I don’t want to hear about my coworkers’ pricey lifestyles

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. We had a question about money earlier this week and I thought it would be interesting to tackle one coming at money from a different angle. A reader writes:

I moved to the west coast a year ago for family reasons, and looked for six months for a job before finally landing a temp job at an internet behemoth known for its ridiculous salaries and generous benefits. I thought I hit the jackpot. It was a three-month, temp-to-hire contract. The savings I brought with me were almost exhausted, so I took it even though the hourly rate is barely more than the minimum wage in this expensive city.

I have received absolutely glowing performance reviews, headed an exciting project, and gotten so much great experience. However, the “to hire” part of the temp contract never came through. They’ve just renewed me again for another three months. What I didn’t know before I started here was that this is common, and I’ll probably be extended until the legal maximum of 18 months before they even consider bringing me on full-time.

My issue right now is my colleagues, who are all full-time employees making more than double what I do even though we’re doing mostly the same work. Maybe they don’t realize how little I’m being paid, but I’m finding myself growing resentful every time they talk about their bonuses or their amazing vacation plans and refurbished lofts. For Thanksgiving, the person I share an office with was going to Hawaii with her friends and asked me about my plans. I don’t get paid for the days the office is closed, and instead I planned spend the long weekend driving for Uber to make up for it. They invite me out to lunch or to after-work get-togethers and I honestly can’t afford to come, which makes me scared they think I’m not a good social fit for the team when it comes to renewing my contract again. I’m trying really hard to keep a positive attitude and keep doing a great job, but when I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford basic things like my medication and student loan payments and they’re talking about going to get expensive coffee for the second time that day, I find myself getting irritated and sometimes letting that attitude leak into the tone of my emails and interactions with them. It’s gotten worse as my contract position stretches on with no end in sight.

I’ve applied for tons of other jobs, both before and after I started working here, but this was the only interview and call-back I had, making me think I can’t really get anything better. How do I stop myself from taking my anger out on my colleagues when they don’t seem to realize how much the small things they say about money are hurting me? Would it be appropriate to talk to them about my pay just to hint that I’d rather not hear about all their expensive plans?

Readers, please weigh in via the comments.

{ 515 comments… read them below }

  1. Fikly*

    Can you reframe this in your head? Your coworkers did not cause this situation – your mutual employer’s crappy policy of paying temp employees half of what they pay regular employeees, and then stringing you along, is what created this situation.

    Also, if this is a common thing, your coworkers are likely aware of the income disparity, and some of them may have been through it themselves if they were hired the same way.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yep. They’re not being full-time-employees AT you, and talking about what you’re doing over the holidays with your coworkers is not unusual – especially when it sounds like you’re the outlier and they’re all in the same boat gold-plated pleasure yacht. There are some earlier letters where the person with money is the outlier and everyone else around them is less well-off, and you might possibly find some solutions in those letters/comments, but there’s really not a way you can tell your ten coworkers that none of them are allowed to talk about vacations, expensive coffee or designer sweaters for their yorkiepoos because you’re the only one in the office who can’t afford them and it makes you cranky.

      Also, you absolutely need to not take this cranky out on them in work settings, because being inappropriately snippy with your coworkers is definitely going to land you in that “poor fit” bucket.

      1. Ila*

        So much of learning to navigate the adult world is learning that a lot of what you presume is directed AT you is really just people being people.

        LW is being underpaid. They are not being overpaid.

        If LW lashes out at them in a moment of frustration, what many will hear is that she thinks they don’t deserve to be paid what they are being paid. It doesn’t matter that what she means is “I am underpaid.”

        I think that a reframe is beneficial. As is self-care. It can be small things like 5 minutes of sitting in the sunshine walking the birds.

        Also, she needs to tell the coworkers she can’t do lunches now for budgetary reasons, but if she’s ever hired or her pay increases, she’d be glad to join them.

        Finally, a lot of those coworkers have been in her shoes. She should let them know she’s struggling.

          1. valentine*

            she needs to tell the coworkers she can’t do lunches now for budgetary reasons, but if she’s ever hired or her pay increases, she’d be glad to join them.
            This is a good way to put it.

            And it might be a good idea to find someone who went through the same process and ask their advice, as well as suggesting HR make a “How to Survive Temping for Us” guide.

            1. 404_Fox not found*

              This is exactly what I did when I was temping or any kind of underpaid/lower salary level, something along the lines of:
              “thank you for the invitation! I can’t currently afford that on my hourly pay as [position]. Please keep inviting me in the future as I’d love to come with on [outing] if I have any wiggle room.”
              If there’s less time: “thank you for the invitation; I can’t afford that right now”
              On questions about my free time/”holidays”: “I don’t actually get paid on those days since I’m a [position]. I’ll be working my other job at [job place] so I have income that day.”

              None of those responses really addressed anything other than me not being able to afford/do something, which doesn’t usually make for systematic change, so I really like the “if pay increases, I’d be glad to join you” phrasing Ila suggested.

              1. GrooveBat*

                My only other thought, and I know this is hard to do, is to try to deflect invitations but at the same time not make others feel guilty for inviting OP in the first place. So maybe instead of, “I’ll be working my other job so I have income that day,” just say, “I’ll be working my other job.”

            2. Starbuck*

              “suggesting HR make a “How to Survive Temping for Us” guide.”

              Gross, no way. They need to make temping survivable, not give advice for people on how to suffer.

              1. GrooveBat*

                That’s like the time Walmart (or was it McDonalds?) gave their employees tips on how to apply for food stamps.

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  That’s exactly what came to my mind. They have the power to fix this situation, so they should. Instead they’re being stingy, greedy a-holes who string people along.

                2. Vemasi*

                  Not sure about that one, but there was the time McDonald’s put out a sample budget for a full-time employee which was unrealistic in expenses, and still included a “second job” to cover those unrealistic expenses.

            3. Fellow Boot Fancier*

              +1000! Also, if your co-workers really don’t know, and are as nice as LW makes them seem, they would be appalled. And LW, if they want to treat you to coffee or meals, because they’ve been there & wish someone had done so for them (thus also making a tight food budget a little looser for not buying lunch the next day because you can leave today’s in the fridge), be gracious and repay the favor to the next temp once you are back on your feet. It’s odd to be the makes-no-money friend, I empathize!, but good people who want you around them & offer to treat you to make it so are telling you that your company is literally worth more than gold. Be your awesome self around them and that’s all they want.

              1. UKDancer*

                This so much. When I had just arrived in London and taken my first poorly paid job, a more senior colleague regularly bought “too much” lunch and shared it with me or brought me a coffee when she got herself one. Sometimes this made the difference between eating and not eating.

                You bet that now I’m more senior, I do the same for my junior staff. You have to pay things forward in my view.

                1. Software Engineer*

                  Is there a chance you could use your seniority to push for more pay equity for junior hires? Using your salary to subsidize your staff is not the solution here.

              2. Phred*

                My company is starting a food pantry for its employees and is asking all of us to donate specific items. I’m torn between feeling appalled that my company pays some of my colleagues so little that they can’t buy food on the one hand and on the other thinking that it’s my turn to help now that I’m making enough money that I can afford to.

            4. Mongrel*

              she needs to tell the coworkers she can’t do lunches now for budgetary reasons, but if she’s ever hired or her pay increases, she’d be glad to join them.
              This is a good way to put it.”

              I’d be a little careful with that phrasing and\or how often it was used, it could come across as passive-aggressive or whiny. Just sticking with “The budget’s a little tight at the moment” should be more than enough

              1. SD*

                I thought you said that on purpose! “Walking the birds” is such a lovely image – a quiet no stress moment just you, the sunshine, and the birds poking around in the grass. If only I were an artist and had a paintbrush.

                1. blunderbuss*

                  YES! art typo! I also thought this was art — “walking the birds” — I’m having a rough day, too and I thought it was beautiful

        1. Clemgo3165*

          She could also structure her budget to fit in a weekly “treat” with the co-workers. Lunch, a drink, or a coffee would go a long way toward cementing her relationships with them and once a week should be manageable. If anyone questions why she doesn’t come more often she can simply say that she’s trying to stick to a budget.

          1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            That’s not really fair. West coast cities are notoriously high COL, and if she’s being paid barely above minimum wage, she may not be able to afford treats like that. I do think she should try to spend some time with coworkers, but doing free things like, hey let’s go sit on this park bench and eat lunch together (maybe the coworker’s is a bought lunch, but the OPs is brought from home), or let’s take a walk around the block and get to know each other a little better.

            1. Wing Leader*

              Yeah I agree. OP shouldn’t be forced to spend money she doesn’t have. Plus, I have a feeling that these coworkers like gourmet cafes and such, which tend to be very overpriced. That’s totally fine for them, but there’s no sense in putting that kind of financial pressure on someone else. OP’s best bet is to look for ways to spend a little time with them that do not involve money.

              1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

                They may also not be as better off as they display.
                I once had terrible lifestyle envy of a coworker who was two paybands above me, who could afford a two week holiday *every year* and drove a newer car than me.
                Turns out, despite the higher salary, she still had tons of debt and the car was on finance (unlike my banger which was bought out right).

                I dont mean to disparage or downplay OPs genuine feelings of being left behind, but we don’t know what our peers are going through, and it might be that some of the social group would also appreciate a cheaper way to spend time together. They could also be trying to “keep up with the “Joneses”. And it doesn’t have to be worded in a financial way, just a suggestion of trying something new might be sufficient.

                1. Lisa*

                  This. Early in my corporate career, I really struggled with this. My financial situation was different from my coworkers in many ways, and I felt very left out. Then, a manager in my department who was part of annual reviews—so he knew what people actually made—gave me a hint. “When you see other people living a better lifestyle, don’t assume they are being paid more. They might have other resources, or just be making bad decisions.” One coworker in particular had me baffled… HOW did she drive a Lexus and shop designer and take nice vacations when she couldn’t possibly be senior to me? Every year at raise-time she would hint so loudly about the great bump she’d received. Then she got laid off in a RIF, while I kept my job, because I actually was more professional and more competent. On her way out all she could do was complain about how was she going to make the payments on her new $4k couch?

                2. AVP*

                  You also just don’t know how much of this is family background and generational stuff! There might not be as much pay disparity, so to speak, as just general wealth disparity.

                  That doesn’t help with the overall issue of OP being underpaid but may help her reframe it and focus her frustration more on the company and less on the individuals.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  Friends of ours seemed to have everything in life and ordered stuff from all the best places. But in paying attention to what they said over a long period of time we were able to figure out that they owed on every single thing we saw laying around, the house, the cars, the degrees, on and on to even include the furniture. It turned out that they did not have 1 square inch of their lives that was not attached to a debt somewhere.

                  Life is often backwards from what we see, OP. We had other friends whose stuff was, well… it had been with them a while. They used their things and kept them longer than many folks. But we also noticed they never mentioned debt. Ever. Eventually we found out these friends had a net worth that went into the 7 digit numbers. You never would have known from looking around their place or looking at their vehicles.

                4. blackcat*

                  Yeah, you never know what’s going on behind the scenes.
                  When I was a new-ish teacher, I took a 3 week long trip through southern France during the summer. At least one colleague commented that she knew what I made and was surprised I could make it work. I shrugged, said I was fortunate to have no debt, a car I bought off of my parents for cheap, no dependents, and good health.

                  Even though my household income is like 4x it was then, I’m now in a very HCOL area with a kid, and dropping 6k on a European trip is not in the cards like it was when I was 24 and had a nice apartment (shared with my now-husband) for 700/month in a LCOL area.

                5. char*

                  Yup. I know someone who spends vast amounts on games and other hobbies, way more than I could afford. Turns out he actually makes half what I make, but since his parents pay all his living expenses, he feels free to spend his entire income on fun things.

                6. Bluesboy*

                  Many years ago I had a girlfriend from the Costa Smeralda, the poshest part of the Sardinian coast, full of millionaires. We visited one of her friends in a nice big house, they also had a fairly new BMW.

                  Found out afterwards that literally they never went out, and they had the same exact meal every day – spaghetti, oil, garlic and chili, basically the cheapest meal you can make in Italy.

                  The house was inherited, and living like this was the only way they could afford to make the payments on the BMW. But they had to have the BMW so they wouldn’t look poor.

                  People have all sorts of back stories, some spend more than they can afford, some seem poor but have millions in savings. Some will buy that coffee even though they can’t afford more than ramen for dinner because it’s their one treat.

                  I get that income envy is not necessarily a rational thing, and knowing this logically might not help too much. But when I was struggling it was helpful when other people went to places I couldn’t afford to think “I COULD afford to go there and get that coffee just this once. But I am choosing instead to pay off a bit more debt/have something other than pasta occasionally/save up for a new pair of shoes etc. They are choosing the coffee and that is their choice. This is mine.”

            2. Autumnheart*

              We have a “coffee break” group at my work, and for those of us who choose not to buy coffee for whatever reason (and budget is a common one), we use the opportunity to stretch our legs. If OP can make that a thing, it would be a way to take advantage of the social aspect without spending money she can’t spare.

              1. LunaLena*

                This is what I was thinking as well. I used to work at a place where people would go out in groups for coffee often, and those of us who didn’t drink coffee would usually just go along for the exercise and fresh air. Even if they’re all hopping into a car to go, one can always say “I’d love to come, I could use a break!” and go too, then just get some free water to sip on.

              2. Glitsy Gus*

                I have a feeling I’m in the same high priced City and similar industry LW is and this is what I used to do. “Oh, I don’t really need coffee right now, but I’d love a quick stroll. I’ll join you!” I’d also save up change in my drawer so every once and a while near payday I could grab a small drip coffee while they get their fancy vanilla mocha moneybucks drinks. (For the record, I wouldn’t use a big pile of pennies to pay for my coffee, I would use my card then use the change for the bus/groceries/whatever. It was mainly saving up the change to know I had the extra $3 available)

                Of course LW shouldn’t HAVE to spend money to be part of her team, but I’ll be blunt, in this tech culture… sometimes you kind of do have to. But the thing is, you don’t need to spend a LOT of money. One highball at a happy hour or one drip coffee every six to eight weeks isn’t too bad, especially if you kind of plan for it.

                Also, like others said, they aren’t being well off at you. They also work really hard and it’s very possible they were in your shoes a couple years ago. While they have gotten in the habit of talking about what they have, they most likely don’t judge you for not having it as well and they are not saying it to make you feel bad. Unfortunately the perpetual temp contract is really common here and these super rich tech companies do it as long as possible because they can. I know it’s really hard and discouraging right now, but if you do like it there overall, hang in there, take a walk during lunch, and just remind yourself that they can’t legally keep you temp forever. If you don’t really like the job overall, keep looking. It can take so very long to find a good job here. I’m rooting for you.

              3. anonbanonon*

                I’d second this! If anything, I’d get one of those fancy keep coffee mugs that help to cut down on garbage and are reusable. Then make your own fancy coffee to bring with you to work and when it’s fancy coffee time, just bring it along. If anyone asks you say, you know, I really care about lowering my environmental footprint so I’ve dedicated myself to using reusables and trying to make things at home as much as possible because it’s a responsibility I just take very seriously. Then you look good AND no one can really argue with it. Plus you might get others to start doing it too by making it look cool and tbh that’s a positive.

            3. Ace in the Hole*

              Obviously I don’t know LW’s budget or living situation. However, I did grow up in a notoriously high COL west coast city, so I’m not unfamiliar with this general type of struggle.

              Going out to lunch with coworkers doesn’t necessarily mean *buying* lunch out. LW could sit at the table with them and just order some tea. Being invited to drinks after work doesn’t mean spending money on expensive drinks… LW could order a $2 soda. Perhaps she really can’t afford to spare $2 a week on socializing. I’ve been there. But many people can, and may simply not have considered that going out to lunch without buying lunch is an option.

              Proactively inviting coworkers to do free things like go for a walk is also great. And there’s no shame in saying “Thanks, I’d love to another time but that’s out of my budget right now!” In fact if many of the coworkers were also once contractors they’ll be very familiar with the pay gap.

              1. Smithy*

                I agree with this. If this is a type of office where networking/team bonding are regular, then finding an opportunity like this that is the most cost effective and appealing to the OP can also feel more like owning the situation.

                This is similar to advice given when it’s more about a social group, i.e. all my friends can afford dinners out, I can’t. Most of the advice will be like “invite your friends over for a potluck/game night/movie night/etc.” Basically reach out to your friends as ask them to do things with you that you can afford. At work, if it’s a heavy networking-socializing group – going out to happy hour and drinking only soda or coffee once a week serves to help the OP own the situation. Is their a nice place to eat outside whether or not people buy/bring lunch? Are there opportunities for walks? All of that puts more control with the OP and less on thinking of what they can’t do.

              2. Lilyp*

                To be fair, going out with a group and nursing a soda while they buy fancy cocktails and apps sounds both dismal and awkward. You’d really have to have or be able to willingly fake a positive attitude about it which sounds like it might be hard for the OP right now.

                1. Glitsy Gus*

                  I often do this just because I don’t always want to get tipsy after work if I have other things I want to get done. It’s really not a big deal as long as you go into it with the right attitude.

                2. k*

                  It’s not quite the same as what sober people do — drinking a soda while other people are drinking booze externally looks the same. Drinking a soda while other people are eating food, possibly multiple courses of food, is very much more conspicuous.

                3. OTGW*

                  Yeah I agree. I’d feel so awkward if all I was doing was nursing a drink while everyone was eating. It’s one thing if, perhaps, I wasn’t feeling hungry that day but still want to go. Or getting a soda while everyone gets a cocktail. But otherwise? Nah man. Not to mention, there goes my lunch hour.

                4. ShortT*

                  It’s something I have to do every time I go out. Because of my sertraline and blood glucose levels that dance bachata, I stick with plain black coffee and or seltzer. My friends, including my SO, indulge in an alcoholic beverage or two.

                  No one cares.

                5. Lusara*

                  The bigger issue is when the check comes and they want to split it. OP gets stuck paying for much more than what she actually ordered.

                6. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                  I’ve done it a lot of times when I don’t want alcohol but I still want to socialize. The only people who say anything are rude nosey-parkers who demand to know why. I figure they’re either trying to categorize a nondrinker as an alcoholic (in which case, good for the teetotaler for taking care of themselves) or they’re too clueless to grasp that it’s not to some people’s taste.

                7. anonbanonon*

                  Tbh this is one reason I love those squeezable kool aids/mios/etc. to bring along. I can order water and add my own flavor to it and it looks like I’m having drinks along with everyone else. And honestly, I grew up poor af and am in no way embarrassed by that and if people want to know why I’m nursing a drink and not buying a meal I’d just tell them it’s because I couldn’t afford it or I’m very budget conscientious but I wanted to spend time with everyone. I think it’s important to just be honest about class issues and money stuff, if people feel weird about it that’s on them, but more often than not it’s an important discussion and people are benefitted by understanding that there are lots of different kinds of diversity around them beyond the ones that we think about all the time. But at the end of the day I don’t think most people notice or care, we just think they do. If I could afford a meal and noticed someone only ever got drinks, I’d be more embarrassed if I never offered to pay for them or get them something to share. Generosity is important where I come from. All my well-off friends never think about it, but people who come from poverty as I did are always willing to go the extra mile. I couldn’t do it every time, but it would be important for me to offer and buying food or drinks for others is never one of those things I asked to be paid back for because it’s about enjoying the pleasure of their company, not keeping a running tally of what we owe each other.

                8. NotDinosaurs*

                  Yeah, I’m someone who 1. doesn’t drink and 2. has a number of serious food restrictions/allergies, so I’ve been in the situation where I’m nursing a single soda while other people are drinking+eating food. It’s awkward enough with my friends, who are all fully aware of my dietary issues – I don’t know that I would want to do that with coworkers I wasn’t close with.

              3. Washi*

                Yes, proactively inviting is a great way to control the budget! I live in a very happy hour-loving city and when I was making basically no money, I would occasionally invite people for drinks to this bar that had unlimited free popcorn and $3 beer at happy hour.

                1. anonbanonon*

                  Googling events like that can be a lifesaver! Plus, it’s fun to try out new things and find new places that have good deals like this.

              4. rigger42*

                I love the idea of going on a walk or they could usually get a plain black coffee for a fairly low price even at the gourmet coffee shops and doctor it up with the ubiquitous creamer and cinnamon or sugar. Some places even have discounts for refillable cups, so it might be worth at least a couple of dollars every couple of days as a trade off to keep connected, especially if OP thinks it will impact her retention.

                OTOH, I’ve read a large number of waiter rants about people who sit and take up space without eating – I don’t get why one person not eating negates the benefit of having five people who are, but it seems to be A Thing. For me, I’d worry that people would feel awkward and as though they need to feed me, so I’d stick with the coffee runs.

                Wrapping back to the idea of walks, maybe OP could find a couple of coworkers who would like to start bringing lunch and then walk to be more fit, and also socialize.

                1. MizShrew*

                  Agreed with @rigger42. Going out to eat and then eating nothing would get really awkward, I think, and if the OP is already feeling resentful? That’s going to be amplified as she watches other people eating a $15 panini sandwich while her stomach is growling. And on the other side, if I was the one with the sandwich, I’d feel awkward too. Seems like a lunch walk or coffee break might be the better bet. Having water while everyone is having a latte seems less awkward, and can be more easily passed off as “oh, I’ve had all the coffee I can take for the day, I just wanted to stretch my legs and take a break.”

                2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                  Once when a friend was going thru money issues, I suggested we go to Green Mermaid for a cup of coffee (the price of which would not have affected her situation one iota). I just wanted to get her out of the house and to have a social hour or so without her problems staring at her from all sides. She kept ranting that she wasn’t going to pay $3 for a cup of coffee (obviously this was a bunch of years ago). I had a hell of a time convincing her that a plain cup of coffee was half that and that it was the ridiculously fancy beverages that had the sky-high prices. Finally she asked me if just a regular cup of coffee was really only a buck and a half, and when I assured her again it was so, she agreed to go.

                  I also remember the time when I was in OP’s situation–right out of college and temping in Expensive City–and I wanted a good coffee for once. 16 oz cup at my neighborhood nifty place was $1 then. I literally had to count out coins to buy it. Got it home, sat down with it, and knocked the full cup over before I even had a sip. AND had to scurry to clean up before the carpet stained. I was devastated–over a cup of coffee. I wanted it so badly I scrounged some more change around the house and came up with just enough to replace it.

                  You do get through these times, but I sympathize with how tough the going is on the way.

              5. Tessa*

                I agree with other comments that they should not be skipping these lunches—bonding with this group might be key to moving beyond the temp phase (presuming indeed other things are good.) When the time comes up to renew the temp contract, or to consider extending the permanent one, the OP needs to make sure they are a known quantity in all respects. Not only “does good work” but “we like working with them/ being around them/ etc.” Otherwise, the company may just hire another nameless/ faceless set of skills with a body attached.

                I find it very common, at group lunches, there will always be folks (who we all know make good money and can easily afford it) who will just order tea or coffee or juice or something—because diets and fasts are super common these days in a lot of places (especially the high-cost-of-living regions.) I’ll note sometimes that they’re ordering a fancy cold-pressed juice, that may cost >$10, underlining that the choice isn’t about saving money. If the temp person feels off about not ordering food, just casually note some special diet or allergies, etc. Even carry a special bottle to drink from, if that makes it easier.

                As far as going out to a bar, no one needs to know what’s in your drink. If you order a coke, who knows if it’s a rum-n-coke or not? Only the bartender and you. And if for some reason you want to look like you’re drinking a cocktail, just order a Shirley Temple (ginger ale, grenadine, etc. – no alcohol) which looks like a fancy cocktail. As for me, I rarely ever drink. alcohol just makes me sleepy—which severely decreases my ability to enjoy an evening (not enhances it.) When I’m out with friends or colleages, by necessity to keep up and stay energetic, I’ll get an espresso (if it’s a place that offers that) or a coke or diet coke (caffein and/or sugar to give energy.) No one bats an eye or even pays any attention. I mean… that would be rude, no?

                1. Marthooh*

                  No, pretending you have allergies and also plenty of money is a bad idea. If you want to go to these lunches, pack a lunch or buy what you can afford without making excuses. If you have to look rich before you can work there, you don’t want to work there.

                2. TardyTardis*

                  And cranberry juice in the right glass looks pretty much like the house red (me, a wino? Ok, fine…).

            4. CollegeSupervisor*

              I agree so much with this suggestion – OP should suggest that they all eat lunch together in a nearby park and if she needs to bring her own food from home it won’t be a big deal.

            5. TinLizi*

              I bring coffee from home, but when my coworker wants to go to get coffee, I go just for the walk and fresh air then we can chat while she’s in line and on the way back. Then I get company, but I don’t spend any money.

        2. Tisiphone*

          Agree with this. I’d be open about budget concerns, and it might be an opening to ask your co-workers how long it took them to get hired on full time. The issue isn’t your co-workers, it’s that you haven’t been hired on. Talk to your manager and ask if this is normal and see about getting a good word put in to speed the process along. You paid your dues and it’s frustrating to have to keep paying them and feeling like you’re never going to get a seat at the table.

          Been in the same leaky boat having done temp to perm in more than one job. One place eventually after a year and a half hired me on, and the other kept stalling until they were pressed by my manager to admit they weren’t going to hire me on at all, but there were openings in another area of the company and I applied, got the job, and got hired on right away. I’m not a fan of temp to perm.

          1. scarebears*

            I live in the Bay Area, and what OP is going through with this temp situation is extremely common. It doesn’t matter if you’re an absolute shining star at your work. Your dues are never paid, because it’s not about the employee and her performance at all. Keeping the employee roster trimmed to a minimum length is good for the company’s balance sheets, and that comes first. So they hem and haw and find any and all reasons not to bring even empirically great people on board permanently.

            They also know that countless bright, motivated, hard-working people like the OP will take these jobs for a song, and will overlook the pay because they want a shot at a permanent role. So there’s no incentive for the company to do better. Chances are really, really good this is in fact 100% normal for this company.

            I’m 100% with you. “Temp to hire” or “temp to perm” is a lie employers tell to attract motivated applicants. The vast majority of these jobs will never end with a real offer. It’s infuriating that employers continue to tell this lie and nobody has any power to call them to task over it.

            1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              And so many employers seem to think you’re fine with working your butt off for them with low pay and no benefits, and being a second-class employee being held to first-class standards. I temped at a place for a couple of months and cleaned up the disarray wreaked by the previous (perm) hire. Everybody loved me, said lots of nice things about me, and quickly accepted that I was there for good. I asked the agency about whether the job would ever go perm and they hemmed and hawed that they didn’t know. That job paid just what I’d gotten on unemployment. Then I was offered a full-time job elsewhere. When I told the agency I’d be leaving the temp gig, the woman actually asked if my new employer knew I was already committed elsewhere. Seriously? I’ll commit to you when you commit to me with decent pay and benefits!

