If you’re looking to boost your current career, spend that money on:
A degree.College is expensive, so it may take more than $1,800 to get you where you want to go with higher education, but it can be a start. Maybe you need a couple of classes to finish your undergraduate degree. Or you could start taking classes towards a master’s degree, MBA, or even a Ph.D.
Certifications or training.Certifications are less time-consuming and expensive than university degree programs. Would an additional certification or training boost your knowledge and skills? Depending on your career field, a certification could cost you between $1,000 and $2,000, but could also increase your capability to do your current job.
Technology or equipment.Would a new computer, tablet, or smartphone increase your productivity? How about purchasing tools that you could put to work in your job?
Buying some books. Whether physical or digital, are there books you should be reading to get ahead in your job? For example, reference materials, inspirational books, or motivational biographies?
Attending a conference.Looking to increase your knowledge and make new connections? Consider spending the money to attend an industry conference. You can find out the latest advances in your field while also making valuable networking contacts that can help you get ahead in your career.
Taking courses online.You don’t have to travel somewhere to learn something new. You can find online courses on almost any topic — ranging from industry-specific skills to communication techniques to speed reading to management strategies. Some of these may be free, but some can cost up to a couple hundred dollars.
Joining an association.The right association can help connect you to people who can become a resource to you in your job and your career. Invest your three percent towards the annual dues, but also attend in-person networking events, take advantage of continuing education opportunities, and invite your new connections to breakfast! Associations often also provide access to salary data, which can help you negotiate your next raise.
Learning a new language.Speaking a second language may help you get ahead in your career. Depending on your industry, consider learning Spanish or Chinese. You can take a class locally or invest in an online course through Udemy, Babbel, FluentU, or Rosetta Stone.
Build your brand and online presence.Consider purchasing your name as a domain name (which can cost less than $15 a year) and creating a website to showcase your work. Invest in having your résumé and LinkedIn profile content written by a professional résumé writer.
Investing in your appearance.Using your raise to pay for something like braces or LASIK eye surgery can also have a positive impact on your career. We wish people wouldn’t judge us by our appearance, but they do.
Have a long-term plan to work for yourself?
If you’re looking to make a career change and become an entrepreneur, consider spending the money on a side hustle that could turn into your main hustle. Invest in equipment you need to get started, or technology (a website, for example). Or, if you already have a side hustle, put the money into advertising and marketing to get more customers. Maybe try some targeted Facebook ads, or advertise in a niche directory that reaches your ideal client.
While that three percent may not be enough to let you quit your job now, you can start building the foundation that will help you “bring the boat closer to the dock” so you can make the leap from where you are now to where you want to be.
Multiply the Impact of Your Raise
The most important thing to remember when spending your raise is to do so intentionally. Don’t let that money just slip through your fingers as you absorb it into your paycheck. Have a plan for what you’re going to do with it so that you can make the most out of it — hopefully, leading you to an even bigger paycheck in the future.