20+ Ways to Work Less This Year

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It’s not that Greg and I don’t like to work, it’s just that we want to work on our terms, in between big chunks of time off. Since 2013 we’ve averaged just 7.8 months of employment a year, and that’s including {{{shudder}}} an entire year working full time. Side note: In that year we spent three weeks each in Alaska, Glacier National Park, and Europe, and a week each in Maui, southern California, Oregon, and Ohio’s amusement parks, so it was like part time. {{{Still shuddering}}}

We don’t drain our accounts to take all this time off- we work and we save and we spend less than we make and we invest what we don’t spend. Greg is scheduled part time, but picks up extra when he can, and when I nurse I hit it hard, working an average 0.66 overtime shifts a week. Okay, that’s nothing. I have a friend who worked two full-time nursing jobs for six months straight. Three nights in one city, three nights in another, one night to recover. Can. You. Imagine? More impressively, she managed to remain strong and smart and beautiful while she did it.

I’m still working up the courage to try that myself, but in the meantime here are some things we’ve done in order to maintain this semi-retired life of ours:


Make it a priority. Maybe you want to take summers off with your kids, or winters off to ski. Our goal is to work winters and hike summers. Make yours a goal and start a life plan for how you can get there. Come up with a list of ways you can contribute to this life plan over the next seven days, and recognize things that actively take away from it. For example:  

  • Pick up an overtime shift this week. 
  • Take your lunch every day.
  • Drink the free coffee at work.

Pay off debt. Paychecks can come and go, but bills keep on coming. Get rid of them. Think of what that money could be doing if it wasn’t going into someone else’s pocket, and throw everything you’ve got into paying off your car payments, student loans, and high-interest credit cards. We’re able to live the life of our dreams because we don’t owe anyone else our money. Trust me when I say there is no freedom like financial freedom.

Make a spending plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you decide you want to take every summer off, it’s going to take some planning. You’ll need to know what your monthly expenses are, or better yet, your average daily expenses so you know how much to allocate to food, lodging, recurring bills, etc. Every day you can live under budget is cause for celebration.

Track your expenses. I suggest going back at least three months to see what you’ve been spending and to get an idea for a realistic budget, then track them indefinitely going forward. Even if you don’t want to take off, this will help you save money.

Make a savings plan. I love savings baskets- dividing money between different accounts so we don’t use, say, a retirement account to fund a vacation. We have several separate savings accounts, and I love CapitalOne360 for easily dividing and funding them. Start a dedicated “Time Off” account and throw everything extra in there. I love watching savings accounts grow.

Make an investment plan. We always plan to be able to take up to a year off of work. We don’t have any plans to take that amount of time off, but I like knowing the money is there, as we save and invest mainly based on what helps me sleep better at night. I use Personal Capital’s free online services to manage our investments- get $20 free cash when you sign up through this link. When working, we fund our accounts in the following order:

  1.       Employer-sponsored retirement accounts
  2.        (next year’s) Annual expenses
  3.       IRAs
  4.       HSAs
  5.       Taxable investments

Work seasonal employment, or take temporary contracts. Greg and I met in 2007 as seasonal employees in Alaska, and since 2015 have been living a ‘real job’ seasonal lifestyle. There are definitely pros and cons to this, as we get to make our own schedules, but we don’t necessarily have work available when we want it. That’s why we work and save so hard when we do have jobs, so we can really have fun in the ‘offseason’. I used coolworks.com to find my national park and ski resort jobs, and now I travel nurse through a couple of companies. Let me know if you’d like my recruiters’ info- they’re both great. 

House hack. Rent out a spare bedroom while you’re home, or rent your entire house on Airbnb while you take off to road trip the Rockies. Or you could consider downsizing your current home, especially if you rent. Moving is an unbelievable hassle, but in our case, we’d rather live small and travel big. P.S. We love living in our travel trailer. We’re like turtles; we can move as much as we want and we always have our home with us which is an unbelievable luxury.

