heart, and you’ll have a new friend in no time.

Be Frugal and Social

Yes, it is possible.

We all want to be part of a group, at work or otherwise. No one wants to be forgotten. No one wants to be left out.

Sometimes, it seems like being frugal can get in the way of being social. You feel like you just can’t afford to do fun things at work. But if the list above is any indication, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Try one thing from the list today.

No, not tomorrow because we both know you will forget and go back to eating at your desk alone again. Do it today. Get up off of your chair now! What are you waiting for?

And bring your lunch tomorrow.

You have a friend to visit.

Written on 8/9/2013 by Ivan Chan. Ivan Chan is the creator of Wealthy Without Worry . In his latest quest, Ivan helps professionals manage their wealth without losing sight of the important things in life. Learn 50 tips to reclaim time and grow your wealth in 20 minutes a day here!

Photo Credit: JDConway


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