How much will it cost to take a sabbatical?


Fancy taking some leave (but not of your senses)? If you haven’t been bitten all over by the travel bug, but you do feel exhaustively gnashed and numbed by the work bug, maybe it’s time you took a break. Not a long weekend in Epping Forest without your smartphone, but a proper escape. A semi-fling of caution to the wind – a sabbatical.

While you may want to stick to the true definition of its origins (a break or hiatus) and relax for three, six or even 12 months, many take the opportunity to travel, to experience new things or to try a new line of work. So what’s the plan and how do you pay for it? Can you do this financially? What’s your company’s policy? And what’s the likelihood of getting chucked off the career ladder in the latest round of management tomfoolery?

Some companies are very open to sabbaticals, some…well, let’s just say you take your chances

Many big companies are open to their staff taking a career break. HSBC, for example, offers unpaid leave for between three and 12 months at a manager’s discretion, provided you’ve worked there for at least five years and don’t work for an alternative employer (always small print with banks, huh?). John Lewis offers its partners six months of paid leave once they’ve clocked up 25 years. The chance of you swinging it with the boss are also higher in certain industries. Accountancy (eg, Ernst & Young have a formal flexible working policy) and technology (eg, Microsoft, Intel) often have well defined programs.

Even in tortuously competitive ad-land it’s possible to pull a long shift out of the office. Leading advertising agencies such as Mother recognise the importance of offering sabbaticals to retain the services of key staff. Yet size still matters. No three-man team is going to let 33.3 per cent of their workforce vanish while they pick up the pieces.

No such thing as a free lunch, and as for six months of lunches…

Assuming you get the nod, how much will you need? If you’re planning on staying at home and learning the flute, you’ll probably need to set aside money for the following fixed costs:

Average UK living costs – per person, per month:

Rent/Mortgage £500
Groceries £200
Utility Bills (electricity, gas, phones, internet) £100
Other fixed costs (home insurance, life policies etc) £50
Clothing £50
Travel (including commute) £220
Miscellaneous (eating out, entertainment, pampering etc) £50
Total £1,270


Grrr! You can see how it adds up. You should, however, be able to nip and tuck at some of these figures.

For example, you can probably shed:

Commuting £200
Lunch for work (@ £3 a day) £60
Monthly gym fees £50
Miscellaneous £100
Total £400


All of which leaves more money for new slippers and pipe as you plod around the house.

 But I want to travel the world

If you want to use the sabbatical to go abroad, you might well find yourself spending less per day than at home. Cut out commuting, Pret and pointless coffees, and you will have more to spend on meaningful things, such as bracelets in Goa.

If you have a mortgage and don’t mind staying in a fixed location abroad, consider a house exchange service such as HomeLink or Guardian Home Exchange. And if you rent, you can simply wait for your contract to come to an end, dump your Ikea sofa in your parents’ attic and head for the hills.

How much you’ll need for travel depends, of course, if you’re planning on hopping round flea-ridden backpacker bunks or staying only in five-star hotels. As a rough rule of thumb, however, you can get a decent round the world plane ticket for between £860 and £1,600 (depending on how many stops you make) and get by on between £20 and £50 per day per person. You’ll also have to budget for visas and vaccinations.

The best budget breakdown we could find online was by a chap called Dave who spent $35,029 on a 15-month trip round the world.  In an impressively pedantic spreadsheet, he broke down the cost per day per county. Here is a quick breakdown by continent, with prices per day in US dollars.

Oceania and South Pacific $103
Asia $54
Africa $81
Europe $81
South America $44


It should perhaps be pointed out that his African costs were disproportionately high as he went on a safari and bought new binoculars, trainers and Oakley sunglasses.

 Pay your way

Travelling doesn’t have to mean leaky wallets the whole way. Teaching English as a foreign language may give you 1,200 euro a month in Europe, up to $2,000 a month or more in Taiwan, and up to double that in the Middle East. Working in a bar regularly nets 1,500-2,000 euro in Europe, while nannies might get about £1,000 a month and free accommodation.

It’s also worth noting that you may be due a tax rebate if you take six months off unpaid.

A final thought

Some of the financial implications might not be so readily tangible – such as getting leap-frogged in the career chain. But if you are extraordinarily worried about that kind of thing, you probably won’t be considering a sabbatical anyway.

And in any case, your career break may have more profound meaning. You might want to volunteer for a charity, cram in some study for a new work path or try out a job for free to see if it’s for you. There are certain things you can’t put a price on if it tugs at your heart more than your pocket. After all, one day we’ll all shuffle off to that permanent sabbatical in the sky

So if you have the inclination, make it a plan.


Risk warning: as with all investment, your capital is at risk.

Sabbatical Infographic

Jono Hey

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