Do You Deserve It?

Hawaii, here we come!

Hawaii, here we come!

A few weeks ago I had to do some quick PTO-calculus. Most people have done these calculations before, trying to figure out how to stretch vacation days throughout the year to maximize rejuvenating time away from the office.

This round of PTO-calculus found me trying to balance taking a week-long trip to Ecuador this coming November with the sudden news from Mr PoP that he wanted to extend our upcoming work trip to Hawaii by an extra week beyond what I was already counting on.

Sidenote – I realize that the ability I have to consider how to balance these two awesome trips is an absolute luxury. Please do not interpret this post as a humblebrag.

I had to decide on Hawaii and Ecuador pretty quickly, and was having some second thoughts on pre-committing so much PTO so early in the year. Since my employer officially combined sick days and vacation days into one bucket a couple of years ago, I am more cognizant than ever of not running down this balance to zero and leaving myself unable to take time off if not feeling well. What if I got horribly sick later this year and ran out of PTO before Ecuador!?!

But I had to decide quickly, so I consulted a couple of friends.

The first reassured me on the practicalities. “If you get sick, and run out of PTO, there’s always unpaid leave. Sure it sucks to forfeit pay, but it’s an option because you guys live well below your means.”

The second friend took a different tack. “You have been doing so much work on your house. You deserve to go and enjoy both Ecuador and Hawaii! I say go for it!”

By the time my second friend got back to me I had already decided and confirmed. (Ecuador and 2.5 weeks in Hawaii are both on, yay!) My decision lined up with my friend’s advice, and I let her know that I was excited to have both on the calendar for the year.

But my second friend’s comment didn’t sit well with me for some reason, and a couple weeks later I’m still having a bit of trouble figuring out exactly why.

Do I “Deserve” It?

As close as I can gather, I think it’s the word “deserve” that I found so uncomfortable in my friend’s comment.

I think I get what my friend meant. She sees us working really hard renovating the kitchen and feels like our efforts are worthy of a great reward. The trips would be a great reward for that hard work.

And I kindof get that… but I feel like the great reward for all of our hard work on our kitchen is going to be having a ridiculously awesome kitchen. I don’t feel any more worthy of taking a great vacation because I built some (IMHO, awesome) cabinets. If anything, all of the spending on the kitchen (though planned) was pretty indulgent since our kitchen was functional if not ideal before we started ripping it apart.  Thus, my mind has a tough time seeing how treating myself to one indulgence makes me more deserving of another.

And There’s The Converse

I think what really bothers me about “deserving” a nice vacation, though, is the implications for the converse. If I “deserve” something good like a vacation, what negative experiences could I also be “deserving” of? If we had hired out more (or all) of the kitchen remodel, would I somehow be less deserving of a vacation to Ecuador?


Honestly, I’m not really sure why I seem to have this reaction to the word “deserve” (Mr PoP – my vote goes to Catholic guilt!), but it’s definitely there. Whenever someone says “you deserve it”, I get this weird feeling as though I’ve eaten something bad that isn’t entirely sitting well with me. But unlike accidentally eating chicken broth (very unpleasant for a this longtime vegetarian), a couple of shots of Pepto Bismol and a good night of sleep don’t seem to clear this feeling up.


Am I alone in this discomfort with “deserving”? Do you feel like you deserve specific experiences or items, either good or bad? Why or why not?

32 comments to Do You Deserve It?

  • MomofTwoPreciousGirls

    I think it’s the fact that people use “I deserve it” to go out into debt. It’s the mentality that has many in the country struggling and feeling like the world owes them something. So in PF world this is just about the worst attitude you could take. Instead what your friend probably meant was that you have worked very hard to be able to take this trip. You sacrifice in many areas so that you can spend your CASH on the things that are important to you. In that regard you EARNED these trips 😬

    • What’s funny is that my friend definitely wouldn’t be justifying going into debt for a trip, despite her not really being in the “PF world”. They’re not super-savers in the same way that we are, but they’re definitely not neglecting putting money away for retirement or for their kid’s college.

