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Truth: if you don’t ask, you won’t get

Last week, I tweeted something that’s been on my mind for a while now:

It’s something that I really try to practice in my everyday life… sometimes I go after things that are completely outrageous. And sure there are plenty of times where I don’t get what I want. But there are always those times, those unbelievable I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me moments where I actually do get what I ask for. And it’s because of those moments that I keep asking.

I think this is especially important when it comes to a career. I might be shy in my everyday life, but the workforce is competitive, and if you’re not actively asking for (and going after) what you want, somebody else is bound to get it over you.

Take your salary for example. Did you negotiate your starting wage, or did you just take what was offered to you?

In my experience, you are always worth more than the first offer. Every company expects you to negotiate, and if you don’t ask for more, the company isn’t going to just give it to you. I mean, you wouldn’t take the sticker price when buying a car from a dealership, would you? And if you buy anything off Craigslist, you would always try haggling – because you know they’re asking for more than they would accept. Right? :)

Sure, it’s hard at first – especially for women. I had such anxiety about it when I first entered the work force, and since then I’ve been called everything from greedy and bossy, to confident and assertive. But asking for fair compensation does not make you selfish or bitchy or aggressive. It makes you smart because you’re asking for what you rightfully deserve.

I have never taken a job offer without negotiating first, and I have never been turned down. In most cases, I end up $2,000 to $4,000 ahead. Sometimes I have it written in my contract to get an automatic raise after a certain period of time, or a year-end bonus. A few thousand dollars may not seem like much now, but in the long run, it can add up. Your raises, bonuses, and future earning power are dictated by how you negotiate your starting salary with a company. And that few thousand dollar gap has the possibility of becoming bigger in the future – leaving you farther behind how much you are truly worth.

Of course, when you’re negotiating your salary you have to have solid reasons why you think you deserve more. So try to evaluate your skill set and years of experience compared to other people in your field. Then try to formulate a salary range for your job. You don’t need an exact number, just a rough estimate. Check out websites like Glass Door and Payscale to help you get started. I also like looking at job postings on LinkedIn or Eluta, as well as asking friends and family to find out what other companies are willing to pay for a similar position.

Related: How 20-somethings should ask for a pay raise

The worse thing that can happen is they say no

And so what? If they say no, and you are comfortable with the salary being offered then go ahead and take it. But before you do, perhaps you can try to negotiate an automatic raise after a certain period of time, or more vacation time in lieu of a raise. I’ve only successfully negotiated more vacation time once in my career, and it was because they said no to my salary pitch. But now that I look back on it, that one extra week of vacation was worth way more to me than a few extra thousand dollars a year. so I was extremely happy.

Nobody works for free, and the reason that most of us have a job is to generate an income. You deserve to be fairly compensated. But if you don’t ask for it, you likely won’t get it.

Thoughts? What has your experience been negotiating your salary?

Motivation to live a debt-free life

Nearly 6 years ago, I became consumer debt-free by eliminating over $20,000 in credit card and student loan debt in just 12 months after graduation – and it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

I struggled a lot with trying to end the cycle of using my credit cards, cutting back drastically on spending, and staying motivated. Because it certainly seemed a lot easier to just live with my debt forever. Or take my sweet time paying everything off. So what I ended up doing was writing down all of the reasons I wanted to become debt-free on a yellow sticky note. Then, I stuck it around my debit card to remind me on a daily basis why I was doing this to begin with.

Here were my reasons:

Your pay cheques will become yours

When I get paid, my money belongs to me. I don’t owe money to family, the government, credit card companies, or the bank – aside from my mortgage. I chose how every dollar I make is spent, saved, or invested, and nobody has the right to dictate how I allocate my expenses.

The bills will get paid

I don’t have to play the balance transfer game in order to make ends meet, and I don’t get anxious or stressed out about paying my rent/mortgage, bills, or having enough money to pay for groceries every week. If you’ve ever transferred money between accounts in order to make ends meet, or had a panic attack about how you were going to pay the bills, you know how amazing it feels when you can finally meet all your financial obligations.