            2. Tisiphone*

              Right! So many companies at the time I was lied to about temp to perm were doing the same thing because the economy was in the toilet and finding jobs in IT was close to impossible. And the one place that lied to me and would never bring me on didn’t advertise this. I interviewed, got the offer, and on my first day, was introduced to HR to fill out the paperwork and that’s when they told me that they did the probationary period by signing me on as a temp and would make me permanent at the end of the 90 days. 90 days came and went and they conveniently “forgot” that they said this was a given. GRRRRRR! I hate bait and switch!

              In any case, I hope the OP asks the friendly coworkers how long they had to wait for permanent status. The answers will be illuminating. If it happens that the permanent coworkers never had to go through this hazing period, the OP is likely being lied to about the possibility of getting a ticket on the gravy train.

              If the coworkers did start out as temps and got hired on, that information is useful. How long it took them, how many of their cohort got dropped or gave up, if any of them were hard workers or slackers. The fact that these coworkers are interacting and inviting the OP to join them is good news. They don’t see the OP as disposable.

        3. AMT*

          Exactly. Eating out for lunch and taking a vacation don’t exactly make you Mr. Monopoly. I might be more discreet if I were taking a luxurious months-long European tour and my coworkers were clearly struggling, but pretending that I’m spending my time off sitting on the floor of my home chugging beans directly from the can doesn’t do anything to solve pay disparities between my coworkers and me. If OP wants their coworkers to advocate for hiring them full-time, just ask!

        4. selena81*

          …Also, she needs to tell the coworkers she can’t do lunches now for budgetary reasons, but if she’s ever hired or her pay increases, she’d be glad to join them….

          Absolutely: she shouldn’t lash out at coworkers in anger, but it is perfectly acceptable to state the simple fact that she is earning a whole lot less and that this is obviously hindering her spending.

          People sometimes have the idea that in order to be ‘part of the group’ they have to pretend to be every bit as carefree as employees with rock-solid contracts, but if your coworkers are halfway decent people they will be understanding: you just have to communicate your problems in a way that doesn’t make it super-awkward for them.

      2. DJ*

        With the not being taken on full time as promised schedule a meeting with your relevant supervisor to discuss when this is likely to happen.
        Co workers asking them out for lunches and expensive coffees advise briefly it’s not within your bushes whilst still on (casual, temp, contract whatever it’s called).
        Create distance/limit your exposure when they talk of spending by finding a reason to leave the room, be busy. Can you wear headsets explaining doing a bit of work needing to focus on.
        I do hope you either get made ft or find better paid work soon!!

    2. blink14*

      Second this – it’s not their fault. They might know about it, and they may genuinely have no idea the disparity is that large, or exists to such a problematic level.

      I wonder if you could speak with the person who handles your contract, or maybe HR, and express how much you enjoy working there, but that you need a firm definition on when you would be offered a permanent position. In my experience, 3 months is a pretty short temp to perm situation, so I’m not surprised it was extended another 3 months. I saw this happen with an admin temp where I work, and her contract was extended to the year mark, and then she was let go with little notice because “she didn’t have the right education requirements”, aka no college degree. This was a particular instance in which her direct boss, who hired her, had too much control over hiring in our division, and was let go about 3 months later anyway for a variety of long term problems. I encourage the temp to continue looking for other jobs, and to use the temp experience to build her skills. I would encourage you to do the same in the meantime.

      1. Mel_05*

        Yeah, I assumed most of my coworkers and I made approximately the same amount of money, until we started talking about whether our pay was competitive in the marketplace or not.

        Then I found out that not only was I paid significantly more, but I got a raise when everyone else was told there was no money for it. It was a tiny one, but still.

        I just didn’t know.

        1. Yorick*

          And everybody might not start as a temp for hire, so they might not know that you’re getting so much less. Especially if they’re familiar with the type of contractors who get paid more than full time employees because they don’t get benefits or have long-term stability.

      2. Maxie's Person*

        I was a temp-to-hire person without leave or benefits for 15 horrible months. After a bit it became clear that the other temp and I were engaged under false pretenses and would never be considered for hire. (My job search was active the entire time.) We were treated like second class citizens – not informed about personnel changes that affected us, excluded from department meetings because we were not “real” employees, etc. Because I was excluded from the company’s internal posting, the way I found out that the job I performed (experienced subject matter expert) would be taken over by someone else, was when a completely unqualified person was led over to me and I was told me to train her on my work. (I learned that she did not succeed.) The most hurtful time was when I was detailed to handle phone calls one midday while the rest of the department went to a elaborate catered lunch “meeting” where no meaningful business was done. One of the attendees (an otherwise sweet and kind person) told me that there were leftovers in the break room and help myself. I told her that I shouldn’t have wait for leftovers and should be treated better.

          1. LQ*

            Yeah, I had very similar experiences myself in a role I was hired for 3 weeks as a contractor – I stayed on for 2 and a half years as I needed the work. It’s really hard to be treated differently to everyone else and keep your head up. You sense of self-worth can really take a dive.

            I think it’s very easy to underestimate just how hurtful these situations can be – it’s not always just about the money, you are often treated as a second class citizen.

            For myself, and this may not be the case for the OP, we weren’t included in company-wide or depertment-wide meetings or emails, group chats, or offsite meetings or planning of any kind, which made it incredibly hard to do our jobs, and it also meant that we would find out what was going on in the business by, I kid you not, googling them. There were many times where we were not invited to company events and would overhear peopel chatting about what they’d be wearing or the activities, etc etc. Being excluded like that is just awful – our email addresses even had a totally different format, so everyone knew we weren’t ‘real’ employees.

            But I think by far one of the worst things I experienced was other people taking credit for my work. Since contractors were basically ‘non-people’ there, I’d often later come acrross slide decks or overhear conversations congratulating people on a job well done – with work I had put together for them. I distinctly remember working on a project for 2 months when I first started there that resulted in the new permanant hire who came in after me travelling to Amsterdam to present my work at a conference. I probably should have left at that point, but I was working to become permanant and trying to make the best of a bad situation.

            My advice would be to start gathering and documenting all the good work you’ve done there so far. Stay cheerful in the knowledge that you’re making as escape plan. This approach really helped me to focus my energy on outlining all my achievements, updating my resume, and dreaming about more exciting projects I could take on somewhere that would value and appreciate my work.

            It started to reset my mindset from ‘there must be something wrong with me that everyone else has a full time role and I’m a non-person’ and ‘wow, I’ve achieved some great things here, I’ve learned so much, this is actually going to be really useful experience in my next role’. It meant that when they evenetually offered me a longer-term contract at significantly less pay, I had a new role lined up so I could turn it down gracefully and without panicking.

            Don’t be afraid to be kind and matter-of-fact with you co-workers about your financial situation too – ‘no sorry, that’s not in my budget this week’ or ‘oh, I’m a temp, I’m not invited to the team lunch, pretty silly, hey?’ and then just get back to your day. Honestly, I know it’s hard not to resent your colleagues having proper conditions and pay but as others have said, they’re not directing it at you. If it’s anywhere like where I worked, they just assume everyone is on the same or similar deal – in fact, they might even assume your pay is higher than theirs because you are a contractor!

            Good luck, OP. There are too many companies out there taking the piss with low-paid contract work that strings employees along in the hope that they’ll be made permanent ‘someday’. You’re doing all the right things by looking for somewhere new that offers you a proper job.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      This. Your coworkers aren’t taking vacations at you, OP, or talking about their plans to hurt you – they’re making small talk with their colleagues to build a collegial environment. It’s hard when you can’t really relate or do the things everyone else is doing – this was the story of my life in college (went to an expensive private school full of rich kids while poor and on student loans) and at the first couple of companies I worked for – but can you try to find some way to tag along from time to time when they invite you to lunch? Maybe suggest a place that’s in your budget first so that you’re not stuck having to say no to someplace more expensive.

      Also, if you want to fit in with your coworkers, can you come up with low cost activities outside of work that you can do with a small group? I live in a city that does First Fridays where art galleries and other smaller museums and restaurants have free admission and low cost to free food and drink. There are also free plays in the park and other no cost options for fun if you do a little digging on your city’s visitor’s bureau page.

    4. Your recruiter for the new times*

      Assuming you are working there through the agency – your mutual employer probably pays for you the same if not more – it is the temp agency that skims off the difference. And the same goes for “hire” part – in order to do that, your employer most probably has to pay off your agency.
      So your coworkers are blameless.

      1. foolofgrace*

        I ran into this problem. I was a contract employee at a huge company and one time when the rubber met the road I brought up my inadequate salary with my team lead and then with the head of the department, and I was told that they were already paying for me at the top end of the budget but the contract company was keeping most of it. I was so angry and bitter. But I still had to come in every day and do the job and be nice to people — it wasn’t their fault. I just did it. I hope that contracting company gets what it deserves. The huge company I was working at wasn’t going to bring me on as a regular employee because … why should they? They’ve got a good deal working with contractors.

        1. it_guy*

          I was a government contractor for several years and once saw the bill my company turned in for my hours by mistake once. I was being billed out at 500% at what I was being paid. I know private contracting firms don’t mark up a contractors hours so much, but I would bet that the lions share goes into the contracting companies pockets.

          It’s not about you, but your contracting company.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, even at the lower end: assume your position is being paid at least double what you’re making and the contracting company is eating the other half. (Though if you’re barely above minimum wage, they’re probably taking about 2/3 of that pay.)

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          That’s why they made laws limiting how long they can keep a person as a temp, because these companies will keep a person temping forever. Some of the better employers also have policies about this.

        3. Emily S*

          How awful. Even framing it to you as “We pay you the max and the contracting company is keeping most of it” is disingenuous. They pay you what they pay you, and they pay the contracting company what they pay the contracting company. What they don’t want to admit is, “We pay you as much as we can without the sum of your wage and the contracting company’s fee exceeding the wage we pay our FTEs.”

          If you’re the one paying the contracting company, you should have the power to fire them. Since you don’t have that power, their fee should not come out of your pocket.

          1. Pescadero*

            That isn’t usually how it works…

            They pay the contracting company and the contracting company pays you – after they skim their percentage off the top.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            That’s not how it works though. Microsoft (or whoever) is paying the contracting company for a temp at $lots. The contracting company hires a temp to fill that role at $less. Microsoft (etc) does not pay the temp at all, nor do they have any involvement in how much the contracting company pays the temp. They tell the contracting company how much they’re willing to pay the contracting company, and the rest of it is between the temp and the contracting company, who is the temp’s actual W-2 employer.

            I’ve been the temp, and I’ve negotiated my pay with the contracting company (sometimes successfully, usually not). Me trying to negotiate my pay with Microsoft (etc) is completely useless, because they aren’t involved in my pay at all other than paying the contracting company’s total invoice when it comes in. In fact, most of my Microsofts didn’t even know what the temp agency was paying me.

      2. Mpls*

        If the position was advertised as temp-to-hire, I gotta think that there was an envisioned end date to the temp part, after which the company would be free to hire with no/little penalty.

        But…that probably depends on a layer of truthfulness in advertising, and the contract that company has with temp agency.

        OP – might be worthwhile to ask your temp agency and the company about what they can tell you about the terms of their contract.

        1. Chaordic One*

          So very often positions are dishonestly advertised as “temp-to-hire” when there is no intention of ever making the position permanent. It does happen occasionally (about as often as you get hit by lightning), but you should never expect a position turn into a permanent one, even if you’re a model employee. Expecting that is only setting yourself up for disappointment. Keep looking for a permanent job.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, dishonesty and greed are rampant in temp agencies. Lots of “temp to hire” positions that are nothing of the kind or maaaybe will hire you after a few years of low pay and no benefits. Spamming job boards with ads for fake jobs that don’t actually exist, and listing higher salaries than they’d ever pay for such jobs. Bait and switching on pay after you’ve already accepted the offer. Outrageous markups – charging the client an exorbitant fee while paying the temp peanuts.

            Unfortunately in a lot of places it’s *much* harder for an entry-level person without specialist skills to get a perm job, so we get stuck dealing with these thieves.

      3. JKP*

        2nd this. When I hired temps, I paid a lot per hour, but the agency got most of that. I think I was paying something like $25 per hour and when I asked my temp how much she got per hour (because I actually had no idea), it was only $10 per hour. This was for just basic reception/front desk work. And when I hired one of the temps on full-time, I had to pay a finder’s fee to the agency of several thousand dollars.

        1. E. Shellstrop*

          That’s a terrible bill rate. You can always try to negotiate this down. I generally get .45-.50. So if I’m paying the temp $15/hour the agency is getting $21.75 – $22.50. And we don’t use them that often, so you if you use them frequently you should be able to get a better bill rate. As far as the finder’s fee, we never pay these…there shouldn’t be a longer than 3 months or the equivalent working hours to hire them in without paying the finder’s fee. If it’s longer than that, renegotiate that too. If they won’t work with you on these, find another agency. There’s plenty of them out there.

      4. WellRed*

        The coworkers are blameless either way, but if the company wants to hire temps, which costs more, it shouldn’t be on the temp to shoulder that burden by being paid so much less. And let’s face it, Google, Amazon or whoever else, is not gasping for cash. They can afford to pay decent wages.

        1. Emily S*


          If you have temp and perm employees doing the same work they need to earn the same amount of money. Even if that means the company pays more to be able to pay the temp the same. The additional money is what the temp company earns for the services they provide, a wholly separate bucket from the base pay the employee is earning for the work the employee does. I don’t know if legally that money is considered a payroll/salary expense for some sort of reporting/tax purposes, but in a practical sense, it’s more akin to hiring a staff and then contracting HR out to an external company. The cost of the HR is not part of the staff’s compensation even though HR will be handling the logistics of staff management – it’s a separate line item. Likewise, the temp company here is handling the logistics of temp management, a separate line item from what the temps earn.

          Reducing the rate so that the total you pay is equivalent to what you pay your FTEs means you don’t think the temp company is providing services that have any value to you, so you’re expecting your employee to pay the temp company.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Temps should actually be paid a higher hourly rate, to compensate for their job insecurity and lack of benefits!

        2. sam*

          Sometimes it’s not about the cash. I spent a few years working as a contractor – I was paid relatively well just due to the industry/job I worked in, but it was during the recession and permanent legal jobs were few and far between. One of the companies I ended up working at for 16 months (!) was in a hiring freeze due to the recession, and was not allowed to hire anyone, but contractors came through a different budget/approval process, so they could bring me on for the work they actually needed someone to do (and my boss there actually tried to hire me permanently but STILL couldn’t get sign-off to pay the relatively modest break fee she had managed to negotiate my employer down to – from a normally pretty hefty one).

          So I ended up on another assignment and that’s where I now work permanently. But that second assignment started out as one where it was truly supposed to be temporary. My company was in a massive state of transition, and was not sure whether it was still going to exist at the end (we were being spun off from our former parent, and there were a variety of options – going through an IPO and becoming independent, or being sold to another company being the two ends of the spectrum). If we got sold to another company, not only would *my* job no longer exist, most of the people I worked for would probably be out of a job, so they thought it would be unfair to start hiring people only to have their jobs potentially disappear in six months. But contractors don’t have expectations of long-term employment (or shouldn’t). Luckily though, we IPO’d instead, and I literally got a permanent job offer the same week (that was seven years ago).

          The main issue here from what I understand is that LW is being paid so much less than her colleagues. the problem is that her “employer” is not *big tech company*. Her employer is the temp agency. It’s also entirely possible that *big tech company* has NO IDEA how much money she’s making – My current employer had no idea what I was making when they hired me permanently, because that was a very awkward conversation with my boss when we were trying to sort out my new salary as a permanent employee who got benefits, bonuses, etc.

    5. Anonys*

      I agree 100% with everyone saying “try not to blame the coworkers”, and yes, them talking about their vacations, etc. is just normal conversation to most people.

      But I think OP rationally knows all those things already, and I just want to acknowledge, that their frustrations are real and that most of us would feel the same in their situation. I think it’s a mistake to interpret OPs feelings as just jealousy that other get to go on vacation and eat out. OP mentions they are struggling to pay for things such as medications and loans, even while side hustling, and obviously that situation is putting them under a lot of stress.

      It sucks to struggle, but to not be seen, and often people who have financial freedom don’t really consider others might not be able to do thinks they consider “everyday” or even “affordable”. I think it would be freeing for the OP to acknowledge their budget constraints to coworkers (without complaining too much).

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Your second paragraph is the truth, which is why I have so much sympathy for the OP. I was there for a loooong time, and depending on who I’m around for work these days, still there from time to time. I don’t think the OP is jealous at all – embarrassed, frustrated, and stressed sounds more like it. Living paycheck to paycheck is not easy, so I hope OP is doing kind things for herself from time to time so she doesn’t fall into depression – I had that happen to me, and it was a struggle to maintain a positive attitude in the workplace when I was terrified about how I was going to pay rent and afford groceries for the month.

        1. CatLadyInTraining*

          I was going to say it’s easy to make assumptions as well. Sure, probably at least some of these employees do have more money. Some could be living way beyond their means, maxing out the credit card to take an expensive vacation, and maybe some of them are underpaid too, but they have a spouse who makes good money or they have family members with money. You never know…

      2. Viette*

        I so agree. OP knows what’s up, they just feel poor and invisible, and that sucks. I’d really encourage them to figure out some language to say “thanks for the invite but that’s just not in my budget yet!” They’re still quite new and they just moved a huge distance and started a new job, so it doesn’t give the impression that they’re bad with money to say, “no travel plans, I’m still settling in after the move.”

        I think getting a second set of eyes on application materials and continuing to apply is wise, too. The OP explicitly feels scared she’s trapped and will never get anything better, and that only adds to the feelings.

        1. anon for this today*

          This. Part of the problem is that the money stress ties up with feelings of inadequacy and fear, and that it *actually rational*. It’s scary to be on the knife edge financially.

          A psychological reframe that can help but may need you to draw on some Zen or faith or something:
          You are doing good and honest work. You are capable and strong. At this time in your life, you’re gaining experience and connections, again in an honest, capable way that is worthy of respect. Right now, your pay is not reflecting that respect and value. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You can be open and matter-of-fact about your budget and still be respected. You can say, “Oh, I’ll come to coffee for the break — thanks.” You can say, “Since I’m still contracting rather than full-time, it’s not in my budget to eat out but I’d love to do (this instead)”, or suggest you all go to a food hall or a park in spring so you can bring your own food. This is honorable and responsible. You can say to your co-workers and boss, “I love working with you all and I’m really interested in coming on as an employee so we can maintain stability on this project.” You can say to your coworkers, “I love working with you, but as you know I’m still looking for a non-contract position — if you hear of anything you think would be a good fit for me, please let me know!”

          It’s horrible because feeling scared and trapped can lead you unconsciously to behaviors that make you trapped. Your financial concerns are rational, you are capable and are showing your value, being poor is not something to be ashamed of, and you will find a wonderful position with this organization or another that compensates you fairly.

          We’re cheering for you! (says the reader whose 9-month W2 from job 1 in 2019 is < her 3-month W2 from new job in 2019 :) )

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, not being able to afford whatever your coworkers are doing isn’t some shameful secret, and cheerfully telling them that (and maybe proposing some less expensive hangouts) will help make it clear that the problem isn’t you not liking them.

    6. Mynona*

      I’ve walked in OP’s shoes, and the advice to “reframe it” is insensitive. Come on. She knows they aren’t vacationing at her. It really is hard to stay positive when you can’t afford coffee and your co-worker is complaining about not having enough PTO for her annual vacation to Switzerland and all her girlfriends’ destination weddings. True story. Life is unfair, but no one likes daily reminders of how unevenly fairness is distributed.
      I have a friendly looking poker face I use for these conversations and a non-committal hmmm sound. When invited to social outings I can’t afford, I respond: “Sounds fun! Too bad I’ve overspent this month and can’t join you. Have a good time!” They don’t need a lecture on economic inequality or anything. That gets awkward. However you respond, just keep it light and upbeat. Also, keep looking for jobs. That one seems grim.

      1. Fikly*

        Reframing it doesn’t mean you have to be positive, or become excited about your coworker’s vacations that you can in no way afford. I meant reframing in the cognitive behavioral sense, which is to say, direct your thoughts to ones that will be less harmful to you.

        I suggested it because right now, as LW states, they are in danger of these feelings, which are directed at coworkers, costing them the job they have. Given they are clearly having financial issues as is, that’s dangerous. Reframing is a survival skill.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          THIS. This isn’t about telling the OP to get over herself – it’s telling her to adjust her thinking so she can keep her current job by not becoming resentful of the people she works with and poisoning the well in the process.

      2. LQ*

        I disagree. I’m in OP’s shoes now, and I likely always will be (which admittedly may make this different). I just got a really big raise (%) and went from making about a third what the folks I work with (who mostly do a shittier job) to about half what they make. Our salaries are all public. We all know what everyone makes.

        If I didn’t reframe it and come to a different way of living with it I’d be angry for the rest of my career about it. It’s hard to stay positive if you focus on the money and on the way other people are living. But if you can reframe it, it gets a lot easier to stay nonchalant and actually not care that someone is on their 3rd vacation of the year to their 3rd home. Eh. Ok, but I know that I live in a safe home, I know that the work I do matters and that it has a huge impact on people, I know that I can afford the things I need to survive.

        That’s not to say that we aren’t going to have bad days where I may or may not have suggested cutting 1 person to give regular substantial bonuses to folks who are paid even less than me and I don’t regret a second or word of what I said. But it’s a lot easier to have fewer bad days and bad moments if you stop comparing you and them which is what reframing is all about.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that the reframe comments are insensitive. So are the comments of “at you”, they aren’t flaunting their paychecks at you, etc. OP is probably very much aware of this and has used this thinking as a tool to pull herself along. However the tool no longer works, which happens and happens often. And what do we do when the tools we were using to help ourselves keep going no longer work?

        I’d suggest a laser focus on your goals, OP. They are yammering in the background about Hawaii, Europe or whatever and you just allow yourself to think about your own goals instead. So while they are telling you all about where they will stay in Italy, you are adding to your list of things you will do to be the best employee ever so you get a permanent job here. In other words, let your mind over-write the immediate conversation. Nod and smile at all the appropriate points but in your mind be thinking, “I can do better with task X, I am going to start doing a, b and c. That will be nice and it might be impressive at the right time.”

        My version of what you have going on is much tamer. I had not been working for a bit to finish off some schooling. When I went back to work, we were behind the 8 ball compared to what our peers owned and did. My new coworkers were talking about buying clothes and cars etc and this is nothing we could consider for a bit as I had been out of work a while.

        Looking back on it, I think I did help myself to become a better/sharper employee. I know that concentrating on how to improve my own work did bolster my confidence. I freakin’ knew my job and that is a really good feeling when you can build quiet confidence in your own work. What I liked about this distraction tool is that it never wore out. Day in day out, week after week I could find some new way to improve my work. I sharpened ME.

        Yeah, there were days my tail was dragging. I made sure I got extra rest, because having to psych myself up every day was exhausting. I made sure I ate. That sounds stupid. But when a person is really tired food can become a lesser priority. I remember getting home from work and the last thing in the world I wanted to do was cook a flippin’ meal. I’d cook 2-3 days worth of food and have something to heat up on the subsequent days. I made myself sit and eat it, no matter how tired I was. See, fortifying ourselves mentally also requires fortifying ourselves physically. If I don’t rest or skip meals, my thinking is going to go into the latrine pretty fast. Keep up with your self-care.

        Last. I had a point each night where I created a no-fly zone for work stuff. Usually from 9 pm on, I just decided not to think about it any more until the next morning. Sure, I messed up, so if I caught myself thinking about work, I’d grab a good book or do a hand craft of some sort until I was ready for bed. I’d deliberately fill my head with something else, because I couldn’t fix any work thing at that hour anyway. Tell yourself over and over, “I will get through this.” What we tell ourselves is super important, so don’t skip this step.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Eh, for a lot of us who work long hours “food” and “extra rest” are mutually exclusive.

        1. Fikly*

          What is invalidating about it? It’s not saying your feelings are wrong. It’s not saying your thoughts are wrong. It’s saying, you may find yourself functioning better if you think about it another way.

          1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

            I get what you’re saying, and it’s correct as far as it goes.

            I guess what bothers me about it is that it often ignores actual systemic injustices.

            For example, due to complicated government grading systems, for years I’ve been doing a job normally given to people who earn 50% more than me. I’m equivalent-on-paper to them but paid far less.

            While ‘don’t focus on how much they earn’ might be well-meaning advice, it’s not particularly helpful advice when people actually *should* get mad at the situation and work to change it.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        I forgot to say though – DON’T say “I overspent this month” as an explanation! That makes you sound irresponsible and shifts the blame from your employer (which is where it belongs) to you. Be honest: as a temp you are paid less than half what your coworkers are, so you can’t afford it.

    7. Senor Montoya*

      They may not be aware of the income disparity, or if they are, they may not realize that OP is temp to hire.

    8. Jessica Fletcher*

      Good point that the coworkers may have been there themselves. They may totally get why you turn them down, but they don’t want to stop inviting you and make you feel unwelcome.

      Try to reframe, but also, can you suggest some free bonding, like a lunchtime walk or Netflix club?

      Also, work on keeping your irritation out of your emails and interactions. Appearing frugal won’t make you a bad social fit, but being rude will.

  2. Introvert girl*

    You can answer something like this: “Would love to, but I’m still on temp wages.” This way you let know that you assume all of them know that temp wages are way lower than their wages and they all went through the same.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think this is the best way to handle it.

      Though I do wonder if they all went through it. Is it the way that this company always hires? Or is it rare?

      1. Jungkook*

        If OP’s company is anything like mine, the low wage, temp-to-hire process is only for certain positions. The rest of us were hired full time with a competitive salary so I personally do not know how much the temps are making.

        1. and so it goes*

          Yeah, as someone who was one, I know how much they made. No one else did. And due to a quirk in the system at my old job, terms got one specific benefit that most full-time employees did not. The full time employees at another location banded together, decided this was unfair, and wouldn’t let the terms in their shop use that benefit.

        2. Karo*

          That’s true of my old company as well, but it was so common that – even as a permanent, salaried employee from the beginning – I still got a sense that people were making a good deal less than I was. OP says the way they’re treating her is common, so even if her coworkers weren’t ever temps they probably have a friend in the company that is a temp.

          Honestly, even if they’re confused by what temp wages have to do with it, they can Google it and figure it out. Or if they ask OP, she can be more explicit without getting into specifics about her wages (assuming she doesn’t want to). e.g. “Temp wages are generally pretty low, even when the company is paying a lot of money to the temp agency. Benefits usually also aren’t great so I don’t get paid time off, even for sick days or days the office is closed.”

