2015 Budget

The New York Times recently reported that 2014 was a good year for job growth with the nation’s unemployment rate falling to about 5.6%.  On average, 52 thousand more jobs were filled each month of 2014 than the previous year.  This is a promising sign for anyone looking for work, and this hiring trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.  But there is one major drawback to this encouraging employment picture: The average wage rate has comparatively fallen, on average about two percent.  So, even if you get a job, your pay won’t go as far as you might expect.
And there’s the rub!  The cost of living continues to escalate, but employers are still being very tight with wages and benefits, and keeping raises as small or non-existent as possible for as long as they can get away with it.  For any business owner, there is a delicate balance between keeping their employers motivated through enticing compensation and benefits packages, and trying to stretch every dollar as far as they can.
But several questions arise that we need to consider.  At the front of that list: Have the actual costs of doing business escalated and do they stay as high as employers want employees and consumers to believe?  With gas prices at the pump continuing to drop, are we seeing the costs of food and consumer goods come down because of lower transportation and distribution costs?  No!  Are airlines dropping their rates because of lower fuel costs?  No!  Do the lower operating costs of automated and computerized businesses’ processes mean those corporate savings will get passed along to employees in the form of higher salaries?  Again, no!
For the foreseeable future, employers will continue to keep their wallets closed and hold tight rein on their profits while trying to reduce expenditures without passing along the resulting savings onto staff. As a result the workforce must become more creative with the ways they spend and save money.
As an employee or job seeker, how will you make up for the disparity between what you earn, and what it costs to live?
Start by reducing expenses where you can. Just because gas prices are lower than they have been in years doesn’t mean you should drive more.  Every extra mile you can squeeze from your vehicle is a good place to start.  A well-tuned vehicle with properly inflated tires can positively affect your fuel efficiency and savings beyond lower fuel costs.  Depending on how much driving you do, this can result in substantial annual savings.
How much money and stress can you save yourself by taking public transportation to work, if not every day then just two or three days each week?
Can you negotiate better rates from your cell phone provider?  Can you get a better deal from a different provider?  Are you paying for more data than you need? All the major carriers are offering incentives to steal you from their competition.
When did you last ask your credit card company to lower your interest rates?  Pay off your monthly balances every month to reduce the amount of interest you must pay.
Leftovers from dinner make great next-day lunches!
Subscriptions for streaming services for movies, music and TV programs are a lot like gym memberships; they’re great if you use them all the time, but a waste of money if you don’t.  Borrow disks from your local library for binge watching of television and movies.
Can you achieve the same level of exercise without a gym membership?  Instead of a using a treadmill or elliptical machine, can you run outside or ride a bicycle?  Breathing the air outside is better than the recycled air inside the gym.
You may be able to save a few dollars each month by cleaning/replacing the filters in your home’s heating and cooling systems, turning the thermostat down before going to bed, and replacing old lights and old appliances with energy efficient products.
These are all just simple ways to enact some savings and make your income go just a little further.  And frankly, applying these few ideas will save you more than the few dollars that you didn’t get in the raise you were hoping for.
Yes, the jobs picture is improving.  And, yes, so is the economy.  But until employers loosen their purse strings job seekers and employees must find better ways to budget their limited dollars from the ever increasing demands of daily life.
So, what changes will you make in your 2015 budget?
For more ideas on how to save money in your job search and on the job, and other career development topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.