  • I completely understand you. We have a good income, however we have some great student debt as well. We’re taking care of the debt but we also got a chance to make a very nice, long and long holiday. Do we first have to clear out all our debt? Or do we ‘deserve’ a nice holiday? Well, we’ll see 😉

    • I think it’s up to you guys on taking the holiday and I’m not sure that “deserving” has anything to do with it. From my perspective, for luxuries it’s more of a “do I want X more than I need/want Y?” instead of “Do I deserve X?”. So do you want the nice holiday more than you want $X to go toward your student loans?

  • No way! When it’s put that way, deserving something has a negative connotation. How about you get to extend the trips because you “want to” and because you live reasonably and therefore can “afford it”. :) When I was running out of vacation days at my last two jobs, I put in for a couple days of unpaid leave. My boss asked me something akin to that question. I answered that they he could deny my leave if he wanted to, and I’d make other arrangements. He chuckled and approved my leave. Come on, 2 days….really?! It’s not like I was asking for 6 months unpaid. Hey now, that’s an idea :)

    Hope you two are having a great week
    Income Surfer recently posted..Ask The Readers: Favorite Business Models?My Profile

    • That’s funny that your boss was being such a jerk about 2 days of leave, especially unpaid. Yes, you’re still getting paid your benefits, so I understand it’s not *really* totally unpaid. But still. In our office, we had someone take ~6 weeks of unpaid leave last year and they made it in just under the cutoff of not having to go on COBRA. So there’s a precedent in my office for unpaid leave if you have an opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip, but it’s not really encouraged as a rule.

  • I struggle with the whole deserve thing as well. I feel it’s slightly wrong to be rewarded for just living my life. Sure, congratulate me if I go above and beyond, but not for the daily hum drum stuff.

    Sidenote: You guys are going to LOVE Ecuador! I so wish I could go again this year. However, with my trips to Omaha, Seattle, San Diego, Maine and England, I just didn’t have enough time off work :(
    Gwen recently posted..The House Hunt ContinuesMy Profile

    • I’m really excited – but actually it’ll just be me going to Ecuador. We’re pretty determined to make this the year Mr PoP gets to Burning Man, so that’ll be his big adventure and Ecuador will be mine.

      And glad to see Omaha’s on the list. We’ll see you there! =)

  • Deserving can also run to the flip side — do people in poverty truly deserve their situation? Maybe some do and maybe not. Perhaps the people who made poor decisions and ran into debt deserve to be in poverty, but maybe not because no one ever taught them how to manage their money, or cook, or entertain themselves without cable. I feel like the “deserve” mentality can be damaging in both regards.

    Deserving also gets me into trouble with food :-p I’ve struggled with weight all my life. I have lost a significant amount over the past 8 months or so, but it’s gone slowly because I often “deserve” a treat for my hard work. If I were better at instead considering needs/wants with food and being more balance (like I am with money), I think that would be healthier.

    It’s perfectly fine, as said above, for you to decide that you want and can afford these indulgences. You have worked hard to live well and save well, so you can afford this.
    Leah recently posted..The Evening RoutineMy Profile

    • Thinking about those in poverty is definitely part of the “deserving” equation that doesn’t sit well with me. Or those with medical conditions. True, some are probably in those situations due to poor decision making, but a lot aren’t. And I’m pretty sure they don’t “deserve” the lot they had thrown at them.

  • I would have a problem with the word deserve in that situation as well. I think we often use “deserve” when actually we mean “want”. “I deserve this latte after working out”, no, actually this is more like “I want this latte”. Or “I deserve a vacation after putting up with my boss” could actually be translated to “I hate my job and want a vacation to escape it for a while”.

    But let’s not split hairs here, why don’t you guys just enjoy those awesome vacations coming up, just because you can :). Have a fun time!

    • Don’t take my worrying about verbiage as an indication that we’re not going to enjoy our vacations. We will definitely be enjoying our vacations this year – don’t doubt that for a second!

  • Shame on your employer for combining vacation leave and sick time. Marge’s office does the same thing and I have a hard time understanding how that is even legal. They are two separate things and everyone is entitled to both. In no other country in the world can employers pull that type of crap.

