How You Can Afford to Not Work for Months Every Year

  • April 14, 2009 by Corbett Barr
  • 31 Comments
relax-now

(photo by tinou bao)

Can you think of a way, without changing jobs or increasing your income, that you could afford to not work for one month every year? What about not working for three months? Or even six months?

The answer is simple really. And embracing the solution can open up countless doors for you both professionally and personally.

So, how can you afford to not work for extended periods of time? Here’s the answer: live below your means.

Most people will respond to the idea of living below their means in one of two ways. Either they’ll say “I know, I know I should be saving more,” or they’ll scoff “how can I live below my means? I’m just scraping by already.”

Unless you’re truly living below the poverty line, it really is possible for you to save 25% or 50% of what you currently make. How do I know? Because millions of people live just fine on less than half of what you make.

Think about it this way: teachers all do it. Luckily for them, they’re only paid 75% of their salary so they can afford to take 3 months off every year. If they were paid their entire salary as they earned it, most people would probably spend their entire paychecks and then they would be forced to work every summer.

You may value the material things that spending your entire income affords you. If that’s the case than by all means, enjoy. But many of you may simply be caught up in the competitive elements of consumerism.

Do you really need the apartment or house you’re in now, or would something smaller and cheaper work just as well? What about your car? Your dining and entertainment habits?

You may be surprised that if you substituted cheaper options for each of those major expenses you could be exactly as happy as you are now. Then, add in the idea of taking three or six months of vacation every year and your life as you know it could be completely transformed.

Living substantially below your means doesn’t just mean you can take extended vacations. It also means you can quit your job to chase your dreams. Whether it be starting a business, going back to school, becoming an artist or anything else you can dream of, living below your means will give you the freedom to do it.

For those of you who have jobs that you couldn’t possibly take months of vacation from at a time, here’s another option. Live on 2/3rds of your income for three years. At the end of that period, you’ll have saved enough to live for a year without a salary. Then, quit your job and pursue your dreams for 9 months, leaving you three months’ cushion to find your next career opportunity.

What do you think? Is it possible for you to afford to not work for extended period of time? Can you really live below your means? Let me know in the comments!

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Shawn Sloan April 14, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Yes!
I am just recently learning this skill. I decided that having a car payment on top of a student loan payment was too much, I paid off my credit card and discovered how much I love cooking.
Anyway I know these are all stupid and obvious things to do, but it is paying off big time. Im taking time off constantly to go backpacking and to work in the studio when I feel the need.
I try so hard not to buy so many books and I steal music whenever I can. Getting rid of the car was pretty much the best idea I’ve had all year. Public transportation works just fine.
I like your blog. Keep it up.

Corbett Barr April 14, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Hey Shawn, I’m glad to hear about your new found love of frugality. A car is such a waste if you have access to good public transportation, isn’t it? It sounds like spending time backpacking or in your studio is such a better use of resources. Thanks for reading the blog!

-Corbett

Chris Gallagher April 15, 2009 at 8:17 am

Interesting article.

Living for 25% of the year because we have saved is a wonderful idea. I would rather work 100% of the year because I have helped those who are less fortunate.

Just an additional thought.

Corbett Barr April 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Thanks for sharing the perspective, Chris. I’ve tried to make a point before that living the “good life” for many people means being able to volunteer or otherwise help those who are less fortunate. Thanks also for reading the blog!

Patrick Galvin April 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I just discovered your blog thanks to the sailing post that Anthony Sandberg forward to me. I appreciate the perspective you’re offering.

My wife and I are pursing a dream that really excites us. Our goal is to go to a cool city for two months every year where can work remotely on our business while living like natives. We find that switching locations makes us more creative and energetic. A couple of months in a city gives us a great opportunity to experience places in much deeper ways than we could ever enjoy as tourists.

I’ll keep reading your blog for ideas and inspiration to make that dream happen. Keep up the great posts!

Corbett Barr April 28, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Excellent example of lifestyle design, Patrick. I completely agree about the creativity that comes along with living in a new city for a while. I was inspired to start this blog after embarking on our extended trip to Mexico. Best of luck with your plan. Let me know how it goes! I’ll be checking out your blog for marketing advice as well.

