How to Move to a 3-Day Work Week (or, Operation Freedomize)

by | Dec 18, 2016 | Finance | 17 comments

Move to a three-day work weekThe other day Sporty calculated that she’d been working in the animation and post-production industry for the past 31 years. Holy guacamole, that’s a long time! What even were they animating back then?

Sayonara Full-time Job

At the end of September, after years and years of wishing and dreaming and hoping, she finally took the plunge and quit her job.

It was a little nerve wracking knowing that we were giving up her Big Bucks salary, but the alternative was even worse. Because while she enjoyed the creative and people side of her job, as a whole the advertising industry was getting her down.

On a daily basis she had to deal with demanding clients and ridiculous deadlines. There was also the matter of our minimalist lifestyle to consider, one that’s very much at odds with the consumer-driven industry she was working in.

Preparing to Take a Leap of Faith

Ultimately, if you’re not happy and your heart’s not in it then you need to move on. But how?

It’s all good and well to say you should take a leap of faith, but you still have to be practical else how will you pay the bills, keep a roof over your head and feed yourself? Not to mention fund your all-important coffee habit.

Without realising it, we’d actually set the wheel in motion way back in 2008 when we first downsized so dramatically. Because it was on the back of that that we made the decision to fix our very broken finances and demolish our debt.

Fast-forward to 2016 and we’re in a pretty decent place financially. The debt is long gone and our investments and nest egg are all growing nicely.

Move to a three-day work week

Create a Test Budget

A year ago we decided to create a test budget to figure out the least we needed to earn that would allow us to work less hours, but still maintain a moderately decent lifestyle. Downsizing your lifestyle is key if you’re to have any hope of escaping the cubicle, as we discovered the hard way in 2015 (click through to the above link to find out what I mean by ‘hard way’).

We started by researching apartments to get an idea of the lowest monthly rent we could get away with. This was also when we decided to embark on our latest lifestyle experiment and rent unfurnished.

Next we looked at our other expenses to see where we could reduce them. Savings was a no-go zone, so we found other areas to cut back. For example, we used to buy a lot of superfoods to supplement our plant-based diet, however they’re by no means essential to our health so we ditched most of them.

We also halved our monthly pocket money allowance, because truth be told we spend the majority of that money on sweets and snacks anyway, so rather add it to our savings account. We figured our waistlines would thank us.

Assessing our monthly grocery bill, we identified a number of things we could do without and still not be at the ‘bread and water’ stage. Our thinking is that we need to find a balance between being frugal and still enjoying our lives.

With that in mind we made sure to keep our monthly ‘eating out’ allowance, although we did reduce it a little. After all, a girl’s gotta have the occasional indulgence at The Hungry Herbivore.

When our lease ran out in September it was with our new test budget in mind that we started looking for a new apartment. Our new place —which, was also the only apartment we looked at—is R300 less than what we allowed for. Winning.

Move to a three-day work week

Take the Damn Plunge Already

Sporty and I discussed the possibility of her resigning until the cows came home (and left again, and came back) and in the end decided that it was time to jump. Past experience has taught us that when you commit, Providence steps up.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. – William H. Murray

Start Where You Are

If you’re keen to untether yourself from your full-time job the first step is to assess where you are. If you have debt then paying it off must be your first priority. Having a kick-ass debt-demolishing budget is a non-negotiable when you’re on a mission to regain control of your finances. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you the exact same Excel spreadsheet Sporty created for us (hint: it’s wicked good).

Downsize

Is downsizing an option? Maybe you live in a big money-sucker of a house like Mr 1500 or Claudia and Garrett from Two Cup House used to. Consider getting rid of it and buying or renting something much smaller. Yes, it’s less space, but it’s also less maintenance, less upkeep and less money on your monthly mortgage.

Save

Start focusing on saving like your life depends on it, because it does. Like we did, look at your monthly expenses and figure out where you can cut back. Commit to your new budget and stick to it no matter what. Yes, it’ll mean forgoing the occasional pizza and beer night out with friends. Set your sights on the second marshmallow and don’t let anything distract you from that goal.

Start a Side-Hustle

Consider starting a side-hustle to supplement your income. Even better, make it something you really enjoy so that it can become your full-time hustle when you finally untether yourself from your cubicle.

Move to a three-day work weekRead, Read and Read Some More

The best way to figure things out is by learning from others who are either still on the path or have already reached their goal of financial independence*. We found these books to be really helpful.

There are also a bunch of great FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) blogs out there. Some are people who are just documenting their journey to (and post) freedom online, while others are more robust and offer a ton of information on the subject.

Helpfully, Rockstar Finance put together a list of the best early retirement blogs out there.

*Financial independence can mean different things for different people. For Sporty and I it simply means we no longer rely on a job with a set monthly salary for our income. Instead we earn our money through various online efforts as well as from our investments.

Operation Freedomize

So Sporty went ahead and traded in her fancy full-time gig with its big fat pay cheque (and bucket loads of stress) for a mentoring/operations gig with less hours, less money and no stress. Pretty much a no brainer when you think about it.

I can honestly say, right now is the happiest we’ve ever been. We live in a small one room apartment, we own almost nothing, we commute on foot or by bus and aside from our respective three-day week jobs, our time is our own. Now the next step is to un-cubicle ourselves completely.

Onwards to Operation Freedomize.