    Marge ends up doing the same thing as you. Right now she only gets 10 days off per year, everything combined, and she’s already put in for all her vacation time for the rest of the year. Seven days were already used in Japan, one for a long weekend in Cape Cod, and two for another long weekend camping. So she better not get sick this year!

    “Deserve” peeves me off, too. Reminds me of spendthrifts who justify their spending by saying, “I work hard for it, so I deserve to spend it!” Hey, just because you “work hard” for it doesn’t mean you’re actually making much money, unfortunately. Plus, with your vacation, it makes it sound like by working on your kitchen, you’re suffering somehow, when I get the impression that you actually enjoy it! People who “deserve” a vacation are the people who literally can’t take a day away from their terrible jobs because they need the money so badly.
    Norm recently posted..Japan Trip, Part 4: Nara and TokyoMy Profile

    • I think the rationale for combining them is to reduce paperwork, excuses etc. If you have generous sick leave and little vacation, isn’t there incentive for people to call in sick when they really just want a day off? Personal days means you can take off for whatever, but you have to use your days wisely. Plus, there is no longer a need for a doctor’s note to prove a sick day (saves on insurance money too).

      That said, I think 10 days is a pretty churlish amount. Vacations contribute to well-rested and happy employees, and you want people to take a day off if they are sick. I got 10 days off paid as a 9 month intern.

      Do you get paid out if you don’t use your PTO? I’m a teacher, so rules work differently in our world. At my school, we don’t have a set amount of time of PTO, but I pretty much only take a day off for weddings or illness. At other schools in the area, people get something like 12 possible days, but they get staggered bonuses for not using the days. For example, if you don’t use any, you get a nice payout back. Then, using 1-4 results in the same reduced payout, and I think there are similar blocks all the way down. So, if you have to take one personal day, you might as well take a few.

      • We have a max accrual, that if your PTO balance gets too high (equal to 1 full year of PTO earnings) you stop earning it. It’s meant to encourage you to use it as you go along. Then if you leave the company, I think you get paid out for any PTO balance you have at the time you leave. On the whole, I think they try to balance encouraging people to use it with also allowing people to cash out rather than call in sick or with vacation if they’re leaving the company.

      • I am! Sadly, Mr PoP is not. But he is going to Burning Man! If you’re even thinking about the chautauqua, I’d get yourself on the waiting list. I was on the waiting list at first, but then a spot opened up.

      • I’d rather risk people calling in “fake sick” than having an office of people getting real sick from each other, which is what tends to happen in Marge’s office. People will go to work sick to save their time for a vacation later.

        I don’t think she can cash in any days. On the other side of the spectrum, I’m more like you. I work for the government and basically get 25 vacation days a year, plus 13 sick days! And when I eventually quit, I can cash in all of my vacation time, up to 8 weeks’ worth. Very different from the private industry!
        Norm recently posted..Japan Trip, Part 4: Nara and TokyoMy Profile

    • I actually liked it when my employer combined our vacation and sick time because they bumped the amount we could get up by 5 (maybe 6? I forget exactly…) days per year when they made the switch. Technically we had “unlimited” sick time before, but on average I used way less than what they bumped our max accrual by to account for the combination. So I looked at it as getting a few extra vacation days most years!

      Though I’m with you and Leah that 10 days for sick and vacay combined is way too few for Marge. I get ~2.5x that since I’ve been with my employer for a while now that I’m in the max PTO tier at our company, so I can’t complain too much.

  • Shannon

    Totally feel you on the PTO calculus. This is the first year that I’ve really had to play with the numbers and make sure I covered what I am trying to do. I miscalculated my time off due to time zone changes and ended up needing an extra day that my boss very graciously allowed me to work remotely in order to not go over on my PTO. Glad to hear I’m not alone on that type of thing.

    • You are definitely not alone with careful calculations around the vacation days! I had to be even more careful with my time off in the early years of my career when I had way fewer days. It was so important to maximize the enjoyment out of each one!

  • What other people said– “I deserve it” is something that annoying entitled people often say to justify bad decisions, and “I want it and I can afford it” is a much better way of thinking about things.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..when are we sympathetic to complainingMy Profile

    • Though the “I can afford it” can become a slippery slope, too. We could theoretically afford a lot of things, but choose to invest the money instead because we want to grow our investments more than we want those things.

