The joy of getting a raise at work can quickly be lost if you don’t have a plan for the money.
If you let the salary go straight into your checking account, it will likely get spent in a money trap known as lifestyle creep. The more you earn, the more you spend.
A better idea is to step back and take a look at your larger financial picture to determine what you should do with the extra cash.
Here are three important steps to take after getting a raise:
Calculate your take-home pay
A percentage raise can easily be converted to a dollar amount per paycheck. Your company’s Human Resources department can help you figure out how much more money you’ll have per paycheck after tax withholdings and deductions are taken into account. Your future paychecks will show you exactly how much of that raise you get to keep.
For a rough estimate, figure out what a raise looks like over a full year, then divide it by the number of pay periods. Your raise probably won’t look as big as you initially thought.
For example, a 4 percent raise on a $50,000 salary equals $2,000 more per year, or about $167 per month. If you’re paid every other week, divide $2,000 by 27 pay periods and you’ll get $74 more per paycheck.
What’s your budget look like?
Now that you know how much more you’ll get every few weeks, you can decide where to put it. Do you have high-interest debts to pay off? Are you contributing to savings, retirement and emergency fund accounts to take care of your future self? Do you have money set aside to cover a few months of living expenses?
If you can’t pay your basic bills each month, a raise can make that possible. You’ll probably want to take care of short-term expenses before funding long-term goals. Saving for a vacation can be a fun way to use a salary bump if you’re already meeting other financial needs.
A raise shouldn’t be treated as something you have to save for a rainy day and not use immediately. Spend some of it on something you really enjoy, such as a monthly night out or dinner at your favorite restaurant with friends. Money is meant to be enjoyed.
You can also reward yourself by doing things that don’t cost money, such as going on a hike or reading a book at home. Your savings account will thank you, as will your future self.