Stefan May 2, 2009 at 10:27 am

Great post. I never get how people are even able to spend all their money they make. I’ve been traveling the world the last 4 years being a full time student and hardly making any money. And it has been a great time. In 6 weeks I’m going to graduate and shortly will have my first real job. Compared to now I’m gonna make a lot of money. Money I don’t really need. So I try to keep my living expenses as low as possible, work for a year, save the money, then take a couple of months off to travel (mini retirement) and to look out for the next cool place to live and work.

Regarding the car discussion: I’m an outdoor freak and I usually live more with/in my car than at home. But you’re right. Most people who just hang around in their cities probably won’t need a car at all, especially here in Europe. I also could save more money with not going to the movies and stopping to buy so many books and reading them at the library instead. But that’s my way of rewarding good artists, because they need to make a living as well.

Corbett Barr May 3, 2009 at 9:04 am

Stefan – thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you point out that you’ve been traveling the world on very little money. People seem to have the idea that traveling requires a lot of money, but it doesn’t have to. Let us know how you decide to balance your life with the new job.

-Corbett

Bob Loosemore May 28, 2009 at 1:39 am

Very much enjoyed my first visit to your blog. We are of the same ilk, but I am retired and living on about 14 euros a day; saving a good part of that to renovate an abandoned house on Corfu. I am very pleased to see the philosophy of making do with less clutter so clearly expressed, and even if not for travel, then certainly for stopping to open the mind to the riches that are free in this world. My own blogging activity is on the back-burner for the moment, but I shall subscribe to your blog, and even contribute if possible. This theme is perhaps going to be the theme of the century – please keep up the good work. Bob

Corbett Barr June 2, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Hi Bob. Wow, 14 euros a day is an amazing budget. Does that include lodging? I’m impressed that you can make that work, good for you. I hope you’re right that I’m covering the theme of the century! Thanks for the comment.

Rebie June 1, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Hi Corbett,

Wow! Amazing idea i just read here in your blog. i am really in the point of my career now that i wanted out for awhile and think what’s next? so yes, the idead of living below the means is really good. would do that for this year and hope to see myself volunteering in Africa after. :-) thank you for such a wonderful blog you have.

blessings,
rebie

Corbett Barr June 2, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Thanks for the comment, Rebie. Best of luck with your transition and volunteering in Africa!

Gordon September 18, 2009 at 11:59 am

Just found your site!

It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for and my hat is off to you for making it.

Now…..where do I go from here?

Corbett Barr September 18, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Hi Gordon. Welcome!

I’m glad you’re interested in lifestyle design. What are you hoping to do with it? What are you interested in and/or passionate about?

-Corbett

Laura @ move to portugal September 28, 2009 at 7:45 am

Great post Corbett and all so true.

After many years of a consumer lifestyle I’ve finally realised the error of my ways. There’s a big world out there and you’re never to old to enter it :-)

Ang October 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Great inspiration here – I’m about to leave my job. Been overworked for years. Not concerned about the financially aspects of the loss as much as you would think. I have a husband who works and will continue, but for me I need to find something else besides 9-5. Its killing me, as well as my kids who need me more then you think.

fancynancy January 19, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Love your blog. This is what I want to do. I am unhappy at my job…had an opportunity to leave in october and didn’t take it b/c I was scared I couldn’t find another job..I live in California and the job market is bad. I have money saved up to live for up to 2 years….and I’m still scared to quit. Part of it is b/c I grew up in a lower class household and my parents believe I am so lucky to have a great job with great pay and benefits…I feel like quitting would be a slap to their face…they came to this country so I they could have a better life and and give me one as well. they believe a “corporate” job is the greatest thing on earth… I dont’ want to disappoint them and I feel guilty taking a mini retirement….I hope reading your blog will help/encourage me follow my dream of quitting…dont’ know what I would do with the time yet, but the first step for me is quitting…I really admire people who just do what they want and have supportive family and friends.

Corbett Barr January 20, 2010 at 9:57 am

Hi Nancy,

I hope the blog (and all the other great readers who leave comments here) will help you come to a decision that works for you. It’s easy to hear only the “safe” and “traditional” arguments about lifestyle and career choices. I try to bring some counterpoint to those voices in an honest and balanced way.

Migration Mark March 9, 2010 at 8:57 am

I think a lot of people spoil themselves and after a while it becomes normal and not thought of as being spoiled. If you lower your level of spoilment, you can save a lot of money being spent uselessly. I quit drinking (buying) soda a few years ago. No more spending money on soda, and now when I do drink one every 2 months or so, I really appreciate it. You can blow this example up to a higher level too.