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          While true, Introvert Girl’s phrasing would make it clear that this is a much lower wage than permanent staff. I realize tech can have some people who are bad at inferring personal stuff from cues, but that’s probably not the majority of her team.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Lots of tech companies do this. They did this when I worked for my first high-tech behemoth (rhymes with crisco) in 1998 – temps were paid significantly less than FT, and often had zero benefits.

        That said, the better agencies get you decent money, have their own 401ks, and have healthcare, albeit taken out of your check pre-tax. Only one I’ve worked for had vacation time, and none had sick time.

        Because of the practice of staffing entire departments with underpaid temps without sick time (so everyone came in sick), I ended up getting pneumonia at one job.

        If they lowballed you with an agency that doesn’t let you buy healthcare, and are doing the endless renewals thing, I would definitely start looking elsewhere.

    2. Annony*

      I agree that that is the best way to phrase it. They probably forgot the OP is still a temp and how much lower the pay is. If you want to, you can even suggest a happy hour or lunch at somewhere cheaper sometime (if you know of somewhere in your budget) to make it clear that you do want to socialize.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I suggested something similar above. If OP is worried about not looking like a culture fit because she keeps turning down happy hours and such, she can suggest low budget activities instead – I’m sure some of her coworkers would appreciate the change of scenery and the ability to save money for once.

      2. Malarkey01*

        I was a very poor grad in a very high paid company when I started out. One thing I did was go to happy hour, but order a $4 club soda, and socialize for a hour or two. No one noticed I was nursing the same cheap drink (and sometimes bigger wigs would buy rounds for everyone and then it really wasn’t noticed). I’d still get the FaceTime, networking, and “good fit” benefits without spending the money. Just a suggestion for potential option.

        1. Kittymommy*

          I’ve done this before and a lot of times the bar doesn’t charge for the club soda. Especially when the rest of the party is drinking.

        2. TechWorker*

          In the U.K. buying rounds of drinks is common (not in all circles but certainly at my company when people go out for drinks). When new grads start they can usually go to the pub for a couple of months before paying anything at all, and then likely at least a couple of years/pay rises until they’re expected to split it fairly. If OP doesn’t feel too awkward about cheerily saying ‘sorry even happy hours not in a temp’s budget!’ they might also find that occasionally others are happy to chip in. It obviously does not fix the situation and I totally get how frustrating it is to feel like others are just clueless, but I do think telling them politely is a good start!

    3. Allypopx*

      This is along the lines of what I would say. And don’t say it bitterly, just in a casual “what can you do!” tone. I almost guarantee they a) don’t know or expect how little you’re getting paid, given the culture, and b) are trying to be genuinely warm and inviting to you. Be friendly and collegial, but let them know it’s just not in your budget.

      And try not to be angry with them. They aren’t rubbing it in your face, they’re talking about their lives. I know it stings but reframing your thinking around this is going to be important if you’re going to last in this situation. The negativity and resentment will really burn you out.

      1. Ann Nonymous*

        Yep. Laugh in a good-spirited way and say, “I’ll be happy to join you when I’m hired on FT and get the big bucks to match!”

    4. animaniactoo*

      Yes, I thought if the policy was common that at least some of them have to have been through it and remember the days when it was them, and that it would be more useful to just be clear that the cost is the barrier, not the company.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And it’s also possible that the other employees don’t realize OP is there as a temp. Just be pleasant and matter of fact – wish I could – just can’t on what a temp makes…..

      2. Mags*

        AND part of the problem is that the OP are not only being paid temp wages, but they had tapped out their savings before that. So they are *tight*, not just tight. So even the employees who know about the temp wages probably don’t realise how long the OP’s been skating on the edge financially.

    5. Junior Dev*

      I’d agree with this. Maybe it’s scary, but you are legally entitled to discuss compensation.

      If there’s any one coworker you feel especially close to, I think you should sit down with them privately and tell them everything you said here—including the part where you’re afraid to not get hired because it’s “not a good culture fit” (ugh ugh ugh). Maybe they can also help you plan the occasional after-work activity that doesn’t cost very much or anything.

      But in addition to or instead of that…I think it’s perfectly fine, when someone invites you to dinner or drinks, to say, “I’d love to, but since I’m still a contractor I don’t make enough to go out like that.” (Think about whether them offering to cover your tab is an acceptable response, in advance of doing this.)

      I’m really sorry you’re in this situation. I’m not aware of a similar perma-temp situation at my company but we do have a huge disparity between software engineers and everyone else which can lead to similar dynamics.

      1. Junior Dev*

        In terms of cheap or free activities:
        * go for walks, runs, or bike rides together during the lunch break
        * go to a coffee shop after work and play board games (this requires someone to already own games, so make friends with the person in your office who really likes board games) (it’s a software company on the west coast. Someone really likes board games)
        * a “coffee walk” in the afternoon with a few people where you go get coffee
        * invite folks to attend some sort of technology meetup after work together; often these provide free food as well

        1. Yorick*

          You can go with them on a coffee walk even if you don’t buy a coffee. If they ask why you’re not getting anything, you can say something like you just wanted to stretch your legs.

      2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        One nitpick, temp not contractor. Contractor is self employed and should have negotiated a good rate. Temps get 40-60% of the payment to the agency. And that payment is about the full time, hourly rate.

        1. foolofgrace*

          Not always. In North Carolina, and in Chicago, the term is “contractor” but we’re treated like temps. We work for the contracting company and get a W-2. There are the other types of contractors where they are self-employed and get a 1099 or whatever the number is.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yep, I was technically a permatemp for ~3 years, working through a staffing agency, but everyone called us contractors.

          2. CL Cox*

            That’s different from a temp, in that you are usually there for the duration of the project that your company was required to fulfill, and that’s what your contract with your employee says. You are usually referred to in employment and legal circles as a “contract(or) employee.” A “temporary employee” is usually hired through an agency to fill an ongoing position, but only for a set period of time. It is most common for support positions (clerical or financial) and its original intent was to either fill the position while the regular person was out for vacation or sick leave or, in the case of temp-to-hire positions, to give both sides some time to work together and see if this is a good permanent fit, without the employer having to take on the paperwork/requirements to hire someone on a probationary/trial basis.

            Some employers, as in the OP’s case, misuse the rules regarding temp employees to avoid having to deal with benefits, taxes, etc., since it costs them the same amount. They know that the employees in question are not getting anywhere near market rate (how much the employee gets is clearly spelled out in the contract with the agency), they just don’t care.

        2. Yorick*

          No, the word “contractor” is not only used for that purpose. All the contractors I know are what you call a temp, although their pay seems to be around or sometimes higher than a full-time employee (because the client pays so much to the contracting company).

        3. Theophania*

          I was a contractor for 13 years, for three different companies (doing basically the same job for the same BigCompany). We were not temps. We were employees of the contracting companies on contract to BigCompany. When I was at a plant, there were people there who had been there for 20+ years as contractors.

          In your industry, contractor may equal self-employed and temp equals someone working through a third party, but it absolutely is not universal.

          1. Librarian1*

            But you’re not a contractor and neither is Yorick. You’re a full-time employee FOR the contracting company. That’s different from both being a temp AND being a contractor.

        4. Tisiphone*

          I’ve been a permatemp but not with an agency, so there was no third party skimming my wages. The company I worked for paid me directly. They just didn’t want to give me benefits.

    6. The Original K.*

      I’ve been in this situation & this is how I handled it. “I don’t have paid time off, so … [fill in the blank].”

    7. fposte*

      I think this works really well as the invitation response, and you can mix it up with “Sorry, not in the budget yet” or “Unfortunately, things are tight this month.” All in a matter of fact tone, rather than mournful or resentful.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think you can get similar traction on not wanting to hear about what they spend their money on. It’s too normal a daily-life thing to try to curb; it’s akin to hoping that people don’t talk at all about their children or their partner if you yearn for those things and don’t have them. And I think it would add, not subtract, fit issues with the group if they felt they couldn’t mention their vacation or coffee run to you.

      Sorry; it’s rough to be so close to a possibility but not have it; I hope they take you on permanently soon.

    8. Jimming*

      And then you can add “but I’d be happy to eat lunch with you tomorrow in the break room.” It’s common for people to take lunches to work. I wouldn’t avoid socializing altogether but find ways to do it in the office.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, or if they’re going to the coffee shop in the afternoon, ‘Oh, great – I can’t have caffeine this late in the day, but I could really do with a walk. Mind if I join you?’

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, I think OP should try to occasionally join the social activities and just not buy anything! You don’t have to do that all the time, I can see how that would be a bummer. But if you’re actively worrying that not socializing will hurt you then make an effort to do at least some.

          There have definitely been times in the past where a coworker said they were walking up the street to grab a sandwich and did anyone want to join, and I said I packed lunch or already ate but hadn’t gotten up from my desk in a while so I’d love to walk with them. There are definitely ways you can chat and socialize without spending extra money.

    9. Stone Cold Bitch*

      This. Be honest.

      Say it in a calm and neutral tone.
      “I don’t get paid for the days the office is closed, so I plan to spend the long weekend driving for Uber to make up for it.”

      You are simply stating a fact.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes. It’s a natural opportunity to educate your coworkers on economic inequality and your company’s crappy two-tier system.

    10. Anonys*

      It should really be way more normal to talk about financial limitations and noone should be ashamed to say they can’t afford something – but I myself am super awkward talking about those things. It feels awkward to admit something’s too expensive and then I also worry that I’ll make the other person feel awkward by pointing it out.

      That being said, the part about temp wages seems like an elegant solution. Maybe one of your coworker will pick up and suggest a lower priced hangout at some point? Also, if you want to build rapport with your coworkers outside of work, maybe go along if they ever just go to a bar, rather than a full meal out? I don’t know your exact budget, but you could just get a non-alcoholic beverage and drink it slowly.

      1. Annie Porter*

        So much this! I feel like a buzzkill when everyone wants to do something that costs a small fortune. Especially if it’s something that’d be neat to do, but not really my jam. I find myself making something up instead of just saying “Sixty bucks for a salt water float is not in my budget. That’s my whole grocery bill for a week!”

    11. Sparrow*

      This is what I would say. And I feel you, OP – I’ve spent time in an environment like this with coworkers who thought because I was young and single (unlike them), I should be taking advantage of my vacation time to go on extravagant vacations wherever I wanted, forgetting that because I was young (and therefore didn’t have much savings) and single (and therefore didn’t have a well-paid partner like them to help with expenses related to living in our big city), I didn’t have the resources to do that.

      I don’t think you need to go into details about your finances, but I also don’t think it’s inappropriate to matter-of-factly point out that this isn’t feasible for you. They might not curb their own comments, which is on them, but you don’t need to pretend because it might make things awkward or to let them ignore/forget that not everyone is as privileged as them.

    12. AnotherSarah*

      This is great. I’m reluctant to talk actual numbers (to avoid any embarrassment for those on better salaries and also to avoid unwanted/unneeded advice on saving), but it’s a good reminder to folks that not everyone doing the same work gets paid the same or even close to the same. Hopefully they’ll look up what temp wages are, and be horrified.

    13. Campfire Raccoon*

      This, and you gotta say it with good-natured long-suffering. 99% chance they’ve been there in one form or another.

    14. Krabby*

      I really like this response, though tone will be key.

      As an added bonus, you’ll likely get some good info on how likely it is your position will become permanent. If they all start commiserating with you, great, you know there’s a fair shot you’ll make it to to full time. If they all seem confused or go quiet because it’s not a shared experience… Well, I’d keep up the job search, because it’s likely they won’t keep you around once they have to make you perm.

    15. 2 Cents*

      Love this response. I’m a contract-to-hire whose contract was just extended instead of being hired. Though my wages aren’t a sore point, at times, the lack of PTO (all days are unpaid that I don’t work) and other things can be grating. But I know my coworkers didn’t cause the situation. Around Christmas, people asked if I was taking any time, and I responded with a breezy “not really, since I’m still contract and all my days are unpaid.” I got understanding nods (many started out contract-to-hire here) and we moved on.

    16. Marcy Marketer*

      This is a great response! I would only use it a few times, and not for every coffee request, though, because being a downer might affect your culture fit (ugh ugh!). Once it’s clear you’d like to go to drinks but just can’t right now, hopefully the fact that you don’t go out won’t be held against you.

      Also you should keep applying to new jobs! With this major company on your resume some new doors might open.

      1. Karo*

        Agree with this, too! Sprinkle it in among a few plain “I can’t, but you guys have fun!” responses – and then once you get your first permanent paycheck and breath a little, be the one to suggest that you go for drinks or lunch to celebrate.

    17. CupcakeCounter*

      Yes, this is a good way to say this. Lets them know that you would be interested (so there aren’t any “fit” issues that come up later) but just can’t swing it. You could also easily go with a comment about needing to build your savings back up just in case your contract isn’t renewed since the move drained it or the student loan situation – most people would be really understanding of that.

    18. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This is beautiful. I wish I’d had it in my back pocket when I was temping in Silicon Valley near the start of my career.
      OP, even though you enjoy your current job & co-workers, please look for another position. Let your agency know you’re open to changing contracts and taking a different permanent placement because this employer has doubled the length of time in temp-to-perm. If you’re concerned about “job hopping” don’t — put it on your resume as “fixed-term contract”. And if your agency finds you a better post, put both CheapskateBigname and WellPaidBigname down as contracts with the agency as your employer.

    19. Karo*

      Agreed. And even if they didn’t all go through the temping phase, I feel like it’s common enough that they should understand what that means in terms of lower salary. I was a direct hire at my old job, but a ton of people were hired as temp-to-perm and after awhile you just sort of learned through osmosis that it generally meant lower wages, unpaid holidays and unpaid time off.

      Also, in the Thanksgiving example, I think you should try to feel comfortable saying that you’re going to work as an Uber driver because the office is closed! Those *are* your plans. TBF, I would try to make it as light-hearted as possible – say it casually and then move onto an anecdote about your funniest passenger or ask your coworker what she’s most looking forward to about Hawaii (if you can stomach it).

      As others have said, it SUCKS that you’re being paid so poorly and it SUCKS that your company is doing this to you, but it isn’t your coworkers’ fault.

    20. Rusty Shackelford*

      I like this, and I might add “I’m looking forward to coffee runs with you guys if and when I become permanent.” It reiterates that you do *want* to join them, and if it turns out temps never become permanent, someone might let you down gently.

    21. Nicki Name*

      +++ this! If I was inadvertently asking someone to a group lunch that was was outside their budget, I’d want to know!

    22. QuinleyThorne*

      This is probably the best way to handle this. I dealt with this when I first started work as well, and I learned the reason it was eating at me so much was tied to how hard I was working to hide it; so I stopped. Whenever someone asked why I couldn’t go to lunch or after-work events, I just told them, as matter-of-factly as possible, that it wasn’t in my budget. My coworkers were very understanding and either stopped asking, or were kind enough to cover me.

      I still turned them down tho, because I hate socializing. “The Budget Excuse” is a top-tier Socialization Avoidance tactic.

    23. LizardOfOdds*

      Yes, this is the best advice, I think. It’s nice that the team is considering OP as “part of the team” already and including them in all of these things, but OP isn’t part of the team *yet*. It’s important for them to remember that so OP has people fighting in their corner when it comes time to renew contracts or when it comes time to convert to FTE.

      I’ve been working in big tech companies on the west coast for years, and there might have been a missed opportunity in the contract renewal. It’s completely reasonable for OP to talk about their rate with their resource manager (i.e., whoever they’re reporting to) or with their vendor manager if they’re contracted via another company. If the company was happy with OP’s work for the first 3 months, the renewal is a great opportunity to ask for more money – but it’s also an opportunity to say, “this was a temp-to-hire role, and I’m really looking forward to the ‘to hire’ part… what does timing look like for that? what else would I need to do in order to be hired into an FTE role?”

      Also, I hate to say this, but about 90% of the people I hire for contract roles are not interested in being hired on permanently; they’re perma-temps, and they want it that way, usually because they have kids and want the flexibility to take summers off, or they are just working for fun, or something else equally valid. When a contractor expresses interest in coming on full-time, I’m usually a lot more upfront about whether that’s truly an option (sometimes it isn’t, depending on headcount availability, fiscal year timing, and other stuff totally out of the contractor’s control). If it is an option, I can usually find creative ways to source a full-time role, but I really need the contractor to explicitly say they want a full-time role before I stick my neck out and invest all of that time in the politics, negotiations, and paperwork required to hire someone full-time.

    24. bikes*

      I think, depending on tone of delivery, “I’m still on temp wages” could backfire and be seen as complain-y. Can you flip this into networking somehow? For example:

      “How about a raincheck on that coffee once I move into a permanent position and please let me know if you hear of anything full time here at Moogle.”

      Maybe some of your coworkers will plant a seed in your department head’s ear that they should find something for you…

    25. Lisa*

      Yes, and I think it is actually beneficial for the culture to acknowledge out loud that small expenses can be a hardship. I worked somewhere that would cycle through phases of austerity and phases of generosity when it came to approved expenses, and it would often vary by division. A bunch of us found ourselves at an out of town conference in a weird location… a neighborhood of a huge city that just didn’t have any dinner options between expensive hotels and quick-serve tacos. Some people were confident they could expense the hotel meal, others suggested we could just buy our own dinner. And a few of us, who worked for departments in the austerity phase and had spouses and kids and limited personal funds, had to vocally balk at the idea. We just flat out said, “My boss won’t approve that and it’s not in my household budget.” For what it’s worth, a household budget sometimes carries more clout than a personal budget, because it sounds like the expense competes with cat food and school fees rather than pedicures. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. But in any case, it’s quite ok and sometimes necessary to just flat-out say, it’s not in the budget. After all, that’s what your business would say about not paying you more!

  3. Czhorat*

    Find where their houses and BURN THEM TO THE GROUND. Then salt the earth so nothing can again grow there.

    Too much?

    I don’t have a real answer; I struggled with this early in my career, when some were buying houses and I was renting month-to-month. The best you can do? If you like them, take vicarious pleasure. Enjoy that they’re sharing with you. WHat I do know is that anything you say risks coming across as petty jealousy; it’s understandable, but still won’t likely go well.

    Also take it as aspirational; hopefully someday you’ll advance in your career and will be where they are now. Look forward to that day.

        1. Snoop*

          Yep. It’s not a promotion if the only thing that increases is the workload and title. That’s just a job change.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Ugh, I still remember the day my manager told me she was buying each of her 3 kids a $3k computer for Christmas and I was trying to scrounge the money for my metro card.
      But I intimately learned the struggles of low wage jobs, and respect all of them. I really push for admins, techs, and clerks to get strong wages at my company because no one should have to live like that when they are providing value to the company.
      …but my manager was still a big jerky, jerk. No lessons learned will change that.

  4. Jdc*

    Well I’m almost sure they don’t know what you are paid. That being said it doesn’t sound like they are rubbing anything in your face, just talking about their lives.

    You really just have to understand that we all make choices that put ourselves in different positions at different times in our lives and theirs is currently different than yours. They sound like they are being nice and inclusive. Just because it’s not currently in your budget really isn’t reason enough to take any anger out on them.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It does sound like they’re being inclusive– and that would lead me to believe that there is a very good chance that, “Oh, no Starbucks for me today, not in the budget!” would be met with more kindness than derision. Try not to ascribe feelings to people who have not expressed them, right? In the holiday case, going to Hawaii is just what they’re doing, not something they’re trying to rub in your face.

      I don’t like the idea that people should be embarrassed by the choices they make, especially if they’re not taunting the OP or giving her a hard time for not living in a fancy loft. I have circumstances that allow me to live in a nice apartment, and if someone asks me where I live, I don’t think I should have to hide it, you know?

      Ultimately, I think the OP should try to give her colleagues some credit. They likely have no idea about her circumstances, nor does it sound like they’re judging her for her current situation.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This. I said in another reply up above just being pleasantly matter of fact about your temp to perm status making some things outside your budget is the best way to go. Also, see if there are some lower cost ways you can go with the group from time to time, even if only once a month could make a big difference in the long term.

      2. CatLadyInTraining*

        In regards to going to Hawaii for the holidays…that’s just mentioning what they’re doing. If the OP, asked “what are you doing for the holidays?” are her co-workers supposed to lie?

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Put it this way: Even if you HAD their salary, would you choose to spend it on a lifestyle of expensive coffee, trips, concerts, etc., etc.?

      1. Autumnheart*

        As someone with an objectively decent salary, I’d say I’m in the “expensive coffee every day” tier of luxury living, but not the “trips abroad every year” tier. So it kinda depends. Money buying happiness is pretty relative.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I’ve been where the OP is just 10 years ago. Working 3 Temp jobs and going to grad school.

          I’m well paid now, but hardly rich. But enough to afford some luxuries like a budgeted trip or two abroad. But most of the time I skimp on things like lunches, dining out, and coffees and brown bag it to concentrate on saving and investing and paying off my house. I know quite a few people better paid than me who are even more frugal! They’ll probably retire at 50 while I’m still slogging away.

          I think too, some of these people may have rich parents who pay even when they’re adults with good jobs.

    3. Anonys*

      I agree that people are in different positions and all, but it’s not just their own choices that put them there.When it comes to finances, especially when we are young, circumstances outside of our control often play a big role (mostly depending on family wealth, education, etc) OP didn’t exactly choose be underpaid, they had limited options, while others have more.

      Still, your point about being accepting of that situation is valid, as the difference is not the coworkers’ fault.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Ditto about “choices”.

        So much of life is not something we can choose. At best, we often only get a choice between a small number of limited things that were accidentally “curated” for us.

        The older I get, the more true I know this is.

        1. Anonys*

          I’m not saying people don’t make choices. But if OP had the option to have a permanent role with higher pay anywhere, they would obviously take it. It sounds like they are doing the best they can to get by, including driving ubers in their time off. We don’t know why OP moved, maybe they needed to be close to an ill family member? The company also misrepresented the choice of working there, when saying they might be hired after only 3 months, when their standard practice is to drag out the process.

          People’s option sets in life are obviously not equal. I don’t ever want to deny that people have agency and can influence their lot in life, but luck plays such a massive part in success (financial and otherwise), as well as where you started out in life. A coworker might have made all the same choices as OP, but was lucky to come along at a time where the company was more open to hiring full-time workers. That’s life and OP has to deal with that reality, but I don’t think it’s fair to say they choose to be in the (financial) position they are in, even if their choices are part of what led there (together with other factors).

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Thank you so much for saying this. I hate that it’s so taboo in our culture to point out the truth that luck plays a far larger role in our lives and success than we want to admit.

  5. Ginger*

    I would go to your teammates and ask for their advice on how to become a full time employee.

    In addition to getting some potentially helpful insights, asking for help usually helps bond you with the team and flags to them that you are in fact an hourly employee. They might not even realize what that means. For example, the Thanksgiving time off piece. I would bet your colleague didn’t know you don’t get paid time off.

    When they do the happy hours or coffee, it’s OK to say “it’s not in my budget yet, waiting on that full time role!”.

    I work for one of those tech giants and I find most of my colleagues champion the temps on their teams and help push them into full time positions. Most are aware that their high salaries make it nearly impossible for others to live and work in the same city.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I agree with this – and perhaps they have connections elsewhere that can get you interviews at other companies. When you get those glowing reviews, you can also ask if there’s anything you can do to improve your chances of getting that “hire” part faster. It sucks that you’re being strung along. But it’s not your coworkers’ fault, and they likely do not realize you’re struggling. Be honest about your budget without being bitter, if you can strike that balance.

    2. Yvette*

      “When they do the happy hours or coffee, it’s OK to say “it’s not in my budget yet, waiting on that full time role!”.” Not picking on Ginger because that has been the best suggestion so far, but just make sure to use it judiciously and not turn it into some sort of whiny mantra/go to response. And suggesting alternatives where possible is a good tactic as well.

      An asking for advice from your permanent colleagues is very sound advice.

      1. 2 Cents*

        And maybe occasionally going just for the team building / bonding experience. I did this as a vastly underpaid intern (at least I got paid), and when I went out for drinks, one of the highly paid FT salespeople paid for my drinks — was super insistent and gracious about it. I got to know the team well that way, and didn’t feel too out of place. (She was literally like, “I am not letting the intern pay for her own drinks. That’s against [the company’s] way!”)

        1. Morning Glory*

          To add a different experience, when I was 24 and first hired at at org where I made less than half the salary of the next most-junior person on my team, we had a team happy hour. At the end I put in enough for my drink, tax, and a 25% tip, and then my boss (who made 4x what I did) made clear we were all splitting the bill evenly. I had to go to an atm to help subsidize the expensive drinks that my much-better-paid colleagues had ordered.

          So, OP shouldn’t count on anyone covering her drinks; if she goes and someone offers, that would be a nice bonus, but if she can’t afford it if that doesn’t happen, then she shouldn’t go.

          1. Ali G*

            True, but she can go and just not drink too. I’ve on many occasions just ordered water or nothing at all, just to put in an appearance. If anyone asks she can say “oh i have to drive” or “I don’t want to skip my workout tonight” or anything else indicating why she’s not drinking. She doesn’t have to draw attention to her financial state if she doesn’t want to.

          2. Morticia*

            I’m sorry your boss was an asshole. I don’t think you would have been out of line to privately let him know that wasn’t an option for you.

            1. WellRed*

              +! to the boss being an ass. I wouldn’t have even said it privately. “I only brought enough to cover my drink.” Said cheerfully and like, of course they don’t expect you to pay for others.

              1. Morning Glory*

                Yeah, hindsight is 20/20 :) It helped me learn both to set better boundaries in the future, and to be extra thoughtful of my junior colleagues now that I’m in a different place, professionally.

          3. Yorick*

            If you’re worried they’ll do a group tab thing like this, you could go up and order your drink/water/soda from the bar and pay as you go.

        2. CupcakeCounter*

          Agree – go with them to a happy hour or the coffee shop every so often (maybe 25% of the time) and get the absolute cheapest thing you can find or a soda and nurse that for a while. Just make sure that if they do the “group tab” thing that you say you need to pay separately. Stay for 30-45 minutes just to get the comradery and team time but not long enough that the 1 drink thing starts to look awkward and you feel you have to order more.
          I would go in planning on paying and then be very gracious and accepting if someone offers to pick up your tab or share their appetizer. Be sure to return the favor if/when you get FT or doing something for them that might cost them money but is free or excessively cheap for you (a ride home if close enough so they don’t have to pay for an Uber, bake some muffins or brownies or something for Monday morning, etc…).

