How Much Does a Sabbatical Cost?

If you’ve ever wished to take a break from your career, a sabbatical may be the right choice for you.

But how do people cope financially without a regular income?

You’ll be pleased to know that it is possible, with careful planning.

Want to get your savings for a sabbatical underway?

Here’s our step-by-step guide to get you financially prepared for your extended leave.

What is a sabbatical?

The definition of a sabbatical is “an extended period of leave from work”. It’s also known as an “adult gap year” and can last anywhere from a couple of months to up to one year or more (known as an extended sabbatical).

People take sabbaticals to travel the world, study or simply enjoy some rest and relaxation at home.

Things to do before taking a sabbatical

There are lots of things to consider before taking extended time off work.

We break each area down into manageable pieces to help you tick off what you need to do.

1.Find out if you’re eligible to take a sabbatical

There are no laws in place regarding sabbatical leave, which means it is at your employer’s discretion to approve it. Some workplaces require that you work with the company for a certain amount of time before being considered for sabbatical leave. Speak to your HR department to find out whether extended leave for a formal sabbatical program would be considered and how much time the company will allow. A few companies even offer their employees on sabbatical a reduced salary to help relieve financial stress, known as an employee benefit.

2.Consider the financial implications

There are certain expenses that will stay the same during your sabbatical. The mortgage and utility bills will still need paying so it’s important to plan how these will be covered while you’re not receiving a regular paycheck. Will there be any additional finances to face during your sabbatical such as travel and accommodation? Will you need to pay someone to look after your pet? Other common monthly expenses include:

  • Cellphone  bills
  • Health insurance
  • Debt repayments
  • Subscriptions and memberships

3.Save, save, save

The more money you save prior to your sabbatical, the less financial pressure you will be under. If you’re lucky enough to already have a big savings pot, ask yourself how much you want to have left at the end of your extended leave.

4.Budget

When you’re not earning regular money, it’s even more important to ensure that you don’t run out of cash before your sabbatical ends. Not having enough money to cover time off work could result in debt and added interest which will take longer to pay off. A sabbatical calculator can help you figure out how much your leave will cost you.

There are various budgeting methods that will help you save for a large financial decision such as a sabbatical. The most effective ones include:

  • The 60 40 budget –  The majority of your income will go towards essential spending such as mortgage payments and bills while a significant 40th is put into a savings account.
  • If the 60 40 budget doesn’t suit your financial situation, try the 70 30 so more money is used to cover expenses but a good amount is used to put aside for saving.
  • Envelope budgeting system –  assign spending categories to each envelope, then determine the amount of cash you need to allocate to that envelope to cover expenses. You can set the amounts, which is a great way to put more towards saving than other spending areas.

How much does a sabbatical cost?

Ultimately, what you decide to do with your time when you’re not working will impact how much a sabbatical costs.

Let’s look at a few examples of how you might spend time off and the costs associated with each one.

Travelling

If you’re going to take the plunge and spend your sabbatical travelling the world, it could cost you between $20,000 to $30,000, which works out at approximately $2,000 a day. Of course, there are much cheaper adventures that you can go on, but you’ll still need to plan and budget regardless of the destination.

Write down the one-off travel booking costs that you will need to pay for when travelling. Even if you don’t know exact prices, estimating will give you a rough idea and help you plan. Flights, travel insurance, visas and any new items that you may need to take with you are all examples of one-off travel costs.

Where possible, book and pay for these costs in advance when you’re still earning a regular salary to ease the financial pressure once your sabbatical starts.

Next, you need to create a budget to cover the daily costs of living whilst travelling.

Research accommodation options before you leave to get a good idea of how much it will cost to stay in your destinations. If you’re on a tight budget, hostels and shared living accommodation are wallet-friendly places to consider. Some facilities will offer meals as part of your stay, which is a great way to cut back on the price of eating out while travelling.

Once you’ve reached your destination, you need to plan the most cost-effective way to explore. Walking, E scooters, bicycles, Tuk-tuks and the underground are cheaper transport options that are also great fun to experience.

Eating out is likely to be one of your biggest expenses while travelling. Do some research on the cost of food in the country that you’re visiting to decide on a daily food budget. Lonely Planet travel guides are a worthwhile resource to help you plan your adventure. If you have cooking facilities in your accommodation, try to make yourself at least one meal a day. It’s surprising how much money you could save by doing this. When shopping for ingredients, choose seasonal and native items to lower the cost of your food bill.

A rough plan of what you want to do on your trip will help determine how much money you need. For example, visiting beaches and hiking will cost you hardly anything compared to doing city tours, cruises or festivals. Make a list of the activities you want to do and research approximate costs. This will give you a budget for attractions and entertainment. You can often save money by booking activities in advance online. Consider buying a tourist card to get access to discounts and offers on tourist attractions.

