Personal Finance

Are you leaving money on the table at work?

Save me: Employee squeeze
Save me: Employee squeeze

Getting more cash out of your employer this year doesn't necessarily require asking for a raise.

Workers are potentially leaving thousands of dollars on the table in work perks, from discounts on cellphone service to cheap amusement park tickets and free cash for getting fit. "Most people aren't up on those things," said Bob Nelson, president of consulting firm Nelson Motivation in San Diego. "You have to know to ask."

Bigger companies tend to offer a wider roster of deals, but smaller companies are more apt to get creative, Nelson said. Quirky perks like in-office salon services and free lunches often trickle up from the start-up scene. (See chart below for some of the common deals on offer.)

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Common (and valuable) work perks

Benefit How many offer it
Dependent care financial assistance93.60%
Educational reimbursement86.22%
Group purchasing75.64%
On-site personal services68.09%
Adoption benefit50.13%
Discount programs48.80%
Commuting initiatives46.93%
Matching charitable gifts35.02%

Source: SOURCE: Aon Hewitt

Start your hunt looking for opportunities to save on regular expenses. So-called group purchase programs cover a variety of valuable discounts that companies negotiate with other businesses. For example, 40 percent of companies have group deals on homeowners and auto insurance, according to the outsourcing company Aon Hewitt. That can net you a discount of as much as 15 percent, just for name-dropping your employer when you get a price quote. About 45 percent of companies have discount rates with cellphone carriers on both devices and ongoing service, in some cases cutting as much as 20 percent off your monthly bill.

Some offices also offer on-site dry cleaning (25 percent), haircuts (4 percent) and basic auto maintenance (7 percent), saving you time and money.

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It can also be smart to check in with human resources (or at least, the HR website) when you're planning an expensive purchase or big life move. About a third of employers offer discounts on personal computers through companies like Apple and Dell, and 20 percent have partnerships that get you preferred pricing on your next auto purchase or lease, according to Aon Hewitt. Some companies also offer gym membership discounts or cash reimbursements for healthy behaviors, said Nelson—one recent client spotted a $1,000 bonus that was buried in her health-care benefits booklet.

You should, of course, still ask for a raise. It can't hurt, and might help: Employers say salaried workers can expect to see pay increases of about 3 percent this year, according to consulting firm Towers Watson.