No Money for Raises This Year? Ask for Bonus Vacation Days (Part I)

Whether your employer is profitable or not, do you find them stingy when it comes time to give out raises and performance bonuses?  Are they oblivious about what they must do to retain top talent like you?

Have you been told not to expect a raise this year despite the fact that you were given above average performance reviews all year long?  Being told that you would have been given a larger increase in salary if the company could afford it is hard to hear.  However if you value time over money like we do here at VacationCounts, you still have a valuable option on the table.  What if you ask your employer for bonus vacation days as a reward instead of a raise?  This is not only possible, but the perfect opportunity to improve your work-life-vacation balance.

Time Off From Work is Worth More Than Money (Time is Money Scales)

Are You a High Performing Employee?

The first question you have to ask yourself is whether your performance over the last few review periods was “exceeds expectations” or a similar high level of achievement.  As the end of the year approaches many employees are being told that only select staff members are up for salary increases this year and you are not likely to be one of those fortunate individuals.

If your performance was above average compared with your peers and your personnel file (real or word-of-mouth) is full of praise, you have every reason to ask for some form of recognition that is both valuable to you and affordable to your employer.

Is Vacation Time Worth More Than Money?

The next question to ask yourself is whether you value days off from work more than a salary increase.  Are you making enough money but lack enough paid time-off from work to realize your vacation goals?  This question is the most difficult since most of us can benefit from more dollars in our paychecks (we always find some way to spend it).

As our culture tends to value money over time as a rule, this can be a challenging financial roadblock to overcome especially when retirement is years off in the future.  My advice is that once you have made the decision to find a way to take more time off from work, make an equally important decision to ignore the dollars and cents temptation occurring in your head.

Yes of course a bigger paycheck means that you can afford more expensive vacations, but what if you could take more or longer vacations?  What is that worth to you and your wishes for worldwide travel, family time, and opportunities for enrichment activities?

Calculating the Value of Vacation Time

Now that you buy into the notion that vacation days are like money and maybe even worth more than money, it is time to approach your manager or HR department.  Let’s see if you can work some vacation magic.  The next step is to determine how many days to request. It must be a number that is fair and equitable to your employer.  Here is the simple formula I devised for this purpose:

Calculating the Value of Your Pay versus Vacation Days

1. Calculate how much you earn for each full day of work

Annual salary / 52 / 5 is sufficiently accurate for most full-time employees

2. Divide that number into the amount of your expected raise

> You earn $55,000 annually and in a good year based on performance deserve a 2.5% raise equal to $1,375
> You currently earn $212 per working day ($55,000 / 52 / 5)
> Taking $1,375 and dividing by $212 yields approximately 6 days (always round down)

3. Divide the number of days from Step 2 in half to come up with the total number of bonus vacation days to request instead of a raise this year

Why half?  The math reflects the simple fact that a vacation day is still a liability on the company books even though you only get paid extra (on top of your regular salary) if you quit your job before taking those extra days off.  If the bonus vacation days were not discounted, they would have the same value on paper as a raise and therefore be potentially just as costly to your employer.  I also divide by half since a paid day off is one for which you are paid while not working.  So it offers double value to you and should cost half as much to your employer.  Does my fuzzy math sound reasonable to you?  Use my vacation math or make up your own!

Next Steps

Now comes the time to convince your manager that you deserve a raise.  This is hopefully the easy part!  Your request for additional vacation days instead of additional salary is better for your work-life balance and the budgetary constraints at your organization.  Now you will run into some opposition since it is rare for an employee to ask for more vacation days.  Your manager may balk at your request at first since it is outside of company norms.  Most employees just wait until they work at their employer long enough to qualify for an additional week of vacation.

Therefore in Part II, I will discuss how to sell this concept to your employer and overcome objections to what will be considered an unusual but justifiable request.

Given that you are a top employee and your employer is in agreement that you deserve a small increase in salary over last year, turning this opportunity into more time off from work is a matter of following through with what is a win-win solution.

Click to read the conclusion of this article – No Money for Raises This Year? Ask for Bonus Vacation Days (Part 2/2)


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