        3. Sunflower*

          I agree. I live in NYC and even people with a lot of money are on a budget (or always trying to save money).

          I personally don’t care for Starbucks- it’s fine to say ‘I’m good on coffee but happy to join for the trip!’

          1. Kitty*

            Yes exactly! I don’t even drink coffee, but I sometimes join my coworkers on a walk to the coffee place just for fresh air and a chat. :-)

      2. Shakti*

        I think not in my budget yet is a good idea, but having been a temp it’s usually not a great idea culturally to mention the full time role part it tends to be out of sync and come across badly. Do think talking to people about how they were successful getting full time roles is a really good one!!

      3. Kitty*

        Yes definitely, suggesting alternatives like eating together in the break room could be good, if they’d go for that. I do that sometimes with my work friends when I’m having a tight budget period, they go buy their food and bring it back, and I eat my packed lunch with them in the lunch room.

    3. mf*

      Yes, I love this idea. It’s a gentle way of reminding them that you’re a temp and you may actually get some good advice in the process! It also makes a little less when weird when you later say, “Sorry, can’t do drinks, I’m still on a temp budget. But ask me again once I’m full-time!”

    4. Tech Worker*

      I was in this exact position (at what I suspect is the same company) and this is how I handled it, to much success. A lot of my coworkers didn’t realize exactly *how* bad being a temp was, and so when opportunities came up to move to full-time work they were able to advocate for me in the moment.

      Now that I’m on the other side, I’ve noticed a presumption that even though temp work pays less, there are other benefits (much more flexible/remote options, removed from the political elbowing that the FTEs get in to, in some teams much more job security since some groups loooooooove to restructure lots and lots). It’s completely misguided for the most part.

      The way I did it was that I casually took people out for coffee or lunch and asked their advice. That’s really it. It let me signal that I was interested and serious about converting, made them feel good because I was asking for their expertise, and also giving them a way to help me without making it about the privilege difference (and thus running the risk of making feel people bad/guilty, which won’t really accomplish what you’re looking for).

      Other folks are suggesting other ways that will probably work as well, this is just what worked for me.

    5. Silly-Con Valley*

      I would go to your teammates and ask for their advice on how to become a full time employee.

      As someone who works in Silicon Valley, I fully agree with this. I’d add that you should pick the askees strategically — find someone who has clout within the company and can advocate for you.

      Also, remember that we are in a very hot job market and economy, especially here. If OP is really leading teams and such, it may be that the company can’t really risk losing you if you say that you need to be hired full time.

    6. Daniotra*

      I like this way of framing it. It’s cheerful and puts a positive spin on it. It gives them the opportunity to invite you to still come along and chat. You may want to try budgeting a small amount so you can join the team for a drink or coffee klatch once a month.

    7. Kitty*

      This is a great point, I’d try to make allies of them, it might help you get to the salaried role faster! Good luck!

  6. Dragoning*

    I have no sympathy…I’m in a similar position, although my pay with reference to the cost of living is better. They were all temp-to-hires at one point, but I think it might’ve been a less awful situation way back when, because they are routinely horrified when I mention “oh, I don’t get paid for that day.”

    So i just sit. Simmering. With no end in sight, while they tell me to apply for FTE jobs at the company that require degrees and experience levels I won’t have for a decade or two, if ever.

    1. PL*

      No. No, they weren’t all temp-to-hire at one point; that’s not how a lot of internet/tech companies work.

      The way they work is that at first, if you get in early enough, lots of people are hired straight into the company. It’s later on when the companies start getting cheap and hiring people through temp agencies, paying much lower wages and no stock options.

      So people who are angry about it are justifiably angry about it, and shouldn’t feel a ton of loyalty to companies that treat them that way.

      1. Dragoning*

        I’m not at an internet company, and I have been here long enough to know most of my coworkers were contractors at some point—many of them mention their contracting days.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I’m glad you clarified that because I was like “wait… this sure seems like sympathy to me” :)

      2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        I was going to ask if you meant no sympathy for OP or OP’s coworkers or something else?!?!? Now it makes perfect sense.

        1. Yvette*

          It was also very uncharacteristic of your style as a poster, I saw “I have no sympathy…” and thought “Wow, that is not like them”.

  7. Policy Wonk*

    If this is the usual practice, your co-workers have likely been there. I’d work on a jokey kind of response along the lines of: “no can do – I’m still in that awful contract phase and can’t afford that yet. But count me in when I’m here for real!” So you make clear you want to be one of the team, that it’s not personal.

    1. londonedit*

      I was thinking the same. I’ve discovered that it’s best to be honest about it if you simply can’t afford things – often people don’t realise that not everyone earns the sort of money they do, and it’s a useful thing to point out every now and then. I’ve had to have a couple of blunt conversations with friends where they’ve been all ‘But why don’t you just do X, it’s only £50, what’s the problem?’ and I’ve had to explain that my salary is probably less than half theirs, and with a week to go until pay day £50 is about all I have to live on. I love my job, but it sure as heck doesn’t pay very well, and people don’t expect someone of my age to be earning £30k a year in London. But here we are. Anyway, I’ve always found that people are very receptive if I just say ‘Look, I’d love to, but I really can’t afford it right now, I’m literally eating beans on toast until the end of the month’. And the OP has a perfect way of saying that – I think everyone’s going to understand ‘I’d love to, but I’m still on temp wages and they’re barely covering my living expenses’.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, I like that notion too. It really makes it about the stage rather than the person, while subtly pointing toward the hoped-for future.

    3. Six Degrees of Separation*

      I’d leave out “awful,” but I think this is a great way to acknowledge where you’re at and where you hope to be.

  8. KayEss*

    Regarding the “social fit for the team” aspect, there’s been some great advice and scripts over on Captain Awkward in the past for maintaining social connections like that while on a tight budget.

    Personally, I’d want a colleague in this position to be honest about it so I could advocate for them to my boss as applicable… but if you do that, you really have to be able to not sound bitter, which may not always be possible. It’s a terrible balancing act.

  9. and so it goes*

    My sympathies. They don’t realize they’re rubbing your nose in the imbalance there; unless they were term-to-hires who got hired, they probably don’t know how little you get paid.

    Can you redirect both the conversations and your anger? Switch the conversations to “oh, I don’t have plans. Did you watch the game/this specific show/what’s up with that one specific project we’re on”. And switch the anger to your boss: that’s the one who isn’t hiring you, that’s the one who is underpaying you, that’s the one who let you think that you would ever be hired. (And, honestly, unless they have a GREAT track record, which they don’t, they’re not gonna hire you. One place I worked, there were only ever two of us who got hired by them after being terms: it took me 2 years, it took her four years. I would tell all terms to never expect to get hired, since the boss didn’t see it as anything urgent or important. My coworker got another job offer and said she would walk. She was running a multi-million dollar project and had been for several years. They hired her.)

    Also, “for its ridiculous salaries and generous benefits”, they’re funding that by crapping on the term workers. The others get paid more because you don’t get paid. It’s zero-sum and it’s horrible. If there is any recourse there to get your full-time coworkers to band together to tell the boss to get you full-time and to knock off this crappy term stuff, that’d be great. But that’s probably pie in the sky.

    1. Annony*

      I think that it is also possible that being honest about vacation plans could help. When asked what you are doing over the break it is ok to say “Well I’m still a temp so I don’t get paid for the break. I’m planning to drive for Uber to fill the gap.” They probably don’t realize the financial situation you are in and if you can bring yourself to be honest without sounding bitter (hard, I know) it might make them realize they should dial back the talk about luxuries.

    2. and so it goes*

      Also, in terms of “social fit”, one thing jobs like this do is serve as a socioeconomic status winnowing function: they don’t want to keep people who can’t afford to live on their crappy salary alone for years. They want people who have other means of support. Once they winnow out the undesireables, the ones who are left are the ones who fit the social climate they’re aiming for.

      This might not be intentional. Honestly, sometimes I truly do believe companies who say that it isn’t. But when everyone comes from a family that either lives nearby so they can live with them or that can help pay their rent, or put them through college so they didn’t have loans… they’re getting a very specific effect from that cause they’re creating. And then they look around and wonder where the diversity went, because, sure, at the lowest levels, they do hire a very diverse crowd! But somehow that crowd diminishes and all the permanent employees are white from well-off families. Hmm. Wonder how that happened.

      It’s systemic and that sucks.

      1. Important Moi*

        Thank you for this. If I could I would upvote this.

        There SO many people who don’t understand the systemic nature of a lack of diversity.

    3. EBStarr*

      I do want to say that any tech employee at a large internet behemoth almost certainly DOES know that the temps and contractors are paid much less, unless they’re truly not paying attention to the news, internal discussions, or industry publications. There is widespread discussion in the industry about the fact that the wealth of these giant behemoths is not being spread to half the people who work in the office. There have even been efforts to organize both groups to get better treatment for non-full-timee employees. The OP’s coworkers seem more likely to have an obliviousness/self-awareness problem than to be genuinely unaware of the disparities. It’s certainly possible that if they spend all their time researching fancy Hawaiian vacations they might not know, but it’s unlikely.

      1. Krabby*

        Well, they also might not be aware that she’s a temp. It’s possible that this role isn’t typically staffed that way and they’d be shocked to hear that she isn’t permanent.

  10. matcha123*

    I may be in the minority, but I would tell them that I get paid less and am on a budget.
    I’m in a similar position in my office and it is utter hell to listen to people plan multiple overseas vacations throughout the year and carry on, seemingly without a care in the world. I suck it up because I need money and I’ve always been the poor one.

    1. RobotWithHumanHair*

      Definitely. I see people in my office always going on extravagant vacations, going out for lavish dinners, constantly talking about weekends out “on the boat” and meanwhile, I’m all like…I can barely pay my bills, haven’t gotten a raise in 2+ years, my wife and I are both driving cars that are approaching 200K miles on them and our idea of a vacation is driving up to Orlando for a couple days to take the kids to Legoland once a year.

  11. JokeyJules*

    I had a job where I made half what my coworkers made. Every year they all go to this nice restaurant with a pre-fixe menu as their holiday party for $75. Everyone pays their own way. I couldn’t afford this by any means, at the time $75 was my grocery budget for 3 weeks, so that’s what I told them. “I’m sorry, but I can’t afford that. $75 is a pretty big chunk of my budget for food for the month, so I can’t spend it on one meal. Take pictures and tell me about it though!” They were sympathetic and understanding and didn’t bring it up again.
    However, I know it was easier for me to say that and not feel mad or frustrated because I wasn’t doing the same job as them. I can definitely see why it bothers you more since you essentially are in the same role but making less. My best advice is that if they ask, be honest and say “i can’t really fit that in my budget right now” or “i worked a little extra since my contract is a bit different than yours right now”. I think that might slow down them asking you about making crazy expensive plans, and also bring to their attention that working in the same office and even same position unfortunately doesn’t mean getting the same pay (for now!). I know how this feels, i’m sorry you’re dealing with it, and i hope it changes very soon!

    1. Senor Montoya*

      It’s really sucky that they didn’t either pick a different way to celebrate, or all pitch in to cover your meal. How many people were going? That’s just terrible, I’m sorry!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Right. If it was a team holiday party, the company should have found a way to pay for it.

    2. Blue Eagle*

      I wouldn’t frame it as “not within my budget” but rather frame it similar to suggested above as “still on temp wages which are way less than full-time workers”. The former suggests that you have budgeting issues (maybe way too much debt?) vs that your pay is significantly less than theirs.

      1. Marthooh*

        Huh? There’s nothing dicey about having a budget. People who do are less likely to be in debt.

  12. techRando*

    LW, your coworkers almost certainly don’t know how little you’re being paid, and IME, when that’s come up for underpaid contractors with my work, us full-timers have always been outraged on behalf of the temps.

    I think it’s reasonable for you to have these emotions, but I highly suspect they just don’t realize your monetary situation. I know if it were me, I’d be willing to buy a normal lunch for a coworker who’s making less than the rest of us by a ridiculous amount.

    This sucks, I wish you the best of luck.

    1. techRando*

      I should clarify: they almost certainly don’t know, unless it’s standard for everyone to go through this. In all my jobs, this has been a minority situation, where most are hired directly full-time. That might not be the case here, but it feels really weird for it to be normal here because I’d expect there to be some acknowledgement of the pay difference if it was. Like I’d expect, at a minimum “Oh yeah, you’re still a temp, I do NOT miss that. You’re gonna love being a full timer, it’s great.”

    2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      If you work in big tech in the most famous companies, you may not know how little the contractors are paid exactly, but you are highly likely to know they’re paid a lot less. Assuming you ever read the news about your own company or similar companies. At a public issue.

      1. techRando*

        I think you might be surprised how many people don’t follow the news for info like this, or who don’t retain it when they learn it.

    3. These Old Wings*

      Until I started looking into temp work about a year ago, I had no idea how poorly temps were paid. I actually assumed they were paid a higher hourly rate to make up for not receiving benefits. So I agree with this that they may not know unless they also started as temps.

    4. Sleve McDichael*

      If I had a temp coworker who told me they were making half my salary I’d definitely be shouting them coffees and lunches. Not all the time, but sometimes. Last summer I invited the girl on secondment to stay at my family’s beach shack too. Some people might want to share with you if they knew your situation. I’ve been told Americans are generous people who enjoy gift giving.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I think our political situation makes it clear that any generosity most Americans may possess is limited to their friends and family at best, alas.

        1. techRando*

          Even if someone doesn’t feel very generous, paying for someone to join you is essentially buying your way out of an awkward situation. You don’t even need to be particularly generous as a whole to be willing to do this.

  13. Ann O. Nymous*

    I think this is a very understandable feeling but one that you need to work on reframing since this is not the fault of your coworkers and it simply is not going to help your situation by being resentful of them. The policy sucks but you need to either a) talk to your supervisors about it or b) stick it out. You’re misplacing your resentment here, I think, and you need to do work on yourself (whether through talking to a therapist, a trusted friend outside of work, etc.) to stop letting your feelings seep into your interactions with them because treating them badly is not going to help your future employment goals with this company.

  14. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    I am wondering if it just makes sense to be honest – for example:
    “Unfortunately I’m still in the temp to hire boat so I have to hustle this weekend and save all my pennies. But it sounds like you’re going to have a fun trip!”

    Don’t present it in a way that makes them feel sorry for you, just as factual, and if someone does do that, “Oh, it’s nothing to be sorry about! I’ve come to realize this is pretty common and I’m just riding it out in the meantime.”

    I feel like these companies count on the shame that goes with this so people won’t say anything. But there is nothing to be ashamed of! And it is also entirely possible that some of your coworkers are unaware of the disparities depending on their situation.

    It IS a big deal, but I think the best way to present it is honestly, and as if it isn’t.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I posted up above wondering if the OP’s co-workers knew they were working there on a temp to perm contract. I wonder how many of the offers to join them for things would change if they knew that OP’s budget just can’t absorb $x every day/week. It is a possibility if they really are nice but clueless.

      Also, bringing it up may give you info on how long it could take before you are made permanent/if it’s realistic to become permanent.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        There was one comment when I started writing my post and like 20 once I hit submit and I think we were all advocating the same thing!!!

  15. 3DogNight*

    I went through about 5 years of something similar. I discovered that my co-workers were a LOT less judgmental than my internal dialogue. Once I opened up a little, “I’d love to, but I’m in a budget crunch right now” they were pretty understanding, and also gave me some tips they used to spend less money on things. Sometimes they would offer to pay, or offer to go somewhere less expensive. You do need the social aspects of work, to an extent, so if they do offer to pay, go, at least once. Or, save quarters or whatever, and do the coffee once a week, if you can. There were times when I didn’t even have money for laundry soap, so I know that isn’t always an option. But, really, flip the situation, pretend like it’s your co-worker and what your reaction would be. That’s how they’re thinking.
    Your comment: which makes me scared they think I’m not a good social fit for the team when it comes to renewing my contract again–This is why I say to tell them why. You don’t have to get super detailed, just a quick, you forget, I’m contracted, so I’m BROKE! with a laugh, or whatever phrasing you like will explain this.
    It sucks, I’m so sorry! It will get better.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      I agree with this.

      If you could find a way to keep it to the minimum expense and go every once in a while it would probably help that social standing– maybe get one cheap bottle of beer or one no frills drip coffee. Look for coupons, get the app that gives you a free birthday drink, etc. (Also, as a currently pregnant person I have been to happy hours and just had water and the free tortilla chips so there’s always that…)

    2. Another worker bee*

      Ugh, I would be (and have been) super annoyed if the response to “on a budget” was tips for living on a budget. Like…the person is already doing the right things by skipping coffee, happy hours, etc. (admittedly, the vast majority of the times this has happened to me have been baby boomers who bought their houses at 10% of current value offering me, a millennial, the “skip starbucks and stop eating avocado toast” type advice, while begging me to come out to self-funded cocktail hours)

      1. Tisiphone*

        Agree on the tips for living on a budget. Usually those tips are blindingly obvious and are giveaways that the tip-givers have no idea what that’s like.

        My favorite was: Invest in stock that pays higher dividends. Oh really? Meanwhile I was trying to decide how cool my house can get in the winter without my pipes freezing so I could afford both electricity AND ramen noodles.

      2. 3DogNight*

        I had much more kind and self aware co-workers! They told me about coupon app’s I didn’t have, perks the company provides (20% off your cell phone, for example), things like that.

  16. Combinatorialist*

    1. I would start job searching again. I would put this company on your resume, with something like “Temporary Contract for X”. The other companies in the area definitely know what’s up and you might find you have more luck now that you are employed.

    2. I would try to be compassionate with your feelings. Your coworkers aren’t living their lives at you, but of course it is frustrating to be being paid half for doing the same work. Find an outlet for the frustration (that is totally reasonable) that isn’t them.

    3. When people invite you to stuff you can’t afford, say something “I would love to come but it’s not in my budget while I’m on the temp contract” . Plan some things you can afford and invite people to that. Make a point in being warm and friendly.

    4. This company sucks for doing this. They probably tell themselves some BS about the people who decide this purgatory isn’t for them are “dedicated” enough. But you are the worst person to try and do something about it. If you stay and eventually have the clout, push for change but it sucks that this is the reality right now.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I suggest looking around as well. You might find something that pays just as much without the 18-month wait. It’s always easier to find a job when you already have one. You don’t have to accept an offer if it isn’t what you want. At the very least, it will remind you that you do have options. This is temporary. Hang in there. <3

    2. RC Rascal*

      Best advice here.

      Also, consider this: Do you really need to be in the pricey area you moved to for family? Is there maybe another area a 2-5 hour drive away where you could find work, have lower expenses, and still be accessible for family? Sometimes companies located in exhurb/outlying locations can struggle to find talent.

      I work in manufacturing; lots of large companies have business units located in exhurbs of larger metros. Typically, the factory is there as well as a the management for the unit, which will include engineering, quality, sales, marketing, HR, and customer service jobs. Frequently they have difficulty finding talent. Additionally, firms like this often offer good benefits.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Living in an exurb may actually not be more affordable – OP may be living somewhere she can get by without a car, which is an *enormous* expense.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This – exurb living is expensive because everything is spread out and you definitely need transportation in a way you don’t in a city.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          Ooh, I just saw she drives for Uber, so presumably she already has a car. Even so, the idea still applies for a lot of us.

  17. Veronica Mars*

    I think you just need to remember that they aren’t being rich *AT* you. And one day it’ll be your turn.

    I currently work with people who are much better off than me, and its hard sometimes, that green eyed monster definitely comes out. But the only person who suffers from the jealous feelings is me – both because I feel jealous, and because I hurt my relationship witht hem.

    As far as the lunch thing, can you try to be the first person to suggest lower cost activities? I dunno, drinking a bottle of wine in a park or playing a game of pickup frisbee or something. Make the effort to come up with social activities you can participate in.

    1. RC Rascal*

      Drinking a bottle of wine in the park over your lunch hour at work is a bad idea. The optics are terrible, and a good way to close off the option of becoming a permanent employee.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        Obviously I didn’t mean they should consume wine at lunch – I mean, I guess I could have been clearer, but I thought it was obvious that these were after-work suggestions. But as a happy hour alternative, its a pretty great way to save money and my coworkers and I do it pretty regularly (in an area where alcohol is allowed, btw)

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Except for a lot of us (most of us, even) it *won’t* be our turn someday. A lot of us really have little chance of ever obtaining that kind of dream, and I don’t think it’s a great idea to ignore that.

      1. Avasarala*

        I took it as: make this your motivating mantra.
        Kind of like my list of who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I think for a lot of people it’s motivating in a bad way. Like… Sinclair Lewis famously commented that most Americans consider themselves “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” and the widespread delusion that “I’m gonna be rich someday” has wreaked terrible havoc on our spending habits, our career plans, and our society and politics. This is much of why people sign up for MLMs, buy McMansions they can’t afford, and freak out about how totally unfair an estate tax (“dEaTh tAx!!!1”) that will only affect a tiny percentage of the population is.

          It’s also one of the major drivers of economic inequality in the first place – a widespread conviction that it’s only young people who work low-paid jobs, that it’s OK if they suffer now because they’ll be rewarded later, and that if you’re older and poor you’re just lazy and undeserving.

  18. someone*

    I agree that you need to stop thinking they are doing this AT you. And yes, ask them for advice about getting to Full time permanent faster.

  19. EBStarr*

    Hi! I work at a very similar company to you — large internet behemoth where full time peeps are paid extremely well and the temps and contractors are paid… much less well.

    Despite being full time now, I really sympathize with your position because I used to be part time non-engineer at a place where the vast majority of the tech org was making oodles more than me. When I became a software engineer at Fancy Company, I was shocked to see how ridiculously mercenary a lot of my colleagues were. All the panting discussion of bonuses… like we aren’t already paid enough?!… and discussing at length their stock investments (stocks whose prices meant that in my previous job I wouldn’t even have been able to buy *one* unit). It is absurd. You are totally right to feel annoyed and demoralized; they are being ridiculously tacky.

    I do think there’s a lot of *abstract* awareness throughout the industry–at least the segment of it that pays attention–that contractors are not treated very well in the industry; I would guess that most workers, if they think about it at all, believe that the benefits of full-time employees *should* be extended to every person who spends 40 hours a week making this company successful, as contractors do just as much as employees. Buuut, that abstract awareness unfortunately doesn’t always translate to *self-*awareness. Some of these people have been making close to $200K since they graduated college and literally don’t even know what it’s like to not be rich. (And the vast majority of them, as far as I can tell, don’t even know that they’re rich.) It leads to some very weird and unpleasant behaviors.

    However, the abstract awareness can help you! It is not tacky at all for you to talk to your coworkers about your pay and the disparity in treatment. It’s just labor organizing, really. Talking about pay is an essential part of making sure things are equitable. So if you feel comfortable sharing that you’re working for Uber on your days off or that you can’t go get coffee with them because it’s out of your budget, please do! A little shame/embarrassment (on their parts, I mean! You have absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about!) can be a kick in the pants for people to rethink their behavior and their attitude towards their own privilege. You might also gain an ally or two who advocate for you to get hired full-time if they have any sway in it.

    Finally… I believe that you get another job! You are obviously talented since your contract was renewed and you’ve gotten great reviews. It’s tough out there when you’re interviewing and not getting a lot of bites, but I wish you luck.

    1. Krabby*

      Oh my gosh, yes! I’m in the tech industry (not in the US, so the salaries aren’t quite as bloated), but sometimes I sit in on salary negotiations with our current employees and I can’t even believe what I’m hearing. One guy, who started with us right out of university and is already making quadruple my salary, told me that he was sick and tired of playing this game where he has to make a case for why he needs a $20k raise each year, and we needed to be more proactive next year or he was going to walk…

      Like, what? Just go then. It’s so frustrating sometimes.

      1. Quill*

        *Internal screaming*

        Considering how often I’m out of a job in contractor / temp to (never) hire hell, $20k is more than half of what I make in a year..

        1. ItalianBunny*

          Uhg. I’m currently TTH (one month left until FTE, hopefully?) and 20k (€) is just slightly less than what i make A YEAR. at 36. as a Receptionist/AA/OfficeManager.
          TT(never)H Hellhole seems to be nevereending.
          Now i wanna go cry in a corner

    2. Veronica Mars*

      Yep. I went to college with a guy who got picked out of college before even graduating to go work for an internet behemoth. He is always crying poormouth to me about the price of housing, meanwhile making literally quadruple than me with only have the student loan debt (since he dropped out halfway through).
      He just has no concept of reality.
      Which is bizarre, because he grew up quite poor. But it’s like he doesn’t realize there is a level between ‘food stamps’ and ‘oh boo hoo my mansion costs 10% of my massive income’

  20. Jenny Grace*

    I’m in the bay area and know quite a few people in your shoes. It’s likely that quite a few of your full time colleagues started out in your shoes, as it’s pretty common practice. A breezy, “Oh I don’t get paid holidays as a contractor” or “I’m still on contractor wages so I need to save my money” should solve your problems. The key being a light and friendly tone when you say this. Your coworkers, while they probably don’t know your specific wages, are likely aware of the situation and just need to be lightly and occasionally reminded that you aren’t being unfriendly, you just can’t swing it right now.

    1. Old Biddy*

      This. But also be aware that back in the day, before salaries became so bloated, some contractors used to be paid more than salaried employees since they weren’t getting benefits, and some of the older ones may’ve come in during that time and have no freakin clue.

  21. Smeralda*

    I’d strongly recommend reviewing Ask A Manager’s guides for resumes, cover letters, and interviews. You might be inadvertently sabotaging yourself when it comes to finding a better position!

    As far as handing your colleagues’ lifestyle and stories, is it possible to mentally frame these things as aspirations? Stop thinking of trips to Hawaii and expensive coffee as things beyond your grasp, and instead take notes? Make Pinterest boards? You won’t be a temp forever. Good luck!

    1. Coverage Associate*

      Agree. Also, if you can talk to someone who has “made it” from wherever you were and now in the Bay Area, that might help. The Bay Area is a different beast than so many other regions. For example, outside law and finance, wearing a suit to an interview is likely to count against you.

    2. Stornry*

      Yes, this. And next time you feel that resentment building thinking about what they can do that you can’t… add one little word … *YET*. I can’t go to Hawaii for the holidays … YET. Because someday you will, if that’s what you want to do. You could even ask them about their trip with an eye toward travel tips. :-)

  22. andy*

    “Honestly, I find that lunch/party place too expensive”. It is possible they are too much elitist to accept that, most most people I encountered did not punished this.

    If you stop treating “too expensive” as taboo, you may find yourself less ressentful and less angry. They are and should be free to talk about their interests. You can tell the truth too, without accusing them or making it sound like they are doing something wrong. Healthy boundaries and confidence make relationships better instead of worst.