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17 Comments

  1. Susan

    Thanks, that was illuminating. I am so glad you are enjoying your new work life Sporty. A year or so ago I began reading some of the FIRE blogs and wondered if I would have liked to completely retire at an early age. I decided, no, probably not, but I would have liked to aim for part time working. I am so stupid, I never actually thought about it seriously. At the time I was single and it was so ingrained in me that if you had no family responsibilities you worked full time I never thought of it. Trouble is, the job I had at the time required a lot of commuting, a lot of overtime and was quite stressful. Also having done it for a while I was bored. Boredom and stress is a lethal combination! I solved it by moving out of London and I gradually over a period of time morphed into self employment and thence into part time working – which I enjoyed so much I wondered why I had not aimed for that years before! Ah well….. BUT I could have stayed in London, downsized my lifestyle and gone part time. I just never thought of it! On the whole, I am glad I moved away – it opened up lots of other possibilities. But still….. talk about closed thinking! That is one thing that blogs like this do – they open your mind to other possibilities. So thank you! (and I did manage to retire at 58 so I beat the system by two years or so!)

    Reply
    • Ang

      Hi Susan. Glad you liked it, although it sounds like your life is sorted these days anyway. Cool that you’re retired! You’re so right, boredom and stress doth not a cute couple make! From what I’ve heard from my London-based colleagues, it’s a seriously busy city, so I don’t blame you for moving. Do you miss it at all? 🙂

      Reply
      • Susan

        No, absolutely not. A lot of my friends had already moved on anyway, and I got to the point where I felt I was just working to pay the bills and pay the government its due! I really wanted to slow down and live a simpler life. I never had any debt (apart from my mortgage) but I had no savings either. I was always buying junk to “treat” myself – because of my boring life you understand! Once I had a way of life that suited I didn’t miss the “pacifiers” at all. I wonder if you and Sporty find the same? Once I had made up my mind to move I saved like crazy for a year. It was easy because there was a point to it, you know? Anyway, if I hadn’t moved I wouldn’t have met my husband! So that was certainly a lifestyle change!

        Reply
        • Saskia Busch

          I am absolutely loving the new work life, thank you Susan. Besides it being so much more relaxed, I am doing something I believe in and am passionate about 😉 As far as the “pacifiers” go, Ang and I have done away with a huge amount and we also do not miss them in the slightest. I think if you are happy in yourself and with your lifestyle, those things naturally fall away. I love the fact that you met your husband through making a change in your lifestyle. You opened that door!

          Reply
  2. Claudia @ Two Cup House

    Congrats on taking the leap! We’re so excited for you! 🙂

    Saskia, what work do you do these 3 days a week? Are you doing animation as a freelancer?

    Reply
    • Ang

      Thanks guys! We’re so excited about this next phase! Saskia is still in the animation industry, except now her role is more of a mentoring one. She’s training up a new producer and putting systems in place to ensure the company’s smooth running. Two of her favourite things! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Madeleine

    Inspiring story. My partner and I are currently looking to do the same thing. She will soon finish 20 years in a high stress job, and after a break look for something much more low-key and hopefully part-time. I’m voting for the local hardware shop – think of the staff discount! (the house is a renovator’s delight so this would be really useful). Being part time would allow her to paint our home and work in the garden – this means thousands of dollars we don’t have to earn to pay someone else to do it.

    Once the mortgage is paid off I can see myself going down to part-time too. I do love my work, but I put a high value on work done at home too – growing vegetables and fruit, making the things we need, having time to repair things, cooking fabulous food. Because my only debt is the mortgage I think we will manage the transition really well.

    Madeleine

    Reply
    • Sporty

      Hi Madeleine
      Apologies for the delay in response. We are both on holiday and have been having much fun just chillin’ 😉
      I am SO happy for your partner and also for you that part-time work is in both your futures.
      My job was crazy high pressure and the relief of not having that constant responsibility has been unimaginable!
      I did not realise how much I needed some time.
      Sounds like you have a plan and that is the best way to start. Congratulations and have a great 2017!

      Reply
  4. Justin

    What is the budget software used in the first picture? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Sporty

      Hello Justin
      That pic is a stock shot 😉
      Love
      Sporty

      Reply
      • Justin

        Bummer…I like the look of it! Yeah for better or worse I’m my family’s budget software as well 🙂

        Reply
        • Ang

          Every family needs one Justin! 😉 If you’re interested you can sign up for our newsletter and get a copy of Sporty’s kick-ass budget/debt-busting Excel spreadsheet. http://www.angelagayehorn.com/newsletter/

          Reply
        • Sporty

          Hey Justin, let me know if you have any questions 😉

          Reply
    • Ang

      Sporty is our family’s ‘budget software’ 🙂

      Reply
  5. Sam

    Hello there,
    That picture of the budget tables, is it what are you actually using for your financial budgets?

    I’m currently finding a good way to track my personal finance and i found that table is a good one for me to try?

    Do you mind to share it with me?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ang

      Hi Sam

      Sorry, it’s just a stock image that we used for the post. However, if you sign up for our newsletter you’ll receive Sporty’s kick-ass budget/debt-busting Excel spreadsheet.

      Cheers,
      Ang 🙂

      Reply
    • Sporty

      Hey Sam, let me know if you have any question 😉

      Reply

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