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I Don’t Get Vacation Time as a Freelancer. Here’s How I’m Coping in 2024

As of last month, I have officially been a full-time freelancer for a full year. I began freelancing alongside a more traditional W-2 job that offered the types of benefits we all expect from full-time white-collar jobs.

For example, I had subsidized health insurance coverage through my employer, and when I left that job, I was in for a surprise when I went to to see how much a self-funded marketplace plan would cost me. The same goes for how complicated my tax situation has become: I’ve opted to hire a tax professional instead of trying to file my returns myself through tax software, but it’s still a new added expense.

But perhaps the biggest obstacle for me as a freelancer (and indeed, small business owner) has been accepting that I need to take time off from time to time, and I would no longer have paid vacation provided by my employer. Luckily, I came up with a solution.

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Save money here and there

I’m writing this after returning home from a much-needed vacation (and I was even recovering from surgery at the beginning of the trip). I can no longer pretend that I am some kind of superwoman who doesn’t need to disconnect from work and recharge from time to time; the proof is in the pudding (I slept better on vacation than on years).

I admit, however, that the prospect of receiving some smaller paychecks as a result of working fewer hours makes me nervous (and given the time I spent in a low-paying career living paycheck to paycheck, this isn’t all that surprising). ). So, near the end of 2023, I hatched a plan.

I did some math and came up with a dollar figure that represented a few full days of work at my regular hourly rate, and I spent the last two months of 2023 accumulating that amount in my savings account. I knew this was just a starting point, and since meeting that initial savings goal before 2024 officially began, I’ve been able to contribute several hundred more dollars to my “PTO Fund.” I hope to add more, maybe $50 here, $100 there, until I can cover at least a full week’s payment from the fund. And best of all, I’m saving money that I’ve already taken out taxes, so I’ll be able to reimburse myself for time off without worrying about owing Uncle Sam.

My high-yield savings account makes it easier

My vacation fund is an example of how leaning on the right bank account can make your life easier. I opened a high-yield savings account at an online-only bank almost two years ago and have come to really love that account. I can create up to 30 subaccounts within my main account, which has allowed me to save for quarterly tax payments (independent living!), buying a house in 2024, and vacations like the one I just returned from.

When I decided to save this money, I created a new subaccount, set an initial goal, and started saving. My bank sends me emails updating my progress and I even get a “congratulations” email when I reach a savings goal. It’s all very encouraging, and if you’re struggling to save money, having this kind of extra motivation could help you too. Plus, my bank has a great mobile app, so I can check my PTO fund anytime I want, from anywhere.

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All things considered, I love being a freelancer: I make my own hours, I choose my own work, and leaning into this style of working has given me the kind of financial success I’ve never had before. The lack of paid vacation is definitely a drawback though, so I’m really glad I was able to do this for myself. If you have a similar work situation, I recommend making it a priority – your future self will thank you.

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