|Give yourself a raise! Stretch your
Most of us receive our paychecks,
pay our bills and spend the rest, not thinking about ways to make
our salary go further.
More than 63 percent of America's workers are still living paycheck
to paycheck, according to a recent survey conducted by the American
Payroll Association, and although up-to-date wardrobes and French
manicures might provide comfort, so does having enough money to pay
bills and save for the future.
"Most people have enough money coming in that they don't have
to be diligent," says Judy Lawrence, author of The
Budget Kit: The Common Cents Money Management Workbook.
Instead of examining ways to make their money work
in their favor, most people relax into comfortable, and often nonproductive,
spending habits, says Lawrence.
Below are some easy ways to stretch your take-home
Push your income to the limit
Take charge of your salary. The first step in maximizing what
you earn is to understand where you spend money -- including $3
on a latte every morning and $10 on late fees at Blockbuster.
Lawrence recommends writing down everything you spend.
"You have to be in a certain psychological place
to do this," she says. But it's helpful to know what your lifestyle
is really costing you. Face the numbers. Once you know how much
you spend, look for little ways to save.
The next step is discovering how your employer can
Take full advantage of all the employer-sponsored
benefits such as flexible spending accounts, retirement plans and
direct deposit to save time and money.
Flexible spending accounts
Participating in an employee-sponsored health plan is one of
the most popular ways to stretch your paycheck. These plans allow
you to pay for health care tax-free, and set aside money in a flexible
spending account to cover any costs not covered by your medical
"Pretax benefits are the way to go," says
Steve Goldberg, owner of a tax consulting and accounting services
firm in Lexington, Mass. "If you are a salaried employee and
do not own a home, there are not a lot of other things you can do
on your own to save on taxes."
Flexible spending accounts are one of the most popular
options for saving pretax dollars. The two most common types are
health-care flexible spending accounts and dependent-care accounts.
Some employers offer a third option -- a transportation reimbursement
incentive program -- which is slowly increasing in popularity.