    1. fposte*

      I’d include “for me,” though; otherwise it sounds like a diss on the restaurant, which is going to push people away.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup. It will make it sound like the OP is passing judgment on her coworkers for wasting money on something she views as frivolous, which really doesn’t go over well with most people.

  23. boo bot*

    I would say something next time they invite you to something you can’t afford to do. “I’m still on a temp contract, so it’s not in my budget right now,” or something like that.

    Either they’re aware of the situation and they just need to be reminded so they know you’re not turning them down because you don’t want to be social, or they’re not aware, and they should be alerted to the fact that their company is keeping someone on a perma-temp contract at half the pay and no benefits.

  24. Miraculous Ladybug*

    I have so much sympathy for you, OP! My first full-time job was like this–a temp / contract role at a giant tech company with significantly worse benefits, pay, etc than the full-time rest of the team. To make matters worse, this company routinely threw parties with lunch and snacks and time off which were (in order to maintain the FT / contractor divide) not available to contractors. So my whole team would leave and I would be stuck working, or not getting paid for these nice holidays they got to take. It sucked and it really took a hit to my morale. I feel you :((

    Advice time: echoing some of the other people, I found it helpful to subtly and casually remind them of my status. “Still making contract wages–maybe next time!” or “I’ll be doing some freelance work to make up that holiday!”. I kept it casual but also persistent. Doing this eventually got the team to push for me to be hired full-time, because they were much more aware of the disparity. I didn’t end up getting hired–my contract ended during a hiring freeze–but it greatly reduced my resentment to have my team both aware of my situation and pushing for a better one.

    I hope things improve for you, OP!!

  25. Cassandra*

    Oh my, I’m so sorry OP. Some thoughts…

    1) You say your colleagues are full-time – were they originally temps as well? If so, I’m wondering if there’s anyone you feel close enough to to speak plainly about all this, and ask them for advice on getting through these first 18 months?

    2) Similar to #1, even if they haven’t been through the same boat, you might be a little more direct about not being able to spend money, but still being interested in hanging out with your coworkers. Can you still tag along when they get coffee even if you just bring your own mug with your own coffee? If you keep doing that consistently you can show that you’re interested in being part of their team even if you can’t afford all of the expensive foodstuffs.

    3) When people talk about their really expensive getaways, that sucks to listen to. I totally get it. However I think your coworkers are usually coming from a place of wanting to get to know you better, not trying to rub their lifestyle in your face or anything. So I think just being friendly and sort of laughing at the shitty situation might be the best option. For instance in response to the Hawaii Thanksgiving plans, you might say something like “That sounds awesome! I’m trying to save up money so I’ll be getting to know lots of new drunk friends while driving for uber this weekend. I’ll be with you all vacationing in spirit though :)”

  26. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I was in this situation a few years ago. I framed it in my head as ‘just because I don’t have legs doesn’t mean my colleagues aren’t allowed to walk’. It’s not their FAULT that you are on lower wages, and they’re not trying to ‘hurt’ you, presumably. You really can’t, realistically, expect them to stop drinking takeaway coffee or going to Hawaii just because you can’t afford to in the same way that I can’t expect my colleague Susan not to wear those really awesome jeans just because I’m fat and they don’t come in my size.

    So keep it light touch. If you’re invited somewhere and it’s not in your budget be honest, but don’t lather on the guilt. ‘Sorry, folks, I’d love to come for lunch at the Swanky Lobster but I’m still on temp wages so I’d better not! Thanks for asking though!’

  27. Miss Salty Grits*

    First, I think you’re right to be concerned about the impact that this is having on your work. “Perception is reality” is going to factor in heavily here. If your supervisor happens to casually ask your coworkers if you’re a good fit for your team, it sounds like an honest assessment might be that you’re always irritated with them and never want to go to lunch.

    Second, I think it would very much help you to reframe this issue in your own head. Your coworkers are just as self-absorbed as you are. They talk about their lives because they’re the only ones they have, not because they’re focused on you, want to hurt you, or want to make you jealous. Along this same line, remember that their success doesn’t preclude yours.

    Third, absolutely talk about your pay-as long as you can be cheerful and nonchalant about it. Don’t place the blame at their feet because you make less than them, and don’t expect them to stop talking to each other about their lives. If you’re asked to go out with them, be grateful that they extended the invitation and let them know that you’re still on temp wages, but you’re looking forward to going out when you’ve been hired as an employee. Talk about your drive, your hustle, and what you’re looking forward to without comparing yourself to all of them.

    1. andy*

      Honestly, what kind of teams are you working in? Because in pretty much all teams I worked in there were people who lunched alone or with out-of-team friends and they were not discriminated against. If you are constantly irritated, you will be judged irritated. But if you are not, you can lunch how it pleases you.

      If supervisor asked me how someone fits into team, I would be ashamed to answer “he does not, he does lunch without us”. That would be judged petty and unprofessional.

      I know there are teams where conformity with every detail is everything, but as I said, I have yet to be in team where lunch/headphones/movie etc choices would had any impact.

      1. Miss Salty Grits*

        I’m not suggesting that the coworkers would literally say “He lunches without us, therefore he doesn’t fit in.” I’m saying that would factor into the coworker’s perception (gut feeling, general impression, whatever you want to call it) of the OP, and could definitely be a factor in the coworker saying “OP doesn’t really fit in with us.”

        Also, OP doesn’t simply elect to lunch by himself, he declines repeated invitations to go out during and after work with no explanation so far. If this were someone you were trying to become friends with, eventually all the “No, thank you’s” would be taken at hints that this person isn’t interested in deepening the relationship.

        We have someone at work who will decline each and every lunch invitation we extend, but he talks at length about how frugal he is and how he really enjoys cooking at home, so he brings leftovers every day. We don’t sit at lunch thinking “Jim doesn’t want to be with the team,” we know that he’s brought his lunch from home because he’s on a strict budget. OP doesn’t have to spill his guts to his coworkers or justify himself but even a sliver of an explanation instead of a repeated “No” would go a long way.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup – after awhile, OP’s coworkers will start to think she’s aloof or stuck up (quiet people always get the latter charge).

        2. andy*

          I am 100% glad that I work in place where it is 100% normal to politely reject such invitation (whether lunch or after work) and not worry about clique rejecting you. And there are friends in work, we are not “no work friends exist” culture.

          But I am also inclined to see this as management failure. It suggest that non work mini dramas and considerations take precence over how you cooperate in work. While it is fact that it happens, it is also dysfunction and should be treated as such.

  28. Holly*

    Maybe this is field-specific or out of touch, but isn’t there a way you can join their after-work plans (which I’m assuming means bars?) without ordering a drink, or ordering something like fries and saying “still temping so gotta watch the wallet!” or some other light hearted note? I just worry that you’re not making connections with people that will be a part of your network. And acting brusque or rude definitely is not helping you professionally!

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Yeah, if OP wants to be hired on in this company and wants to show she’s a good cultural fit, she may have to bite the bullet and go to something with these coworkers, even if it’s just once a month. I’ve been the one just sitting there eating fries and drinking a soda because that’s all I could afford while others had full meals – sometimes that needs to be done.

  29. Jennifer*

    I totally understand. I’ve been that person sitting in the conference room listening to people go on and on and on and onnnnnnnnnnnnnn about their European vacations and wondering what the heck do you make how do I do it too?

    I think you should be honest about the fact that you have not been hired permanently yet. I was too embarrassed to do so when I was in your place but I now realize I had no reason to feel that way. The number on my paycheck does not reflect my value as a human being, any more than the much higher number on theirs does. People are starting to be more honest now about income inequality and there are more people out there struggling than you think. Maybe they’ll offer to treat you to lunch sometimes or maybe you’ll endear yourself to someone who is in the same boat and you can vent to each other about it after work.

    Best wishes! I hope things get better soon.

  30. giraffe*

    LOL, welcome to San Francisco.

    Your letter doesn’t say much about what you do outside work. Do you have friends who are outside the tech world? If you can feel less like the Only Poor Person Island in a sea of Rich Tech Money, you’ll be able to tune out the stuff at work more. Make friends with teachers, city employees, artists, nonprofit folks, grad students. It will be a lot easier to turn down the pricey mixology happy hours when you already have plans for the free movie night in the park or a potluck or whatever.

    Stop trying to make your colleagues understand your situation — in my experience, they never will and your feelings will just continue to be hurt. Focus on building up your nonwork activities and make a point of seeking out the cheap/free stuff around the city — some of it still exists! — and that’s your best bet.

    1. giraffe*

      Also, keep in mind that a bunch of your better-paid colleagues are probably putting on a front, too! Recent studies show that the number of millenials who financially support their parents is the same as the number of parents who support their millenial children. Lots of your colleagues are probably sending money to their families, paying off their own student loans, etc and they’re probably not honest about their finances. I’m sure there are a few in that group who pay for fancy cocktails and then go home to eat top ramen for dinner because they’re keeping up appearances.

      One more tip — just think about how your better-paid colleagues are probably WAY less responsible with their money than you are. Even if you get paid a lot, cost of living is SO high in the Bay Area that it’s still pretty impossible to save up. Imagine them all five years from now, when the tech bubble has burst, stuck in mortgages for houses that aren’t worth anything, with no savings and only airline miles to show for their big tech job. You’re playing the long game and you can rightly feel superior about it.

      1. Miss Salty Grits*

        I don’t really think this is a useful thought exercise, since OP is trying to move up to those same positions and there’s no indication that OP is “playing the long game” better than they are. Obviously take everything they say with a grain of salt, but trying to force yourself to feel superior to them doesn’t seem helpful.

      2. Lizzo*

        OP: Going to +1 a lot of what giraffe has said. Keep playing the long game with your approach to personal finances and it will pay off. I remember hearing colleagues at my first job talk about their very expensive designer clothes tastes and feeling very bad because 1) I couldn’t afford that kind of stuff and 2) I wasn’t really interested in it (but should I be if I am to be a person of worth in the social scene at the office????).

        Turns out those people were either being supported by their well-to-do parents and/or they had thousands of dollars in credit card debt. No thanks. You’re doing what’s right for you, and they’re doing what’s right for them. Be clear, be vocal when necessary, and carry on “doing you”.

        Re: future work, seeking out connections outside of the office is a great opportunity for more satisfying social interactions and also opportunities to network! Most jobs come about because of who you know. Get to know some people who value you for you, and who will go to bat for you when they hear of an opportunity that would be a good fit for you. You’ll find these people by doing things like volunteering locally, taking a class, becoming part of some sort of group activity like bar trivia, a running group, a social sports league, etc. All of those things take energy, though, and right now you’re spending a lot of energy on negative feelings towards your colleagues. Redirect that energy to something that benefits you.

        Above all, remember this experience, and as you grow in your career, be an advocate for others.

        I believe in you! Good luck!

      3. Diahann Carroll*

        You’re playing the long game and you can rightly feel superior about it.

        I’m not sure this is the attitude OP should take into the workplace. Superior people tend to rub folks the wrong way, which will put a big target on her back and possibly get her contract non-renewed. If she wants to be hired onto this company, she has to try to fit in with these people – at least initially. Walking around being silently judgy about how other people choose to spend their own money will not do her any favors or win her any allies.

        1. fposte*

          It also pushes the zero-sum notion that somebody in the equation has to be doing it wrong and that there’s a zero-sum character measure. OP doesn’t need to be secretly better than her co-workers; they can all be fine people, some of whom are being underpaid right now.

        2. giraffe*

          Feeling superior may not be an ideal attitude, but neither is being openly inferior like the OP is right now. In many workplaces, being silently judgmental would get them farther than being vocally underpaid. It was just a suggestion for a thought exercise, it may not be appropriate for everyone!

  31. Colette*

    Some thoughts:
    – by being short/frustrated with your colleagues, you are not hurting them – you are hurting yourself – so try to keep that under control
    – your colleagues did not choose your salary. That comes from the company, not your coworkers, so it is truly not their fault
    – you, on the other hand, did choose to take the job. It was your best option at the time, and was the right choice – but you agreed to work for the amount you are making.

    Large companies budgets are organized so that salary costs and temp costs aren’t in the same bucket, so it can take some time to move from the temp bucket to the salary bucket. But if it’s not working for you, you can leave and find something else. Be the kind of employee they’d miss if it comes to that.

  32. Yikes*

    I don’t know what is common in that industry, but in many, many industries people in hourly wage temp-to-hire positions are actually making MORE than the full time employees at their same level to make up for lack of benefits and PTO, etc. So, if they are more familiar with that type of pay scheme, they might REALLY not know that you are barely getting by!

    I think you have two options: (1) Just be honest, and say “unfortunately, on my temp wage I just can’t afford that, but it sounds like fun and I hope you have a great time!” (2) Set some money aside, and join in when you can at the price point you can afford. No one will question “I had a huge lunch, so I’m just going to order the [insert cheapest thing] appetizer.” Then you go home and have some ramen. Or, if possible, pre-eat because that will make it easier to get through the experience. Another pro tip from when I was extremely broke is to order your own drinks at the bar, but just get tonic water with a lime done up to look like a G&T. Even at very expensive places, that won’t be more than $5, and it’s usually closer to $1.

    1. londonedit*

      That’s a good point. When I was freelancing a few years ago I had one friend who went on and on about how I must be making great money ‘as a contractor’ – he didn’t understand that in my industry, freelancers are paid an hourly rate or a per-job fee that’s usually set by the company they’re doing the work for, and it’s really not very high. He had visions of me demanding £500 a day doing contract work, while I was actually proofreading manuscripts at £16 an hour.

      1. Yikes*

        Ooof! Even so! I worked as a contract attorney for awhile, where I was hired directly by the firm and paid hourly, but it added up to six figures a year, which made me feel just fine about them stringing me along. It’s actually still far and away the most I’ve ever earned as an attorney.

    2. MRK*

      Since OP mentions they drive for Uber, they could use “oh sorry driving later” as a good way to occasionally accompany people to happy hour but just grab a soda/water/soft drink of choice as well.

    3. Nicki Name*

      It’s quite common in tech as well, at least at companies that treat contract-to-hire as an audition for FT and not a way to keep FT headcount down. For instance, I’m currently contracting at about 20% higher than what my FT salary would be if the company chose to convert me. And it’s a W2 contract, so figure in the premium that the company directly employing me must be charging the one I’m contracted to and… there’s a strong financial incentive there to convert me to FT if they do want to keep me around.

  33. Vin packer*

    Have been here. It’s so hard.

    I found it harder when I tried to hide. Matter-of-factly saying “I’m driving for Uber this weekend” and “sorry, that’s out of my budget” helped for some reason.

    I think it’s because, by hiding, you not only have to deal with the unethical inequity but you also make yourself responsible for ensuring that everybody who is participating in it feels good about it. It’s not your coworkers’ fault that the company does things this way, but it’s also not your responsibility to protect them from ever having to be aware of what it means for you.

    So, keep doing a great job, keep being warm and friendly to everyone, but take “prevent anyone from having to momentarily remember that I’m being paid in Ramen” off of your to-do list. Be gracious but frank. If you can get the tone right it really shouldn’t harm your reputation.

    1. Mama Bear*

      I agree. Just like OP needs to remember that they don’t have insight into OP’s life, OP actually has limited insight into theirs. Kind of similar to people grousing about a coworker’s time off – is the coworker slacking, or taking care of an ill parent? It’s not always people’s business why, but if it’s eating OP, then maybe time to be a little more direct. Plenty of folks also can’t really afford lavish trips, either. They live on credit, not that anyone in their office would know that. Don’t compare yourself negatively to their highlight reel.

      Also, if this is a contract and there is a temp agency involved, I’d reach back to them and say, “This job seems to be underpaid” and ask for how they came to this wage with the company and if there’s any wiggle room on their end. Once I worked for a particular agency for a year, they gave me an increase, but that wasn’t about the companies I worked for. As a former federal contractor I feel your pain on days off, too. Sometimes I had to use PTO because the office was closed, but my parent company didn’t close and there was no way to make it up otherwise. My non-contractor officemates were sometimes surprised by that. Same for lots of folks impacted during a government shutdown of any length – many contractors didn’t get paid and some companies folded. You can’t assume you’re all in the same boat even if you’re in the same office.

      I’d keep looking for a direct hire FT job, though. Sounds like you might be happier with more stability and better ability to negotiate salary. Hope things improve.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Plenty of folks also can’t really afford lavish trips, either. They live on credit, not that anyone in their office would know that. Don’t compare yourself negatively to their highlight reel.

        This is a word. I make pretty good money, live in a luxury apartment building in a mid-sized and growing city, and have a fabulous wardrobe, so people have told me several times they think I have it better than I actually do financially. But between my expensive ass rent (which keeps me from living in a horrible neighborhood), student loans, and the fact that I prioritize spending what’s left of my disposable income on clothes, I can’t afford to take nice vacations either, lol.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          I love my luxury apartment because it’s so nice for all the time that I spend in it because I can’t afford to go places! Also, the fancy kitchen makes having no money to go out to eat so much easier. The unplanned bonus of it all is that it is so well-insulated, I don’t need to use the heater (in Texas).

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yes! Those are definitely lovely side benefits, lol. I eat at home way more than I ever did when I lived in a slightly less nice apartment in my city. And my property management company hosts resident parties and get togethers, so that’s also a nice way for me to do cool things for free or reduced cost.

  34. OTGW*

    Oh boy do I feel that. Different-ish situation, but I work two PT jobs (same industry). At #1, it’s a rich town where despite also working PT many of my co-workers (same dept—other depts have FT) have spouses who work really nice jobs. So this job is like their disposable income. So they can afford the $700k homes and buying new clothes and etc. At #2, well, most of the employees all around are FT with benefits. Like every week there, someone’s taking PTO.

    The people who are getting paid more than me/have disposable income always say “Well! It’s cause you’re young don’t worry!!!” And I just…. it frustrates me. A lot.

    But what I do, and what I hope is helpful for you OP, is just hate the system and not the colleagues. It’s not their fault they’re getting paid better. With benefits. But I understand. It’s frustrating! It sucks! I get angry at my co-workers too. But there’s nothing you can do except ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and find an outlet to release that frustration.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      The people who are getting paid more than me/have disposable income always say “Well! It’s cause you’re young don’t worry!!!” And I just…. it frustrates me. A lot.

      This is incredibly dismissive, and they should not be saying this to you.

      1. OTGW*

        Thanks. That’s really nice to hear. I always want to shoot back: “Thanks! Glad to know my struggling is totally fine,” but that’s probably rude so :/

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          No – say it! Seriously. As Alison likes to say, send the awkward back to sender. If they can make these little digs at you, say your line with a smile and then flounce off – I bet they won’t say it again, lol.

    2. Quill*

      “It’s because you’re young / new” lasts long past when you’re actually young…

      Just like “oh, these darn millennials!” continues to be used to lump everyone from their teens to their late thirties, early forties all together.

      *Scowls at society in Junior Millennial approaching 30*

      1. OTGW*

        Lol yeah I hate those blanket statements. And when people act like I/we deserve to struggle cause of whatever. Like, okay, thanks! That’s not rude at all!

        *scowls with you*

  35. Jennifer*

    And may I add I think it’s BS that so many companies do this now, especially ones that could clearly afford to pay everyone a living wage plus benefits.

    1. voyager1*

      But they can’t though…They have already budgeted that money for high paid C-Suites and stock buy backs. At least though this is late stage capitalism, means the end is near right?

  36. MissDisplaced*

    This is the bitch of the contract worker.
    Almost all contract-to-hire jobs NEVER become “hired” jobs. I’m sorry you got burned by this, but it is pretty much a given, and even more so in tech. If you take one of these contract jobs, I’d expect nothing more than a temp gig and take the experience for what it is—experience.

    Ok. With that said, you do need to reframe in your head “their” expensive lifestyles. They’re not trying to be hurtful or rub it in your face. In fact, they may have been where you are! Try hard to be cheerful, but change the subject to things you do do (beach, pets, whatever). Maybe budget to go to say 1 thing on occasion? But it’s fine to say something like “I’d love to come, but unfortunately I’m on a tight/Temp budget. But thanks for asking!”

  37. LizM*

    I would try to reframe things. As others have said, your coworkers almost certainly don’t understand how little you make. They aren’t inviting you to rub it in your face, they’re trying to include you.

    I agree with others that I’d find a way to let them know it’s not in your budget.

    Is there one person who is involved in organizing social events that you trust? Could you suggest more affordable options that they can work into the rotation?

    I sympathize. When I started in government, we had just paid to move ourselves to DC on credit cards and my husband was struggling to find work. We had zero disposable income, and my coworkers made substantially more, and were all single or had spouses who made a good salary. I can remember more than one happy hour where I ordered seltzer water with lime and prayed no one would notice.

  38. Seven If you Count Bad John*

    As far as not being a social fit–THEY think you’re a fit or they wouldn’t be including you in their lives (inviting you to outings, asking vacation plans etc). You’re fitting in so well they’ve forgotten you’re a temp! That’s a good sign. When it comes up, just remind them. “not in the budget, I’m still on temp wages”, as someone commented above, works well–they surely know the wage situation and some of them have even been there. I’ve been on both sides of this and I can tell you, what you’ll get is sympathy, commiseration, and outrage that the company hasn’t snaffled up such a gem of a coworker.

  39. Atalanta0jess*

    Do you have other people in your life who are living on modest means? I find it REALLY HELPFUL to have folks who are in similar situations as me, even if just in an online community. It helps you remember that you’re not the only one!! I think being straightforward (something like “would love to but I’m still on temp wages!” as suggested above is a great way to do this) about it can help too, because it helps your coworkers calibrate what they’re inviting you to, etc.

    1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Second this. There are online communities with people on similarly smaller budgets and they are supportive, understanding, and have great tips on how to make your money stretch further.

  40. Coffee Cup*

    As someone who was a temp for a long time in a high-earning office: Tell your colleagues! When they ask about your plans, when they talk about their bonuses, when you feel like it… When you turn them down, tell them why! I am sure they either went through the same thing, or are not aware of the situation at all and will be outraged on your behalf (they don’t make the rules…) You’ll be surprised how far a little honesty goes.

  41. Marny*

    I’m going to address this as more of a societal issue than something unique to the OP. Unfortunately, for so long, it’s been drilled into people’s heads that it isn’t okay or polite to talk about money. This is bullshit. There is no shame in being on a tight budget. There is no shame in telling people you can’t afford something. And there’s no shame in others finding out that you’re being underpaid for your equal work. It’s truly better for others to know that not everyone has the same level of wealth and income, even within the same company. It’s better for your coworkers to potentially come to understand that the was their employers do things (keep temps who do the same work as full-timers on crappy salaries long-term) isn’t okay or just. The more people learn about what others make and the struggle to live on insufficient pay (particularly in expensive cities), the more likely that they’ll demand better for themselves and each other.

    1. Important Moi*

      I wish I could upvote this, so more could see it.

      All this talk about reframing one’s perspective ?!?! Many people would rather not think about that not everyone has the same level of wealth and income, even within the same company.

      1. Holly*

        My interpretation of “reframing one’s perspective” is just about realizing that OP’s coworkers are not trying to be exclusionary, not that wealth disparities don’t exist. Marny’s comment is on point because it’s all about acknowledging income disparities exist while giving the coworkers an opportunity to be more inclusive.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Exactly this. No one is telling OP to ignore that fact that her coworkers have money, but rather are telling her to be careful of feeling resentful towards them because of it since there’s a good chance she’ll begin to act on that resentment, which will do her no favors at this company.

  42. KP*

    I was contract to “fixed duration” to a full-time employee. I understand what you’re going through. These comments suck, don’t they? I have two ways, generally, of handling these comments.

    1) One of the comments I used to get all the time was, “How are you going to spend your bonus?” I would usually respond cheerfully but matter-of-factly, “Oh, I’m a contractor. I’m not eligible for the bonus.” I’d usually get a stricken face and a heartfelt apology…and after time, it stopped. Everyone became more discreet when talking about their disposable income.

    Reminding people that you’re a contractor and not eligible for certain benefits/pay can actually cause some positive action too. If you are a good worker and they want to retain you, you’ve probably got some allies who will go to bat for you. I’ve done it a few times myself because I know how much it sucks to be in that situation and how unfair it is.

    2.) You can ignore it. If you imagine these comments like people who accidentally keep farting all over the place, it can help manage your feelings. One time a supervisor laughed at me for eating ramen for lunch. I was young and she thought she was good-naturedly teasing me about just making a college-aged choice (At the time, ramen wasn’t super common outside of a college-life style in the Midwest) I was actually overdrawn on my bank account and it was literally the only food I had. I imagined she had just ripped a GIGANTIC fart in the room, so I smiled, ignored the unintended slight, and just said simply, “I like ramen.”

    which was was true. But not the whole truth :)

    I hope things get easier for you soon.

  43. Jennifer*

    I also think people in general can be a little kinder about income inequality. Doesn’t mean you can never talk about your vacations but just having more of a general awareness of your privilege and the fact that not everyone has it as good as you. Some seem really oblivious.

  44. ProdMgr*

    Lots of good advice here. Also, if they respond by offering to buy you a coffee, let them do it sometimes so you can participate in the team socially. If that feels imbalanced to you, bring in a treat to share that doesn’t break your budget.

  45. Amethystmoon*

    It really depends on the company and industry. In some places, they won’t hire people permanently who won’t socialize with others. I say this as someone who’s introverted and also on a budget. Now, in my job, I’m already permanent, so I don’t have to do the off-hours things and can usually come up with a conflict to avoid going. If any of these events are low cost, you may want to consider attending one a month and getting the cheapest thing you can. I don’t know how many temp jobs I didn’t get hired at permanently because I dared to be introverted in an extroverted world and was on a budget. I also don’t know how many of them just didn’t hire because they didn’t want to pay benefits, which is also a thing — it’s very common for companies to string temps along.

    How I got finally hired as a temp was impressing the right person and applying for an opening in my department when it happened. But it took over 2 years to get hired.

  46. Pampaloon*

    Years ago I worked with an individual who was paid in a way similar to his co-workers but had a vastly different family situation that affected his economics (think single income family and lots of kids). When we had birthday lunches out or things like that he would attend and only order a soda, he packed his lunch to work each day and could be observed being generally frugal. He didn’t call it out and people didn’t ask but were highly respectful and thankful that he chose to participate in a way comfortable for him. I agree with a tactful, sorry not in the budget as I’m on temp wages sort of response. You probably won’t have to repeat it a lot as most people have been there

    1. thrifty not cheap*

      Most people are decent about this sort of stuff, and I feel like, generally speaking, it’s more coming from unawareness, so once the awareness hits, it’s ok. However, I’ve been in this sort of situation with coworkers who generally took it the wrong way, and that can be a really frustrating situation. Hopefully, the OPs in with the former.

