Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Thinking beyond your salary

Employee benefits like vacation time, RRSP match, medical and dental insurance, are standard packages negotiated when you begin a new job, as well as during performance reviews. But there are so many extra perks a job can have that can make it more satisfying, and taking the time to look beyond your salary range could mean saving tens of thousands of dollars over your career.

Here are a few examples:

Employee discounts

You might be surprised at what kind of discounts your employer offers, and not just on their own products. My ex-boyfriend’s previous place of employment offered amazing deals – sometimes 75 per cent off MSRP – with an assortment of different companies under the same umbrella organization. We were able to receive deep discounts on hiking, camping, and sporting gear that would have cost us thousands of dollars to buy elsewhere. Plus, we would get to pick and choose from the imperfect products that never reached store shelves.

A previous employer of mine offered discounts on certain hotel chains and car rentals – which would have been very beneficial to me come vacation time… had I actually taken the time to research the discounts offered to employees before I left the company. :|

Flexible work schedule

Many organizations offer options other than the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. Being able to plan your work schedule around your life to some degree is a huge benefit. Especially to parents, and those considering a family in the future.

Your company might also offer compressed schedules – where you work your 40 hour work week in less days in order to get more days off. The most typical example is working 80 hours during nine business days. My mom works on this schedule, and she is also allowed to bank her extra days off!

The ability to work from home is also a perk coveted by many employees. Nothing beats saving money on gas, cutting out the crazy commute, being around your family, and working the entire day in your sweatpants.

Professional development and training

A lot of times, your boss will have a professional development budget set aside for each employee. This can be used for work-related seminars and training courses as it pertains to your job.

This can be extremely useful to help build your skills as an employee during one-off courses, or towards certifications and diplomas over a longer period of time.

A friend of mine gets a travel budget each year to go to seminars of her choice. Not only does she increase her knowledge as an employee, but she is also able to travel throughout North America. Another friend of mine had her master’s degree program partially funded by her employer – something she wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.

If your employer currently does not offer professional development opportunities, it might be worth bringing up with your boss. Not only does it show initiative and an interest in your job and in the company, but the extra knowledge and experience gained will improve your worth as an employee.

Travel opportunities

I was extremely fortunate with my previous job, because I was able to travel several times a year throughout North America. If I happened to be traveling to a city I’ve never been to before, I make it a point to tack on a few extra days of vacation to the end of my trip. It’s an inexpensive way to travel, because the company pays for the flight there – which is usually the most expensive part of the trip. Last year, I went down to New Orleans on business, and my sister even flew down to spend an extra 3 days exploring the city with me.

Miscellaneous perks around the office

Sometimes we take for granted what we have, until we move to a new job and all of a sudden the office perks that we were used to are no longer there. A few miscellaneous perks I’ve had over the years are:

  • Free gym membership
  • Games room and lounge area
  • Free coffee, tea, filtered water
  • Frequent department catered lunches
  • Car allowance
  • Bonus or free vacation day on your birthday
  • Monthly wine and cheese parties
One could also argue that having great co-workers is another non-monetary perk of a job! I’ve had some really, really bad co-workers over the years, but I’ve also had some amazing ones. They made my hours at work a whole lot better, and I’m still friends with some of them to this day.

Remember that your salary, vacation and extended benefits are a part of your compensation package, but so are the other perks of your job. By not taking advantage of them, you are potentially giving up on hundreds of dollars each year that you could be saving or utilizing.

Fully understanding and utilizing all of the perks you are entitled to will most likely go a long way to improve your health, quality of life and happiness. And that’s something both you and your employer can benefit from.

What are some of the best perks that your job offers you?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Robb says:

    When I worked in the hotel industry, I got free meals at work, along with free coffee and other drinks. The best part was getting the employee discount at hotels across the country (as low as $35/night). I also had an employer-match RRSP.

    Now I work at a University and get free access to our rec centre, about 30 vacation days, a health spending account and a professional development account. I also get free tuition if I want to take a class, and my spouse and kids get free tuition too (if I’m still here by the time my kids go to University).

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Free tuition for your family!? That’s amazing… maybe I should start looking for work at a university! :)

      • eemusings says:

        I’d definitely be interested in working for a university – I know someone who works at my alma mater and it seems like a good place to work.

        I’d also be curious about working for a bank given my interest in PF, but it doesn’t get much more corporate than that and that’s not really my style.

  2. At my last employer where I worked for many years employees are spolied: gym on site with free yoga classes offered, 60% off wholesale discount, summer BBQ’s and constant gourmet leftovers from catered meetings, tuition reimbursement if studying in a field related to one’s current position, employer match RRSP, a rocking Christmas party that still offers open bar…a real rarity these days, free flu shots, reduced corporate rates at hotels, car rentals and various affiliate companies. The list could go on and yet I couldn’t believe employees still complained – these intrinsic benefits costs the company a lot of money! I’m fortunate that I still do Consulting work for them and benefit from much of their perks ;)

  3. Mike says:

    Great article! I worked for a furniture chain once. They sold the furniture to employees for cost + 10% which generally amounted to half off even their best sales price. Also worked for a college who offered free tuition for employees and their families!

  4. psychsarah says:

    I’d say my main perk is flexibility and independence. My boss doesn’t much care when/where I work, just that I get enough billable hours in per week (and the expectation is not unreasonable). This was nice before my son was born, but an absolute blessing now that he’s here. When I worked at a hospital, we got great discounts on gym memberships and other local businesses, which was an unexpected bonus.

  5. Eddie says:

    Great article Krystal!
    I work for an employer that offers some decent perks. Aside from having health/dental plans, I also have a phone allowance (chose not have a company phone), car allowance, and year-end bonus.

    I’d love to get a flexible work schedule and tuition reimbursement.

  6. eemusings says:

    I work in publishing, so there aren’t a lot of formal perks (though I do get free mags, ours as well as mags from other co.s that the office has subscriptions to). Even our weekly drinks/nibbles aren’t free – you have to be a social club member.

    Most of the freebies come from other businesses/their PR cos. Event tickets (I just got invited to Coldplay’s concert this weekend.) PR people often come in to demo products (a food demo happened just yesterday – NOM). Other free stuff, from books to beauty products.

    I do appreciate that informal flex time/working from home is not a problem, and that the team from our food magazine always bring in the spoils after a food shoot, which we all descend upon like vultures.

  7. eemusings says:

    Oh – I also have a smartphone through work, and have been lucky enough to travel on a couple of PR junkets.

  8. Grey says:

    Flexibility is #1. We recently had a re-organization here at work and went from a very strict 7:30am-4:30pm with lunch from 11am-12pm (yes, it was dictated when we ate lunch) to just be at the office from 9am-3pm and however you’d like to get your hours up to 40 per week is up to me! So I work 10 hours Monday, 9 hours Tuesday, 8 hours Wednesday, 7 hours Thursday, and 6 hours on Friday. It’s so great! I love it.

  9. Jimmy Jim says:

    I have zero perks at my work. Haven’t seen a raise in 4 years and I’m dying to get out of there. The problem being it keeps food in my kids bellys. It’s so frustrating!!!! :(

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