Negotiating for perks when raises are off the table

In today’s uncertain economy, many employers are reluctant to offer raises to their employees. You may be lucky enough to keep your job, but chances are that you may not get a raise, or if you do, it could be a very small raise. However, if you’re a hardworking, valuable employee, your boss may be able to offer you some “perks” when a raise isn’t an option.

Here are some ideas for perks you can request, as well as some negotiation ideas for each. Good luck!

Vacation days

Vacation days are one of the most popular perks that an employer can offer. So if you can’t get a raise, try for extra vacation days. Often times bosses have the ability to grant a few extra days off without any approval from the higher-ups, as they’re given ultimate approval for granting time off.

A good negotiating tactic for extra vacation is to explain how extra days off are a win-win. You get some additional time to relax and recharge, and your boss gets a rested, more productive employee in return.

Working from home

With recent advances in technology, “telecommuting” or working from home has become more popular with employers. If your job can be performed remotely, you may be able to ask for the option to telecommute one or two days a week.

To negotiate for this perk, start by talking about how much more productive you are when you aren’t being interrupted by your co-workers. Also be sure to mention how much time you spend commuting, explaining that telecommuting just one day a week can save you an hour or two of time that’s otherwise wasted behind the wheel. Finally, it may be beneficial to mention the green benefits of telecommuting as well (but only if your company is large enough to care about such things).

Take-home car

A take-home company car can be a great benefit in place of a raise, and in many countries take-home cars (aka company cars) are a standard perk. To negotiate for this perk, let your boss know that you will be able to pick up supplies or drop off products on your way to and from work, which will be more efficient for the company. If you need a vehicle to make sales calls, for example, you will be able to leave right from your house in the morning, thus saving time by not having to go into the office first.

Finally, it’s important to understand that having a take-home car over the weekend is often a bit more difficult to arrange, as many business vehicle insurance policies don’t allow for regular vehicle use outside of business hours. So don’t expect that your company take-home car can replace your personal vehicle.

Loaner computer equipment and electronics

Loaning a company laptop or iPad for personal use can benefit both you and your employer. You will be able to use your company-issued laptop or iPad for whatever you want, while your boss can easily expense an extra computer for the office without doing any paperwork or justifying the expense to anyone.

To negotiate for this expense, mention how you can view work reports, charts and email on your iPad or laptop when you’re away from work. Additionally, this same tactic can be used to negotiate for a take-home digital camera or camcorder.

A free smartphone

A company-expensed smartphone is another perk you can negotiate  between you and your boss. It’s may be easy for your boss to justify — since you could very well be more productive if you have access to a smartphone when away from the office — and it’s a nice perk for you, as buying a new iPhone every year (or whatever smartphone you like) can be expensive.

Just as with the loaner laptop, talk about how this perk will boost your productivity away from the office.

Finally, as you may have noticed, many of these perks can be worked out without getting permission from higher-ups or the human resources department. This is important to understand, as your boss is likely working under a set of budget restrictions and employee policy rules that he or she can’t bypass. If you ask for perks that your boss can deliver without high-level approval, you’re much more likely to get what you ask for.

When asking for perks, it’s important that you think of these extras as a raise that doesn’t show up on your check. You don’t have to buy computers, phones, pay for your own gas, or cut short your vacation, while your boss gets to hold the line on “no raises” without losing a key employee.

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There are 21 comments to "Negotiating for perks when raises are off the table".

  1. My Financial Independence Journey says 17 March 2013 at 04:47

    A lot of companies are open to perks, especially if you are classified as a knowledge worker. But free phones and free laptops often come with the downside that you may wind up being almost permanently on call.

    • Elizabeth says 17 March 2013 at 05:18

      Pretty much! Some people I know who have a work smart phone also have a personal smart phone because company policy prohibits them from using company equipement for personal use. Same goes for laptops — I’ve always had a work laptop (provided by the company) and a home laptop.

      Anything you do on company equipment belongs to the company — do people really want their photos, email, internet surfing accessible to their employers? I certainly don’t.

    • Holly@ClubThrifty says 17 March 2013 at 10:40

      I totally agree. My husband and I both have free smartphones through work. I love having a smartphone and not paying for it but it often means that I get texted and called after work hours.

    • Honey Smith says 18 March 2013 at 10:17

      Yeah, work/life separation is too important to me to be getting work email on my phone.

  2. dan s says 17 March 2013 at 06:03

    Don’t forget gym memberships! It should be quite easy to sell to your boss.

  3. @pfinMario says 17 March 2013 at 06:14

    Yes, this makes a lot of sense. I’d also suggest asking for transit benefits since these can often be treated as pre-payroll expenses and asking for additional education or training benefits

    • Babs says 17 March 2013 at 07:05

      Good point! I would have to say that tuition reimbursement is one of the most useful perks I ever took advantage of.