  47. CW*

    Been in this situation. Eleven times in 2017 and 2018 alone as a matter of fact – all 11 of those jobs were temp-to-hire and either dropped me without warning or I left because of the broken promises. I felt like piece of garbage that I eventually turned sour on temp-to-hire. The broken promises, low pay, lack of benefits, while other people were shining at their secure permanent jobs. I felt like I was falling behind.

    From my personal experience, start looking for a PERMANENT position immediately. The second you get an offer, put in your notice and never look back. I did just that and I am now permanently employed at a wonderful company with a decent salary and great benefits. I have no intention of leaving.

    So do yourself a favor and don’t learn it the hard way like me. It was two years of uncertainty and happiness down the drain for me when I could have found stability and I am still on edge about it sometimes.

    1. Quill*

      How do you *find* a permanent position though? Anything in my industry that I can find at all is temp to hire, even if the position requires a master’s degree. Starting to feel like either my region or my actual degree is a dead end.

      1. CW*

        In all honesty I took the shotgun approach; I sent my resume online to hundreds of jobs online and waited for a response from each one. Through my first permanent position I actually used a recruiter – he only focused on permanent positions. Unfortunately, I quit that job mid summer because the environment got too toxic for me.

        My current position I found on my own, but again I took the shotgun approach. In the one month I was unemployed, I applied to nearly 300 jobs before I got an offer at my current employer.

        The trick is not to be picky, while not undermining yourself. You don’t have to 100% fit all the requirements on the job description. It is just a rough guideline, not a exact requirement. If you think you are a good fit for the role, apply. The worst you will get is a rejection. And for every “no”, you will get a “yes”.

        But to warn you, if you do get an offer, do act so desperate you accept a lowball salary offer. If you get an offer, make sure it meets AT LEAST your minimum salary requirements. As adults, we have bills to pay but we also want to be comfortable. And yes, I learned it the hard way – to be brief, I accepted a (very) lowball offer in late 2016; big mistake – it soured my attitude and I got fired 5 months later, thus starting my 11 jobs in two years before it finally came to an end. Lesson learned.

  48. Nrcomments*

    You must be young (which I don’t mean badly). As you get older you see there are always going to be people with more than you have, and of course more than those people have. Taking your anger out on your colleagues?? You might need to elaborate on that part of your question. Years ago on AAM, there was a question with comments on it that people said something similar to what you might mean in this instance? I could be wrong. Those comments came from someone who was younger and unhappy and took their frustrations out on people unexpectedly. No one’s perfect but the level of taking it out on someone is confounding. I had a best friend who over the years found a great partner, went to law school, has children, and is self described as ‘happy’. After some major life altering things she knew I was going through and some awful things she participated in against me (and still does participate in by the way), she asked my why I wasnt in a similar place as her, years later. She also said something about ‘her clients’ having gone through truly difficult times so she knew what real difficulties were. The thing is you are you. You can afford what you can. You might consider what that means if you can’t afford necessities. But anything extra is worth thinking of in a way that isn’t important. Even if it is tough.

  49. 867-5309*

    OP, as you found out, this is a very common practice in Silicon Valley, Seattle and the like. The well-paying jobs are subsidized by outsourcing contract work for lower wages. It’s a broader societal issue in the “gig economy” and unfortunately, you’ve been swept up on the wrong side of the equation.

    If possible, focus your energy on following Alison’s great advice on resumes and cover letters, leveraging your current experience at WELL-KNOWN AWESOME COMPANY A into a new job.

    It’s also okay to be honest with your coworkers. Others have provided scripts that are better than I could write.

    Good luck.

  50. AnotherSarah*

    The problem might be compounded if they’ve been working there a while. When I was an adjunct professor in NYC, my colleagues who were on the tenure-track (salaried, with a range of salaries but all better than my 3k/course rate) only vaguely understood where I was coming from if they also rented. If they had been in their positions for years, not only were they out of touch with what I might be making–they were also totally unaware of the rents. Junior salaried colleagues almost got it. Senior, not at all–they owned their apartments or were on a great lease dating back from the 80s. So it wasn’t just “I make 6k a year,” it was “and my apartment is 3k a month” that was hard to grasp. That may hold less true in tech, but it’s also a factor.

  51. 4Sina*

    I agree with reframing the situation – some of these FT employees may also have been in your place, so also agree with stating “sorry, still on temp wages!”

    I think about this from the other side, too. 6 years ago I was working three PT jobs and was right at the poverty line. Now I’m FT in my career and I get to do things like enjoy expensive coffees if I want to or go on a trip abroad with my husband because I finally have the resources to do the things that financially were not a possibility just a few years ago. I wonder if how I come across when talking about the things I look forward to doing sound like your colleagues – I would never want to make PT, seasonal, or temp workers in my office resentful because I’ve been there, and I know it’s difficult. I would also hope that my colleagues would bring it up if office small talk was making them uncomfortable, but office culture really dictates whether someone in a temp position would feel ok bringing it up. The working world is hard enough as is, I hope you get this sorted out and on to better things.

  52. MobileVine*

    Being angry and resentful with your colleagues will get you nothing. That”culture” fit is critical, and no one wants to work with Negative Nancy. You need them to help you land that promotion. Ask trusted ones their tips/advice to gain a permanent contract. But meanwhile, make them see you as part of the team. Keep pinching and go out with them at a regular cadence, other times use a discrete – “Oh, love to but saving money now.” Biggest career mistake I ever made back when the iphone first hit big was not buying one on my own when I was breaking into mobile gaming. I needed daily user level knowledge of one to advance where I was at that point, but didn’t want to go over my budget to buy one. A promotion (with in-house full time status) came up, and the lack of that phone (as silly as it sounds) hurt me in the interview rounds (in which ideas and strategies for iphone based games were critical). My hesitation was evidence of my lack of commitment to that industry, and I didn’t get the job. My then also-starting-out peers who made the sacrifices I didn’t (not just phones, working without pay, etc) get hired and are now successful experts in that space. I missed a key springboard opportunity and regret it.

    1. CW*

      To be fair, it’s hard to be happy in OP’s situation. I’ve been there too many times to count and I literally had to force a smile on my face every day. It really drained my energy.

    2. Anon here*

      Be glad you have a friendly team that invites you to events. I was a full-time peer on a team that had no team-based camaderie, although groups of 2 would meet up. Second, start applying to other jobs and networking. It is perfectly fine not to work at a behemoth, although when you are there, anything else may seem unthinkable. Many meetups have free food that is pretty good. Maybe you can invite a coworker to a meetup and get a free outing that way.
      The $200K people will envy the $500K people, and on it goes. Find a way to redirect your feeling of inequality in a positive direction.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      Working without pay is not a sacrifice you should make, and it’s a disgusting thing for a for-profit company to expect!

  53. Daniel*

    Keep up your work with the job hunt! Definitely take time and don’t burn yourself out looking, but see if you can reframe your thinking about it in a way that will make it easier for you. For me it was helpful to see the hunt as something I just had to do (almost like a second job)…there was no getting out of it. I started to get a sense of fulfillment (however small) when I reached the 2-5 applications submitted I aimed for each day. I also made sure to take time off from the application process. And then one day a position just appeared and worked…and the strangest part is that I didn’t even submit a cover letter for it.

  54. Not a Blossom*

    I agree with so much of the advice above. In addition, would it be possible for you to budget for the occasional coffee? A large something fancy is expensive, but if you get a small drip coffee, it won’t be much, and you’d still get the camaraderie.

  55. Ex-TVC*

    Hi OP, you sound a lot like me when I moved to the SF Bay Area a couple of years ago. I contracted for the internet giant for almost 2 years before calling it quits — the full-time position was always out of reach. As for your coworkers’ attitudes towards money and vacations, I can assure you it’s the same story in every major tech hub on the West Coast, unfortunately. You either develop a thick skin and get used to the income inequality or move to a more… normal city. Good luck, it’s tough.

    1. CW*

      @Ex-TVC – Looks like you and I were in the exact same situation. And being that I live in the SF Bay Area like you I totally agree with you 100%.

  56. CatCat*

    It sounds like they are nice people who are ignorant of your financial situation. You can be the one to do inviting for social scenarios that will work for you!

    Like for lunch, “Oh, going out is not in my budget. But I’d love a chance for us to eat together. I can book a conference room on [propose another day] and let’s all lunch together there.” (I’ve done that before and it works well as people who prefer to brown bag can bring their lunches and people who prefer restaurant food can pick something up and bring it back.) If it’s good weather and there’s an outdoor seating option, “Hey, it’s going to be beautiful out. Why don’t we meet up and eat together at the benches by the fountain at 12:15?”

    After-work get-togethers are tougher, but if it’s something like a happy hour at a bar, you could go make an appearance and get a water or even not order anything. You can also look into alternatives though this will be dependent on your locality. I am in an urban area and in warmer months there are free concerts in a park downtown and also sometimes street festivals. Those could be fun to attend with a more social work crowd.

    For the vacation questions, you can just be matter-of-fact. “Oh, I’ll be working at a side job over the holidays. As a temp, I don’t get any vacation time. You know how it is.” It’s not some shameful secret of yours and that’s what you’ll be up to. To transition to something else, you could focus on other fun things that are a possibility like a movie or a book you’re planning to watch or read. (Can be had from the library!)

    It really sucks being in this situation, but you have the power to extend the invites to something that works for you, and also to be matter-of-fact honest about what was going on.

    I’m reminded of a job I had where I got no benefits. I had a lingering illness (that I got shortly after working there of course when I had no sick leave and also very little money). Since I persisted in not looking or sounding great for like a month, a coworker asked me something about a doctor’s advice. I told her in a straightforward way, “I don’t have a doctor. I don’t have health insurance.” She was stunned just because it hadn’t occurred to her that someone working there wouldn’t have health insurance. She wasn’t trying to rub it in my face by asking after my (visibly poor) health.

    1. fposte*

      I also think it’s a service to everybody to be matter-of-factly open about these realities. It’s a lot easier for people who are struggling if they don’t have to pretend, and it’s a lot better for people with greater security to have perspective on what other lives are like. I think there’d be a lot less consumer debt if people felt freer to cheerfully say “No, I can’t afford that.”

  57. Oh No She Di'int*

    OP, there are lots of great scripts here, but just a reminder that you can let your colleagues know that you are on a tight budget without referencing your current work situation or your contract if you’re not comfortable doing that.

    People can be on a tight budget for any number of reasons: caring for an elderly parent or a sibling, saving up for a baby, saving up for a house down payment, saving up for a wedding, medical care, expensive hobby, etc. etc. Why you’re on a tight budget isn’t really their business, unless you choose to make it their business.

  58. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    A few years ago, after my younger son started college and our dog got Dxd with a terminal illness and given up to 2 years to live, I suddenly found myself struggling to make it paycheck to paycheck at the ripe old age of 44. I’d had a very comfortable lifestyle when I was married – maybe not quite upper-middle-class, but close – and had managed fairly well the first couple of years after my marriage ended. Then all of a sudden the huge expenses hit and I found myself canceling events with friends because I could not afford them, not having any money in my account after all the bills have been paid, etc. I have definitely said “sorry, coworkers, can’t go out with you, I’m on a budget.” That stage of my life lasted maybe 2-3 years. Maybe because I’d lived comfortably financially before, or because I knew my money was going to good causes (kid’s college education, providing dog with quality of life), I never felt embarrassed. All I felt was proud. Yeah my old friends are posting photos from their 3rd overseas vacation this year, but look at me, living on zero disposable income and still making it to concerts and art exhibits and all around having fun! Check out the cool outfit I got at the thrift store. Isn’t it lovely? That type of thinking. I guess knowing that it was a temporary situation, helped (but hopefully so is yours!) It also helped that my SO at the time was as broke as I was (small-business owner who’d started a new business the same month that he and I became a couple) and the two of us had great fun being broke together.

    With that said, from my very limited exposure to the West Coast way of living, there does seem to be more of an obsession with material goods and expensive experiences than where I live (Rust Belt), and even on the East Coast where I have friends and have visited frequently (not sure about that last one, maybe I just have amazing people as friends). During my “being broke” stage, I visited the West Coast once, when my older son lived there. I went out with a group of friends I’d known there through an online community and it was extremely awkward. The conversation revolved entirely about the expensive stuff people had bought, home remodeling, other expensive experiences, and I felt that I had nothing to add to the conversation. My “I went to a free music festival last week and discovered a new band that was fantastic” would’ve been out of place. I just kept quiet the entire evening. They assumed I was jet-lagged and I let them think that. I don’t know where on the West Coast OP lives (my visit was to the Bay Area), and the kind of culture that I describe is dominant there too. That could be part of the problem. I guess I would still try fly my “I’m broke and proud of it” flag and see how that goes over.

    Last but not least, becoming close friends with coworkers is a nice add-on to one’s work environment, but definitely not a must-have. The knowledge that one has a network of supportive friends outside of work can help offset any feelings of awkwardness coming from not quite fitting in at work.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yep, I spent basically my entire savings on an emergency operation for my dog. Zero regrets, she’s doing great, but for the year it took to pay that off I just cheerfully told everyone I was broke from “the most expensive cheap dog” I ever adopted. Everyone got it.

    2. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. I like my coworkers well enough, but we don’t hang out beyond work. I don’t even go out to lunch with people in this particular office.

    3. Viv*

      THIS (2nd paragraph)! Thank you! I cannot express articulately enough the social anguish and loneliness I’ve endured at my job for years because my well-to-do West Coast coworkers on my team (all of them), while perhaps not intentionally meaning to exclude me, essentially excluded me from their conversations at almost every mandatory team lunch and social event, because that’s all they would talk about – esp. their traveling. Being the sole winner for my family, I could not afford international travel and felt bad that I had nothing to contribute to these conversations (even though I had lived overseas once). And whenever I did try to talk about my own interests (I sing and write), they showed very little interest in getting to know me or talking about other normal subjects. As a group, it was mostly all about them and what they were doing. After a while, I asked my boss to be excused from these lunches. Found out later she would inwardly hope I would go anyway.

      I agree with other commentators that in the OP’s case, being honest about her budget would be best. However, in my case, not having the right budget meant I was automatically excluded from my team’s social network. I had never been in a situation like this before (except in high school), and being junior to most of them in rank, it undermined my hope and confidence. I would advise any reader reading this to make sure if you ever do get into a situation like this, to be mentally tough and look for another job asap, because being socially excluded while having to pretend you are happy is very draining.

  59. Galahad*

    So many great comments to remind them that you make less, and keep it light, matter of fact.

    I will add one more — name the number! What you make is not a secret, and should not be, and it is powerful to matter of fact-ly throw out the wage you are making when you say “I’d love to, but I am still on temp wages of $17/hr for now, so rent takes most of that”. They will remember the number, internalize your message more, and likely advocate for you sooner.

    Also, keep looking for other jobs. You did not get interviews because you weren’t in town yet, then had very little experience in the industry. It’s a world of difference with 3-6 months of experience.

    Treat this temp job as a paid internship.

    If you remain temp at 1 year, you can likely negotiate a lot more pay at that renewal time — something between the new hire FT rate and what you are making now. Bring it up at the 9 month renewal mark.

    1. numbers*

      Seconding the naming the number advice, if you feel comfortable with it. I actually did this with good results when I was temping. Although people usually mean well, until you name the number, there’s a bit of obliviousness about what things are like in your non-work hours.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yep! And the NLRB has ruled that it’s illegal for employers to prohibit employees from discussing or revealing their pay.

      I’d still do it out of supervisor earshot, since in my experience a lot of employers don’t care about what is or isn’t legal. But it’s your right.

  60. Brett*

    It boggles me how backwards the west coast tech companies are on this (and here in the midwest, we keep poaching employees like the OP from them). Typical practice here is to pay temp-to-hire/contract workers more than FTE workers (about double when you add in the cut from their agency, which works out to 25-50% more take home pay).

    Like many people said above, just remind people that you are still on temp wages. Some of the contract/temp workers on our team are not that well paid (due to having different duties), and the managers/leads often balance this by paying for coffee/first round/appetizers at social events, and might buy an extra soda or beer for the people who are paid less.

    So, the OP might want to have a talk with their manager or lead and mention that they see the value in participating in team social events but find it difficult because of the cost. From there, the manager/lead has a range of actions they could take, including taking on some of the costs, channeling organizers to cheaper venues, or organizing activities themselves that have less cost.

  61. Coverage Associate*

    My only advice is about an indirect issue: Look deeply into your student loan repayment options, and try to have all communication with your loan servicer be in writing. You may be eligible for income based repayment, which might free up some cash, or for some sort of hardship situation due to medical expenses.

    I do have some information. If you’re making barely SF’s minimum wage, even double that is below the regional median household income, so if your coworkers are well paid techies, they’re making more like 5 times your pay.

    Second, I know from experience that the Democratic Socialist chapters in the Bay Area are full of techies, including from the big companies. Hopefully that gives you courage to take the advice here.

  62. RetailforLife*

    I’m in a very similar situation so I know how awful it is to have to show up with a smile even though your rent is late.

    One thing I’ll point out too – You don’t know your co-workers financial situation. Sure they can be going on lavish vacations, but can they afford it? Are they going into debt? Is someone else like a family member or partner paying for it? Are they just going to these happy hours because of work pressure or do they enjoy those expensive appetizers? While of course the being able to meet baseline expenses is a frustrating discrepancy but remember that some of these expensive things are just an illusion (or can be). You saved enough to make it 6 months while relocating, I wonder if they have 6 months of expenses saved. The point is, you want them to see you for more than just your current financial situation, maybe try doing the same for them.

  63. Allison*

    OP, I remember being a contractor while the rest of my team enjoyed the fabulous benefits full-time employees received at the company. Stock options! Unlimited vacation! An annual review process with raises! It stung, hearing about all their fabulous vacations they could take courtesy of the policy. But they weren’t doing any of this at me! They were just enjoying their lives, and they had a right to do that!

    You can’t ask people to stop talking about how great their lives are, that’s unfair to them even if them doing so feels tone deaf to you. You can, when invited to things you can’t join, remind them you’re on temp wages and can’t justify going out right now. You could also say something like “I’m still rebuilding my finances” if outright saying your pay is low feels uncomfortable – because it’s true, your savings were depleted when you were unemployed, and it’s reasonable to want to prioritize that over going out with coworkers.

    The reality is, they might string you along on the “to hire” bit for as long as they possibly can, and then simply choose not to renew your contract at the end of it, so definitely keep job hunting. You should also start asking questions about their plans to convert you. Sometimes, if there’s a change in management, your new manager might not even know you want that, and they might assume you’re content being temporary for the time being. Sometimes it’s worth reminding your boss “hey, I do still want to a full-time employee here, ideally in the near future, how can we make that happen?” But also, definitely keep looking, because long-term contracting can really wear you down after a while.

  64. Mid*

    I’ve been and am in a similar boat. I was an admin temp at a law firm where people were making $100k+, and I was making the state minimum wage, and commuting two hours each way. Now, I’m at a firm where I’m the newest hire, and an admin, so I’m by far the lowest paid. One other admin makes over $20k more than I do, the other close to double what I make. I do the majority of the $20k more admin’s work, while she does very little every day. The newest associate hired makes more than double what I make. Everyone else is further in their careers, and makes even more. They can easily spend on dinner what I spend on groceries for a month. The entire office is free of student loans, buying houses in our expensive metro areas, has families and great vacations.

    And sometimes, I’m jealous. I would love to be free of debt and in a place where I didn’t have to worry about money. Or at least not worry so much.

    But, I realize that none of my coworkers have money *at me.* They went to school years ago before costs got out of control. They got lucky in some regards. They hustled really hard to get where they are in others.

    Yes, it’s unfair. But that’s a systemic issue. My coworkers didn’t create the issues I’m facing. My coworkers didn’t make me graduate with student loan debt. My coworkers didn’t make me live in an expensive metro area. Being angry and jealous *at/of them* isn’t going to change anything, it’s just going to impact my relationships with them, and hurt my job performance. So, I redirect. I focus on the parts of my job that I like, the gratitude I have for being in the financial situation I am in, as opposed to many of my friends who are in far more precarious situations. I’m fortunate that my loans are “only” $18k instead of more. I ask my coworkers about their career paths and see how I can grow.

    But, I totally understand your frustration. It’s hard to be paid a lot less than someone, while doing the same, or even more, work than them. It’s unfair. It’s stressful to have to be on the edge of poverty all the time, and being one missed paycheck away from not eating that month. But, that is not the fault of your coworkers. It’s the fault of systemic issues in our country (and many others!) and corporations who are allowed to underpay and exploit workers. So, take your frustrations out there. See if you can support a union, or fight for better wages, or create protections for temps. Or support people who are working towards those things. Direct your anger and frustration at the people and systems that are actually at fault.

    1. Temperance*

      Okay so, not the point of your comment, but I’m going to give you advice here that you can feel free to take or leave. As the youngest and newest admin in an office full of older career admins, you need to be aware that they’re going to try to push as much work off on you as possible. You need to put up boundaries, and fast. I’m a younger female attorney with a job that they don’t understand, and they try it on *me*, and I can’t imagine how obnoxious they would be towards a newer admin.

      1. Mid*

        Oh, I’m actually hired to replace the older admin, she just doesn’t know it yet. That’s a wholeeeee different story. But I’ve been taking on the work that she’s failing to do, as assigned by the higher ups. She doesn’t actually want me to “have” any of her work.

  65. SLR*

    OP, please understand these people aren’t doing this AT you. This is life and although it may suck for you, there are many varying salary levels in most organizations. Someone will always make more than you, be able to do cooler things than you & sometimes it sucks to hear but for the most part who cares? Good for them!

    I’m not saying to be happy for them or whatever, but just like you don’t care about their pricey lifestyles, they certainly do not care about your financial situation either. As you don’t want to hear it, because you’re perceiving it as flaunting, they very easily can see any comment of yours as bitter, jealous or complaining. So my best advice is to stop giving these side conversations that have no impact on your job or life the power you’re giving it. There will always, ALWAYS be someone in a better position than you, and you’ll be in a better position than some others. Again, this is a part of life.

  66. call centre bee*

    I’m not always great at a positive thought, but one way to reframe this might be to look forward to the pay that you’re hoping will come through eventually. It’s a long and unfair wait, but maybe you can take the colleagues as inspiration for the wishlist? Rather than ‘ugh, now she has a puppy trained to clean the house’, changing it to, ‘ooh, can’t wait until I have a puppy trained to clean the house’. It’s not easy, but it sounds like you’re in a good position to look to better things in the future, whether it be at this company or elsewhere. Don’t jeopardise that by seeming negative to the people you’re working with in this place.

  67. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I mean this in the kindest way possible, because I’ve been strung along in situations like this. There’s a very good chance they will not make you a permanent employee, ever. They will use you and then replace you with another temp for 18 months.

    Since you don’t have much of a cushion left financially, I think you should start your job hunt expecting that you will be left unemployed when the company maxes out your available months as a temp. That way you’ll have something lined up and won’t be left unemployed.

    I’m sorry.

  68. N*

    I’ve been in your shoes before. I moved out to the Bay Area and I had no experience in working for tech companies, and the majority of the companies around me were looking for exactly that (my past experience was all in CPG). I ended up taking a six month contract position and it was one of the most challenging times I’ve been through and I experienced everything you described. I worked hard to get where I was, MBA and all, and I was still being paid half of what I should have been paid. What really helped me was the knowledge that that was only temporary. Once I had an years worth of experience under my belt, I started to look and I realized that all the experiences I’ve gotten at my contracting position made a huge difference in my resume, and I was able to get a few full time offers after my one year mark.

    I think what made a difference for me was to start collecting the key words people within this area look for in resumes (agile, sprints, etc). Hope this helps- good luck.

    1. N*

      One other thing- holding out for conversion put me in a more stressful situation – I felt like I couldn’t make mistakes and I had to be perfect in everything I did. This probably made the situation a lot worse. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself it wasn’t worth the pressure to hold out for something that may never materialize and to focus on things I can control like what I gained from the experience, and how I can leverage that.

      In my experience, conversion at tech companies are often shrouded by politics so even if your team loves you, that could easily be vetoed by someone above for budgetary reasons.

      1. Allison*

        Yup . . . “We’ll bring you on with a three-month contract, and if we like you we’ll hire you” turns into “well we’d need to get so-and-so’s approval,” and then there’s a hiring freeze, or that have to wait until November to even begin the process of adding your conversion to the headcount for next year, and then it turns out the big executive who’d need to approve it really believes your position is a “contract job” and you’d actually need to shift to a different role to even hope to become an employee.

  69. CBH*

    OP I read above, using the phrase “Love to, but I’m still on temp wages” is great.

    I do want to point out other things that have been touched upon.

    -This is only a temp situation. Yes your employer is paying a horrible wage and will take their sweet time to hire you. However it is a temp job – keep looking for other employment; keep in mind you can leave just as easily as they can pay you more.

    -As for your coworker (for example) going to Hawaii. You don’t know their financial situation. Yes it is easy to be envious -who wouldn’t be, but for all you know they are in credit card debt up to their eyeballs paying for this trip; they have a relative working for an airline who gave them a free flight; maybe their family has a timeshare there. You don’t know their financial situation. They may be overspending more than you are budgeting. I’m willing to bet you have some coworkers who could benefit from a few extra dollars that Uber would bring in, especially in a high cost of living area.

    Keep your head up. You are doing great. It is hard to relocate but it sounds like you are on the right track to a new and amazing life – you will get there.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Also re: Hawaii. I lived in the Bay Area on crappy wages (academia + nonprofit) and we took a delayed honeymoon trip to Hawaii while we were there (so we’d been saving up for it for several years by the time we went.) It sounded so exotic and unattainable to us East Coasters, but when we planned out the trip for ourselves, it was much more affordable than we had perceived it to be.

      That’s not to say any vacation including airfare and hotels is cheap; it isn’t. But it cost about the same as going to Florida from the Northeast, and most of us don’t look at Florida as exotic or unattainable.

    2. CheeryO*

      Yes to your second point! I know it doesn’t really change the advice, but it could help LW get away from the black-and-white, me vs. them type of thinking.

  70. Mazzy*

    I deal with this now but my coworkers makes the same or less than me! Most Americans live beyond their means so if you max your retirement and leave money aside every paycheck, you might feel or appear to be earning less. Not sure this helps, but for me, earning more didn’t get rid of this feeling. It just turned into a different sort of annoyance when you see someone making less going on a big trip or moving to a nicer area and me not getting how they’re making it happen. Maybe a rich partner! Maybe they have no emergency fund?

