DEAR HARRIETTE: I live at home and bring my lunch to work. Clearly, my finances are not plentiful. For the past two weeks, someone’s been stealing my lunch out of the company fridge.

I haven’t been able to catch who it is, yet I don’t know how easy this could be when around 50 people work on my floor. Not only does the theft cause me to lose my healthy lunch, I lose money having to go buy new food. I hate seeing passive-aggressive notes in the workplace, but I feel like I have no other option unless I want a warmed and spoiled lunch. Is it time to start posting notes? — Lunchtime Bully, Seattle

DEAR LUNCHTIME BULLY: It is probably time to get an insulated lunch bag that you can keep at your desk, away from the people who share the refrigerator. Clearly, somebody thinks it’s OK to steal your lunch. Putting a note on it is not likely to keep those sticky fingers off of it.

Your best bet is to protect your lunch by keeping it in a drawer at your desk so that it is out of sight. Use an ice pack inside an insulated bag to keep your food fresh. Utilize the community microwave if you need to heat something up. Or pack lunches that are safe at room temperature for a few hours.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: I will be graduating from college in the spring. My friends and I have discussed living together post-graduation to save money. I have also been contemplating living alone. I really do enjoy my own private space that I can control. However, this is one of the only opportunities I’ll ever have to live with friends because we don’t have significant others and families. Is the saved money worth the potential headache? I do have a good time with them. It just may be time to grow up. — One Versus Four, Shreveport, Louisiana

DEAR ONE VERSUS FOUR: Make a budget that takes into consideration all of your financial goals and responsibilities. Figure out how much money you need to cover all of your costs and still be able to save some. Based on your goals, does it make sense for you to live with friends short-term? Many college grads do live a year or two with others so that they can save money, pay off debt and get on their feet. If you walk into a roommate situation with specific financial goals in mind, you will likely be more comfortable with the scenario. Why? Even if (or should I say when) friction occurs, you can remind yourself of your bigger goals.

Living with others can be a huge challenge AND a lot of fun. If you approach this arrangement as a short-term fun experience, you can create lasting memories. Just make sure you that you stay on budget and save as much money as you can, so that the experience will be worth it — in more ways than one!

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.