What is a Sabbatical?
Simply defined, a sabbatical is an extended period of time a person takes away from their professional duties.
I'm a cardiothoracic surgery PA & my husband is an orthopedic trauma sales rep. Here is what we did to plan to take off more than 6 months in 2021, how we started, the exact steps we took, and how it got us in the habit of saving more than we ever have before.
Reasons to Consider a Sabbatical
The Need to Recover from Burnout
After unexpectedly having to step away from working in healthcare due to severe burnout after the pandemic, my husband and I found ourselves completely taken off-guard.
Although we were as financially organized as what is considered normal for people our age when we realized that I needed to take a sabbatical from my job due to health reasons. This was the catalyst that forced us to become more financially streamlined than ever before.
It was scary at first, but once we got the hang of managing our money on only one income we were surprised at how long we could actually go without working with the proper planning.
Since then, I have written a guide with every tool I used to overcome healthcare burnout for good.
I used my sabbatical to heal, rest until it was redundant, learn habits to prioritize my wellbeing, and even dive into old and new hobbies like returning to playing the piano, writing blog posts, and trying my hand at indoor gardening. I would have never imagined myself as having a green thumb, but stepping away from work allowed me the bandwidth to explore new things, which was a lovely change from my life in CT surgery.
Seven months later with our finances dialed in for financial independence, I returned to work at a different gig as a PA in Cardiothoracic surgery instead of doing it as an independent contractor- in a new position.
This time my husband and I were able to save my entire paycheck, which then gave my husband the freedom to take his own sabbatical from being an Ortho Trauma Rep.
It gets even more interesting though!
My new gig ended up being a terrible match and I could not for the life of me- deal with the level of toxicity, explosive personalities & abuse.
Freedom to Walk Away From Situations That are No Longer in Alignment
Then while I worked and my husband stayed home on his sabbatical; I got pregnant.
It was only because of our financial cushion, I was able to confidently walk away from the most toxic job I’ve ever had.
It gave me the freedom & option to leave an awful situation & downshift my stress levels to accommodate our growing baby.
We had been trying for a while & our baby was so very wanted that I was not about to let anyone or anything get in the way of that.
Under any other circumstances being an expectant family without health insurance would have sent us into a complete panic- maybe even forcing me to stay in a soul-sucking job & keeping my husband burned out until he got sick.
But as with all things divinely timed- all of a sudden both of us were on sabbatical together. As it turned out it was the best thing that could have happened to us.
Thank God for our emergency fund.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be and we lost the baby but, since both of us weren’t working we were able to really support each other through that process. Grieving together, resting together & building ourselves back up together.
The loss definitely solidified our desire to be parents & It made us realize the importance of having more time and space to tend to what means most to us on our finite time on earth.
After working crazy hours- me in CT surgery and him in trauma, then working humane hours after dialing in our finances- All of a sudden 60 hour work weeks seemed a ridiculous standard to return to, given that we had figured out a way money-wise that we didn’t need to.
The best part is that we didn’t do anything crazy or special.
No, we're not rich, nor do our families help us financially.
No, we're not debt-free-YET- I still have student loans but were definitely taking advantage of the payment freeze in a few ways.
No, we aren’t extreme cheapskates who live in a tiny house and or/cut out all modern comforts and luxuries- not by a long shot.
No, we didn’t join a pyramid scheme that we’re going to pitch that you become part of our team at the end of this post.
We just got really intentional about using our money to fund our dream life now- not when we’re old.
Let me show you how we did it.
I also realize our privilege in being considered high earners when compared to most American Families. As a first-generation immigrant who knows poverty, adversity & the almost insurmountable adversity of getting a medical education & in more debt than any numbers I had ever seen in my bank account before then, I know firsthand how limited options can be.
Just as my single mother of 5, on welfare, section 8 & a minimum wage job did not have the option to walk away from her job, I appreciate the fact that not everyone will have the option to take a sabbatical immediately.
However, all of the principles I am about to share with you are valuable tools to help you create more clarity, peace & habits around your relationship with your money, & will give you the freedom to utilize your finances as a vehicle to fund the kind of life you dream of, no matter where you are on your financial journey.
When it comes to money mindset, implementing these financial habits have been instrumental in helping me to shift away from financial trauma, anxiety, fear, and survival mode, into building a financial defense against uncertainty that has allowed for more financial stability, peace & ease.
My hope is that by following these steps you too can utilize money as a unit of life energy that can allow you to make money moves away from survival mode & more towards intentional saving & spending as a way to cultivate more freedom, joy, and peace in your life.
6 Steps to Financially Plan for a Sabbatical
Isolating your Essential Expenses
The first thing we did when we abruptly had to go down to one income, my husband and I took a thorough inventory of all of our finances & options on the table to get a good idea of how much time we could actually survive on one income.
As the appointed CFO of our family, I spearheaded this.
To get an idea of what was absolutely necessary I started by fleshing out our expenses into 2 main categories: Essential Expenses & Non-Essential Expenses.
Under Essential Expenses, were only expenses that we absolutely needed for survival for just in case the poop hit the fan- purposes.
I asked myself: If the unimaginable happened- what is the monthly minimum amount of money we could comfortably survive with?
This is what our Essential Expenses looked like for us