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10 ways to boost your earning power

The Federal Reserve Bank released a survey recently that showed one-fourth of U.S. families are just getting by. If you're in one of these families, you know how difficult it can be.

The "how to save money" articles don't seem to help much, as they give great ideas like, "Make your own coffee and stop buying it at Starbucks every day!" If you could afford expensive coffee every day, you wouldn't truly be living on the edge. You'd just be really bad with money, therefore putting yourself willingly on the financial edge. The advice you need is stop being dumb. (This applies for other unnecessary expenses from manicured nails to fancy TV packages and upgrading your phone every chance you get. Stop it.)

If you really want to get away from the financial edge, there are some things you can do to help your career and earn more cash. Here are 10 things you can do to bring in more money -- none of them are instantaneous or quick fixes, but over the long run will be worth it.

1. Do the tasks no one wants to do. From un-jamming the copy machine to cleaning the bathrooms to doing the monthly inventory, every job has tasks that everyone avoids. When you take these on, voluntarily, you gain a reputation as being helpful and enthusiastic. This is not only good for your current job, but when you apply for a new job, you'll get a great reference as the person who went above and beyond.

2. Learn something new at work. Work just isn't about doing your current job, it's about preparing for the next one. No matter your job, there is always something you can learn. If you're a grocery store cashier, start learning about products, and scheduling. Ask if you can do a couple of weeks in the produce department to learn more about it. The more you know, the more valuable you are.

3. Don't ever say, "That's not my job!" Nothing stops your progression at work more than being unwilling to jump in and lend a hand where needed. When your boss asks you to do a task and you snap back, "That's not in my job description!" you've just announced that you're not interested in progressing and growing. You need to do both to increase your earning power. You can, of course, say, "I'd be happy to, but I also need to do A, B, and C today. Which thing should I make the priority?"

4. Take an online course. Learning doesn't require a classroom any more. Plenty of companies offer online classes in just about everything, and many are free. Find classes that will help you on the path you want to be on, and take it seriously. Do the homework. Watch the lectures. Read the assigned readings. You're looking for knowledge. Increased knowledge gives you an increased chance at a better job. Ask for your boss's advice on what things you should learn, and then learn them.

5. Find a mentor. Where do you want to be with your career? Find someone who is where you want to be in 5 or 10 years and ask them to mentor you. This person will be able to tell you what they did to get to where they are, and you can follow their advice. Increasing your earning power often requires a goal and an idea of what path to take.

6. Ask for a promotion. Many people expect that if they do a good job, the boss will recognize it and offer a promotion. Bosses tend to be busy and not focused on your career. So, let your boss know you're interested in moving up the ladder. If the answer to the promotion is no, ask what you need to do to be qualified for a promotion later, and start doing that.

7. Make reliable daycare your top priority. One of the biggest problems of all working parents is reliable child care, but this is especially true with people living on the financial edge. The problem with unreliable child care is that it makes it extra difficult to get ahead if the boss cannot count on you to be there.

8. Mentor someone else. This may seem like something that won't help you get ahead, but good things come to good people. You are further in your career than someone else, even if you think you're at the bottom. Help someone else up, and you'll go up as well.

9. Make a plan for your future. If you don't know where you want to be, you won't know how to get there. Make a realistic goal about your future and figure out what you need to do to get there.

10. Go back to school. Don't let all those stories about student loans scare you away from an education. There are lots of inexpensive opportunities for education. If you haven't got a high school diploma, there may even be a free program in your area. If you're looking for a college degree, start at the community college or an online school that works with your schedule. Don't do this to major in something fluffy. Go with a career goal in mind and major in something that will help you achieve that.

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