Obamacare. We’ve gotten insurance through the Marketplace since 2015 and have paid anywhere from $0 – $200/month combined, depending on our income from the previous year. This is especially helpful if you’re Native American like me.

Passive side hustles. We don’t want to work hard when we take time off work, we want to play. See my post on super-passive side income.

Work prn (as needed). Decreased benefits = increased pay, but you get to pick when you work. 

Increase your current income. Ask for a raise, precept, climb the clinical ladder. Looking at you, nurses.

Work overtime. We Warckens currently live on about $67/day, so one overtime shift can fund about a week without work. That means if I work seven weeks straight I could fund us for the entire year. I mean, have you ever heard anything so motivating?!

Decrease your expenses/consumerism. The easiest way to save more is to spend less which goes right along with making it a priority. I love clothes and perfume as much as the next girl, but I value our time off much more than the way I look or smell. When I buy less, I can work less, and that’s pretty cool. See my post on 70+ ways to spend less.

Stack days off. As a nurse I can work six days straight and take eight days off. Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s just horrible, depending on the patients. But like Greg says: “The worst day of vacation is better than the best day at work.” Greg is scheduled the minimum hours required for flight benefits, which has varied from one day a month, to 24 hrs a month, to 20 hrs a week, but generally works whatever days I do. If you travel for work, go to the office on the day you get back and save that day off for a longer sabbatical down the road.

Save your paid time off (PTO). I remember calling in once in my professional career and it was Christmas night and I thought I was dying. Everyone knows I would never call in for holiday pay unless it was dire. I know tons of nurses who call in because they had a bad shift and that is crazy to me. A. We all have bad shifts. B. You’re leaving the rest of the unit short and creating bad days for everyone. And C. You’re using up valuable PTO which could be used for an extended period away from work later. Not to be sexist, but man up.

Be willing to take days off without pay. When I interviewed for my very first nursing job I was open and honest and told the unit manager I loved to travel and would be willing to do it without pay. I never had an issue taking two or three weeks, or even a month off work.

Free RV parking, camping. Check out freecampgrounds.com or freecampsites.net for some great resources on cheap living. Or just take advantage of family members with big driveways or power hookups. Greg’s parents are so kind to let us park at their light pole when we go home to help harvest. 

Work for food, lodging. Check out helpx.net for some great ideas on free accommodation in exchange for volunteer work. Or again, shack up with someone in your family and cook and clean and mow their lawn and babysit their kids for free housing.

House sit. There are tons of housesitting resources on the web if you don’t mind doing it for strangers. But G and I like to put the word out to people we know. P.S. We are excellent house guests if you ever need someone to watch your place. 🙂


And the number one best way to work little this year:

Quit your job. I know how terrifying this is- leaving a reliable income is like jumping off a cliff. But there comes a point when you have to realize you’ve got the resources, and the gumption, and you’re going to land on your feet. I know from experience that no amount of money is ever enough to make this kind of decision, so you should just do it while you’ve got the momentum. Like all choices, this doesn’t have to be a permanent one. If you run out of money, you can go back to work. If you quit your job then realize you’re totally bored, you can go back to work. If you feel worthless, and that you are no longer contributing to society, you can go back to work. Or you can volunteer. Or you can just, like, live with a purpose and screw society.

Once you get into the groove of intentional spending and saving, it gets easier and easier to live without a steady paycheck. Nowadays I get much more nervous about actually taking a job than I do about quitting one. #financialfreedomproblems Everyone dreams of working less. This could be the year you take a few steps toward getting there yourself. 


We’re at our marital best when we’ve got our boots and packs on. Working little allows us to spend more time together, doing the things we love most. To quote one of my favorite heroines “Heck Norm, you know we’re doin’ pretty good.”


See our other posts for more money-saving ideas on Spending Less and Traveling More and just, get out there man.

Anyone else have any great tips for working little?


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