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Retail woes

Sondae regularly posts TikTok videos about her experiences working at Target — including one, where she thought it would be “funny” to share details of the miniscule pay raises she’s had in the past five years.

“It’s kind of sad,” she told viewers while displaying her previous tiny raises of 0.9%, 1% and 2% — with two of those raises apparently being wiped out following store-wide pay bumps.

“Yes, it could be better, but it’s also Target, so it is what it is at this point,” she said before adding another unenthusiastic “Yay!”

Sondae’s experience is by no means alien to retail workers. A trend on social media has seen employees blasting their measly pay bumps.

The first video mentioned was featured in another viral TikTok clip where a former retail worker named Sydney says she started working at $10 an hour in 2016 — and never made it above $11 after four years.

Sydney’s clip drew lots of comments, including one from somebody who said they once received a three-cent raise to their hourly wage, adding: “I honestly would have been less insulted with no raise at all.”

The big problem with these small wage increases is they’re not keeping up with inflation. The annual inflation rate in December 2022 was 6.5% — significantly higher than the 2% raise Sondae was complaining about.

It is common for companies to offer cost-of-living adjustments to ensure employee wages keep up with inflation, but they are not obligated to do so.

Target announced plans last year to set a new starting wage range from $15 to $24 for hourly team members. However, the retail giant said the exact starting wage would “depend on the job and the local market.”

Regardless, that policy would guarantee Target workers are paid over double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (although minimum wages do vary by state).

There are multiple issues at play here. The federal minimum wage hasn’t kept up with the cost of living, and low hourly pay raises each year are unlikely to make up the difference. Here’s how you can keep up with inflation even if your paycheck hasn’t.

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Boost your income

There are multiple ways you can supplement your income. For instance, you could look for a new job that offers a higher pay rate.

If you don’t want to change jobs but do want to boost your income, consider asking for additional shifts or more responsibilities. Understand that this may require extra training for you to advance into a higher-paying position.

You might also consider taking on a side hustle (if you have the time). Working two or more jobs is more common than ever in America. According to the job-search site Zippia, 45% of working Americans have a side hustle in 2023 and they spend an average of 13 hours per week doing it.

You could also earn some extra income by selling unused or unwanted items online — perhaps you have clothes or gadgets you can sell — but if you plan to start doing that this year, make sure you understand the new tax rules about selling items online.

Renting out some space, like a room in your home or even a parking spot, is another way to generate some cash flow. Or you could get a housemate who can split some of your housing costs.

There are many ways to boost your income. How you manage your money will determine if you’re able to keep up with — or at least get closer to — the inflation rate.

Manage your money

Once you boost your income, what you do with your money is really important.

First, consider creating and sticking to a budget that breaks down your monthly income between necessities, wants and savings.

Try to avoid common financial mistakes — such as using credit cards to pay for things you cannot afford or getting loans that you’ll struggle to pay back.

If you wrack up too much high-interest debt on your credit card or your car loan, you could fall behind on your payments, be subject to financial penalties, and your balance can quickly spiral out of control.

That can damage your credit score and leave you in poor standing if you need to borrow more money — which you may if your paycheck falls flat of inflation.

If you reach the end of month, you’ve covered your debts and have any money left over, you might consider stashing it away in a high-yield savings account, which will give the funds you deposit the chance to grow.

Alternatively, you may want to invest your spare change to generate passive income through dividends — but remember that investing also comes with risk.


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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.


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