[Welcome my friend Ms. Montana today! She recently released a new eBook on the 6 steps to taking a year off every decade, and I asked her if she’d be willing to give us a teaser of it here so we can all learn too ;) She obliged, and now we get to read it today – yay! Hope it helps!]
The idea of a gap year seems to be reserved for the college age. But that hasn’t stopped us.
My husband and I have 5 little kids and we just finished a yearlong sabbatical. I’m 34 and this marks the 4th time we have taken a break from the 9-5 to pursue a big dream or goal.
Here’s the count so far:
- I took an extra month off of work when I was 24 to travel coast to coast with my best friend.
- My husband, Mr. Montana, took a 6 month gap between jobs in which we bought and renovated two houses.
- Two years after that, he took a month off so we could do a large renovation on another rental property we had bought.
- Then last year we took our year long sabbatical. During that time, we traveled for 6 weeks with the kids. We did a full kitchen renovation. I started a blog. He went back to school. I started getting offers to do content marketing. Oh, I had a baby too. ;) Not exactly things you fit into a long weekend.
“How do you afford to take a year off?”
This is the question we get asked all the time.
The process is actually rather simple. Not easy. But simple. Whether you want to take a year or two off so you can custom build a house or a month to study Spanish in Spain, there are 6 basic steps. Here is the short and skinny.
Step #1: Figure out the Focus
What do you actually want to do? There are hundreds of options. By narrowing it down, it will help you figure out your budget and start planning and dreaming. The more clear this picture is in your mind, the more focus and inspiration you will have to power through the other steps.
So what could you do?
I think it’s best to focus on dreams and goals so big they can’t fit alongside your day job. You have grown these dreams as much as possible while working, but this goal needs more space to take it to the next level. There is only so much you can do in your evenings, weekends, and vacation days.
I like to be able to lean into the season of life I am currently in. That cross country road trip I took my best friend? That is never going to happen again. She runs a big nonprofit. I have 5 little kids now. We are lucky if we can find 24 hours to get away, let alone 24 days. I’m so glad we did that in our early 20’s because those days are long gone now. In this year off, there were other opportunities that couldn’t wait either (or we just didn’t want to wait anymore!).
Some great options to wet your whistle:
- Writing a book
- Building a business or transitioning into a new industry
- Touring with a band or doing a 30 city book/speaking tour
- A physical challenge; biking across Europe, hiking the Appalachian Trail, a 3 month sailing trip
- Volunteering for a nonprofit overseas
- Building or flipping/renovating a house
- Visiting every national park in the US
Step #2: Create an A La Carte Price List
Once you know what you want your focus to be, start looking at how much this will cost. I like to create a price list, kind of like a restaurant menu. It helps keep my motivation focused by seeing the potential of each dollar I save.
We did a 6 week road trip this summer with the whole family. I had actually created that price list about 4 years ago, because this has been a dream of mine for a long time. Here is a sample.
|Gas for 1,000 miles||$150|
|Admission to Bear Adventure||$79|
|1 night camping||$20 (national park)|
|1 night camping||$45 (RV park)|
|1 activity for 5 people||$30|
|Daily average cost||$75|
Create this same a la cart price list for your dream. I set up a special saving account and labeled it “dream fund.” Every time I could stash $45 in my account, I knew that would afford me one night of camping in a full service RV park. $5,000 from our tax refund would pay for the camper. $150 in birthday money would cover 1,000 miles of gas.
You don’t have to list every expense. But add as many as you can think of and a variety of price points. Make it specific. Then for each amount of money you stash away into your “dream fund” you know exactly that that will help pay for. You saved $20 by packing your lunch this week? What part of your dream will that help pay for? Does that pay for your admission into the Colosseum in Rome? Is it a tango lesson in Ecuador? Let’s not despise the small things, but celebrate each win as bringing us one step closer to our dreams.
Step #3: Save
If you want a year off every decade, you will need to save an extra 10-15% of your take home pay. That’s it. Stashing away an extra 10-15% could give you the flexibility to accomplish a huge dream or goal every 10 years. If you want a month off next year, save about 20% depending on your extra expenses. Steps #4, #5 and #6 will help you come up with the extra cash you will need to cover the expenses.
Step #4: Find Extra Cash
There are a few kinds of extra cash. Which ones you choose will depend on your long-term plans. If you just want a month off and then go back to life as normal, maybe you put in some extra hours to save up. If you want this to be a lifestyle change, and want the freedom to regularly take time away from your 9-5, creating some passive income will be a tremendous help. As would creating a side hustle that you enjoy and is flexible.
- Passive income: Creating income sources that aren’t dependent on you showing up for work is the golden goose. We own two rentals that cover 1/3 of all our living expenses. Just that income would allow us to take a year off after every 2 years, if we wanted. Just a little bit of passive income adds a lot of flexibility.
- Side work: This might be something you do while you are saving up for your time off. And it could also be something you use to supplement your income during your time away from the 9-5. I did a bit of freelance work during our year off, which became the inspiration for launching a content marketing company instead of going back to a traditional job. J. Money’s Side Hustle Series here is great for ideas too.
- Extra cash: All those extra little piles of cash that flow into our lives. Christmas bonuses, birthday cards, tax returns, or babysitting our friends’ kids on a Friday night.
Step #5: Pay Off Your Debt
Paying off your debt will give you a 2x advantage. Your expenses will be lower, and you can save faster. If you want the ability to step away from paid employment on a semi consistent basis, being debt free is a huge advantage! We were able to pay cash for our home, and not having that mortgage is a game changer.
Step #6: Keep Expenses Low
Your dreams might be expensive, but your basic expenses don’t need to be.
Low expenses are the jet fuel to custom design your life. It allows you to take more time off. It lets you be choosy about the work you do. It gives you flexibility to save more, have more adventures and give more.
Don’t trade away your biggest dreams for small lifestyle upgrades!
Without a mortgage (or car loan or student loans) our monthly nut is $650 to cover all our fixed expenses (property taxes, utilities, life/car/house/dental insurance, gym membership, netflix, internet, etc) . We really have to live it up to spend $3,000 a month. We can give more money away. We can buy classic cars. Jet fuel, I tell ya!
We have lived these 6 steps. We dreamed. We planned. We created extra income. We live debt free. And we have low expenses. (Our family of 7 spent $30,000 in 2016. Plus charitable giving.)
On my blog I have a free PDF about how you can use these 6 steps to take a year off every 10 years. If you are serious about creating more financial freedom for yourself, you can get it here.
Everyone thought we were a little crazy to take a year off when we have 5 little kids. I think it’s a little crazy more people don’t do it. Because at the end of the day, it really wasn’t a year “off”, but more like a year “on.” Running full speed toward our biggest dreams, goals, adventure, and finding that custom created ideal life.
I’ll admit there is a certain intensity to our lives. I’m not willing to waste a single year, just spinning our wheels or maintaining the status quo. There is too much we want to do. We have big plans and dreams, and I am not going to put them off ’till we are 60. Each season of our life has opportunities that might expire or pass us by. So we make hay while the sun shines.
What will you do?
Ms. Montana is a writer, speaker and that strange friend who loves to talk about money. She has traveled through 27 countries, adopted 4 kids, had 2 bio kids, lived abroad, bought and renovated 3 homes, all while being married to her best friend for almost 15 years. She enjoys books, hot tea, and growing Brandywine tomatoes. You will find her at Montana Money Adventures where she talks about creating financial freedom, adventure, and generous living.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Need more convincing about taking time off for yourself? Try on this post next ;) Why Taking a Sabbatical Was The Best Money I Ever Spent