Money Talks, So Should You

Quarter-Life Chronicle: Happy hour, sad wallet

Abby Dalton
by Abby Dalton , Dimespring 30

As a 20-something working in an office full of 20-somethings, I have the advantage of being part of a sort of natural social circle, with social events to boot. There are plenty of after-work outings, and when I have time, I join in. My coworkers can be incredibly fun, and I feel lucky to be able to take part in a kind of built-in social life.

Of course, with socializing comes expense, and I’ve noticed that the way I spend my money doesn’t quite line up with the spending habits of some of my coworkers. Most of our socializing is done in bars, which is great and fine, particularly since we work in an area with lots of them. But bars can get expensive quickly, and often without warning.

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Much of this has to do with consumption levels (which can have consequences beyond cost, obviously). While I’m completely satisfied to have a drink or two (at most), I’ve noticed that my coworkers partake much more heavily. They’ll order drink after drink, and while I’m trying to nurse my first round (for cost reasons, but also for not-getting-too-tipsy-in-front-of-coworkers reasons), they’ve outpaced me by a drink or three.

Does this matter? Should I sit there thinking about whether or not they’re going to spend $80 on alcohol that night when I’ve heard all about how they’re broke, or drowning in student debt? I know I shouldn’t, that I should keep my eyes on my own wallet, but when I see a friend who complains about how he can’t save any money in one breath, and orders his third martini in the next, I can’t help but feel like shaking him and pulling out an Excel budget.

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And then there are my own finances to consider. I know that these outings are good for me socially and professionally — it can be fun, and it’s also a great way to get to know fellow employees with whom I don’t spend much time socializing during the work day. But keeping up with them comes at a cost.

I don’t mind buying a drink or two, but when happy hour turns into a second happy hour, and then dinner, and an after-dinner drink, the cost of socializing professionally adds up. It can also look awkward when they’re miles ahead of me, drink-wise, and I’m quite clearly ordering a seltzer and lime (although by that point I generally hope that they’re too focused on their own drink to notice mine).

So for now, I’m sticking to my financial and alcoholic limits (and not just because I’m a frugal lightweight). But I realize that this is an issue that won’t go away, and that work outings need to be a consideration when I’m budgeting each month.


How do you keep your social life in line with your wallet? 


Abby Dalton graduated with a BA in English and history in 2008. She’s worked in publishing and the non-profit sector, first in New York and now in the Boston area. She currently works on program coordination at a major university in the northeast, where her husband is a graduate student. They live with their cat, Norman. Abby is a member of the  Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.