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5 things to ask for *instead* of a raise


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You gathered up the courage to email your boss for a meeting to discuss your “future with the company,” walked confidently into the room, laid out all the compelling reasons you deserve a boost in rank and money, and…didn’t get the answer you were looking for. Or, maybe your boss made a blanket announcement that no one would be getting a raise this year. Whatever the reason, just because a bigger paycheck is a no-go doesn’t mean you’re stuck. There are other ways to net more money—right now.

Here, career coaches and financial professionals explain the ways non-monetary benefits can help you rack up savings—and therefore take home more of your paycheck.

Keep reading for things other than a boost in pay you can negotiate.

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What to ask for instead of a raise
Graphics by Abby Maker for Well+Good

1. Workplace flexibility

“Be in touch with what motivates you,” says Ashley Stahl, a career coach who works primarily with millennials. “Most employers will assume only salary does, but today’s workforce isn’t like that.” Instead, think about your ideal work/life balance. Do you want to work from home on Fridays? Be able to bring Fido in from time to time? Start your day at 10 a.m. so you can teach a morning yoga class? If you can get your employer on board, you’ll be happier—and thanks to shelling out less for commuting costs and dog walkers or having the ability to earn extra with a side gig, your bank account may be happier, too.

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2. Education reimbursement

Feeling valued at the office doesn’t always come down to dollar signs. “People want to feel like they’re being developed,” says Stahl. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” (Harsh, but true.)

If your employer won’t budge on your salary, talk specifics about development opportunities. Is there a tuition reimbursement program for that grad degree you’re pursuing? Would they be willing to cover a workshop or send you to a conference that you would have otherwise paid for out of pocket? There’s even been a small bump in companies paying off employers’ student loans—which can mean serious moolah staying in your pocket each month.

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3. Commuter benefits

It’s the little things that can really add up—and pre-tax commuter benefits are a great way to add ease to your day-to-day and save a little bit of money. How’s it work? Your employer simply deducts your commuting costs, pre-tax, from your paycheck, and your monthly pass arrives to you like magic. “If you live in a big city, commuter benefits can be a huge win,” says Cathy Derus, a CPA and founder of Brightwater Financial. “And, it’s just one less thing to worry about.”

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What to ask for instead of a raise

4. Better (or more!) vacation and leave policies

While most corporate employers will have universal vacation and leave policies, don’t be afraid to ask for more. Just be sure to do your homework—talk to your friends and industry contacts before easing into the conversation so you can comfortably understand what competitive companies provide their employees. “Sites like Glassdoor can be helpful, and so can your social networks,” says Derus. “Parental leave is a huge thing, obviously, and there are Facebook groups where people will post things saying, ‘My company’s maternity leave policy is this, is that normal? Can I get feedback?’ Our policies in the United States tend to be awful, so it’s important to compare and be armed with that information when you speak with your employer.”

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What to ask for instead of a raise

5. Another chance to ask for a raise

“There’s no such thing as an employer not being able to give you a pay raise,” says Stahl. “If you provide more value than they’re paying you for, they’ll always find the money.” If your request for a pay bump is initially shut down, Stahl suggests asking them to continue the conversation in the future. “Ask them to tell you what extraordinary performance in this role would look like, with quantifiable questions,” she says. “Ask them, if you can exceed these markers in the next six months, can you have another performance review and discuss salary again. No employer is going to say no.”

The trick, she says, is making sure the conversation is all about the benefit to the company. “Show how you’re going to create more value, tell them you feel underutilized, and tell them you feel like you’re untapped potential,” she says. Once you’ve got their attention, you can work with them to mold the role—and the pay and perks—into something that feels more ideal to you.

In the meantime, make your pay go farther by learning to master your budget. And in case you’ve forgotten, remember that your net-worth is not your self-worth

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