This is my experience applying for a visa to live in France as the spouse of a French citizen. I realize this is a very “niche” topic, but for that reason I wasn’t able to find much information online to help me out when I […]
Montpellier, France is a wonderful place! Full of cobblestone streets, cafes, croissants, and almost too sunny for its own good, to me it’s a little slice of paradise. But, being a small town, isn’t particularly well connected (no direct flights here from Canada, for sure!) so […]
It’s common knowledge that working from home is more efficient than working from the office, right?
When you work remotely all the time, are you really more productive than working from an office?
It depends. What do you mean by being more productive?*
Is it getting more done per hour? Or getting more done overall? Do short-term productivity gains translate over the long haul? Is it different working for yourself vs working for an “employer”?
Say you usually work in an office. If you occasionally work one day from home, it can be amazing how much you get done and in how little time.
If we’re being honest, when I used to take an occasional work-from-home day, I would actually do all my work in 2 hours (ok, ok, more like 90 minutes) and spend the rest of the day watching TV and just checking my email so it would look like I was working.
Because there were less distractions at home, I got as much or more done than I would in an average day at the office, but in less hours. This is what I hear from most of my friends- when they work from home occasionally they are super productive and get everything done in less time.
Does this mean you can work 12 hours and get 4 days’ worth of work done in one day?
Maybe you’re superhuman and you can do this, but I can’t (or won’t). Maybe I could do it one day if I pushed for an important project, but for me, it isn’t sustainable.
The hours I actually work are super-productive, but it’s harder to clock as many hours.
It turns out, home also has distractions, just different ones.
Distractions at the office: Coworkers, coffee breaks, meetings, in-person requests (ie, interruptions), the internet.
Distractions at home: Family, pets, TV, wine, food, naps, chores, the internet.
Overall, for me, I think it means I maintain the same productivity as I would at the office, just in less time.
The difference is that my “distracted” hours are spent watching Netflix in my PJs, not in a 2-hour meeting.
So you have more choice about where and when to be distracted, and the distractions are more pleasant (unless you’re stuck watching What Happens in Vegas with your SO, in which case… I might have preferred the meeting!)
What about coworking spaces?
Yes, coworking spaces can be awesome for productivity. They’re like offices (other people working, desks, fewer fun distractions than home), without some of the distractions of offices (meetings, in-person requests).
They do have downsides though: you still need to commute there (that’s supposed to be one of the big advantages of working from home, right? No commute) and you still need to get your butt of your couch, lug your laptop there, find a seat, bring a lunch (sometimes) and stay off Reddit to get your work done.
In my experience, I log way less hours at the coworking space that I would at an office but more than I would at home. (Lots of bankers’ hours, 10am-4pm!) I do get more done overall.
So for me, coworking spaces are great but I wouldn’t want to go every single day.
What about cafes?
I HATE working in cafes.
Too often, we spend loads of time getting there, can’t find a plug, the wifi sucks, they don’t have proper tables… and then you end up spending more money on coffee and snacks that you would have spent for a coworking space. And then you only stay 2 hours.
Coworking space all the way! I’ve been converted.
The exception is if you are familiar with a cafe with good facilities and only need to work a couple of hours, then it’s doable.
Is there a difference in productivity between employees working remotely and self-employed working remotely?
I think so. I would argue: when you’re working for someone else, it’s easy to be productive in your off-site hours because you know which direction to take. When you’re working for yourself, if you’re not clear on which direction to take, it can be difficult to choose.
One thing that I think is often overlooked about being self-employed is this:
Being an employee is comfortable because you have someone else to make certain choices for you: which project to work on, goals, deadlines, etc. Even if you don’t always like what is chosen for you, it’s incredibly liberating to not be responsible for every decision.
In contrast, when you’re self-employed, you need to decide everything. Once you have a project going, especially if it demands a lot of your time/effort, then it’s not so hard. But when you have excess capacity and are trying to decide where to direct it, the choices can be overwhelming.
