Trimming? What About Earning More?

During the entire “Trimming the Average Budget” series, the focus has been on spending less money. It’s a walkthrough of every significant financial element of an average American family’s life – and a look at how they can spend less in each of those areas.

Saving money is a powerful tool, but it’s equally important to recognize that increasing your income is at least as powerful as saving money – and putting the two in tandem is particularly powerful.

There are many, many ways to increase your income. Most of them boil down to the following:

Earning more at your current job. Simply asking your boss for a raise increases your income in surprising ways. Even if you work hourly for 40 hours a week, a simple quarter per hour raise earns you $520 more per year.

Getting a new, better job in your career path. This can come in the form of a promotion at your current job or a new job at a different location. Either way, you’re often earning more (sometimes a lot more), but there’s often more responsibility (and more work) in exchange for that pay.

Starting over with a new, more lucrative career. At first, this often means a dip in earnings (it certainly did for me). However, it often means a job that you’re more passionate about and, over time, you can really jack up your earnings by riding that train of passion.

Getting a second job. To put it simply, this means trading more of your time for more money, but often not at as good of a rate as your main job. This is a great way to boost your income over a short time, but it’s hard to sustain without serious burnout.

Starting a side business. Many people (myself included) engage their free time and their passions by starting a side business to profit from the things they’re interested in.

Whatever path you choose will help you earn more. However, all of these paths have several key skills in common – skills everyone can work on to improve their earning potential. Here are a few of these skills that will help you to earn more no matter what you’re doing – and a few simple ways to work on them.

Communication skills The ability to effectively communicate your ideas, your thoughts, and key information to others is essential in almost any career path – even ones that seem quite solitary.

How can I improve my communication skills? Read more. That’s the first step. After that, write more. Plop yourself down with a book that interests you, then when you’re done, send an email to a friend about it. Another effective way is to teach someone else a skill you already have, as it forces you to communicate very carefully.

Organization skills Over the last few decades, the economy has really transformed into an information economy, in which the flow of ideas and data is incredibly powerful. The more skill you have in organizing all of that data that comes your way, the better worker you will be no matter what your specific job is.

How can I improve my organization skills? Get control over your own information. Maintain an organized calendar for yourself that has all the relevant information right there. Start a personal filing system for all of your important documents. Organize your picture collection in such a fashion that you can find any picture you want quickly and easily.

Politeness and presentability Rudeness and crassness might fly with the gang and it might get a giggle out of a coworker, but it won’t ever do you any favors over the long term. Why? Much of the economy is a service economy, and even big pieces of the economy that aren’t centered around service involve interacting with customers and associates. The better you interact with them, the better off you are.

How can I improve my politeness and presentability? Clean up. Dress well. Bite your tongue. Speak slowly and choose your words with a bit more care. Encourage polite speech in every element of your life – if the gang you usually hang out with uses a lot of crude language and a thick accent, work hard to battle against that with your own speaking.

Handling criticism well I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen employees completely blow up when criticized about any aspect of their work performance. If you tend to fire back with insults or shouting or seething rage when you’re criticized, you’re not going to go anywhere. Remember, the vast majority of the time, criticism is issued in the workplace to improve the overall workplace, which you’re a part of. It’s not a vendetta against you – it’s someone trying to make things better.

How can I improve my ability to handle criticism? Don’t get angry. If you have nothing worthwhile to say in response, say nothing at all. Do not fire back with insults. Later, after you’ve had a chance to calm down, think about the criticism. Likely, there was a reason it was issued. Take some time to actually act on that criticism and attempt to improve yourself. The more you do this, the easier it becomes – and you’ll see improvements in how others treat you and the opportunities that come your way.

These ideas just scratch the surface, but they point to a big truth: improving yourself in constructive ways improves your earning potential. That’s a big part of the equation of financial success.

Trent Hamm

Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.