Starting from mid-March, Sam and I have decided to change our lives completely. We’re working towards ‘lifestyle careers’ where we plan to work less and live more and we’ll both be working with a 4-day weekend.
Just excuse me while I go and do a happy dance in the corner for a few minutes!! I can’t even type those words without smiling.
Keep reading to find out more and and see how you can work a 3-day week too!
[You’ll notice this post was written in 2018. There is an update sharing how we’re doing with our 4-day weekend in 2021 at the end of this post.]
What is a lifestyle career and how can you work a 3-day week?
A lifestyle career is basically where you make your career fit around your life, rather than your life fit around your career. It’s where you spend the majority of your time doing what you love with the people you love, rather than spending the majority of your time at work with your colleagues (or working alone in my case!)
Why do we spend 40-50 hours every week working at jobs to earn more money to buy more things we don’t have time to enjoy because we’re always at work? And then buy a bigger house so we need to work more to buy more things to put in the house, the house we’re only in to eat and sleep in between shifts at work?
We work our arses off simply to pay for all this stuff, but one day you sit down and realise that all this stuff doesn’t actually make you happy…so what’s the point?
And we do most of this when we’re in our prime and when we have young families that need our attention.
While I’m in my prime, I want to be having fun and enjoying my life, not spending most of my life working.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my work and I feel so grateful to call this blog my career. But like any career, it’s still work.
For the past two years, Sam and I have spent a small fortune paying for our kids to go to nursery so we can go to work, which means we have to work more and send them to nursery more to pay the nursery bills. Wtf. Seriously!? Wtf.
I don’t want to live like this and this is a feeling I’ve had for a while now but I wasn’t really sure how to get out of the cycle.
We thought about Sam working with me on The Travel Hack and this seemed like a good option until we took a family blog trip together and spent the entire trip working and bickering about working and bickering about who should be looking after the kids while we were working. It wasn’t fun for anyone!
Travel blogging might seem like one long holiday but there’s actually a lot of behind-the-scenes work that sucks up your time. While blog trips are a lot of fun, they’re also a lot of work and Sam felt like he was just swapping one job for another.
Sam and I gave up on the idea of being a blogging couple and went back to normal, but I still couldn’t get the idea out of my head. The idea that we’re working to pay for a lot of stuff we really don’t need.
What would happen if we got rid of all the stuff we don’t need?
I sat down and looked at our expenses and realised we could easily cut back our monthly expenses by about £1,600. Yes, really. I’m going to do an entirely separate blog post about this because it shocked me too. We’re not exactly rich so this seemed like a crazy amount.
And I’m not talking about selling our house and living in a tent and eating like mice and never socialising again. These are all expenses we could happily live without and still have the great life we lead. Admittedly, a big chunk of these expenses is childcare so once we cut back on childcare we can see a huge difference to our finances.
If we cut back by this much each month, we could both cut back on the amount of work we do…which led to the whole lifestyle careers idea.
How do we plan to build our lifestyle careers?
To begin with, Sam is going to work less and I’m going to work more flexibly to give us 4-day weekends together as a family.
Sam is cutting down his hours to work three days a week. He’ll work Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and have a 3 day week and a 4-day weekend. For reference, Sam is a plumber/gas engineer and also does a lot of building work for my dad who runs a building firm. People have joked that working for his father-in-law must make it easier but, to be honest, I don’t think it makes any difference. My dad probably is a bit softer with Sam but he mostly treats him like any other employee.
Things are a little different for me because I can basically work whenever and wherever I have internet connection. And my definition of ‘work’ is also a bit hazy. I mean, a 4-day holiday to Paris is technically work so my boundaries are always going to be a little blurry.
For the past few years I’ve been working on The Travel Hack like it’s a normal 9-5 but I really don’t need to do this, especially because I’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make sure most of my blogging income is passive income – meaning it’s mostly automated and I don’t need to do much to keep it ticking over.
I’m going to do my best to enjoy the 4-day weekend and spend those 4 days with Sam and the boys. There might be the rare occasion I need to be elsewhere but I’m hoping it’ll be rare!
The boys will go to nursery on Tuesday and Thursday mornings which gives me 10 hours a week to get the bulk of my work done, but I also plan to work more during the evenings. By ‘work’ I usually mean writing these blog posts, editing videos and replying to emails.
I used to do all my blogging work in the evenings but I stopped when we had Joseph, our second son. I was too tired to work after dinner and it meant I didn’t spend any time with Sam so I slowly got out of the habit. I didn’t beat myself up about it, we had two children under two and I was proud of myself just for getting out of the house each day, but things are much easier now they’re a little older. And if Sam and I have those 4-day weekends together, I won’t feel bad about not seeing him in the evenings.
Read more: Is it worth starting a blog in 2020 and other blogging questions!
What are we going to do with our 4-day weekends?
We haven’t got a set plan just yet but we’re hoping to spend the majority of the summer around Wales. We live on the border of North Wales so it’s the perfect place for a weekend trip – nice and close but once you’re in the depths of the countryside you feel like you’re a million miles from home.
You may remember we bought a caravan last year and we’ll be leaving this in the seaside town of Abersoch for the summer, so we’ll have a sort of base by the sea for the whole summer which is pretty exciting.
What does this mean for The Travel Hack?
There’s not going to be a huge change for blog because it makes no difference to you guys if I’m writing my posts at 10am or 10pm, this actual blog won’t change that much. But with Sam working less we will have much more time to travel as a family so there will be more family travels appearing on the blog.
