Even with an improving economy, many companies remain wary of giving big cash raises. That may be caution over how tenuous the recovery may be, owners wanting to make up for past losses, or just a general reticence to raising payroll.
For employees, though, while more money is nice, sometimes there are others forms of compensation that may be better. In many cases, when either no raise or a smaller one than warranted is offered, it may be possible to negotiate some or all of these.
Of course, every company will vary. Some will be more open to negotiating than others, but in most cases, it can't hurt to ask for perks that in some cases are better than getting a raise.
More time off
If you are a salaried worker, or an hourly one who gets compensated for vacations, then asking for more time off counts as a sort of de facto raise. You're not actually getting more money, but if you work less days, you will be getting paid more per hour or day for the time you actually work.
Extra time off can also be turned into money by using the time to take on side projects. Or, of course, you can just kick back and relax, which, in some cases, can be as pleasurable as having a little more money in your pocket.
A number of companies have loosened their standards on who has to come in to the office every day. Getting to work from home even a day or two a week is not only convenient, it actually saves you money.
Not commuting means spending less on gas or public transportation. It also shortens your work day because when you're done for the day, you don't have to go anywhere.
An increase in title
Sometimes getting a better title can have significant value if you intend to leave your job at some point. Showing a promotion on your resume is a major positive, and in some fields, the difference of being a director versus a manager carries a lot of weight.
This should not be a perk you go after just for ego reasons, though. If it's a resume-enhancer, though, negotiating a better title could mean more money at your next career stop.
While sometimes budgets don't allow for a direct increase to your salary (or the increase you want), it may be possible to ask for other benefits that save you money. This is an area where you can be clever, but you should examine what the company norms are.
For example, it may not be insane to ask the company to pay for your mobile phone plan. It may be more of a stretch to ask it to pay for your gym membership (unless that's a perk others get).
If you work for a big company, there may be the option of asking to have your job moved. That may mean getting to live someplace you always wanted to, moving to a better climate, or just changing things up. If you leave a big-city office for one in a more remote location, lower living costs can make the change a raise of sorts.