Most workers’ salaries stagnated or declined during the recent recession. As if that weren’t bad enough, the real kick in the teeth came several years after the recession ended: today’s workers find themselves trapped in a low-wage economy. Low-wage workers in the U.S. earn just 46.75 percent of the salary of median workers in the country, making it one of the most severe low-wage economies in the world.
You’d think the solution to this low-wage predicament would be to request a pay raise, but this is likely to be a futile strategy for many. Employers are not exactly handing out raises at the moment. For example, in the U.K., the Institute for Fiscal studies says that wages were 1 percent lower in 2014 than they were in 2001; in the U.S., reports show that wages have increased by a mere 2 percent per year in the five years since the recession ended, barely keeping pace with inflation.
If you are one of the unlucky many who have been refused a pay raise, what can you do? Below, I offer some tips on boosting your pay after your boss has turned down your raise.
1. Negotiate Work-From-Home Days
As you all know, disposable income — the profit left over after you’ve paid your bills — matters tremendously. So, if you can’t boost your salary, you can try to boost your disposable income by reducing your work-related costs. One of the best ways to reduce work-related costs is to move from office-working to home-working a few days a week. This will save you travel costs and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle.
If you want a good estimate of how much you might save by switching to telecommuting, try out this telework calculator from GovLoop.
2. Don’t Buy Food at Work (Make Your Own!)
It can be tempting to buy your work meals from a restaurant, and unless you work at an employer like Google, where food is free, this can cost you thousands of dollars a year. The average American worker spends $3,000 a year on coffee and snacks at work. By working from home or packing a lunch, you could dramatically reduce your work-related costs and boost your disposable income.
3. Work a Second Job or Lobby for Some Overtime
If you can get overtime at your job, doing so is a good way to boost your disposable income. If you can’t get overtime in your own department, check to see if there is some overtime work available in another department that the company might ordinarily farm out to temps.
If overtime is not available, then you may want to consider taking a second job. Make sure you follow all your company’s protocols about moonlighting to ensure you don’t put your first job at risk!
4. Read the Employee Handbook and Make Full Use of Company Benefits
You’d think that most employees know all about their perks and benefits, but according to a survey from SHRM, just 14 percent of employees are “very knowledgeable about employer-sponsored benefits.” So, take a good look at your employee handbook and make sure you are not leaving any of your benefits or perks on the table.
5. Take All Your Holidays
A study from the U.S. Travel Association and market-research firm GfK found that 40 percent of U.S. workers “don’t plan on using all of [their] paid time off.
If you are not taking your holidays each year, check your policy to see if you are entitled to reimbursement for unused vacation time at the end of the calendar year. If you are, make sure you get this reimbursement. If not, considering negotiating with your employer for reimbursement. This could be worth one or two weeks’ salary a year, so don’t leave this in your employer’s bank account.
6. Try a Carpool
Sharing your commute to work can cut your commuting costs by quite a bit. Take advantage of your company’s carpool scheme, if one exists. If not, use a community carpool website to set one up with other professionals in your area.