Your first job is your first brush with financial freedom. But if you live in a major city where costs of living are particularly high, starting salaries may not be enough to cover basic necessities. If you owe student loans — of which the average college grad owes $40,000 — the desire to make more money is even more pressing. According to a recent survey by Discover Student Loans, half of millennials report being worried about having to take on two jobs or give up leisure activities in order to be able to pay back student loans.
Here’s how to help maintain your quality of life as you enter the workforce.
Make a plan
LinkedIn career expert Blair Decembrele said to take stock of your current lifestyle. Where do you allocate funds the most? Where can you cut back without compromising your happiness? Have a general idea of your spending habits, and from there, set a budget. “It’s important to have an idea of where you want your salary and lifestyle to go, and make a plan to get there from big goals to baby steps along the way,” she said.
How to make a plan? Decembrele said that with professionals spending 90,000 hours of their adult lives working, it’s important to make each moment of your life count. “First, think about what you are in it for. Dig into what interests you and what makes you tick, and examine your values and what you want to get out of your job,” she said. “Then, get writing. Grab a pen and paper, and jot down your lifestyle priorities and work must-haves so you can map back to these as you navigate your career.”
One money-saving trick might also contribute to your happiness in a big way. A LinkedIn study found that 95 percent of working professionals think it’s a good idea to make friends with colleagues. One way to do so is by foregoing your daily trip to the cafeteria and eating homemade meals together in the break room. While you’re there, put away your phone and aim to forge a genuine connection. Remember, your lateral colleagues might soon be your managers, and you want them to think of you for more lucrative opportunities, according to Decembrele. “Don’t worry if not everyone brings lunch. You can still choose a spot outside of the office to enjoy your midday meal and conversation together,” she said. “You can also use your lunch break as a relaxed time to meet new people at work by asking a co-worker to invite a work friend you might not yet know to join, regardless of where and what you’re eating.”
And hey, even if they remain your coworkers for the next few months — or several years — research from Administrative Science Quarterly found that feelings of kinship towards your coworkers can drastically improve quality of life outside of work as well as reduce your number of visits to the emergency room (which can be so expensive that 64 percent of Americans avoid or delay medical attention altogether, according to a study from patient financial engagement company CarePayment).
Ask for more
Getting a raise is easier said than done, right? Not necessarily so. According to Decembrele, it’s possible to get a salary bump even during your first year. You just need to come the conversation armed with tangible proof of your achievements. “Your manager may not remember that great project you executed flawlessly six months ago, but you can jog their memory by highlighting the initiative and recapping the ways in which you rocked it,” she said. “Don’t compare yourself to other colleagues or say, ‘Well they got a raise and now it’s my turn!’ Instead, showcase your own value and impact to support your case.”
LinkedIn Salary is a great tool offering insight into other salaries in your position and experienced so you’re prepared with a reasonable ask.
If your salary is set in stone (at least for the time being), ask your employer to compensate you in different ways, like paid sick days or a change in benefits. “Don’t worry about offending your future employer by negotiating,” Decembrele said. “They’re used to having these conversations and expect it, so always ask. Think of the process as helping both parties get what they want.”
Yes, you’ve heard it before, but cutting back doesn’t have to mean living in destitution. “Once you’ve negotiated your salary, consider saving the raise and look for new ways to cut costs,” said Decembrele. “The little things often add up and you’ll soon see the difference.” To cut down on transportation costs and get some extra quality time with co-workers, she recommended buddying up for trips to and from work or work events, by sharing a Lyft or a walk to the subway. Celebrating milestones is also a great way to guarantee frequent delicious — and free — office treats, which means one less afternoon snack to purchase at the vending machine.
Your first few years out of college can be daunting, but they can be equally rewarding if you reign in the impulse to buy a daily Starbucks coffee. Your office coffee maker will do the trick just fine.