  71. Leela*

    OP I’ve been there and suspect I have probably worked at the same behemoth company (I’ve worked for most of the big ones on the West Coast and moved around them for the same reason you list here, neverending contracts).

    Two things:
    1) You are almost certainly right that they’ll extend you as long as they can to avoid paying you a real wage and benefits. This happened to everyone I knew, me included, and performance had nothing to do with it. A lot of these companies are so highly desirable that they know they can, someone else will gladly take your place and they can be very shortsighted with all the knowledge they lose by doing this.
    2) I hate to say it but I don’t think you can really bring this up. I *do* think you can, around the holidays, mention that it’s harder for you to take trips because you don’t get paid time off on holidays and hope that they take the hint (though generally I’d advise direct communication over hinting) but unfortunately they’re not doing anything wrong even though it is tone-deaf and a little inconsiderate, but I think the harm to you could be greater by causing that rift. If there’s something about you that means people are expected to change fairly regular, accepted behavior it could disadvantage you if they have few FT roles and multiple temps who want it.

    If there’s any way to reframe it, not that this would make you feel *better* per se, the problem is really how awful the work world has gotten for people just coming into it with constant contracts, low wages, lack of benefits, etc, and not with these people talking about money. It’s definitely harder to tackle that problem than people talking about their lives but that’s the one that needs addressing and is the real root of the problem here!

  72. boop the first*

    It’s really hard to work in a place that continuously let’s you down. Even when things are pretty good, that one thing your employer once did to make you feel worthless will always weigh heavy in the mornings.

    I’d just be casually honest, but not so much so that it makes them feel guilty for asking. You don’t want to lose the open invitation, after all. Maybe sometimes you can go and subtly not buy anything, if it’s just coffee. Lots of people don’t drink coffee.

    You can either be jealous and angry or you can be inspired. You have one foot in the door of a house you want to be in. You have metaphorically scheduled an exciting vacation to look forward to.
    There’s got to be a lot of underlying fear, there. Fear that you’ll get into this mindset of hope and optimism, only to be let go at the end of the maximum temp role. Fear that you’ll succeed and be permanent, but have your days clouded by the knowledge that your employer sucked every penny possible from you for 18 months with such heartless intention.
    Is there anyone you trust that you can talk to about that fear? Is there a record of people being strung along for as long as possible only to be released? Does management know that you know?

  73. Not So Little My*

    I’m taken aback by the idea that it’s acceptable to pay temp to hire folks so stingily. Maybe it’s because I’m senior in my industry, maybe it’s because I’m in Seattle and not the Bay Area, but I’ve always been able to negotiate a contract rate that is approximate to what salary + benefits + pto would be. Is it possible to circle back with your agency and renegotiate your rate?

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Unfortunately, it almost certainly is because you’re senior in your industry. I temped for 8 years, in multiple industries but always at a junior level, and it appears to be universal that junior-level temps are paid much less than their perm coworkers, usually with crappy benefits if any. They *should* be paid more to make up for the insecurity, but they’re not.

  74. Kristy*

    When it comes to vacation/weekend plan discussions, you are allowed to say, “No big plans.” I use this all the time at work because I’m always stuck with people asking me what I’m doing on the weekend. I don’t like sharing what I’m doing with coworkers all the time. And sadly, this is one of those conversations you won’t be able to escape in any work setting. If they choose to make a big stink out of your answer, then that’s on them. Not you.

    If you can’t afford what they’re doing after work, it really is okay to say you can’t afford it. They’ll either get it, or they won’t. You don’t have to please the people who don’t get it. You could also try asking whoever is organizing the hang outs that you can’t afford what they’re doing, and you’d rather not be asked over and over again. They might even try to think up a cheaper alternative you could do with them on a schedule that works for you.

  75. Temperance*

    LW, this absolutely sucks, but you absolutely cannot take it out on your colleagues. They are probably not aware of the pay disparity, and they’re not living comfortably AT you.

    Can you swing the occasional get-together with the team, so you feel less isolated? When you say that you moved for family reasons, I’m hoping that you’re not here alone without any support and that you aren’t here just to BE providing support to someone. That could easily be fueling your feelings of anger at your pay and towards your colleagues.

  76. remizidae*

    This is your problem; not your coworkers’. They are not taking money away from you by going to Hawaii or eating out or whatever. Focus on what you can do to improve your financial position–because it isn’t going to improve your situation at all to focus your energy on envying and resenting those who make more.

    1. Gilmore67*

      Agreed. It is not your co-workers fault you get paid less. I am not thinking from your post they are snobby about what they are saying. You just don’t like it that they can afford stuff you can’t.

      And no, you shouldn’t as them to stop talking about their trip to Hawaii or coffee. They are not saying any of that to hurt you. They are living their lives.

      And you stop yourself at being angry at them by realizing your life, your pay has nothing to do with them. It is not their job to realize that you can’t afford expensive coffee, etc

      It is not their job to manage your feelings.

      As stated above… keep looking for a better paying job.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        It’s not OP’s job to manage *their* feelings by shielding them from the reality that their company’s pay and hiring practices are really unfair and shady, though. It’s fine to be honest about why you can’t go out to lunch with them.

        And I’d argue that, as people living in a society, it really *is* their job to understand that not everyone can afford what they can afford.

        1. Gilmore67*

          It is not a matter of people understanding that others can’t afford things other can.

          The point is, I as the person who makes less money, should not expect others to NOT live their lives in secret ( for example… Not talk about my trip to Hawaii or buying something like coffee ) just to spare the less paid persons feelings.

          The problem is with the company and the OP. If the company sucks at pay, get another job. The OP should not take that out on others.

          Every company in the whole world has people that make all sorts of different pay. This is just life.

  77. Ali G*

    I want to add something I don’t think I saw addressed. What has the process been for renewing your contract? How far out from the expiration date? Who is the person you need to talk to in order to get some movement? In advance of the nxt renewal (since we know that’s probably what it would be), go armed ready to have a discussion about your pay – what it is and what you would like it to be, the long-term prognosis for your position, etc. Then listen. They will probably give you the information you need to know if this is going to work out longterm or not. Are they willing to give you a pay bump to keep you or not? Do they seem to have concrete plans for your long term employment or not?
    I would start job hunting again, if you aren’t. But if you do want to stick it out I would urge you to be more social with your co-workers. Go to happy hour, just don’t drink. Ask a coworker you like to take a walk with you at lunch, things like that. Find stuff in common that doesn’t revolve around money and talk about that.
    Just take some proactive steps to figure out your next move(s).
    Good luck!

  78. Leisel*

    Man, I feel for you, OP. I was in a similar situation with one of my best friends. She works for a tech company, has been there 10+ years, has stock options, you name it. She never had any student loans because her family was able to pay for her college. She bought a house in our city right before real estate blew up, so her mortgage was considerably affordable.

    Sometimes it was hard to stomach the comments she made about her spending habits. I wasn’t necessarily jealous of her, just hyper-aware of how different our situations were, which she seemed to be a little oblivious about. Overall she’s a wonderful friend, these comments usually happened after a glass of wine or two… I had to choose to revise my frame of thinking and be happy for her that things have worked out well. She didn’t cause my situation or choose my job for me, but I can learn from her and hopefully advocate for myself and better my situation along the way.

    Others have said this, but I want to point out that I agree that these coworkers can be your allies. You don’t have to have a complain-fest, but be as honest with them as you’re comfortable being. Tell them you enjoy working with them and you’re glad they like to include you, but it’s tough being in the position where your salary isn’t making your living situation easy. You never know, one of them could end up advocating for you to be full-time so they won’t lose you.

    Good luck.

  79. iglwif*

    OP, I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that they don’t know how little you’re making, that you don’t get benefits, etc. North American employers strongly discourage people from discussing wages/salary, with the result that most people have no idea what their coworkers are being paid or how it compares to their own paycheque, and I don’t imagine your company is any different! Unless they were recently contractors themselves, and/or know from experience how agency placements work (I used to work at one, and HOLY COW THE MARKUPS, Y’ALL), they have no way of guessing the disparity in pay.

    Actual money aside, I’ve worked at places where almost everyone is on salary with benefits, and it’s always an effort for the salary people to remember that the one or two contract people have to turn in timesheets every week, don’t get paid when they take a sick day, don’t get paid vacation days, have to work on either side of the stat holiday to get paid for it, etc.

    Your situation sucks a lot, but it’s not your coworkers who are making it suck: they don’t control hiring, they don’t know how little you’re being paid compared to them, they’re trying to include you in their group stuff. That doesn’t mean you have to suck it up and go into debt in order to participate! But it does mean that unless they are really enormous jerks, you should be able to say some variation of “I wish I could, but I’m still on contract so it’s just not in the budget” without negative repercussions. (Although you’ll have to decide how you feel about people spotting you Starbucks and how often you’re willing to say yes to that, etc.)

    Which isn’t to say you have to suck it up and not look for something better / better compensated if you want to! Just, like … you’re 100% justified in resenting the situation you’re in, but your friendly co-workers are not the right target for it, and their invitations will hopefully seem less obnoxious if you’re able to keep that in mind.

  80. TootsNYC*

    I think our Letter Writer CAN share some of the financial thing. Just do it matter-of-factly.

    “My Christmas plans? Oh, since I’m a contractor, I don’t get paid when the office is closed, so I’m going to pick up some Uber/Lyft driving to meet the bills. Hopefully there will be alot of people needing a car service, since it’s the holidays. I’ll probably carve out some time to spend with a friend, since I can’t afford a trip back to my folks’.”

    Don’t make it whiny, but it’s not necessary to hide it. And I think it would be good for them to be reminded of the differences.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      I think mentioning one or two of those things is fine, but put all together, it becomes too much of a focus. I’d want to shift the conversation quicker than that.

  81. Buddy*

    OP, no matter where you work or what the salaries of full-time employees are, if your company is handling your wages during this contract phase so poorly, you are always going to feel some inequity between yourself and your colleagues. And it’s OK to feel annoyed by it, but it’s not your colleagues’ fault. If you’re doing basically the same work and getting along and they’re inviting you places, then they’re thinking of you as a true colleague and equally as much a member of the staff as they are. Take that as a compliment! It sounds like you WILL fit in socially if you do end up there full-time and with a much better pay rate.

    So I think it’s important you try to re-frame this to not take it out on them. It’s not wrong to let them know you’re in a different position financially even though you do the same work, if you feel that might help you out, or to just hint at it with “Sorry, that’s not in my budget right now but maybe once I’m in a different position here I can take that on!” But remember that it’s your company’s fault for putting you all in this position. And also remember that there are many others out there who do struggle financially compared to their colleagues even with the same salaries. Having massive amounts of loans they’re paying off, medical bills, a large family to support, children with disabilities, needing to spend loads of $$ on insulin, etc., are all reasons individuals might feel like they can’t spend like their colleagues can even if they make similar amounts! There may be folks you work with who are supporting family members and buying expensive but necessary medication and also feeling annoyed hearing about their co-workers’ vacations. Getting paid less is definitely frustrating, but if you can hang in there are think of ways to mentally focus this on your employer instead of fellow people who also work there, it could help you hang in there for a while. You’re not always going to be in this position.

  82. Tidewater 4-1009*

    I have two things that might be helpful.

    1. When I was temping I was surprised that my colleagues often didn’t know how temps are paid. I remember one who asked why I came to work with a cough and he was shocked when I told him I didn’t get sick pay. He assumed everyone gets benefits because he always had. I had a few encounters like this. So it’s possible OP’s colleagues don’t realize how she’s being treated.

    2. Growing up in the midwest I always heard about how hard it is to get work on the west coast. It’s because everyone wants to live there and young people from all over go there and try to get jobs. One of my friends went to LA assuming she could get a job with the same restaurant chain she worked at at home, and she couldn’t. She had to come back.
    So it may take a lot longer to get a good job, but I would keep looking even if you end up taking a job at your current workplace. The way they treat temps isn’t a good sign.
    Good luck! :)

  83. Honestly, Come On Now*

    I too recently relocated to live/work in a place much like the one OP describes. The wealth disparities here are shocking, and it is not my experience that this is particularly upsetting or problematic for the people who benefit from those disparities, or that it is the responsibility of low-paid people to plaster on a smile and hope Santa drops a six-figure salary in their lap one day.

    “They’re not being rich AT you”

    “someday it will be YOUR turn”

    You know what? Nope. This is patronizing advice that ignores the economic, social, and cultural realities of what tech and tech-bubble economies do to communities and geographies. It may not ever be OP’s “turn” if they don’t have the financial/family safety net to float through until a FTE comes along (this is the same in other industries that stay largely pale and male, i.e., journalism). This isn’t an accident. The tech system is built to operate this way because tech has an investment in ‘disruption’ only to the extent that existing socioeconomic disparities (and white supremacy, and on and on and on) are not affected, and really with the goal that these disparities are in fact shored up or obfuscated by ‘disruption’ (see: gig economies).

    The OP is the best judge of whether these folks are, in fact, being rich AT them — in the sense that these coworkers benefit from a company pay structure that relies on temp workers being underpaid and either haven’t interrogated that or have done so and choose to ignore it. I can’t think of an industry in which over-payment is more prevalent than tech — especially in comparison to other positions/industries that require harder/more work, more finely tuned skills, more education, etc. Many people in tech believe that starting salaries at six figures are normal and, by logical extension, earned because they are normal. That’s not necessarily the case, but it leads a lot of 25-year-olds to assume that they should be making 300-400k by age 30, with stock options and second or third homes, etc. Having access to that kind of wealth and surrounded by people setting expectations about how that wealth is used/earned/deserved does actually affect the way people behave and talk about their money, and the assumptions they make about how much money other people have.

    “reframe this”

    “maintain a positive attitude”

    I don’t think people who are working two or more jobs to get by should be required to maintain a sunny outlook in order to make people in better financial positions feel more comfortable being around them.

    “you’re being underpaid, they’re not being overpaid”

    They’re being overpaid.

    1. fposte*

      If they’re being overpaid, wouldn’t the OP also be if she were paid what they are? So where does that leave her aspiration to be paid same as the permanent folks?

      FWIW, I don’t disagree with you about the problems with the underlying system, but a lot of the advice you dislike is very practical: like it or not, if the OP is visibly disgruntled, she’s not going to improve her economic situation within the existing system.

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        Yep. I’ve had people be disgruntled at me who, it turned out when we compared salaries, were actually making MORE than I was (in several cases a lot more). It’s just that I didn’t have kids/a car payment/student loan debt/elderly parents to support/a hobby that cost a lot of money. Having them yell at me about it did nothing to make me feel cordial towards them, and in fact made me think that if it wasn’t for the perceived wealth disparity they would have been mad at me for something else. I’m sympathetic to the OP- having been in this situation for several years when I was a grad student- but the idea that they’re the only one who’s in this situation and everyone else should tiptoe around them and never mention anything about their lives and also that they’re being overpaid is stupid.

        I’m sure that if OP gets paid the same as they do someday, the OP is not going to feel overpaid.

    2. PlanAhead*

      I find this comment very pessimistic and insulting especially the comment about white supremacy.

      The tech people are being “overpaid” based on what standard? They are young? Their field? I can’t figure it out from your post. Sounds like they have put in the work to have the education/background/experience to not only get a job that pays extremely well, but hold on to that same job. But you hold this against them. I don’t see anything wrong with choosing a career path because of expectation that it will pay well.

      I would say that most people experience the job that doesn’t pay well–whether it be while they are in school, when they first leave the home, or when they are trying to get experience to build their resume.

      We don’t know the age, education, or experience of OP. Should a 22 year old come out of college and expect to have the same financial stability as a 45 year old in the job 20 years? Is she comparing herself to actual peers or are there big gaps in education/age/experience?

      The advice many posters having given here is spot on. 1) reframe; 2) push for the FTE; 3) figure out what career makes sense. Your post does nothing for OP i except to blame others (including her coworkers) for her current situation.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Why is the “white supremacy” bit particularly objectionable? Do you not realize that structural racism exists?

        1. PlanAhead*

          So what part of “white supremacy” is keeping OP from making the same amount as her coworkers? I’m flummoxed how you could answer this without knowing: 1) her age; 2) her education; 3) her experience.

          I agree that racism exists. I just don’t agree that is the reason that OP is struggling.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      THANK YOU.

      OP, you have a right to your feelings. If you feel resentful, that is A-OK. It’s OK to feel resentful, it’s OK to silently judge; if you’re looking to get along with your coworkers anyway to improve your chance of going perm, think of yourself as a spy in enemy territory.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        (That being said, I forgot to add: finace is more overpaid than tech! The multimillion dollar bonuses, omg.)

      2. PlanAhead*

        Honestly, you just sound bitter. Feeling resentful and judging people (people who OP has no idea of what is going on behind their facade at work) isn’t going to be helpful to OP. It’s not going to land OP a FTE position. It’s not going to change what OP currently makes. I’d argue that it is not even good for OP’s mental health.

        I won’t restate all the advice given by previous posters, but it really is truly helpful.

  84. commakid*

    OP, I totally understand. I would say, though, I think it’s worth it to start setting aside modest amounts of money where you can join in the team happy hour/coffee trip once or twice a month. Maybe you go and just get a soda or a cup of tea. Or maybe research a few places close by that actually do a happy hour deal so you have a couple options to suggest that you know will work better for your budget. You might also look into free/open to the public lectures/events at local colleges/universities that are somewhat in your team’s field and suggest those for a team outing. Building those social bonds can be beneficial if your boss goes to your permanent teammates and asks them ‘What if we brought OP on board full time? You want them to be your advocates.

    1. bikes*

      I was looking to see if someone made this comment. Think of the coffee expense as a networking investment. Your coworkers are much more likely to recommend you for other jobs if you’re a known quantity.

  85. cheeky*

    Frankly, if I were in your position (and I have been), where you’re just being strung along on short-term contracts and being underpaid, I would leave the job. Leave the expensive area. If this job isn’t giving you any cache in your job searches and you believe this is the best you can do, it may not be the path for you.

  86. Sabrina*

    So sorry you’re going through this! I was in a similar situation in graduate school, when I was making barely enough to live (keeping a written journal of every purchase, definitely not going for coffee), and I learned that other graduate students were making much more. My vote is for being honest with your coworkers. In my case, when I started talking about it some of the better paid coworkers pushed for union involvement and I don’t know exactly what happened but I made a good amount more the next year. Just to say, sometimes it helps to have advocates at the higher tier.

    1. Marny*

      This. All these comments about your coworkers not knowing are exactly the problem. They need to know. If you do good work and they like you, they’ll think it’s unfair too. And they may have the clout to do something about it. And if they shrug and act like “them’s the breaks” then yes, they are being rich AT you.

      1. portsmouthliz*

        Noooooo. This advice is really likely to backfire and hurt OP. If I invited a coworker for coffee and they declined, sharing information about their low pay and the contract situation, I would feel horribly awkward. It would feel like TMI on their part and maybe like they were subtly attempting to get me to do something about it. But — despite being senior staff — I don’t have any ability to influence my company’s arrangement with contractors. I don’t get consulted when salary decisions are made. So I would feel both bad for OP but awkward about the whole thing and very likely would end up avoiding OP because of it.

        On the other hand, If I invited OP for coffee and they said “Thanks but I’m trying to keep to a budget this month” or even if they came with me “for the walk” and didn’t get coffee, there would only be positive impact on my connection with OP.

        Income inequality sucks. And exploitative employment arrangement sucks. But OP’s workplace relationships could very likely be damaged by taking the attitude Marny’s advocating.

        1. Marny*

          I’m not advocating pushing her coworkers to help or accuse them of being responsible, I’m advocating honesty. Strange how it’s important for the poor person to sugar-coat her situation so that her wealthier coworkers aren’t uncomfortable, but they don’t have to stop talking about their spending to make her more comfortable. One reason income inequality exists because people are too afraid to talk about money in case, god forbid, it makes someone feel awkward.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I love this comment so much.

            If they’re uncomfortable when their coworker matter-of-factly and politely explains her situation, if they’re uncomfortable learning about reality, well… that sounds like a “them” problem.

  87. CoffeeKris*

    I have been in this exact position. In my situation, I had a conversation with my supervisor about it. She was really pleased with my performance and wanted to keep me on the team, so when she knew that I enjoyed the work but was barely making enough to live, she took steps to help me make sure I didn’t end up feeling resentful and helped get word to the right people about keeping me.

    I asked her for a quick meeting and the conversation went a bit like this:

    “Hi Jane. I wanted to touch base about my contract here. As you know, it’s been renewed a couple of times and while I’m very grateful for that, I’m worried that I won’t be able to afford staying long term at my current pay. Do you happen to know what the chances of me coming on permanently are or if there is something I can do to help that process along in the near future?”

    “I’m not sure, but that’s something I can look into. How much are you making now?”

    “$12.00 an hour”

    “WHAT THE HELL?!” (Our job requires a Master’s degree, and the starting salary is roughly three times that)

    “So, you can see my concern. I can make that work for now but it’s not sustainable long term and, if I’m honest, it’s tough hearing folks in the office talk about vacation or pay when I’m not entitled to PTO and given the pay situation. I love my work and the team, but I have been feeling frustrated, so I wanted to loop you in.”

    “Ok. Well, that pay is outrageously low. I can’t do anything about that right now but let’s work on a strategy to make things a little easier. We’ll set you up with some work from home stuff and I’ll see if we can do anything about the lack of PTO”

    I can’t guarentee that talking to your supervisor would go this well but no one can help if they don’t know you need help. Besides, if it’s really someone you want to work for/a place you want to work, they will want to keep someone on staff when they are producing good work.

    Also, my supervisor is/was the best and I have told her that many times, even now that she has transferred.

  88. LinesInTheSand*

    I’ve been on the other side of this a few times. Full time employment, dual income, no kids. I don’t know the details of my colleagues’ finances and I don’t care to speculate. I can’t help you with the reality that it’s a big deal for someone to buy a house and they’re going to talk about it. But when it comes to day to day interactions and invites from coworkers I have thoughts.

    If we were colleagues, and I was making lunch plans that were prohibitively expensive for you, I’d want to know because then I could change the plans, or assure you that this would be a working lunch which we’d be expensing, or suggest that everyone get takeout and meet in a conference room, or just straight up say that I’ve got your tab and maybe you can buy me coffee later.

    Not everyone is like this, and I would never ask someone if they’d prefer a cheaper option unless we’d had some conversations before on this topic. But if you trust me enough to raise the issue, then I’ve got the opportunity to make things more inclusive for you, because what matters to me is that you’re there, not whether we spend $20/person on lunch.

  89. Falling Diphthong*

    First, I’m sorry you’re stuck in this crappy “so long as the law allows” contracting thing. It sucks, and is a reason to keep putting your resume out there, highlighting the new experience.

    I wanted to focus on this:
    I find myself getting irritated and sometimes letting that attitude leak into the tone of my emails and interactions with them.
    You are right to flag this as a serious problem, one that will affect you going forward.

    For the two specific instances you give:
    Thanksgiving: You plan to stay in town, nothing fancy. “Just paid off moving out here” might be a laughing deflection if you want to expand on it, but this is really a routine “I went to my mom’s” “I stayed in and ate Chinese food” “I went to see my sister in Tennessee” chit chat amongst acquaintances thing.

    After work stuff: Because a string of deferrals will likely be read as “I don’t want to associate with you” I would suggest a few “I would love to, but I’m still on the temp contract wage and I just can’t afford it” with the nicer of your colleagues. This really is tough, as these are not people you would normally share your personal finances with, but sometimes people need context that “Oh. Right. Just because OP looks like me doesn’t mean they are actually paid my salary.” People default into assuming that the other people in their boat are like them, and it’s a mental shortcut rather than malicious. Most of them will take a friendly reminder that it’s a false assumption with an “Oh! Right, duh.” (Tone, on all sides, will matter a lot here.)

  90. Senor Montoya*

    I would just be incredibly forthcoming about your situation.

    What are YOU doing for Thanksgiving, says Hawaii trip coworker.
    I’m driving for Uber because I don’t get paid when the office is closed, say you.

    Let’s go out for lunch, says friendly co-worker
    I really wish I could! say you. But I’m making minimum wage and I don’t have any wiggle in my budget/and everything goes for rent and school loans/etc/. Can we walk over to park/etc and brown bag it tomorrow?

    Say it matter-of-factly, without sounding angry or resentful (even tho it’s legit to feel that way!).

    They may not even know just how sucky your situation is. If they ask, you can say, matter of factly, Oh, that’s the way it is for temp-to-hire jobs.

  91. Quill*

    No advice here beyond to keep looking: permatemp is very much a thing where I am (chicago area) and even though it always says temp to hire, the chances of actually getting hired are… relatively slim, especially if there are any other contractors in your role or equivalent roles.

    Absolutely do not invest in anything that would keep you stuck in the area should this fall through if you can avoid it, because the “to hire” part of temp to hire is always tenuous.

  92. Cranky Pants*

    Have you thought about asking for a raise? We occasionally use temps and our policy is to wait until their contract is up before we hire them on at a higher rate with benefits so we don’t have to pay to break the contract. However, if we have someone really great that we don’t want to be on the job hunt we will increase their payrate BEFORE their contract is up. In my experience temp companies have no problems with this.

  93. Secretary*

    I live in the SF Bay Area, and here minimum wage is a joke in terms of what you can live on. The highest minimum wage is about $15/hr, lowest I think is $10/hr. When I was looking at entry level jobs I refused anything lower than $18/hr, because I could barely get by on that here as a single, with no kids, and I lived on breadcrumbs with that salary.
    OP, if I were in your shoes I would talk to you manager about the temp thing. Ask if there’s anything you can do in the 3 months to get you hired on permanently because you really like it there. I would also mention that staying 3 months at a time may not be sustainable for you in the long run, but say it in a way that doesn’t sound like an ultimatum.
    Then, keep applying for jobs. Check your resume and cover letters against Alison’s advice, look for more temp work, just don’t give up!! Living in an expensive city, you can’t live on minimum wage long term, you just can’t.

  94. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Ah wealth, it often can make people forget about the times they struggled [if they had struggled in the first place, in reality some haven’t at all but even those of us who pulled ourselves out of poverty can very much be blissful once we’re outside that atmosphere.]

    I agree that you should be truthful with them, if they ask you to lunch, say you simply cannot afford it. Perhaps ask about getting a drink instead after work, if you can afford a drink in one of those high cost cities of course [find a place with a happy hour menu even!]. Then you are less likely to show yourself as “I don’t want to be social” but you are giving an alternative you CAN afford in the end.

    They often forget you’re a temp too I’m sure, since they aren’t always going to continue to be aware of your employee status. So that’s probably playing into what they presume is that you get a salary comparable to them.

