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Going Part-Time: How to Afford Cutting Back Your Hours

by Pat Katepoo

This article is an excerpt and adaptation from Flex Success: A Proposal Blueprint for Getting a Flexible Work Schedule, and the "Personal Issues" page of Work Option Inc's web site at

How Well Can You Afford Your Proposed New Work Arrangement?

Shortened work week, shortened work day and job sharing are attractive flexible work options for those seeking better work/family balance.

For many, the first reaction to considering working less than full time is "How would we be able to afford it?"

Take the time to explore whether "We can't afford it" is an objective conclusion as opposed to an emotional response based on fear of the unknown. The following exercises will help.

Exercise 1:
First, determine the approximate reduction in take-home pay that corresponds with your planned reduction in hours. For example, if you plan a four-day work week, (80% of full time), figure approximately 20% reduction in take-home pay; a three-day work week (60% of full time), about a 40% reduction in take-home pay; and so forth.
Figure out what that dollar amount reduction would be on a monthly basis. Label that figure your "Monthly Savings Target."

Monthly Savings Target: $ ____________

Exercise 2:
Next, using your checkbook register, credit card statements, receipts and other records, examine your current expenses to figure ways to cut the Monthly Savings Target dollar amount from your monthly budget in order to meet your new, lower income level.
Start with those expense categories which may be cut back by virtue of your proposed new work schedule, i.e., child care, commuting, clothing and meals out.

Other areas of budget-trimming potential include family meals out, groceries (not less food, but more prudent food choices and careful buying practices), entertainment, vacation, transportation choices, gifts and toys. Also, consider delaying or down-sizing major purchases such as a new car, furniture or major appliances.

Financial adjustments are not a quick and easy step, but a critical planning component. If budget planning and ways to reduce expenses are new topics for you, turn to the extensive resources at your library and bookstore to walk you through the process. One I recommend for building a spending plan is The Financial Planning Workbook, A Family Budgeting Guide, by Larry Burkett. This and several other helpful resources are available by mail-order; call 1-800-722-1976.

A PHILOSOPHICAL NOTE: If you think about the personal motivators for attaining a flexible work arrangement it's likely that most of them are non-material or intangible; they yield emotional benefits that cost mainly time and energy, not money, right?

Currently, there is strong social and economic pressure to have two incomes in the household to maintain a comfortable living standard. Yet, as we are busy making a living, there is little time and energy for making a life of quality family relationships and activities. Now, many are responding to the trend to simplify one's lifestyle in order to enjoy the more meaningful aspects of life.

Many families can find some leeway to trade certain lifestyle expenses--at least for a while --for time with the family. Give serious thought to where you can make the emotional/financial trade-offs.

If you've determined that you CAN make the budget adjustments to match your proposed new income level, proceed to the next planning step, The Spousal Support Checklist.


For those with both a spouse and a plan to work less than full-time work, recognize that, as a marriage partner, your decision to change to less than full-time work is not an independent one.

It's important that you allow your spouse the opportunity to express personal opinions, concerns, and ideas about your plan. This communication process can help you develop the support and agreement you'll need for ongoing success.

The Spousal Support Checklist segment of Flex Success has 18 items from which to choose areas of discussion. To give you a communication starting point right now, here are samples taken from The Spousal Support Checklist.

  • We've discussed our feelings about family values and the kind of life we'd like to have for our family.

  • We've discussed the shift in values that may be necessary as we make financial adjustments.

  • We've worked out a household budget and spending plan that we both can agree to.

  • We've discussed whether or not my spouse might feel added pressures as the only full-time worker and how we might deal with it.

  • We've discussed the benefits and advantages of reducing my work schedule.

  • We've discussed how long I anticipate having a changed work schedule.

  • We've discussed how our long-term financial and professional goals might be affected by this change.

  • We've discussed expectations and changes related to household roles (e.g., housework, child care, bill paying, etc.).

  • To reach mutually agreeable terms, we've made modifications to my plan based on our discussions.

Copyright 1998 Pat Katepoo

To get lots of practical and detailed information on getting your boss to say "yes" to a flexible work arrangement, such as telecommuting, part-time, flextime, compressed work week or job sharing, visit the Work Options Inc web site at

Examples of what you'll find: How to Avoid Three Common Mistakes When Proposing a Flexible Work Arrangement; and How to Prepare for Objections Your Boss May Bring Up - Plus, the five common objections to expect, with a sample, scripted reply.

About the author: Pat Katepoo founded Work Options in 1993 to help individuals successfully arrange a flexible work schedule to get a better balance between work and family.

She is the author of the workbook-on-disk, Flex Success: A Proposal Blueprint for Getting a Family-Friendly Work Schedule. Promoting flexible work options since 1993, she has counseled hundreds of individuals directly and has reached thousands through her work as a consultant, counselor, speaker and writer. For more informtion, visit

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