Ellen April 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

I wholeheartedly agree. We become leeches on our wallets and don’t even realize it. Good for you Mark getting soda out of your life except as a treat has many benefits to your health and wealth.

People often tease me since I am very frugal when I’m home, but I like to travel even on a train to visit family or friends. I am the only person I know who can just take off for a month or two.

Your soda idea translates well to cars and furniture too. Often we buy more than we need at higher prices just to show off our purchase. Pretty pathetic when we strap ourselves to payments just to look like we are richer than we are.

Mneiae March 24, 2010 at 5:59 pm

This is probably going to be my modus operandi at some point :)

My teachers were not like the teachers that you used an example. My teachers when I was in K-12 were really open about their finances with us, their students, so we knew that they had second jobs. One teacher was a retail salesperson at Bath and Bodyworks. Another was a landscaper. The thing is, some teachers do take their full salary as they earn it and then work another job during the summer. Some work them simultaneously because they’re in debt. For whatever reason, not all teachers survive on just their salaries.

Ellen April 6, 2010 at 11:11 am

Hi! I never knew until recently there was a name for how I live. I saved enough oney to divorce and give him half (we were already debt free) and send my self to get a four year degree. I also lived in France for sixth months on a study abroad and traveled to Amsterdam. My son came and visited me in France and so did my boyfriend. All on my saved dime. We ahd a blast! It has been almost two years since I graduated and I am now getting back into jewelry design and manufacture. I work for myself and spend only for true wants or joyous desires.

I am broke and even in debt at the moment due to a family emergency this past year, but I’m selling off my dustables on Ebay, excess furniture on Craig’s and ready to challenge myself to do it again.

Je ne regrette rien. I regret nothing. I have so many wealthy worker friends who by my definition are not wealthy at all. If you must go to your job each day to maintain your lifestyle you AREN’T rich.

I look forward to reading more of your blog! Thanks,

Ellen

Ashley August 26, 2010 at 7:35 am

just found your blog and am enjoying it! my husband and i are currently working full time and commuting a combined 190 miles a day … and it’s wearing on us. it’s ridiculous really. so, we’re working really hard on paying off our student loans (like you said – we are living on about half of our wages so we can put the other half towards loans – imagine what it’ll be like when the loans are paid off! we could just work part-time :) we really want to be debt free to allow us to work fewer hours so we can volunteer and do the things we want more. we’re also trying to start our own business but it’s difficult with all the time we’re spending at work and commuting to work …

Corbett August 26, 2010 at 8:46 am

Whoa, 190 miles a day? That really is ridiculous. Although you’re not alone by any means. Imagine what you could do with those extra 2-3 hours a day each! Anyway, good luck. Hang in there. The struggle will be worth it, no question.

Jdstrong May 6, 2011 at 6:56 am

I love this…my husband and I have been talking about how to create the life we truly want for our two kids for some time now. How can we go to Mexico to teach them Spanish…how can we fit in a long trip to DC and Civil War battlegrounds to teach them history…how can we go rock-climbing to teach them phys ed?? In essence, how to “pursue awesomeness” working regular 40-hour week desk jobs? This post though, has struck a chord. We can indeed live on 2/3 of our salary, and start planning now for the life we desire in three years. Thanks very much for the inspiration!

Corbett May 8, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Awesome! Many of our perceived limitations exist simply because we haven’t seen other approaches work before. Traveling has been a huge eye opener for us because of the people we’ve met along the way who have prioritized travel and made their careers work around that priority. It is definitely possible, we’ve seen dozens of people make it happen. Best of luck!

Kate June 9, 2011 at 4:46 am

I did this last year – saved enough to take nearly three months off, the job I had been doing for ten years was making me brain dead. In that three months, along with doing stuff I really enjoyed, I found myself a more interesting job to go back to. I am now considering doing the same this year. Its so easy to just not buy “stuff” and you come to realise that the things that really give happiness and contentment are free!

Iain Robson December 4, 2012 at 4:35 am

It is totally possible to not work for a few months.

I basically do this now due to the way my job works.

Many people don’t realize that you don’t need everything you have. It always surprises me. I often ask people, “do you really need that or do you just want it”

great post.

Iain

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