6 Ways You Can Still Make More Money at Work When There's "No Budget for a Raise"
About four years ago, Olivia Jaras started a new job as a compensation analyst for an Ivy League college. She was enjoying her position, but within a few months it became clear that the job she was doing went above and beyond the job she had applied for.
When she pointed this out to her manager, Jaras was told there wasn’t enough money in the budget to give her a mid-year raise. So she got creative.
“I took the existing position description and made a note of all of the additional responsibilities I’d taken on; these included overseeing the work of others,” she says. Jaras also made sure to mention that she enjoyed her job and had received positive feedback on how she performed the duties that lay outside her original scope. (And it didn’t hurt that, as a compensation analyst, she had a good grasp on how much that extra work was worth.)
While all this effort didn’t get her an immediate salary bump, “I proved my case that it would be fair to be given a monthly stipend for as long as those ‘additional duties’ would last—in other words, until my next formal salary review,” says Jaras, 32, who has since gone on to start Salary Coaching for Women, a consultancy that helps women negotiate their pay.
Jaras’ story is likely one that many workers can relate to: You keep plugging away at your job, maybe even taking on more than usual, in hopes of nabbing that big pay jump—only to be told that “No one’s getting a raise” or “We don’t have the budget” or “We can only afford to give you a cost-of-living increase.”
We don’t blame you. But if you really love your job and want to stick with it, don’t go full force with the job hunt just yet—your company may offer more opportunities for extra money than you think. Below, workplace experts offer up examples of how you might be able to squeeze out more income from your job if you can’t quite get that raise. These tips could help tide you over until your managers approve that fatter paycheck.
1. Make Your Case for a Spot Bonus
OK, maybe there really is no budget for that 10% salary increase—but what about a reward to recognize you for, say, the stellar customer service you provided or that time you worked until the wee hours when your manager needed a board presentation, stat?
“If you knocked it out of the park this year, your company may be willing to throw you some extra, one-time bonus money,” says Carol Cochran, director of human resources at career site FlexJobs. “This [often] works because it doesn’t raise your salary any more than [the company] needs to, but it also keeps you happy and compensated for your hard work.”
Still getting pushback? Ask your supervisor if the company has an annual award for standout employees, and figure out how to apply or get nominated, suggests Jené Kapela, president of Fort Lauderdale, Florida–based leadership training and consulting firm Kapela Leadership Solutions. “Usually, the recipients of these awards receive a cash bonus or other incentive as part of the recognition,” she says.
2. Seek Overtime or Overload Work
Asking to work overtime is, of course, one of the most obvious ways to fatten your paycheck sans a pay raise. But depending on your position, you may not qualify for overtime, or it may not even exist in your company.
In that case, see if your employer offers another variation. “[Ask about] ‘overload’ payments, which are different from overtime,” suggests Kapela, referring to the term (most commonly heard in academic or higher-education workplaces) used to describe extra pay for work that falls outside your full-time job description. “It might not be time-and-a-half, but there could be compensation for taking on additional work—which, hopefully, will also help you grow into another higher-paying role at the company.”
Kapela says that overload pay may involve a one-time payment or ongoing payments added to your paycheck while you continue to absorb the extra responsibilities, similar to Jaras’ situation. One thing to note, however, is that any work associated with overload pay may have to be done on your own time. The bright side? Going above and beyond, at least temporarily, means “you can grow professionally while also reaping the financial benefits,” Kapela adds.
3. Find Out if Your Job Offers a Referral Bonus
When a company hires someone new, there’s a lot riding on the success of that employee. Think about it: It takes resources (read: money) to train new people, and there’s potential for lost productivity when a worker isn’t up to snuff. In fact, more than a quarter of employers in a 2013 CareerBuilder survey estimated that one bad hire cost them more than $50,000.
It’s no wonder, then, that many businesses rely on the judgment of their current employees to find people who will be a good cultural and organizational fit. “See if there is a referral system that pays you for recommending talent,” says Samantha Lambert, director of human resources for New York–based digital marketing agency Blue Fountain Media. Lambert’s company, for instance, offers employees $500 for bringing in new hires.
If there’s no referral bonus for talent, perhaps there’s one for new business, Lambert adds. Even if you’re not in sales, ask your manager if it’d be possible to get some sort of one-off commission tied to bringing a new client into the fold.
4. Ask for Additional PTO
If padding your paycheck just doesn’t seem to be panning out, then your other option may involve taking advantage of company perks in a way that indirectly pads your wallet.
Case in point: Consider requesting additional paid time off, suggests Dave Benjamin, a manager at Addison Group, a staffing services firm in Chicago. “PTO doesn’t necessarily mean more money in your pocket, but time equals money,” he says. “So it’s a big benefit either way. You could spend those extra paid days off earning cash outside of your regular job,” such as by doing seasonal work or spending more time on a side gig that you enjoy but often have to put off because of your full-time job.
If your request for more PTO is declined, you could try negotiating for comp time, adds Benjamin. For example, if you attend a trade show, conference or continuing education course on a Saturday and Sunday, consider asking your manager if you can take two comp days to make up for those weekend hours.
5. Spend More Time Telecommuting
Does working from home sound a bit more appealing to you these days? If the potential for a 10-second commute doesn’t automatically do it for you, then consider it for the cost savings: According to research from FlexJobs, the average worker can save $4,172 a year by working remotely.
And it’s not just gas that you’ll be cutting down on. “No more dry cleaning, commuting costs, lunches out,” Cochran adds. Indeed, FlexJobs estimates telecommuters save about $832 in coffee and lunches, and up to $1,000 in dry cleaning and laundering costs. “Even if you only work from home 50% of the time, that’s still more than $2,000 saved per year. Not a bad ‘raise!’”
6. Get Another Job Offer
So you’ve strategized all the ways you could squeeze more into each paycheck, and you still keep coming up against a brick wall. In that case, ask yourself whether it’s time to start putting out feelers and applying to other positions in hopes that your employer will know just how in demand you are.
The best possible scenario? “Showing you have an offer from another organization might spark a counteroffer from your current employer,” Lambert says. Just be careful with how you present your new job prospect; she suggests wording like, “I am really happy working here and love what I do, but received an offer with a higher compensation package. I wanted to present it to you to see if anything could be done, as I would prefer to stay on board.”
But this tactic doesn’t come without its risks: “You should be prepared to leave in case you don’t receive a counter,” she warns. (Not to mention the bridge you may burn with both a current and prospective employer by trying to use your offer as a bargaining chip).
So think hard about whether you want to go this route. Ultimately, what you might find is that you’re not actually willing to risk leaving—you’re just trying to crack the code of why that raise seems so elusive. “Really, the first thing an employee should ask if they’re disappointed with their raise is what they can do to improve their odds next year,” Cochran says. “Getting some specific feedback and action steps for the coming year will be their key to long-term success.”
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