You work hard, prep for big meetings, and even go the extra mile to sharpen your job skills. But a pay raise doesn’t come along every day — even if it would be ideal for your financial situation.
When a pay raise is elusive, you may ask yourself what’s next for your finances. How are you supposed to pay monthly rent for that dream downtown apartment in Seattle, WA, save money to meet your financial goals, and still have some left over to enjoy each month?
Thankfully, you don’t need to rely on anyone else to improve your finances. You can take steps on your own to make your current income go further and effectively give yourself a pay raise. Try these four ways to make the most of your money.
Cut unnecessary costs
Reducing the amount you spend is one of the easiest ways to generate more cash flow. This doesn’t mean you need to forgo all material possessions and never go shopping again (although if you’d like to go all in, there’s always the budget-friendly minimalist lifestyle). Instead, carefully review your spending from the past few months. If you don’t track your spending, start today so you can review it in the future. For now, you can pull up bank and credit card statements and review your transactions.
Are there products or services that you’re paying for but no longer use? Cancel unwanted or unneeded subscriptions, stop paying for unused services, and practice mindful spending going forward.
This isn’t about limiting yourself. It’s about cutting out the unessential so you can free up that money for what’s more important to you. That might be saving for a big trip, investing for your future, or using your money on experiences instead of things.
It’s really easy to rack up a lot of unnecessary costs if you work for yourself too. You can justify your spending as a “business expense.” But do you really need all the subscriptions and services you pay for to do your work? Can you cut the excess or switch to a lower-cost plan (or provider)?
Evaluate — and negotiate — necessary expenses
Next, take a look at the non-negotiables in your budget … and remember that everything is negotiable! These expenses might include things like rent, utilities, and insurance. Make a list of what you currently pay each month, then call those companies that send the bills. Ask what service options or discounts they offer, or what you can do to reduce your monthly bill.
Remember, no one can say yes to your requests unless you ask. Not everyone will work with you to help reduce your costs, but if you’re friendly and polite with the person you speak with, you might be surprised how much you can save simply by asking.
You’ll probably need to put a little more effort into reducing large bills like rent. Most landlords won’t appreciate a random phone call asking for a lower rent, so plan ahead. When it’s time to re-sign your lease, ask your landlord if you can discuss options for paying less. If you signed a lease for 18 months instead of 12, could they give you a discount?
It might also be worth exploring other living arrangements. Would moving a few miles outside the city equal a major savings in rent? Could you get a roommate or downsize to a smaller apartment?
There’s no one right answer, and nothing says you need to take all these steps. But these questions will help you at least start thinking about your options.
Maintain a budget
Once you’ve taken a good hard look at your spending, reduced where you could, and negotiated other items that you can’t eliminate entirely, you’ll generate extra cash flow each month. To maintain this self-driven raise, make a budget. And stick to it!
It may sound boring, but a budget is the foundation on which you can build financial success. Before you dismiss the idea, do some research: You have many ways to automate and organize your household budget by using tools like Mint.com and Personal Capital.
Adjust the tax withholding on your paycheck
If you got a tax refund last year, consider paying a visit to the HR department. You can adjust the withholding on your paycheck so that you pay less in taxes throughout the year. Instead of getting a big refund check after April 15, you’ll immediately give yourself a raise and put a little more money straight into your pocket with every paycheck.
Still not sure about forgoing the nice refund check? Consider that there’s no financial benefit for getting a refund. Receiving a tax refund means you overpaid your taxes, giving the government an interest-free loan with your money throughout the year. By adjusting your withholding, you can use that money instead. With any withholding change, be sure to calculate that you won’t owe money in taxes at the end of the year (or put aside money in case you do).
This extra cash throughout the year is important if you use it to save or invest. Your money can earn a return in a high-yield savings account, CD (certificate of deposit), or investment account — and putting your money to work by having it earn more money is yet another pay raise!