  • Are you guys going on the Chautauqua?! That’s really exciting! I kind of want to go, but I’m doing my own PTO calculus. I’m a little worried I’ll run out of sick days this year and need to use some of my vacation days when I’m sick. I don’t really think we deserve anything in life, that we create our lives ourselves. I hate the word “deserve” too.
    Leigh recently posted..How I Use MintMy Profile

  • I think what’s so uncomfortable about it in this context is that it’s a non sequitur. You don’t earn a vacation by building a kitchen! You earn it by getting an education and landing a good job with PTO and being good enough at it that you know things will swim along without you for a week or two while you’re away.

    We have the same combined bucket and I have the added complication of kids, one of whom has been a touch sickly this year. I’ve only had to use like an hour and a half of precious PTO for sickness, though. My supervisor is very flexible about letting us make up hours, especially part-timers like me. Which is AWESOME! And then if I schedule things just right, I can take off several days while using less PTO than you would think.
    Frugal Paragon recently posted..What a Preschool Birthday Party Doesn’t NeedMy Profile

  • Its a slippery slope talking about deserving vacations with random people. Some people feel they deserve it, with thousands of dollars in debt and they see no problem with it. For me I feel I don’t deserve it unless I pay for it in cash, and I don’t slack on my other financial goals. Good Luck.
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  • Mama PoP

    Do you deserve to have awesome and life changing learning experiences? How about do you deserve to have fabulous memories of far-flung places and people who expose you to new ideas? That’s really what travel is about, isn’t it? Probably everyone deserves these things, and you and Mr. PoP are fortunate that you have the resources that enable you to travel. As they say, go while you can! “Life is short, buy the beach house.” Oh, wait, you already did that. So, “Life is short, have all of the fantastic adventures that you can.”

  • Debbie M

    I also prefer your first friend’s answer, but it’s because that answer gives you a perspective on what if you try to have it all but then you also get sick. You were given more information.

    Your second friend says you deserve the vacation, but of course you also deserve to be off work if you’re sick. The latter wasn’t denied, just not mentioned. It’s easy to make a decision if you only look at one of the possibilities! But that’s not a good strategy, so I felt this answer was unhelpful, though supportive of your happiness and friendship.

  • Jacq

    I’m saving my vacation days for a family trip later this year. This company is generous with sick time too. The company manufactures vaccines so it makes sense to encourage people to stay home.
    I’very worked places with some pretty bad policies. My grandfather took a turn for the worse & we took a last minute trip to see him, and he ended up passing. My flight home on a Wednesday evening (leave around 6, get in by 9, home by 11, go to work Thursday ) was first delayed, and then diverted to the point a bus took us from Dulles to Newark airport arriving around 3 pm. HR gave me a hard time about wanting to have it be a bereavement day, not count against my vacation time. Trust me, not really sleeping with no idea when they could get a flight or the bus solution was not a day at the beach & was out of my control.
    Deserve is a word I don’t use often, I understand your aversion to it.
    Enjoy your travels!

  • Maybe “deserve” feels wrong here because you’re already getting the reward in the form of the awesome kitchen when you complete the work. The term gets applied so liberally and it feels cheap, kinda.

    Like, there are more important things I would rather deserve, like good health, and the ability to run a marathon someday without destroying my body, or you know, basic stuff like that. Vacations are wonderful luxuries and saying you deserve it subtly implies, to me, that other people are by some unknown criteria undeserving.

    Maybe that’s what gets to me: the lack of an objective, structured, criteria! You can easily say something is deserved or not based on not much at all.
    Revanche recently posted..Net Worth & Life Report: February 2016My Profile

  • We all deserve lots of things, including a net worth that reflects all of our hard work over the years. Deciding that you deserve something is fine, but you have to think about it in terms of the big picture. Will it negate your financial gains? Would the trip be worth trading the hours of your life spent working for the money it will cost you?

    As long as you’ve thought it through, then it’s fine to decide whether or not you “deserve” it.
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