A very common salary question I get is: how much money should I ask for?

It’s hard for me to answer that question, because it really depends on the individual. Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all budget, there’s no go-to salary number. Of course, there’s an appropriate range in each sector, but the right number depends on you. So let’s dive in.

How much do you need?

Look at your numbers. How much money do you need to earn to cover your minimum required expenses? This includes retirement savings, debt payments, groceries, transportation, etc. This number is important, because you always want to make sure that you’re earning more than you’re spending. If you aren’t sure about your number, set up an account with Mint, Learnvest, or ClarityMoney. You can review the past few months worth of spending to see what you typically spend in a month. This will also give you clarity on areas that you might want to cut back in. Bonus: ClarityMoney will point out all your recurring expenses and flag if there is anything you might want to cancel.

How much do you want?

Now that you’ve looked at the actual numbers, you should think about what you really want. What are your goals? Think big. Maybe you want to be completely debt-free in 5 years. Perhaps you want to buy a house. The list of possibilities goes on! What number would help you achieve your goals? What number would make you feel fairly compensated? This number is very important! You should feel great about the salary you are asking for. If you’re confident in what you’re asking for, you’ll be more confident during the negotiation process.

What does the sector pay?

Do your homework! Find out how much the typical salary is for the work you want to do. You can do this by asking people you know who work in the field or at the organization you’re interested in. (That’s also a good way to get some informational interviews.) You can also use resources like Salary.com or Glassdoor.com. Not only will this give you a good idea of the range you should ask for, but you can also use this information to back up your ask. If a potential employer pushes back at what you’re asking for, you can point to your market research as proof of what you’re worth.

Do these numbers line up?

Look at how much you need, how much you want, and how much the sector pays. Do the numbers match up? Are they even close? Analyzing these numbers will help you decide if you need to ask for more, if you need to cut back on some of your spending, or if you want to pursue higher paying jobs.

Unable to get the full amount you asked for? Don’t forget to negotiate your full compensation package! Many other things can be just as important as your salary. Check out last week’s blog to learn other benefits you can negotiate.

Looking for more resources on how to negotiate your salary? Check out AAUW and Linda Babcock’s books: Women Don’t Ask and Ask for it.