One of the natural responses to the idea of taking breaks, vacations, sabbaticals, or whatever is, "But, I can't afford it!" I totally understand this reaction, and in this installment I wish to attack this obstacle in a way that, I hope, allows readers to understand that they can figure out a way. Also, I am inclined to believe that when people read my book, A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation, they will also want to figure out a way! And certainly, it doesn't have to be Italy. A restorative break could occur right at home. The important thing to understand is that money is not able to hold you back from doing what you really want (and need) to do - unless you let it!
The current economic climate has been hard on people, and I in no way want to make light of that fact, nor discount the pressure one feels when experiencing financial hardship. There is no pressure quite like financial pressure. However, there are always options if one thinks hard enough and has the right attitude about money.
It is important to establish right up front that arranging for the financial means to take restorative breaks in one’s life should be a priority. There is no reason that a budget should not include some money to allow one to take the breaks needed to accomplish a little rest and, more importantly, restoration. It’s a matter of prioritization. In our materialistic culture we are sold the lie that more and more stuff will bring happiness and fulfillment. It simply isn’t true.
The other fallacy is that people actually believe “they can’t afford it.” But studies show that people who complain of having no money still manage to possess expensive smart phones, automobiles, air conditioning, cable or satellite television, video games, designer purses, large wardrobes of clothes, and any number of other things that cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered necessary for living. The truth of the matter is that we’ve been conditioned by our materialistic society to have a lot of stuff we really don’t need. And in most cases, when people feel they "can't" afford a break, it's because they have become deeply indebted from purchasing stuff they really didn't need with money they hadn't yet earned. As we’ve been discussing, one thing we do need, however, is proper downtime. It’s a pity that we trade our limited resources for material items that don’t bring health and wellbeing but then claim we can’t afford to take time off which is proven to enhance our health and wellbeing.
We’ve simply got our priorities out of whack.
There are really two contexts in which to consider personal finances. One is defensive, the other offensive. Defensive personal finances means to preserve and conserve what you bring in. Slow down the materialism consumption machine a little bit and free up some funds for more essential aspects of living – such as restorative breaks. Offensive personal finances means to figure out ways to increase revenue and actually bring more money in. It is beyond the scope of this book to delve too deeply into this topic, but understand the old maxim that in order to get ahead financially you will need to do two things: spend less than you make, and make more than you spend. One without the other does not work. Sometimes people think that if they can only make more money all their financial troubles would disappear. This may be true to some extent, but not if they are dumb with their money. Others think they can save themselves to wealth. This may also be true to some extent, but not if what one earns is a pittance. One needs both to truly get ahead. (For more on this, see the “Financial Fitness Pack” pack).
Use the many tools available today to generate a budget that makes provision for less spending in order to pay for strategic breaks. Be creative with your strategic breaks so they aren’t that expensive. After all, how much does it (or should it) cost to unwind? There are many free ways to decompress. Sell your unnecessary material items and put the money into time off. And ultimately, use the renewed vigor and clarity you’ll get from proper, strategic sabbaticals (both large and small) to get better and better at what you do and increase your earning power. Pairing this with increased discipline in handling your money will go a long way toward creating a “productive spiral” of higher reward for better performance because of proper time off.
It’s not a pipe dream; it can be a reality.
And I promise you it's worth it!