DEAR HARRIETTE: I bring a packed lunch from home every day to work. Usually, the entire office goes out to eat at a swanky place where lunch and a beverage will cost $20. They ask me to join them, but I have a perfectly good lunch already made for a fraction of the cost. Should I start going out with them? I feel like my lunch makes me seem antisocial in the office. -- From Home, Westchester, New York
DEAR FROM HOME: Your question is really about office politics, not just your budget. While your plan to bring your lunch is sensible and cost-effective, it likely is distancing you from your co-workers. There is something to be said for factoring professional networking into your budget, including networking at lunchtime. Consider agreeing to go to lunch with your co-workers once or twice a week to show an interest in hanging out with them. This may require you to reapportion funds in a different way, but it could end up providing leverage for next steps in your career.
Also, I wonder: Since the entire office goes out to lunch together, does the company ever foot the bill? It’s a little odd that everyone -- except you -- is there daily. You can’t be the only one who thinks it’s a bit pricey. It never hurts to ask.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My father recently had an intervention with me, which hurt my feelings. I work on a farm and live in a cabin in a very rural area, and I love it. However, my father told me I'd be a “useless hippie” and said he'd refuse to speak to me unless I got a “real job.” I love my job, but I also love my family. Is there any way to remedy this so I can get the best of both worlds? -- We Are Farmers, Ohio
DEAR WE ARE FARMERS: Your father’s tough rhetoric is founded in his fear that you may not be able to provide for yourself, at least not in the manner in which he believes you should be able to. That said, your father cannot live your life for you. The way to help him to feel at ease is to figure out your life so that you live within your means and save as you pursue your dreams. If your dream is to live and work on a farm, don’t give it up because it worries your father. Figure out how you can afford to live this way in relative comfort.
When you can show your father that the life you have chosen suits you, he should be able to see that you actually do have a “real” job that is sustaining you well. This should ease his mind and soften his heart to your way of living your life. Realize that there may be tough days ahead. That’s part of life -- but know that even financial types, real estate agents, doctors and lawyers can have ups and downs in their careers. Challenges are not limited to farmers.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)