If you have trouble choosing a direction and committing to it, you can feel less productive being self-employed than you would as an employee.
So, is it really more productive to work remotely than in an office?
Like so many other things, it depends: mainly on you, where you choose to work and what you’re working on.
I would say that in general, with the right tools, you get about the same amount of work done as you would in an office but with more freedom.
Whether you enjoy the freedom or whether it stresses you out is a toss up! I think we need to acknowledge that we don’t always want too much freedom and that’s ok.
Sometimes we just want the comfort of a regular schedule (and regular salary!) and someone telling us what to do, and that’s ok.
There is a lot of talk now about “digital nomads” and how wonderful it is to work from a beach cafe in Bali…. it can be wonderful, but it’s not for everyone.
It comes with a lot of tradeoffs, and it takes a particular type of person, at a particular time in their lives, willing to sacrifice some certainty and comfort (and take on certain responsibilities) in exchange for certain types of freedom.
Really often, when I hear people say “I wish I could work remotely!” I think… “Do you really though?”
Honestly, some days it’s a toss-up for me. And maybe when they really think about it it’s not for them, and that’s ok.
*We could debate the meaning of productivity vs efficiency, but to keep things brief here, let’s use the terms interchangeably. In this post, productivity = efficiency = getting shit done. We won’t debate the importance of which shit.
A good friend asked us this lately, and I wrote up a whole Google Doc to answer his question. I tried to keep it brief, I swear! Then I thought this might help someone else, so here it is below. The context is that our friend […]
This is something I think about a lot. Sometimes buying something cheap means you’re spending less money, which overall is a good thing. You can’t buy “expensive” everything- with no limits, unless you’re Jay Z you’d eventually run out of money. Other times, investing in […]
Managing your budget when you’re traveling alone or as a couple isn’t easy, but when you meet up with friends things can get waaay more complicated.
B and I know from experience that when we meet up with friends on the road, we spend much more than when it’s just the two of us. That’s ok, because we plan for it and know how to stay within our limits without limiting the fun, and of course, because we always have a blast when we get to meet up with our friends!
Still, for us it’s one of the most challenging parts of travel budgeting and something we’re always trying to improve.
Here are some tips to help you navigate the budget side of planning a trip with friends:
This is really the key to having a happy trip. Ideally, you would sit down with everyone who is coming on the trip (ok, a FB messenger group is more realistic. That works too.) and talk about what each person’s expectations are for the trip, what activities you want to do, where you want to stay, what types of meals you want to have, etc.
In a perfect world, based on everyone’s expectations you could come to a consensus about how much you want to spend and how those costs would break down (accommodation, transit, food, activities, etc).
Ok, but it’s not a perfect world. I know it can be hard to have this chat, especially the money bit, but it really is key to everyone feeling comfortable, having fun, and not feeling uncomfortable, regretful or resentful.
So, what happens if your group’s expectations don’t quite line up? What if one friend wants to stay in 4-star hotels while another has the budget for hostel dorms? Glad you asked! See point 2:
Choose the right friends, the right time, and the right type of trip
The reality is, your budget won’t always match up with your friends’, and that’s ok. We’re all at different places in our lives, have different expectations for our travel experiences, and perceive value differently.
For a start-to-finish trip (ie, you leave from point A together, go to point B together, and return to point A together), choose friends whose budgets and expectations match up closely with yours. If there is a big difference in expectations, consider planning a different itinerary and meeting up in one city for just a few days or a few activities.
If you are the lowest-budget friend:
Trust me, I’ve been there! When you’re traveling for a year but your friend is on a 3-day weekend, you’ll probably have different budget expectations. Just be up-front, plan for it, and set expectations so your friend won’t feel disappointed if you need to turn down certain activities, and you won’t feel pressures to over-spend or guilty for missing out.