    • Elizabeth says 17 March 2013 at 07:25

      Good point! I look for tuition benefits and training as part of any compensation package. Amazing how many companies support taking classes, going to conferences, etc, but expect you to do it on your own dime!

      Another thing I would add is health benefits. Friends of mine get their gym memberships and fitness classes partly paid for through work.

  4. monsterzero says 17 March 2013 at 07:28

    I’ve negotiated a smartphone with paid data plan and also I work a half-day on Fridays.

    After the first phone wore out, I decided to buy my own, which allowed me to pick out my own model. With the 2yr contract discount it was pretty cheap, and I don’t have the monthly bill or the personal use/privacy issues.

    I’m not on salary, so leaving at noon on Friday means I give up about 10% of my paycheck. But right now I can afford it and it is SO worth it to me. Also, if I need the money, I can go back to 40 hours whenever I want.

  5. Michelle says 17 March 2013 at 10:11

    I plan on asking for more vacation days soon. That’s the main thing I’m wanting right now 🙂

    • Holly@ClubThrifty says 17 March 2013 at 10:42

      Oh, me too! I think I would rather have more vacation days than another raise at this point. I get 20 days per year, but they are PTO days so I don’t have any seperate sick days.

      • Holly@ClubThrifty says 17 March 2013 at 11:15


    • Honey Smith says 18 March 2013 at 10:14

      Wow. Last year I took 9 sick days and 23 vacation days. Currently, I have 17 days of vacation accrued as well as 14 days of sick time. That’s pretty much my average at any given time. It’s one of the perks of working for the state 😉 How much does this vary by employer?

      I try to be strategic in my use of time, which helps me hold on to a lot of it. If I take Mon/Tues/Weds the week of Thanksgiving, I get 9 days off in a row for the price of 3. In December, I was able to take 4 days of vacation and get 11 days off in a row.

  6. celyg says 17 March 2013 at 11:26

    Company stock is another perk that can come in handy. Even if raises are frozen, you can push for a stock grant. It also shows a commitment both ways for the long(er) term, since you’ll typically have to wait a year for the first vesting event.

    Tuition is a great one. My last company paid for a 9-month writing course; a current co-worker is getting our company to pay for her MBA (negotiated during her last review).

    Conferences and travel can also fall into this category. If there is a conference that you really want to attend and will be beneficial for your career (SXSW, CES, every industry has big ones), you can ask to have the pass and travel paid by the company. If it’s in a great location, you can also tag on a few days of your own (hotel paid by you, of course) to sightsee. I’ve spoken at or attended conferences in Austin, Germany, San Diego, and San Francisco. Really hoping I can make it to a major conference in Tokyo this year!

  7. KS says 17 March 2013 at 13:23

    No matter how many ideas/choices you come up with…it all depends on how the company is doing financially. If it is NOT doing well financially – you can try for ‘other types of benefits,’ but it is pretty doubtful you will get anything additional than what they originally offered. Always try though! The worst is they can say no. You will never know if they will say yes unless you try.

  8. Mr.Bonner@bonnersbillions says 17 March 2013 at 13:58

    If you are going to go the telecommuting route you might also try to get them to cover your internet expenses at home.

    Last year I got a work iPhone and I’m not really doing anything that I don’t mind Big Brother watching over, so I decided to end my personal iPhone and sold it on Ebay.

  9. Juli says 18 March 2013 at 06:51

    If you use a work cell phone for personal use, I believe you are technically supposed to be paying taxes on the percentage of non-work related usage. I don’t have one, so I’ve never looked into the particulars, but just something to think about.

  10. PB says 18 March 2013 at 07:15

    Just be aware that there are a lot of records management issues involved in personal use of company computers and phones. Where are your emails, pictures, etc., being stored and archived? If you look at pornography on a company machine, is the company liable for its use or charges to its account? Do you want your private business, like banking, held in company servers?

    I don’t think this is a good idea.

  11. Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says 18 March 2013 at 10:22

    Great tips for a common situation! Thanks for this, Ellen.

  12. Nick @ says 18 March 2013 at 11:30

    I love the working from home perk idea, maybe I should give that one a try! 🙂

  13. Carla says 18 March 2013 at 14:51

    I love the idea of asking for vacation time. I don’t have any given that I’m part-time and work for a very small company that don’t offer benefits. I’ve been here a year and took two days off, Thanksgiving and Christmas. After the end of year two I may ask for a day or two, but it depends on how the company as a whole is doing; I also don’t want to rock the boat.

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