how to take time off from work

I remember about two years ago when a fellow consultant expressed amazement that I was planning to take a Thursday off –  after having taken Monday off. He couldn’t understand how I was able to afford to take two days off in an average week – let alone two weeks before I planned on going on vacation.

The simple truth is that I have certain rules that, if anyone follows them, makes taking time off a snap.  I have five, off the top of my head:

1.  Pay yourself first. I save money every month before it hits our bank account.  It’s gone and saved before I even realize it exists.  That makes digging into savings tricky.  It also means that I’m not worried about grubbing for a dollar at the end of the year.

2.  Consider whether you need it. Bubelah and I make dopey purchases – we are not ultra frugal.  At the same time, we do not buy useless things on a regular basis.  It doesn’t take much – try not buying overpromoted fashion and consumer electronics for a while and voila, savings.  A little time off is worth passing on the XBox, isn’t it?

3.  Pay in cash. I use a credit card, for the sake of cash back bonuses, but for all intents and purposes I pay cash; we wait until we have cash in hand to buy anything.  I mean anything.  I paid cash for a new Honda minivan two years ago.  I paid cash for new rechargeable batteries last week.  We don’t buy anything without the means to pay for it.  We never have to worry about the upcoming credit card bill.

4.  Diversify your income. I blog, and I work on a couple of other income streams.  My “other” streams make up maybe 5% of my income, but at the same time that means I’m making 105% of what I would be making on consulting income alone.  Better than nothing, I think.  But that 5% away from work means I can take 5% off my normal work and still come out even, right?

5.  Pick your battles. I have never understood people who won’t take off a beautiful day in summer.  Listen, 20 years from now that extra $100 for a day’s work won’t make a difference.  A day in the sun making a stab at accomplishing that wee bitty thing called life will be worth it.  Maybe it’s better to stay late in the office in February and ditch in summer.

I feel sorry for so many of the employees and consultants I see around me who will complain about “needing” to work one minute and then about their new plasma TV the next minute. Not because I think they made a bad choice – because it’s not my place to judge – but because they seem unhappy with their choices.  Nobody is ever happy trading their time for crap.  Put yourself in a position where you can forgo money for time and you’ll be a happier person.