There are more important things to life

Before I became debt-free, I could never completely focus on enjoying my time with friends or family because I was always obsessing about money. Thoughts about making my rent payments, or having enough money to eat for the next week consumed my thoughts. Now, that I am debt-free, I can focus on enjoying a relatively stress-free life.

Having debt means living in the past

When you burden yourself with debt, you are burdening yourself with the past. Living with debt means you’re stealing money from your future, and paying interest in purchases and decisions that you might have made months, or even years ago. Being debt-free means living in the present, and being able to look towards the future.

Debt will hold you back from your dreams

Having debt limits your options. So many doors open for you when financial problems aren’t holding you back. Whether it’s pursuing a new career, giving to c harity, buying that dream car, travelling, or retiring early – when you are debt-free, you are able to do whatever you want to do in life.

Your money now works for you

Instead of paying high interest rates on borrowed money, the money you would have put towards debt repayments, can be utilized to buy a house, save for retirement, or invest it in any way you see fit. It’s an extremely liberating feeling.

You can buy a home

This was potentially the biggest motivating factor for me. I’ve always been interested in real estate, but knew that in order to bet the best mortgage rate possible, I needed to first become debt-free, and then save for a down payment. Eliminating debt means your credit score will improve, and that means a better interest rate when it comes time to get a mortgage for your very first home.

While I was working towards my dream of becoming debt-free, I never held a job that paid over $45,000. Instead, I chose to increase my income by creating multiple streams of income (I had three jobs), ditched my car, and found small ways to save on everything else. The pay off of being debt-free as soon as possible was worth it to me, and the idea of living the life that I had always envisioned for myself was what motivated me to keep going.

What’s your motivation to live a debt-free life?

You can have anything you want, but not everything

Recently a couple of friends have sent me e-mails (they are also bloggers), and they seem amazed that I’m able to live off of just writing. They asked if I was going into debt, dipping into savings, or somehow making 6-figures as a blogger (hah!). The answer is “no” to all of those questions, and it reminded me of that quote: you can have anything you want, but not everything.

Half of being able to afford anything you want is learning how to prioritize, and understanding what you really value in life.

If your dream is to move to NYC to become a fashion designer, get out of credit card debt, buy your very first home, or have the wedding of your dreams, what are you doing to bring yourself closer to that goal? Because just talking about your dreams won’t make them come true.

I recently had a conversation with a friend whose goal really is to move to NYC to become a fashion designer. She was accepted into her dream school for this September, but the 2-year program will cost a staggering $80,000! She also applied to schools that were less expensive, but her heart has always been set on this one particular school, so she had to make some serious decisions. After much thought, she decided to postpone her start date for 1 year so that she could save up more money. That way, she gets to go to her dream school, but in exchange, she’s going to have to make some serious cutbacks in her lifestyle, and start saving like crazy over the next 365 days.

We are faced with decisions like this on an everyday basis, and it’s how we react that will determine what we value. My neighbour in Vancouver goes to Starbucks every morning. She knows that by spending her money on caffeine, she won’t be able to go on vacations as often – and she’s okay with that. She knows she can’t have everything that she wants, so she has chosen to spend her money on what she values.

If you want to get a dog but can’t afford it on a monthly basis, why are you eating out at restaurants so often? If you want to visit your family more often but you can’t afford the plane ticket, why are you spending so much on cable television?

Six years ago, I was the perfect example of someone who wanted (and bought) everything. And as a result, I was over $20,000 in debt. But I wanted to become a homeowner. I wanted to stop stressing about bills. I wanted to stop having to monitor my bank accounts to make sure I wouldn’t go into overdraft. And I knew I couldn’t keep living the way that I was, AND have the life that I wanted for myself. So I made a choice.

Take a few minutes to think about what you truly want in life. You can take that trip to Africa, you can buy that fancy sports car, and you can retire early – you can have anything you want in life… just not everything. The problem is, many of us are unwilling to make sacrifices in order to afford what we really want. So we end up settling, stuck envying the lives of others, and wishing we had the money to do the things we’ve always dreamt of.

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