Everyone loves a souvenir to give to a loved one or proudly display it in your home to remind you of your time travelling. Even though you won’t know how much gifts will cost, set aside an amount of money that you’d be happy to spend on souvenirs to prevent you from overspending.

Lastly, don’t forget to budget for emergencies. You could face a medical emergency or extra expense that you haven’t planned for. Instead of reaching for your credit card and incurring fees, put aside three days’ worth of living expenses to cover anything unexpected.

Learning new skills

Instead of travelling, you may decide to invest in yourself during your sabbatical. Whilst the cost of this will be considerably lower than flying around the world, there are still fees to consider.

Course fees – these will vary considerably depending on whether you want to study for a university degree or adult education courses. It is possible to study for free though. Research classes in your state to see what’s available.

Equipment – books, stationery and technology are essential items that all students will need to invest in for their studies. If you plan to study at home you may also need a desk and chair so you can comfortably learn. Your college or university should provide you with a list of essential equipment that you will need for the course so that you can research prices and budget.

Travel – from daily travel costs to studying abroad, location will play a huge part in determining how much you will need to budget for travelling to your place of study. If you’re staying local, research the most cost-effective way to reach your destination. Studying abroad will also trigger accommodation and living costs.

Start a business

Starting a business requires planning, time and dedication, three things that you will have during extended leave from your main job. But it also costs money. We run through the average start-up costs for a small business to help you figure out how much cash you will need to get your business venture running.

Typical costs that you can expect to have as a new business include:

  • Website hosting and maintenance costs
  • Office or warehouse rental
  • Basic office supplies
  • Payroll for employees
  • Technology
  • Licencing, insurance and permit costs
  • Marketing

The exact price of the above expenses will vary depending on your location, the size of your company and your business model. However, experts suggest that it could cost between $30,000 and $40,000. It’s best to start small to prevent overspending until your business is turning a good profit.

Want to start a business with no cash? It is possible to start a freelance or online business with little or no start-up costs. Freelance writers and influencers can make a full-time salary without investing any money if those are your areas of interest and expertise.

Save money on business start-up costs by:

  • Choosing low-cost advertising alternatives such as YouTube videos, social media and a company website rather than traditional costly methods.
  • Outsource work to independent contractors rather than hire employees.
  • Negotiate prices with vendors and your landlord.
  • Use telecommuting where possible.  

Do nothing

Employee burnout and work-related stress can affect a huge number of employees. Sometimes, people just need a break so they can return to work feeling energized and stress-free.

Whilst this is the most cost-effective way to spend extended leave, you’ll still have your monthly costs to cover. Plus, you may want to treat yourself to a spa day or golfing day which will need factoring into your sabbatical budget.

How to save money for a sabbatical

Now you’ve planned your budget, it’s time to look at how you can start saving today. These cost-saving tips are an effective way to free up some cash while you’re not earning. The money you save can be added to your sabbatical fund.

Reduce your outgoings

As soon as you’ve decided to take a sabbatical, you can start saving immediately by reducing costs or eliminating them completely. Take a close look at your monthly expenses and highlight the areas that you spend the most on. Common areas of spending include:

Eating out – whilst dining out or ordering a takeout may be one of your favourite things to do on the weekend, they can be pricey. Switch to home-cooked meals and prep ahead for the week so you won’t have to cook from scratch when you get home from work.

Grocery shopping – instead of choosing your nearest grocery store, shop around to find the cheapest prices in your area. Sign up to store newsletters to take advantage of special offers and promotions.

Subscriptions – it’s easy to forget about monthly subscriptions that you’ve signed up for but no longer use. Food boxes, magazines and gym memberships are amongst the most popular subscriptions in America. Cancel yours and consider free alternatives such as renting or online classes instead.

Utility bills – comparison sites are a great way to cut your cost of living. Bills will vary from state to state, but always negotiate with your current supplier or switch to a cheaper provider.

Start a side hustle

Side hustles are a great way to save for a large financial decision such as giving up your income for a period of time to take a sabbatical. Here are a few to consider that can be done in your free time.

Teach English online: teaching English to children is a popular and rewarding side hustle that anyone can do. Platforms such as VIPKID allow you to sign up and start earning regular money on the side.

Blog: you don’t have to invest any money in a blog to set it up or start making money from it. Gaining regular followers and promoting your posts on social media will allow you to broaden your reach and attract people who are interested in what you write. You will earn money from your blog through affiliate marketing and sponsored social media posts.

Do transcription work: listening to audio and video recordings and transcribing them into text isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great way to earn money. It can be done anywhere and at any time, making it a flexible working opportunity for people who want to make an extra bit of money.

Planning a sabbatical

Whichever way you plan to spend your sabbatical, add up all of the estimated costs to get a final number so you won’t run out of money or be hit with any unexpected costs.

Ideally, this is the amount you will have saved before your leave starts. Alternatively, break the figure down into monthly instalments to find out how much you will need to cover each month.

If you want to find out more ways to save money, visit our library of articles for the latest advice and tips.

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