  95. Lauren19*

    I actually think the wage discrepancy has nothing to do with it. My entry-level job paid decent, but still entry-level. However many of my co-workers who had the exact same degrees and tenure as me were getting monthly “supplemental” checks from their parents, letting them live a lifestyle quite different from mine. That’s all to say I think you focus on participating when you can (join every third coffee run and get drip coffee rather than a fancy drink, get excited about Thanksgiving break full of pajamas and Netflix, etc.) and living your own life. Good luck!!

  96. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

    What helps me when I see other people who appear to be doing better than me is to remember that I don’t see behind their curtain. I went and got a master’s degree while many of my peers worked jobs, making money and developing their skills, so that now, many of them are starting to move up or move on, while I am just getting out of the “I have no money because I just finished school” phase. That’s one thing. I also know plenty of folks who come from money and their parents pay for stuff like their weekend ski or beach trips, which means they probably do have extra income for nice coffees and dinner out and such. Finally, I also have been building a hefty emergency fund, saving for retirement, and burning money on medical problems that I finally have the money to address after finishing school, which makes me feel poor, but are definitely the right financial choices that others don’t get to see when I do things like say I can’t attend the drinks or the lunch! You have to do what’s right for you (including advocating for yourself!), and remember that you don’t know what these other people have going on behind the scenes.

  97. Hiya*

    Because you are getting rave reviews work with your temp company to get a raise. I was in pretty much the same situation (maybe even the same behemoth). I was told I was at the top of the pay scale for that position. So even though my reviews were stellar they “couldn’t “ give me a raise. I worked with my temp company and they asked my duties. Because of a few things I was handling I got my job reclassified from a clerical marketing coordinator position to a professional temp position of financial analyst. In the end this title change allowed me to get A decent raise and eventually hired with that title in another group in the same company.

  98. Eli*

    I don’t have anything to offer other than empathy. I am in a decently-paying permanent job, but because of financial parental estrangement at a young age and my husband’s situation (disabled, grew up with poverty and a drug-addicted parent, “not disabled enough” to get government benefits but too disabled to work any kind of job), I’m broke. Many, many of my coworkers can afford to have kids, take fancy international vacations, buy new cars, and go out for lunch — that is, they turn up their (aristocratic in my eyes) noses at any of the many free individual hot lunch meal choices and kitchen food stock items we’re offered every day (!).

    Meanwhile, the free food at work is my salvation. Otherwise I’d be eating dry cold sandwiches every day and having to keep and label all my food at work and pray that no one steals it. I did that before I landed this job.

    I’ve been here three years and I go between two strategies. One is to talk about things that are fun but nothing to do with wealth and fall silent when the topic is their lavish lifestyles. The other is to jokingly express my incredulity at their bizarre assumptions. For example, when I had to mention car trouble and my coworker asked me why a car I’d only bought a few months ago had issues and that I should talk to the manager at the dealership, I laughed and asked who could afford a brand-new car? My car is old as hell, and just because I bought it a few months ago hardly makes it a few months old. She never made inane assumptions like that again.

  99. Anon for this one*

    These colleagues are being crass and insensitive (if they know about the pay disparity). The cynical part of me wonders if it’s being done deliberately to freeze out the OP, but only the writer will know if that’s likely!

    I’ve been in a similar position to the colleagues in that I was the much more well off person (not due to a temp/perm situation, but due to a combination of seniority / life circumstances / etc) and I was absolutely aware of the impact on morale of others, and absolutely did rein in any talk about activities, expensive purchases etc. Deliberately didn’t upgrade my phone to the latest and greatest but went for a used “middle of the range” one instead, etc.

    I don’t really see how what these colleagues are doing is much different than freezing out a team mate due to some more concrete characteristic like gender.

    1. fposte*

      They’re not freezing her out, though; in fact they seem to be consciously reaching out to include her.

      And ultimately I think I just disagree with you; I think people have different things in life and it’s not reasonable to expect them to pretend they don’t have them. It’s good for all of us, including the OP, to stay aware that we have things that others don’t, but we’re not talking about somebody saying “Oh, aren’t maids the worst? How do you deal with yours?”

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Exactly. Unfortunately, this is a reality of the world and a life skill OP’s going to have to learn in order to move up and better her situation.

    2. Zennish*

      People will people. They are going to talk about their vacations and plan outings for coffee, and share their excitement over their new whatchamacallit because that’s how people connect with coworkers. Awkward silence because OP walked into the room, so everyone has to stop talking about their vacation plans, would not be an improvement. OP has to manage their misplaced resentment, not everyone else.

    3. Viv*

      Thank you. I wish my coworkers on my team were more like you. I had become very demoralized over the years because of the way they dominated conversations at team meetings and social events with talk of their latest international trips, combined with their lack of interest in getting to know me (even though I always tried to be nice and chat with them). I work in a strange place where I’ve had to initiate 95% of my conversations with people, otherwise they would hardly ever come over to speak with me. It’s gotten a little better, but none of the people I am friendly with now are in my team (for the reasons stated above). It’s been very difficult to tell my family and others why this issue has been so difficult for me and why it’s contributed so much to my unhappiness here.

  100. we're basically gods*

    Having been in very similar shoes at last!job, I do think it’s good to keep in mind that your coworkers aren’t being better paid *at* you.
    It’s also possible that they don’t realize you’re not permanent yet, or are also frustrated by the hiring process– I had one woman pull me aside at last!job after I gave my notice to tell me that something was “seriously screwed up” at the company, because they hadn’t hired me on as permanent staff yet. (However, that was a very different situation on a lot of levels. My department went out of their way to make me feel welcomed and valued as a proper member of the team, and there were a lot of perks that weren’t part of my contract that they made sure I got to enjoy.)

  101. Lorac*

    If you’re a TVC at a FAANG, the hard truth is that you’ll likely never be hired on full time. It’s a common and scummy practice, large companies hire you through a staffing firm, dangle promises of FTE and then never follow through. Of the 20 or so people I met who were contractors, only 1 got converted to full time, and she doesn’t even work in the same position. She was extremely lucky to be close to her manager (who happened to be a full time, many times contractors report to other contractors) and he went to bat for her and got her a position in an adjacent team in a completely different role. But during the transition, she was forced to take a 6 month break from the company because apparently there were laws against renewing her contract too many times. Only after the required 6 month hiatus and another ~2 months of waiting going through the regular interview processes was she hired.

    Don’t pin your hopes on a conversion; it’s extremely rare and requires you to become close to people with a lot of power. You’re better off dusting your resume and applying to a full time position at a less famous company. Working as a contractor through a staffing firms is a trap, and the truth is they aren’t hiring contractors for talent. They need people who have the minimum skills required and can be easily disposed of in case the project doesn’t pan out well (if a project fails, I’ve seen contractors get canned with same day notice). Since that’s the commonly held belief, contractors also face some discrimination when they apply to other companies, because recruiters see contractors as bottom tier talent and will judge you. You can wipe out that kind of history by landing a stable full time position at a smaller company to prove that you are valued and didn’t have to resort to a staffing firm.

    I wish you luck! There are always lots of smaller and medium sized businesses who are looking to hire. It’s not always the best to pin your hopes on a FAANG.

  102. Hillary*

    I haven’t read all the comments – apologies if this has been said already.

    I think it’s surprisingly easy to be less aware of income inequality, especially in some high cost WC cities. It’s not excusable, but it’s human. A lot of my Bay Area colleagues have a blind spot when it comes to just how much housing costs now. I work with a lot of people who’ve owned their homes for 20+ years. They intellectually understand housing is now stupidly expensive, but they haven’t internalized what it means for newer arrivals.

  103. 00ff00Claire*

    OP, I can relate a lot to your letter. I have been in the same position, but east coast and different industry. Many of the people I worked with just lacked the self-awareness to realize how some of the things they discussed came across to others. I’m now in essentially the opposition situation where I know that most of the people I work with are not as financially comfortable as my firmly middle-class family is. So, yes if you can find a way to reframe this to take the focus off of them and tell yourself that they are not being wealthy AT you, go for it. However, I know I found that very hard when I was in your shoes because I could see how entitled many people at that job felt through their other actions – how they treated free food and other perks, how they treated each other – it was all very toxic. Everyone was out for themselves and only themselves. People got thrown under the bus on the regular.

    So, my first piece of advice would be to really take a look at the overall culture. Be honest with yourself and think through if you were to become full-time, whether would that take away all of your irritation and annoyance with your coworkers? Is the kind of talk that’s bugging you the only the only thing that rubs you wrong about them? If it is truly the only problem you have with them, can you focus on other qualities that they do have that you like/admire to help you improve your attitude towards them? However, maybe this talk is indicative of broader cultural norms that you don’t want to be a part of, and if so I’d really ramp up the job search for somewhere different.

    As far as surviving being the poor temp, a few things helped me get through it. I continued to do good work and focus on doing my job well. I did my best to stay above / below / out of any office politics or drama because that seemed to only make me focus on how I was being treated by the company. However, I did make friends with one other temp who I could commiserate with. That helped me feel less alone! I also got noticed by someone who had influence with a more powerful person. That part was luck for me, but the outcome was my rate was renegotiated with the temp agency. However, temp contracts were all over the place at that company and renegotiation happened frequently, so not sure that would be normal in yours. If so and there is someone who you work under who would be able to go to bat for you, consider trying to get your rate renegotiated.

    I was also relatively young when I was in that position, so now I have more strategies for how I could have handled the way working there made me feel. You might consider coming up with a strategy to deal with the emotions you experience when your coworkers begin going on again about their trips, etc. Because you are allowed to feel things – disappointment, jealousy, frustration, etc. See if you can name the emotion – not irritation, but the actual emotion (look up a list of names and really try to pinpoint). Acknowledge that you are feeling that way and that it’s OK to feel that way – a lot of people would (and have done!) in your situation. Remind yourself that you can handle that emotion and then do something that will help calm you (take a deep breath, count to 10, imagine that they are farting as someone suggested above, focus on their good qualities, leave the conversation, etc). Consider other ways you can react when your coworkers bring these things up. Often having a plan for how you will deal with a stressful situation will itself relieve some of the stress. I hope you are able to find something that works for you in all of these suggestions and that you will have some relief soon!

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      So, my first piece of advice would be to really take a look at the overall culture. Be honest with yourself and think through if you were to become full-time, whether would that take away all of your irritation and annoyance with your coworkers? Is the kind of talk that’s bugging you the only the only thing that rubs you wrong about them? If it is truly the only problem you have with them, can you focus on other qualities that they do have that you like/admire to help you improve your attitude towards them? However, maybe this talk is indicative of broader cultural norms that you don’t want to be a part of, and if so I’d really ramp up the job search for somewhere different.

      Ooohhh this is a really good point. There may be other toxic things going on at this company that’s exacerbating OP’s annoyance with her coworkers’s topics of conversation.

    2. Viv*

      Thank you! Last three sentences of your first paragraph describes my work situation for years. But it took me a while to figure out what was wrong on this front and why I felt so unhappy. Unfortunately I did not have a peer group to commiserate with much and felt quite isolated. Plus, family members did not understand how it felt to be treated this way on a daily basis. They thought just doing the job was enough. Like you I hope the OP finds relief soon– don’t get stuck like me!

  104. Kella*

    I really like the idea of you asking around to see if any of your coworkers were temp to hire when they first started. As other folks have already mentioned, your coworkers aren’t doing anything wrong, but if reframing that in your head may not be enough to keep at the resentment at bay.

    While they aren’t acting out of malice, your coworkers are unintentionally othering you. I think if you found someone else that has gone through what you’re going through, that feeling of being othered and isolated would lessen. They might even be a cheerleader for you, encouraging you to keep going, or recommend ways they got through the tough time.

  105. Jennifer Juniper*

    Instead of looking up at your colleagues’ lifestyle, remind yourself of how privileged you are compared to most people in the world – or the homeless in your own country. Billions of people don’t have access to clean water, good infrastructure, cars, or electricity. See your job as the price you have to pay for these privileges.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      This is really the only kind of “reframing” that makes any sense to me here.

      The company’s two-tier pay policy and dishonest, exploitative dangling of perm status are still not OK, and you *should* be angry about them.

    2. Scarlet2*

      I really dislike this argument that having the bare minimum is a “privilege”. No, it isn’t and no-one should have to “get used” to inequality.
      It’s just a way to tell people to shut up and accept the status quo. If everyone had had that attitude, nobody would have ever fought for equality, workers’ rights, etc.

  106. Ladylike*

    First of all, I would say DON’T let your irritation leak into your communications with them. That will for sure cause you to be pegged as a bad culture fit. They probably assume you’re making the same as they are. Actually, it really sucks that you aren’t. In my area, contractors typically make about the same as fulltime folks at the same skill level – just without benefits, vacation, etc.

    I would handle the wage discrepancy with humor if at all possible – make (kind, well-intentioned) jokes about them being rich, you living the lowly contractor life, etc.

    Or, just be as friendly as you can and take other opportunities to hang out with them – eating lunch together in a break room, an expensive coffee break once every couple of weeks (whatever you can afford). I think just being friendly, joking/laughing with them and talking about common interests will go a long way to build rapport without spending money.

    But I think you really need to get over the bitterness, and don’t let it show. It’s not their fault they make more than you and enjoy the fruits of their labor. You can’t make this about them.

  107. Well, there's this*

    Talking about your financial situation too much at work is not a good idea. I saw this happen to a co-worker. It got back to his boss and it was used against him, saying it was a ‘poor attitude.’ People are going to wonder if you’re happy, and if you’re not, why are you there?

  108. somebody blonde*

    There’s no shame in being a low-paid contractor, and there’s also strong labor protections for discussing wages, so feel free to tell other people what you make so they’ll be more sensitive.

    Also, have you had a straightforward conversation with your manager about what it would take to bring you on full time? I personally let a situation like this go on way longer than I should have because I wasn’t bringing it up enough with the people who had the power to fix my situation. They’re not going to fire you because you’re trying to get full-time. If they can’t give it to you now, really lean into your job search, and also check through your contracting agency to see if they have higher paid listings.

  109. Chaordic One*

    When I was a temp and these kinds of situations came up, many times my permanently employed co-workers would “treat me” by paying for my lunch, coffee, drinks or whatever and I really appreciated it at the time.

    Now that I’m employed in a permanent full-time position, when a social situation with a temp comes up I try to pay-it-forward by offering to “treat” my temp colleagues since I know that most of them aren’t being paid very well.

  110. AdminX*

    They just aren’t thinking in the moment. They consider you included. Even after 2 years turned full time I’m still sensitive about talking time off and purchases around contract, but most people just don’t think about it. It’s not against you, they think they are including you, and it’s not cool company practice in general. Just the way it is.

    Keep looking for the part that fits YOU.

  111. VAP*

    This doesn’t address the money issue directly, but I’ve spent the past few years being in a “lower” tier than most of my co-workers (I was temporary faculty, they were tenure-track). There are a few things I tried to do to cope with the fact that they all mattered more than me and had the type of job I really really wanted:

    – Let myself be sad/bitter about it, but in small doses. Rather than pretending it was always fine, I’d take the drive home from a department meeting to be sad/petty/frustrated/etc., and then I’d try to put it away. I think this helped me keep my actual interactions positive.

    – Remind myself that it’s not their fault or their choice. The institution decided to hire temporary people, academia as a whole is moving away from tenure-track. The fault lies in the system, not in the people who had been luckier than me.

    – Spend time socializing with just people who were in the same situation (in my case, other visiting faculty). I certainly didn’t limit my social group to *just* them, but I did make some chances for those of us who shared the same challenging conditions to deal with them together.

    – Be pretty upfront about the difference and some of the challenges, and that I potentially wanted to stay permanently if that was possible. I certainly didn’t say everything that was on my mind. But when it was relevant I’d calmly recognize that my situation was different and address how it mattered. For me, that was mainly about things like long-term departmental decisions; for you, money and the salary differential might apply. I also had direct conversations with a number of my colleagues about wanting to stay if it was possible, partly just so that everyone was on the same page.

    – This is highly situation-specific, but in my case I also worked to remember that the institution had invested less in me, and so I invested less in them. I did do more than the bare minimum, partly because I did want to stay, but I didn’t take on all the responsibilities of a tenure-track person. That helped sometimes too–I didn’t get all the benefits, but I didn’t have to make the same level of sacrifices, either. Of course this depends on expectations, and you definitely wouldn’t want to take it too far. In my case it worked because expectations really were different.

    Again, I know this isn’t directly addressing the money issue, but it might help with managing some of the (understandable but unhelpful) resentment.

  112. Zennish*

    Someone (likely Ian Maclaren) once said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” You can be sure there are struggles your co-workers are facing that you’ll never even know about, so try not to fixate on the ways it seems like they’re better off. If they’re decent people just saying “I’d love to join you guys, but you know what a temp’s paycheck is like.” will suffice. They’ll understand. Very few people who work for a living started off with an awesome paycheck and great benefits.

  113. Frankie*

    In my experience as a temp, honestly not even the person who secured my position knew what the temp agency was paying me. They paid a fee and the agency paid me way less. It doesn’t sound like you are contracted through an agency, though, so the company doesn’t have the excuse. But the overall point stands that few realize, unless they’ve temped, how little the pay can be and how lack of insurance, any PTO, etc. can just keep you at that paycheck-to-paycheck level.

    Others have noted that your coworkers may have no idea what kind of pay level you’re at. I would third, fourth, or fifth (or wherever we are now) the suggestion to just lightly say, “Oh, still in a temp position so need to watch my budget!”

    Doesn’t make your experience fair, or suggest that maybe they couldn’t be more sensitive to talking about money stuff in a work context.

  114. It's a New Day!*

    If it is any consolation I once shared a work area with someone who had been hired on through a temp agency a year before I started, and when I left three years later she had only just been hired on directly. She had no benefits. I was not paid very well for that job (did not have “Ask A Manager” to consult on wage negotiations, lol), and she seemed to have a pretty solid external support cushion – better clothes and hair than I, for sure – but I did have benefits, and it was so awkward to not be able to discuss things with her given that we really had only each other to interact with regularly because of the office layout.

    1. It's a New Day!*

      Oh, I forgot to end with the most important bit, which was that I lobbied my boss really hard from about year 2 on getting her hired on, as she had been with us for so long.

  115. Phoenix from the ashes*

    This probably varies between industries and cultures but once upon a time (or so I’m told) temps actually used to get more per hour than perms, because the company was paying for the flexibility(!). So depending on your colleagues’ past experiences (crucially, have they personally been a temp in the last 20 years?) they may think you’re being paid really nice money.

    I honestly think a lot of people would be better off if we could start talking about money openly. But if you’re not prepared to talk directly about what you earn (and many people aren’t), a halfway house is to talk about generalities. E.g. “You know, temps nowadays often only get paid 2/3rds of what employees get, and no benefits”, or whatever figures apply to your area/industry/circumstances. Your tone needs to be right when you say this – factual, not complaining.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t think temps ever got paid well, true temps were fill-in or seasonal help. But there was a time when contract workers and consultants did get paid well, and often better than the employees.

      But it seems to have been all convoluted and all those contract workers are now temps.

    2. Zennish*

      I was temping 25 years ago, and I can tell you it wasn’t true then, at least not in my experience. You were lucky to make a buck over minimum wage.

  116. Chronic Overthinker*

    I know all too well about the hierarchy of full-time v. temp or hourly v. salaried. As the “lowest rung on the ladder” I get paid the least of everyone in my office, except maybe our part-timers. I constantly see people getting fancy coffee drinks, ordering food for lunch and taking fancy vacations. It’s just one of those things. People in nature just want to share. If you feel like you want the social aspect, then absolutely join in for the camaraderie. Using a script along the lines of “not in my budget” etc. will go a long way. People understand and are a lot less judgmental than you think.

    Alternatively, there are always options to try and improve your station. Sometimes it might be worth it to see if there are opportunities within the company to try and move up. Or try talking to your recruiter to see what you can do to make the move to permanent status. There could be something missing, or a skill you could acquire while on the job.

  117. Mannheim Steamroller*

    I have received absolutely glowing performance reviews, headed an exciting project, and gotten so much great experience. However, the “to hire” part of the temp contract never came through. They’ve just renewed me again for another three months. What I didn’t know before I started here was that this is common, and I’ll probably be extended until the legal maximum of 18 months before they even consider bringing me on full-time.

    It’s much more likely that the company will string you along for the full 18 months, then drop you and find someone else to string along for 18 months. Resume the job hunt now.

    1. Clementine*

      If you get a job elsewhere that looks good, and keep yourself open to recruiters on LinkedIn, you may soon be pestered by recruiters from this Internet behemoth to come work for them (full-time, not contract). This company will string you along as long as possible, almost certainly. The fact you had a hard time getting a job at first does not mean you will have a hard time now.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      By the way, OP and everyone else: 18 months is not a legal maximum. It the limit that a lot of large companies put on contractors so they can avoid getting into the trouble that Microsoft got into back in the 1990’s, where they had people working as “contractors” sometimes for years, and in positions of leadership, but denied them benefits and stock options.

      In other words, it’s not a law, it’s a company policy. At most companies, you have to be gone from the premises for 6 months before you can get another 18-month contract. Deets here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permatemp

  118. Mills*

    I have a lot of sympathy for your situation and I know how quickly something like this can grind you down. But if it’s going to be your reality for the foreseeable future, you must do some work on yourself to make it bearable and prevent you sabotaging yourself and your future at this company. In other words, if your situation isn’t changing any time soon, you need to change how you perceive that situation. It’s never okay to allow your personal (misplaced) angry feelings to seep in to work interactions. That’s going to seriously hurt your chances of securing the contracted position you want. As a lot of comments above have said, you can start to work on reframing your ideas about this.

    I would also suggest working through these feelings with a therapist, or if that’s not an option for you right now you can process these feelings with a trusted friend or family member or write a journal. And not just to vent your anger, try to really analyse it and think how and why you’re feeling like that and where it should really be directed (because it shouldn’t be directed at your colleagues, that’s for sure) and how you can process that and work through it in a way that works for you.

    It sounds like you’ve become super worn down with work right now so you might find it useful to channel the angry feelings you have into motivation for more productive areas. Volunteering or community groups that will add to your resume and add some richness to your life in other ways, or channel some of that anger into a side project you’re passionate about. And at the end of it all, remember everything is temporary. This period won’t last for long, and if you do the work on yourself now when things are tough you will be better prepared for other challenges that lie ahead.

  119. Anon Here*

    I think you can tell your co-workers how much you’re being paid. Strategically. Say something to someone you trust next time it comes up. They could help to advocate for you, and for this policy to be updated.

    Regardless of your approach, document the business impact. Get ready to share some facts with someone who can do something about this.

  120. Acm*

    Agree that the pay is not the other coworkers’ fault, but s/he also shouldn’t have to hide the discrepancy. For Thanksgiving, simply, “unfortunately I’ll be doing some Uber work to make up the lost days of work”, said as good-naturedly as possible, would pack a bit of punch without being adversarial.

  121. Kitty*

    I really hope you get the salaried position soon!

    Also thank you for reminding me to be more sensitive about others’ financial situations.

  122. lkr209*

    Sorry if someone has already commented with this: OP, I’m so sorry for the cynicism, but the West Coast is just not a great place to live if you’re not in a highly specific, highly-paying career. Nurses, lawyers, engineers, accountants, etc. But if your degree is in the humanities and you don’t have a highly specific, valuable skill set, you will always struggle to make ends meet. I lived in Ca for several years, had several family members in different parts of the state that would’ve been able to afford nice homes and have a great quality of life with the same jobs they were in if they were living on the East coast or the Midwest. I understand that you moved there for family reasons and you didn’t share what you majored in, but my best suggestion is to take a hard, long look at your long-term quality of life and either go back to school for something more valuable (in terms of salary and hiring outlook, not inherently, just to be clear) or do yourself a huge favor and move somewhere else with a lower cost of living. The east coast is prettier than Ca anyway ;)

  123. agnes*

    i so sympathize with your situation. I think the people around you are probably oblivious to the situation. I think this is a situation where you are going to have to work on your response and managing your own feelings, and not by asking people to change their behavior. Your colleagues aren’t doing anything wrong. I understand that it’s affecting you, and that’s why re framing it in your head or working on managing your feelings about it is your best option. Vent to your friends if that will help.

    1. agnes*

      just also want to remind you that you do have options. You can ask for a raise and you can look for another job.

  124. ITisnotEZ*

    “Oh, Thanksgiving plans? Well, I’m still just a temp, so I’ll be staying in the city this year, but I thought I’d try the soup-kitchen over in Haight-Ashbury, I hear they use real pasta in their noodles. Even if that’s a bust, the garbage cans don’t get picked up until Friday morning, so I know I’ll find something good there.”

  125. SleepyBri*

    I also work for a behemoth with insane salaries and what I’d personally want from a contract/temp coworker is for them to be open and honest with me.
    “Hey OP, I’m grabbing lunch at Whole Paycheck, want to come?“
    “Sorry SleepyBri, that’s not in my budget. Thanks for the invite though!”

    “Hey OP, what are you doing for vacation?” “Oh, just working on cultivating my savings account. Student loans are killer!”

    Honestly if your colleagues don’t take the hint after responses like that, then you might just need to be blunt. “My budget is tight right now and I can’t afford x.”

  126. kms1025*

    You’ve really got a perfectly understandable and reasonable reply at your fingertips…tell them at the moment you’re still in the “temp to hire” stage and though you would sincerely love to participate your current budget and your student loan balance just wont allow it.

  127. Rachel*

    Not exactly the same situation but I am one of the only part-time people at my company so I get annoyed with people talking about benefits and PTO that I don’t get. I have to remind myself that my bosses are the ones who did this to me not my coworkers. When people ask about it I will say I am not part-time yet and people are often surprised because of how much work I do and tell me I should be.

  128. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    Ugh I don’t have useful advice but sympathy. I was stuck in a contract rut before getting salaried positions. This temp/contract arrangement is becoming WAY too common in companies. It wouldn’t be bad if the contracts were guaranteed to become full time if you met standards, but that’s not the case – they just renew over and over again. And in most cases, you are doing the same exact type and level of work as everyone else.

  129. Former Employee*

    I wish the OP had said what the family reasons were that brought her to the area of the West Coast where she can barely afford to live. It sounds as if she is on her own, so I can only guess that perhaps it’s aging parents. If she moved to assist family in some way, then my suggestion is that they assist OP financially or that she share housing with the family member(s) she is assisting. Since she didn’t mention rent, perhaps family is already giving her a place to live rent free.

    As far as medication and student loans, I suggest that the OP check into medication cost assistance programs for low income people and also look into whatever may be available in terms of student loan restructuring or other programs for low income individuals.

    Right now, her salary is what it is, so the only thing to do is to see if there is some way to bring her cost of living down.

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