- Share your budget early on. I try to say something like “I’m traveling long-term so I’m sure my budget is different than yours. I usually stay in Airbnbs and cook most of my meals at home. My going-out budget is much more “corner pub” and less “ballin’ in Vegas”. Is that ok with you?” I’ll still make concessions and allow for a lot more spending money for the days I’m with friends, but it’s important to set expectations because my “high” budget will probably be lower than what they would expect, or what they would have spent if they didn’t think about it.
- Take the lead on suggesting destinations and activities that work within your budget
- Share an Airbnb. If you’re traveling as a group this is often one of the most budget-friendly options. Discuss how much you’d like to spend per person per night, and take the lead in finding 2-3 properties within your price range that could work and ask the group which they prefer. It’s nice to “live” in a house together (feels like college!), plus having a kitchen makes it easier to cook and have few drinks at home rather than going out all the time. If you’re trying to minimize restaurant bills, offer to cook!
- Food, food, food: food is a game-changer for any budget, so take the initiative and suggest cooking at home or picnics when appropriate. Check out Groupon deals for restaurants. Plan which specific meals to have at home (“how about we have dinner at my place on Thursday? I’ll make lasagna” Offer to cook! Buy beer!) and which meals and activities to go out for.
- When eating or drinking out, unless everyone is having roughly the same thing, suggest each having your own tab so everyone pays for just what they order. This way everyone can order what they want guilt-free.
- Plan time apart: if you can’t agree on accommodation or think you’ll get sick of each other after too many days, consider different accommodation and just meeting up for some activities. This is a good idea anyway so that everyone has their space, but also allows you to join the activities and meals that are important to you and skip the rest
- Remember that your friends will probably be relieved to spend less. I think we tend to imagine that our friends want to spend much more than us, or feel guilty for “making” them spend less (because less money means less fun, right??), but the reality is that unless they’re saving TONS of money every month (hint: they’re probably not), they’ll be relieved to have a blast with you without killing their bank account.
If you are the highest-budget friend:
Be understanding of your friend’s budget, and try to be flexible. When suggesting a restaurant or activity, try to tell estimate the cost for them and propose lower-budget options if possible. They’ll appreciate it!
How to split expenses:
When appropriate, have everyone pay their own tab. For example, when we went to Nabu in Las Vegas, we each ordered whatever we wanted and paid our own bills, so everyone could get what they wanted and spend what they wanted.
Find a simple way of splitting group expenses fairly. In this case, I’m talking about any bill you would want to split evenly, say groceries, beer, or a lunch where everyone has almost the same plate and we split a bottle of wine.
For splitting group expenses, you can go either the cash route or the plastic route.
The cash method is: everyone puts the same amount of cash into an envelope. Use the money from the envelope to pay for group expenses. Great for relatively low spending (less than $100-200 per person) or places where cards aren’t commonly accepted. Also great for keeping track of how much you spent- if you started the day with $200 and have $50 left, then you definitely spent $150, regardless of what you remember. Only works for expenses split evenly within the group (each person owes an equal share of the bill)
The plastic method: use an app like “Splitwise” to keep track of what everyone paid for and their share of each bill. Can be a bit complicated and you need to remember to enter everything you paid for and each person’s share of the bill. Great for larger budgets, places where you pay by card, or if some bills need to split unevenly.
DON’T do this: “I paid for the groceries, you paid for the lunch, she paid for the rental car, but then I also paid for the gas so… if you two split the cab we should be about even.” Seriously, this method seems simple at first, but in the end, each person feels like they paid for more than everyone else. It’s a disaster and no one knows where they stand. Try to avoid this!
Challenging but worth it!
I hope this will help you plan your next group travel budget. I love meeting up with friends on the road, I find that spending a few days together (especially when things go wrong, especially when you get lost or caught in the rain, especially when you drink $3 rum on the beach instead of going to a fancy nightclub), it makes for a much deeper connection than just meeting up for a few hours at a time back home.
Setting expectations for the budget can seem daunting at first, but when everything matches up it makes for an irreplaceable experience. Enjoy!
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