A gap year is an exciting time, when horizons suddenly expand considerably and the world feels like it’s your oyster. However, some caution does need to be exercised before you start going off and having too much fun as, like everything nowadays, gap years cost money. Unless your gap year is being funded by your folks, or you’re lucky enough to have a trust fund or a lottery win, then keeping your finances in check during this time is going to have to be a priority. Here are a few tips on how to avoid going broke on a gap year whilst still having the time of your life:
Work hard play hard
This could mean any number of things, depending on what you want to do with your time out and where you want to do it. Some people choose to spend the first half of their gap year working in a job – any job – which then funds the second half of the gap year spent gallivanting off to far flung corners of the earth, lazing around on beaches and generally having a fantastic time. Others may choose to work their way around their travels – stopping in larger cities where they have a working visa to pick up a few months casual work to pay for onward travel. For others, the gap year is a working holiday – taking a bar job in Ibiza, for example, or working as a Chalet maid in Switzerland. Living and working in a new country can be a great way to get to know it and have an exciting time without breaking the bank.
Budget, budget, budget
If you’ve just left a home where pretty much everything was organised and paid for by your folks then managing your own money might come as a bit of a shock. Basically, the rule with managing income is that if you budget in advance then you have more chance of making your money stretch as far as you want it to. Spend gaily without giving it a second thought and the next time you go to get cash out of a cash machine might be the time that it swallows your card – not what you want if you’re half way around the world. Prepare your budget in advance; if you’re going away for a lengthy time then consider an annual or long term insurance policy. Work out your income against all possible outgoings and then plan a gap year on the basis of the money you actually have, not what you think you have.
A gap year is all about new adventures and volunteering with a charity can be a great way to learn more about yourself whilst getting to see and live in a new country at the same time. Whilst many charities will charge you to go and volunteer for them, there are organisations where volunteering is still volunteering and you can go and teach English, build houses or work on conservation projects all over the world for free. You probably won’t get paid as a volunteer but you will usually have your accommodation and food provided, which means that all you usually have to pay for is flights and any extras.
Whilst you might find people a little unwilling to hand over oodles of cash for you to go and sit on a beautiful beach and weave baskets for a year, if you’re going to be doing something constructive with your time then fundraising might help pay for your trip. This really comes in useful in the context of raising money to pay for those flights to go out and dig water wells in Africa or monitor near-extinct species in the rainforest. Try organising a few fundraising events, such as gigs, club nights, bake sales or car boot sales, rather than just asking for money and see what you can raise for your exciting year out.
If you want to avoid going broke on your gap year then you’re going to have be a little inventive about it. Getting organised, being realistic about what you can afford and then doing your best to get the money together without borrowing will all ensure that you return home with a great sun tan and a healthy bank balance.