If it's been a while since you received a raise and you're paying more for health insurance, asking for small perks may add to your job satisfaction and your pocketbook. Many companies allow managers to spend small amounts to recognize employees or retain top performers even during a wage freeze, but managers may not offer a reward, unless you ask.

Your boss may be able to tap these budget categories to keep you happy, but every company is different so be sure and ask what he can offer in lieu of a raise.

  • Dues and subscriptions: Ask your manager to pay for your professional membership dues or subscriptions to industry publications instead of paying for them out of your own pocket.
  • Furniture and fixtures: No sense being uncomfortable during long shifts, most insurance carriers offer free ergonomics assessments and will recommend a new chair or workstation if it's warranted.
  • Business travel and meetings: Offer to attend a work-related meeting or seminar and present a summary of the materials when you return. If the meeting is in a nice location, you may be able to stay longer and pay a portion of the tab.
  • Recognition and retention: Ask for a gift card or night on the town as a reward for your hard work and extra effort.
  • Education and training: Your manager may be able to pay for a portion of your tuition and books if the added education will benefit the company. Some states have education pools funded by employers and the classes are free to employees of contributing companies.
  • Employee discounts: Don't forget to stop by HR or check out your company's intranet site, where you might find discounts to theme parks or movie theaters and opportunities to purchase computer equipment, software or insurance at a discount. Procurement may provide a list of vendors who have extended discounts to company employees as part of a contract award. The discounts can help you stretch your paycheck until it's time for a raise.

-- Leslie Stevens-Huffman