Household budgets have come under intense pressure in recent months as prices have risen to multi-decade highs. In September, the rate of inflation in the U.S. reached 8.2%.
Allocating your budget while prices are rising can be tricky. “There are two things you can do,” personal finance educator Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche says. “Spend less or make more.”
Drop down to your ‘noodle budget,’ if necessary
A good way to start saving is by establishing a budget. A “noodle budget,” as Aliche coins it, refers to the cost for the most basic goods and services—which will be familiar to those who lived on ramen noodles while at college.
Not everyone needs to live by this type of budget, but people should be aware of where cuts can be made. “Look at your current budget and say, ‘If I had to drop down to my noodle budget what would that look like?’” Aliche suggests.
This can include things like cutting cable services, buying unbranded items at the grocery store or doing some of your own grooming at home, rather than paying for those services.
Some of those changes can be made once you have had time to assess your situation, Aliche adds, but all changes should be fully implemented if you suffer a dramatic financial hit, such as losing your job.
Pursue other career opportunities or ask for a raise
Although there are concerns about a recession, the job market is currently robust. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reported 10.1 million job openings in August and the pace of hiring remains fairly steady. The unemployment rate in September matched a half-century low of 3.5%.
For that reason, Aliche suggests that workers seek out job opportunities that will better meet their financial needs. She says to do your research and tap into your network to gauge how much you should be earning for your role or level of experience. “You don’t ever want just the employers telling you this is our range.” Aliche tells TIME. “You want to be able to come in there and command.”
When having a conversation with HR about salary, workers can better bargain by quantifying what they bring to the company and highlighting their experience, education level and expected earnings for the industry they are in.
Employees who do not want to leave their company should still seek out other job opportunities elsewhere for negotiation purposes. “Interview for new jobs and then use that as leverage to say, ‘well this place is willing to pay me this … I would love to stay here, is there something you can do to match this offer?’” Aliche says.
Start a side hustle
Workers can also start a second job or pursue other opportunities for economic growth to earn more wiggle room in their budget. In order to make it more fruitful, Aliche suggests employees lean into their current skill set or educational specialism for their side hustle. Graphic designers, for instance, could seek freelance work by selling their illustrations or posters through Etsy or other sites. This could lead to a more well-rounded experience or possible increased wages should it prove lucrative.
But she cautions that it’s important to set boundaries for this work. Decide the amount of money you want to earn or time you want to spend on this side project and stick to that goal. “Put that parameter up… so you don’t side hustle indefinitely and just overwork and overwhelm yourself” Aliche says. “Because that is not the end goal.”
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Write to Jenna Caldwell at firstname.lastname@example.org