Unpaid Vacation vs. Regular Vacation

Unpaid Vacation vs. Regular VacationOne of the perks of having a day job is getting paid when you go on vacation.  Most companies start employees off by giving them 2 weeks of vacation plus holidays but that never seems to be enough.  A lot of employers(especially in my field: engineering) are actually starting to give an extra week around Christmas time to New Years since not much work gets done during that time anyways.  So that’s about 3-4 weeks of combined vacation and holidays for the average worker.

I actually had co-workers at my last job who were getting around 4-5 weeks of vacation on top of holidays since they’d been with the company for so long.  It’s a pretty good feeling knowing that you’re getting paid for a full day’s worth of work when you’re sitting at home watching tv or on a beach somewhere.  Even though I tend to be a little depressed after my vacation’s over, I’m the type that will use up every last hour each year.  In fact, when I left my last job I think I had about 6 hours of vacation left.

Paid Vacation With a Cube Job

One of the big benefits of working in a cube is that you get paid for vacation time.  There are tons of jobs out there(service industry, freelancing, etc) that only pay you when you work but not the day job type.  With holidays and vacation time, my last job gave me about 3-4 weeks of paid time off every year.  Even though I ended up using almost all of it every year, 3-4 weeks of paid time off is a pretty nice benefit that many people working for themselves never get.

I never really understood the people who would accrue weeks and weeks of vacation and never use it until they were forced to.  A lot of these people are the same ones complaining about how much they work, how little they get paid, etc.  If your company is going to give you 4 weeks of vacation a year, you shouldn’t have any problem taking it.  If they didn’t want you to take the vacation they shouldn’t have given it to you in the first place.

Buying Vacation Works Too

At my last company, we were given the option to buy an extra week of vacation.  A lot of my friends were not sold on the idea though since you would essentially have to pay for it through payroll deductions.  I ended up buying a week and it was well worth it.  In the grand scheme of things, one week of unpaid vacation is going to increase my happiness a lot more than what I would have gotten with an extra week’s worth of salary.

Obviously it’s a trade-off though and at a certain point you’re not going to want to trade that unpaid time off for less salary.  But I think that point is nowhere near 2 weeks time off.  I’m starting a new job in about a month and I already know that two weeks won’t be enough for me this year since I already have a couple small trips planned and I’m going to need 2-3 weeks off just for my wedding/honeymoon.  I’m hoping that my new company will allow me to buy vacation days, otherwise I’m going to have to request a lot of unpaid time off.

I’m not sure how other companies are but it seemed like there was a certain stigma to unpaid time off at my last employer.  Unpaid time off required you to get your boss’ approval and your manager’s approval and since it was such a huge hassle, most people never bothered.

Vacation on the Four Hour Work Day

The great thing about working for yourself and being your own boss is that you can take vacation time whenever you want.  I have firefighter friends who schedule a bunch of 24 hour shifts in a row and then they get two or three weeks off!  That’s pretty similar to the situation that I’m in right now since I can load up on work whenever I want.  Although I won’t get paid if I go on vacation and choose not to work, I can still make up the hours after or before my trip.  That gives me the flexibility to pretty much take as much time off as I want.

I’m not sure where two weeks of vacation came from but I know it’s not enough for me.  It’s not that I need to take extravagant vacations all the time, but I do love not working.  I enjoy seeing new places, trying new foods and meeting new people.  A lot of my traveling is even done in the US since there are so many great places to see around the country like national parks and beaches that are completely free or very affordable.

I actually don’t mind working a few hours when I’m on vacation as long as I like my job.  I know most people take vacation to get away from their job but when you’re only working four hours a day anyways, what’s there to get away from?  Once you’ve aligned your passion with a viable business, your job will become less like work and a lot more like fun.

Readers, what do you think about the vacation that your day job gives you?  Would you prefer the vacation freedom that working for yourself provides or is the trade-off not worth it?

-Harry @ the Four Hour Work Day

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I'm Mr. 4HWD, I started this site because I think everyone should be able to work at a job they enjoy and still have time to do all the fun stuff. I don't want to retire early, I want to work four hours a day on the things I love for the rest of my life.

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  1. says

    Holy Molly, just two weeks of vacation out of the whole 52-week year!? That seems awfully little! And still some people fail to take the break…
    There is definitely a case to be made for running ones business and having it aligned with your passions. Most of the times you end up not needing the breaks, because you are working on a labor of love and it never does feel like work, its more like play. And still, one can pack their bags anytime and go enjoy a relaxing holiday :)

    • says

      Haha yea depressing isn’t it? I couldn’t imagine using less than 2 weeks. You’re right though, I think the freedom of running your own business is what’s nice since like you say you have the ability to take vacation any time you want. Sometimes that in itself is better than vacation.

  2. says

    In Australia it is law the employer has to give you 4 weeks every year. My dad was/is one of those who just lets it accrue. Here’s the crazy thing, in Aus, you get paid loading to take your holidays. At one of my ex husbands jobs it was an extra 17% he got paid when he took his holidays, but he never took them. I had to book holidays and tell him he needed to take xyz dates off.

    Me, I like working for myself as I love what I do and it doesn’t feel like work. I holiday as I please and have much more flexible arrangements.

    • says

      Wow I think I might have to move to Australia! Haha that sounds awesome though.

      Since I’ve been working for myself the past 3 months I’m exactly like you are. I’ve taken a couple short vacations here and there, but I love what I’m doing right now and I don’t feel the need to vacation. Like you mention, it’s very nice just having the flexibility to take holidays as you please.

  3. says

    I am in the engineering industry as well. In Canada, most employees start off with three weeks paid vacation + holidays. I have used up every last hour of my vacation since I started working; I’ve even took time off without pay one year to travel. Personally, I am in the mindset that more paid time off = productivity. Companies like Netflix and Evernote offer unlimited vacation to their employees and apparently it works really well for everyone.

    • says

      Cool that’s awesome, I knew a few friends who’ve worked for Bombardier :)

      I think unlimited vacation would be pretty cool and at least that way I wouldn’t feel like I had to use it all up. I would just use however much I need – probably 2-4 weeks in most years. When you only get 2 weeks, it feels like you have to use it and I could see how more vacation would increase productivity like you mention.


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