Celebrating a Year of Work-free Wednesdays

One year ago this month, I reduced my work schedule to part-time. For an entire year, I’ve had every weekend and every Wednesday off and I have to say, it has been great. Want to know the crazy part? We didn’t tell a soul (in our family, that is). We did tell all of you but as far as I know, none of you spilled the beans, did you??

A few times, I thought they might have gotten wise to my work-free Wednesday routine but since nothing else in our lives changed, I think they dismissed the idea as quickly as it came. By nothing else, I mean, we didn’t change our spending habits, our travel actual increased, we pretty much paid cash for a car, and we saved money like mad – all of which might indicate we worked more, not less this year.

By cutting back to part time, we reduced our income by close to $8,000 this year. So you’re probably thinking that we side-hustled to make up the difference, right? Nope. There have been times throughout the year that we’ve hustled our way to a bit of extra income but in comparison to years past, even that was less this year. Thankfully, we didn’t need to compensate for the reduction. Our 2016 experiment of living on 50% of our income was great training and it put us in the perfect position to employ those same frugal principles going forward.

Aside from practice at living incognito, our year of part-time employment brought a few other notable changes. We were able to enjoy:

More walks in the park.

More picnic lunches (and breakfasts).

More impromptu adventures.

More family time.

More homegrown food!

There were also more books read. More freebies found in the dumpster. More experiments in the kitchen. More practice at cutting our own hair. More documentaries watched. More visits to the library. More time to help others. More creativity. More movie nights at home. More pictures taken. And more money saved. I think I could go on all day!

In other words, what seemed like it might be a difficult endeavor a year ago has turned into one of the best decisions we ever made. Though, I should probably point out that living successfully on one part-time income is not always fun and games. It requires a whole lot of budgeting and planning and there are some sacrifices to be made along the way. Simply put, you have to have your mind set to simple, otherwise it just won’t work.

If you’re wondering why we didn’t tell anyone outside of this blog that I was going part-time, here’s the unashamedly selfish answer – we wanted a day for ourselves. When you live a life of less, sometimes other people tend to see your free time as their opportunity to plan something for you to do. “Oh you’re just hanging out at home today? Reading a book? In that case, can you go to the grocery store for me, take these curtains to the dry cleaner, pick up my package at UPS, drop off the little one at day care, and if you have time, I’ve really been craving your homemade spaghetti sauce. Let’s have that for dinner. Say 6 PM?” You probably already know all too well how often that really does happen.

Throughout the year there were many Wednesdays that we spent in service to others – taking my Mom to a doctor’s appointment, babysitting for my niece, or doing yard chores – but the choice to do those things was ours. And that, I believe, really was the best part of having Wednesdays off; knowing that we could get up and choose for ourselves just how to spend our day.

November Progress to Goals

The results for November are in and it looks like a pretty successful month. Despite the purchase of a new box spring, a couple of sweaters to brace for the colder weather, and our part of the Thanksgiving potluck, we still managed to keep our absolute expenses under 60% and our flex expenses around 11%.

november-expenses

November was a great month for income. We earned more than $800 in side hustles, without putting forth a huge amount of effort. We sold a few items from our tech decluttering project, we cashed out a few unwanted gift cards at CardPool, and we spent just 2 afternoons doing some merchandising jobs. We put ALL of our side hustle income into savings AND…wait for it…

We paid off another student loan!

This is me paying off my 2nd student loan of the year. Woohoo!!
This is me paying off my 2nd student loan of the year. Woohoo!!

We paid the smallest of my student loans off in May and made a promise to have the 2nd smallest paid off by November. I missed my deadline by a day but the check went in the mail this morning. Our goal is to pay off the next two loans in 2017 and spend all of 2018 aggressively tackling the big one. After reading a post last week called How I Crushed My Five-Figure Student Debt on a $25k Salary, I took a look at Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I’ve been working full-time for a non-profit for the past 6 years but have only been paying on my student loans for 4. To qualify, I’d have to remain in full-time employment with a non-profit for the next 6 years. While this is a great option for some, it wasn’t a good fit for me. Like the author of the post, I’d rather be frugal and self-sacrificing and kick the debt to the curb as quickly as possible.

November was also the final month of our current budget before we transition to a new income and expense structure. For the past 11 months we’ve made an attempt to live on 50% of our income while allocating the remainder to savings and travel. Overall, we didn’t do too bad. Over the 11 month period, we managed to keep our living expenses (or absolute expenses) around 56% of our income. This allowed us to save 25% and put 9% toward travel. Our flex expenses were larger than we anticipated but included two big purchases for my mom earlier in the year – a new washer and gravel for the driveway.

annual-spending

I’m pretty happy with the results of our experiment. Since January, we’ve had a net income of approximately $35,200. From that we paid off $4,020 in student loans, saved $8,800, gave $1,700 to help others in need, and spent just a little under $3,200 visiting 10 states (including our new home state of TN). Not a bad year for two minimalists who started out with no particular goal in mind except just to see if we could do it. Living on less has taught us a lot though and I plan to reflect on those lessons in another post sometime soon.

Today we started our un-jobbing adventure (and the launch of my self-imposed ban on visiting retail stores for the month). The new job is no different than the old one, except that I’m wearing only one hat now…and working a lot less. I have only 13 work days scheduled for this month (yay!). This will be the first time in a very long time that I’ve had so many unscripted days to look forward to. What will we do with all that time? Don’t worry, we have a few ideas…but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out what they are 🙂