I have a rough plan until the end of the summer and I’ll basically just be blogging about our long family weekends. We might go away, we might stay at home, we might be around Wales or we might be closer to home around Chester, Liverpool or Manchester. I just want to document our weekends in a really fun and authentic way and capture the special memories we make and share them on the blog. There’ll be the same mix of travel tips and advice with some personal posts and more family lifestyle kind of posts too.
I spend A LOT of time each week working on behind the scenes stuff you guys never actually see and I’m planning to cut most of this out. It’s mostly brand collaboration stuff, writing for other blogs, pitching for work, meetings, networking etc. I’m basically going to do a lot less of this stuff which means less brand work and fewer sponsored collaborations. It means less money for me but it’s going to be nice to get back to a simpler way of blogging. This will be like blogging way back in 2010 when I just did something fun and blogged about it purely to capture the memories.
But like everything in life, nothing is forever so we’re just playing it be ear. If it doesn’t work out and we have absolutely no money then we can go back to normal. If we’re enjoying spending more time as a family and travelling more together then we’ll do more. We’re hoping that eventually we’ll get used to having less money from Sam’s income and he’ll be able to take bigger chunks of time off work so we can take bigger trips together. We’d love to spend a month or two in New Zealand and Sam is desperate to have a few ski trips next year.
We’ll never be a nomadic family but I’m hoping 2018 and 2019 will be a big year of travel for us!
Update from 2021
So how have we been getting on with our 4-day weekends and how has it changed as our family has grown and during the Covid-19 pandemic?
We continued with this structured 4-day weekend for about a year and it was the best. It gave us so much freedom and flexibility. I particularly loved having Sam more involved with the childcare and not feeling like I was 100% responsible for the kids.
In 2019 we decided it was time to have a third baby and also extend our house to accommodate our growing family. As Sam is a builder, he did 90% of the building work himself and have a 4-day weekend was amazing. He built a 3-story extension in less than 9 months! Of course, it was really hard for him because he was working on our house during his ‘weekend’ and then going to work but it did mean we saved an absolute fortune and got it all over and done with really quickly.
Read more: What’s it like having 3 kids?
And: My big house renovation and extension Q&A
We started 2020 with a new plan – Sam would work full time during school term time and take the majority of the school holidays off.
By 2020, George (5) had started school and Joseph (3) qualified for 30 free hours of childcare so he was also doing a full school day at nursery. This meant we were restricted by the school week and we couldn’t make the most of our 4-day weekends. Sam and I often found ourselves sat at home twiddling our thumbs and waiting for George to finish school so we decided it was now best for Sam to go back to work full time.
And then Covid hit! And wow, what a good decision it was for Sam to go back to working full time because all of my work in the travel industry dropped off a cliff! Sam went back to working as much as possible while I was at home with the kids.
Read more: Our lockdown routine, homeschooling and working from home with 3 kids
We’re 4 months into 2021 and we’re basically just taking it one day at a time! Who knows what will happen over the next few months!?
Sam is still working full time which has been a god send with my drop in earnings during the pandemic. I’m sure he’ll take a big chunk of the summer holidays off to spend at our caravan.
I’m currently working 2 mornings per week and I’m hoping to increase this. It’s funny because at the start of this post written in 2018 I was talking about how I want to work less and spend more time with the kids – and after a full year with the kids and virtually no work at all, all I want to do is work! I’d love to put Alba in nursery full time and just focus on my work!
I think this just shows that it’s all about balance and flexibility and having the opportunity to find the right balance for you. The balance will change over time and it might even change from month to month but it’s so nice to have that flexibility.
Having the option to be flexible
The nice thing about our lives at the moment is that we can still choose exactly what we want to do. If I wanted to work full time next month then I could. I could put Alba in nursery and hibernate in my office for a month and focus on my work. And then the month after I could go back to working a couple of mornings each week. Then take a month off completely and then go back to working full time. Nothing has to be forever and you can just make it work for your family at the time.
Experiencialism: What is it and how it can lead to a happier life
Wednesday 3rd of June 2020
[…] is the first book I read about lifestyle careers and it all about building a flexible career that fits around your life, rather than fitting your […]
The Monday Edit: Filming with The Gadget Show and two exciting holidays! - The Travel Hack
Monday 5th of March 2018
[…] March not only marks a change in the weather but it also marks the start of a new work/life balance for Sam and I. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find out more about our new chapter and how we’re changing our lifestyles to make more time for family and less time for work! […]
Wednesday 7th of February 2018
I loved reading this Monica and wish you and Sam all the best with your work/life rebalance. It's crazy that when you lay it all out there it's so obvious and yet the majority of us do exactly what you describe, trade our time for money to buy things we don't need.
My husband and I are on a similar path to you and I cannot wait to reclaim more of my time.
Monday 5th of February 2018
This sounds amazing, I hope I can do something similar one day! I'm looking forward to more posts about the fam as they're super interesting and helpful. We're still in the rat race at the moment but I'm hoping its not forever, so I'd love to see how it works out for you guys and it a year's time show my husband this blog to convince him we should do the same! Haha!
Monday 5th of February 2018
I really hope it all works out for you Monica. It sounds like the perfect move for both you and Sam, especially with two kids. I agree about living in the moment and enjoying experiences rather than always spending on money on materialistic things that we think make us happy.