Photo: ThinkstockBy Amy Shearn
Check Your Data Plan
Your company might be able to offer you up to a 25 percent discount on your cell phone bill--and it's possible your boss doesn't even know about it. All you have to do is enter your corporate (or school) email onto your cell phone carrier's employee discount page to see if you qualify.
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Ask for the Leap Year Bonus
Sometimes your company won't consider a raise because that will make you more expensive forever. But if you feel like you are really deserving, ask for a one time raise. Tory Johnson, workplace contributor for Good Morning America and business consultant at Women For Hire, recommends asking for a "spot bonus." Johnson told me, "You can say, 'I know it's not time for my annual review or I know salary budgets are frozen. Based on this significant contribution, I'm hoping you'll consider a spot bonus for me.' Remember a bonus is about going above and beyond. You don't get a bonus for doing your job--that's what your salary is for." Approach it like you would a raise--take some time to collect proof of what a great job you've been doing and strategize with your department's fiscal calendar. You might also cozy up to someone in HR to find out what the precedent is for spot-bonuses in your department, so you can go in with a realistic number.
Request Time Off
If you know you've been working hard and need something to keep you from losing your mind/perusing Monster.com, try asking for some paid time off instead of more money. Work/life balance and stress-management trainer Joe Robinson said, "Tell your boss about how many studies have proven productivity goes up after a vacation." And lest you feel guilty for taking that full two weeks, Robinson added that vacations were actually started in the '20s and '30s when companies learned that people got more done after a break. "That's the way to get employees to be productive--not to put them through a triathlon in pants, but to let them get recharged on a regular basis."
Get the Company to Buy You a $1,200 Lanyard
An editor at a tech app owned by Microsoft told me that her company recently sent her to a two-day social media and marketing workshop at Harvard. "It's a way to learn more about my field, but it's also nice to know your boss thinks it's worthwhile to invest in you." While it's not exactly a free vacation, a conference or workshop can offer a break from the daily grind while giving you a chance to network. Your company isn't just picking up the (considerable) cost of your attending, they're also helping you meet your next employer. Who, one hopes, will pay you more.
Take Advantage of the 25 Percent Free Lunch
Even if your office kitchen isn't stocked with complimentary energy bars and Vitamin Water, check out Corporate Perks to see what discounts you may be eligible for. It's possible you're due discounts you haven't been using--every time you buy lunch, groceries, pet food or even a computer or car from an approved vendor.
Snag a Subsidized Field Trip
A special program offered by the National Endowment for the Arts provides free entry for all military personnel and their families to more than 1,800 museums nationwide, all summer long--and that's just one example of how employees can take advantage of this perk. Much has been written about how visits to museums can inspire "breakthrough conceptual thinking," like this article in Good Magazine--you know, in case your HR department needs a little nudge.
Buy a Bike; Send Your Boss the Receipt
Forbes reports that almost 60 percent of big companies use incentives to get their employees to stay in good health. Because they love you, of course!--and not only because it will keep down health care costs. GE has a whole Live Healthier program, which helps employees and their families stay active and includes a range of services--from smoking cessation to stress reduction. If you work for a larger company or startup, it's highly likely they will pay for your gym memberships, yoga retreats or even reimburse you for the purchase of exercise equipment.
Grow Your Wealth (If Not Your Income)
More than 90 percent of large companies offer some sort of financial-planning help, CNN reports. A conversation with a financial adviser may result in sounder investments down the line.
Send the Legal Bill to Your Employer
An increasing number of companies offer legal insurance, which, for a low annual fee will pay legal costs that may come up in your life. If you're planning on buying a house or seeking help with planning your estate or you simply have a litigious neighbor, you may very well come out ahead.
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