There’s no single solution that makes sense for everyone when it comes to figuring out what type of lifestyle change to implement to help get your financial life on track.
Some people may find ways to boost their income; others may take a deep cost-cutting route. In either case, the goal is the same: Improve your household’s cash flow, so you’re doing more than just treading water — you’re actually moving forward on long-term financial goals.
So we asked Chris Pimpo, a CFP® with LearnVest Planning Services, to share some of the strategies he sees people most commonly implementing. Although they may seem intimidating, they can have a significant impact on how much cash is flowing into — and out of — a budget.
1. Negotiate a higher salary
Find out if you’re getting paid what you’re worth by doing research through sites like glassdoor.com, or by asking colleagues what they’re seeing salary-wise. Then come to the negotiating table with those numbers in hand, as well as a list of the accomplishments that can help make your case for a pay hike.
2. Switch to a higher-paying job
If prospects are scarce that you’ll land a pay raise, your next plan of attack can be to search for a better-compensated position — just make sure to look at the benefits being offered, as well as the salary.
“You may get a $5,000 to $10,000 a year income boost, but if the new company has a lower-tier health benefit — and you end up paying $200 extra a month for health care — or there is no 401(k) matching plan, those are huge factors [that could affect your finances],” Pimpo explains.
So once you have an acceptance letter, ask the company for all of the specifics on their benefits package too, so you can gauge what the impact will be on your overall financial picture.
3. Get a second job
One key to this strategy is to find a side gig that will fit your schedule and help maximize your income, says Pimpo. In other words, don’t choose a part-time job that sucks up all of your free time, with little to show for it in income.
You should actually enjoy what you’re doing, as well as further your skills. “So find a second job that you love, like working for a nonprofit — or maybe the job is in a field that you’ve always wanted to work in,” Pimpo adds.
4. Discuss having a stay-at-home parent go back to work
Transitioning to a two-income household could help significantly, but only if the new income isn’t dedicated to simply offsetting child care — so do the math to see where you net out.
You could also look for jobs that are flexible with your schedule. “Can you design websites? Be a writer? Teach music? Maybe you can do some contract work, or find a job on the weekends that brings in an extra $500 a month,” Pimpo says. “You want to balance [the work] with your marriage and family.”
5. Move to a cheaper home
Before you pack — and book costly movers — figure out what the trade-offs might be for downsizing to a less expensive house.
If, for example, you have children, saving $100 a month may not be enough of a trade-off for pulling them out of a good school district. On the other hand, if you could save $300 a month, and the sacrifice is short-term — perhaps the children will go to the same high school, anyway — then it may be worth it.
Also, keep in mind that downsizing will be easier if you rent versus own, says Pimpo, adding that you could figure out the net benefits of leasing elsewhere and renting out your home to cover the mortgage.
6. Take in roommates
Finding someone to split your household costs could be a short-term sacrifice that helps free up a decent chunk of your budget. “If you just started off in your field, you’re living in an expensive place like New York City, and you’re expecting a good salary adjustment in the next couple of years, this might be a good move,” Pimpo says.
However, if you own your home, check local laws to see if it’s even legal for you to rent out rooms, including “squatter” laws that may make it hard for you to evict a tenant who isn’t working out.
7. Relocate to a cheaper area
Relocating is, truly, a big move, because of the uncertainty: How much will it cost to move? Will I be able to sell my home? Are there job opportunities?
All of these factors should be part of your decision, says Pimpo.
On top of that, consider doing a careful cost-of-living comparison to see how your two cities compare when it comes to housing expenses, utilities, taxes — and salaries.
“Just because you’re making $85,000 in one city, doesn’t mean you’ll be making $85,000 in another,” Pimpo says.