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Welcome to the newest installment of “Getting Out Of Debt,” a new series where I realize just how horrible my financial situation is and figure out how in the world I’m going to rectify it. If you missed the last column, read Getting Out Of Debt: Cutting Up The Plastic.
No matter which way you look at it, there are two primary components to getting out of debt: increasing your income and reducing your expenses. Thanks to the budget I created, I was able to identify a few ways to cut back on spending (ahem, eating out), and I’ve increased the contributions to my side hustle (thanks, Grandex!) and sold some stuff on eBay. The largest piece left to tackle in this formula was to increase my base pay through salary negotiations.
For those of you that have been following along, you probably know that I’ve completed my Master’s degree and have been working in a post-grad internship while I hunt for ~real~ employment that doesn’t involve making copies at an hourly rate below what I got paid during my college job. After months of searching, I was down to two positions that looked really promising. And finally, after days and days of sitting on edge and staring at my phone, it happened – I got a call with a job offer.
To say I was thrilled would be a vast understatement. Even though I didn’t believe it for a while, six years of post-secondary education was finally going to pay off – both figuratively and literally. When I heard the number accompanying the offer I received, I was thrilled – not only was it more than three times what I’m currently pulling in, but it came with great benefits and was my first choice. All of these things made me want to say yes immediately, but I held myself back for one primary reason. I knew I had to negotiate.
All of my research told me that if I didn’t negotiate, I was leaving money on the table, which was the absolute last thing I wanted to do since, you know, I’m digging myself out of a quarter million dollars in debt at the moment. I also knew that the best way to ensure a salary increase at fair market value was to come to the offering company with a competing written offer, so that’s exactly what I set out to do. After assuring HR that I was very excited about the opportunity, I asked for a couple of days to review the offer and set out to get that competing letter.
Since negotiating a salary is essentially telling your HR professional that you, a nobody, knows more about fair market value than someone who is literally paid to evaluate that, you’ve got to get proof. I mentioned earlier that I was down to two companies, so you’d better believe my first call was to the other company I was fairly confident I was getting an offer from. Now, I realize that this next step is going to make me seem like a total douchebag. In all fairness, I was kind of being a total douchebag, but cutting ties with an organization I may never interact with again in order to pay off a couple additional credit cards seemed totally worth it. So I made the leap, calling my second potential company to tell them that I now had a deadline on my decision, and I now need to hear back within a couple of days.
When this company asked my salary range, I had the benefit of knowing what I was already being offered from company 1. So I casually asked for a $10,000 increase in base pay, knowing that if they laughed at me, I could just call back company 1 and accept immediately. To my complete and utter shock, not only did they not laugh at me, but sent a written offer including an additional $8k of the $10k I had asked for.
To add to my surprise, when I called back company 1 to inform them of another written offer and ask if they’d match that number, they agreed, reaffirming that I’d made the right decision. Apparently, once a company invests a significant amount of time and money interviewing you and deciding they want you as part of their team, a slight $8,000 isn’t going to stop them. If I had known this years ago, there’s a pretty significant chance I would never have gotten into this whole financial mess to begin with.
The moral of the story? Negotiate your salaries, guys. What they say is true – you literally are leaving money on the table if you don’t, and your future boss will respect you more for standing up for yourself. There is no way to lose in this situation, unless you’re talking about losing credit card debt, which I hope to start doing very soon. Before I committed to getting out of debt I never would have been brave enough to negotiate my salary; now, with 30 minutes’ worth of work, I’ve increased my salary by $8,000 annually.
I’m still eating boxed macaroni for now (however bad for me that may be), but when that first paycheck comes….well, I’m still going to use most of it to get out of debt. But you’d better believe I’m upgrading to Velveeta. Move over, Black Box – I’m celebrating with wine out of the bottle tonight..
Image via Shutterstock