5 Ways You Can Use Your Unused PTO

Only 60 percent of full-time American workers took PTO last year. Not only does this lead to higher levels of burnout and stress, but it also leads to millions of days of unused PTO.

Whether you are given all of your PTO in a lump sum at the beginning of the year or accrue it along the way, you will likely have to use it or lose it by the end of the year. We get it; it’s not always feasible to take time off. But there are other ways you can use your PTO other than just taking time off of work. You put in the work to earn your PTO, so why not exchange it for something that benefits you?

Don’t let your unused PTO go to waste. Here are five ways you can use your leftover PTO. 

Pay Off Your Student Loans 

As of 2022, over 43 million Americans are strapped with student loan debt. With student loan payments set to resume later this year after being paused for the last three years, several Americans will again face this expense. Instead of pulling from your paycheck or savings account, pull from your unused PTO balance. Yes, you read that right. You can exchange your unused PTO to pay off your student loans. By leveraging your unused PTO, you can further reduce your debt while squeezing some extra money out of your paycheck. 

Contribute to Your Retirement Account 

While most employers offer a 401(k) plan (and some even offer a 401(k) matching benefit), most of us aren’t contributing as much as we could be to our retirement accounts. This is where unused PTO can come in. If you’re behind on your yearly contributions or want to maximize your annual contribution, you may want to consider converting your unused PTO into retirement contributions. It’s one of the best ways to leverage your PTO—you’ll thank your future self for it later. 

Book Travel

If you have (or think you will have) some unused PTO by the end of the year, use it to book travel. Travel costs have increased exponentially, making everything from flights to hotels more expensive. One of the biggest travel hacks is using your unused PTO to help offset your travel cost. Whether you’re taking some time off for your best friend’s wedding or visiting the family for the holidays, your unused PTO can come in handy to book your plane ticket, secure a hotel room, or reserve a rental car. 

Up-level Your Skills

Heading back to grad school, getting a certificate, or gaining a new skill set can help you get one step closer to your dream job. While some companies offer a continuing education benefit to encourage their employees to keep learning, most companies don’t. However, if up-leveling your skillset is something that you’re passionate about, you can use your unused PTO to help pay for your education. And, if you have college-bound children, you can use your unused PTO to help pay for their college tuition. 

Donate It to a Co-worker in Need

Maybe you don’t have any plans to travel anytime soon, don’t have any student loans, have maxed out your 401(k) for the year, nor have any interest in up-leveling your skills…but you still have unused PTO that you don’t know what to do with. In that case, you can donate your unused PTO to a leave-sharing program or share pool to help your co-workers in need. By donating your time, you can help your colleagues who might need an extra day to stay home with their sick child, who needs more time to recover from an accident, or to get their affairs in order after a natural disaster strikes their area. 

There’s More Than One Way to Use Your PTO

PTO isn’t just for taking a vacation. Make your PTO work for you by converting it to benefits that benefit you and your life. Learn more about how PTO Exchange helps employees unlock total value of their PTO.

Published on Mar 30, 2023 by Josh Reinhard

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Discover The Real Story Behind Unlimited PTO 

Unlimited PTO might not be as amazing as many HR executives make it out to be. Find out more with this research report conducted by Lighthouse Research and Advisory.