There was a time when taking a gap year, or a year off from studies to travel, work, volunteer or research, was a privilege limited to children of the rich. Recently, however, this option has become more and more popular with students of all socioeconomic statuses. One of the most common gap year activities is traveling abroad for work, volunteering, backpacking or sightseeing. This can be an amazing experience, but it can also cost quite a bit of money. Fortunately, there are ways for students of all backgrounds to save enough money to have the experience of a lifetime during their gap year.
1) Do your research
Before you begin saving money, you should have a good idea of how much money you are going to need. Spend some time researching your chosen destination, and find out how much the average airfare, meal and hotel room costs. Next, investigate recreational opportunities and tourist attractions in the area, and factor in those as well. Finally, add a little extra for unplanned adventures or unexpected emergencies.
2) Make a budget
Once you know how much money you are going to need, consider how long you have before your gap year starts. Calculate how much you are going to have to save each week to make it happen, and add in existing expenses such a car insurance, gas and personal care items. This will give you an idea of how much income you are going to need each week.
3) Get a job
It may seem obvious that you need a job to save money, but a lot of students simply don’t get one. Instead, they spend their time before gap year goofing off. In September of their gap year, they suddenly realize that they have neither enough money to carry out their gap year plans nor enough time to make the money. It is difficult to finance travel plans on odd jobs or babysitting, so get a steady job as early as possible so that you have some money to save.
4) Change your mindset
When saving money for your gap year, it is essential that you put yourself into a saving mindset. It is easy to justify going to a movie, buying a new pair of shoes or going out to dinner, but everything that you spend now is one less thing you’ll be able to do during your gap year. Start thinking of purchases in terms of what you will be giving up to make them rather than the immediate gratification they can give you.
5) Live at home
Don’t give into the temptation to move away from home as soon as you are old enough. While living at home, you will likely get your meals, rent, power and phone for free, and that can translate into a lot of money saved for your gap year travels. Even if your parents do charge you rent, it is almost guaranteed to be less than what you would spend living elsewhere.
6) Give up money-draining habits
If you smoke, you could be spending as much as $30 a week on cigarettes. Over the course of a year, this adds up to $1560. Give up this habit, and you will have a lot more to spend during your gap year. Coffee and soda habits can add up quickly as well, so consider giving those up for the sake of your gap year.
7) Avoid eating out
You would be surprised at how much money you spend going to a fast food place for lunch every day. If you take a lunch from home instead, you could be saving over a thousand dollars a year.
8) Hold some fundraisers
If you are willing to do a little extra work, you can earn a lot of money in a very short time. Consider holding a bake sale, a car wash or a dinner to raise money for your gap year. Alternatively, you could organize a concert, a tournament or an auction.
9) Open a savings account
The benefits of putting your money in a savings account are twofold. First, it makes it harder to access your funds, so you have less temptation to spend frivolously. Second, your money will gain interest, so you will have even more for your gap year.
With a degree in Economics and a passion for travel, author Richard Greenwood has experience in making money go further when it comes to travel. Richard spent his own gap year after uni travelling around Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the USA which was a life changing experience. Richard now works for Flight Centre in Australia, a leading provider of cheap flights to destinations worldwide including cheap flights to London.
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