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Funding your gap year

You don't have to beg, borrow or steal to pay for your year out – but you will probably need to find a job, either before you go or while you are abroad, or consider fundraising.
Budgeting is crucial when planning a gap year and an important part of making sure you enjoy your time out.

Budgeting is crucial when planning a gap year and an important part of making sure you enjoy your time out – being stressed about money, or finding yourself without any, is a sure-fire way to ruin your fun.

If you plan to spend time working in the UK to pay for any travel during your year out, you need to set a target for how much money you need to earn in total and then figure out how much you’ll have to earn each week in order to reach that target. Remember to be realistic when planning what proportion of your earnings you can set aside for travel. This includes deciding how much money you can spend each week on other things, particularly if you have rent or bills to pay.

As well as travel costs, don’t forget to plan for other expenses, such as accommodation, food, insurance and anything you need to buy before you go. You’ll also need money for any fun activities that you want to do while you’re away – most travellers spend more than they expect, so including some emergency money is a must. If you realise that you won’t reach your target before your departure date, you may have to reassess and consider shortening your trip, skipping the skydiving, or working while you’re away.

If you’re going to be doing a volunteer project during your gap year or if you plan to do a gap year that is organised for you, the responsible organisation will be able to tell you how much you need to raise, and you could get some of this through fundraising depending on what you’ll be doing. However, if you do choose to do your gap year with an organisation, whatever organisation it is, it’s important to make sure you do your research properly and are fully aware of what to expect, as well as what is expected from you. Gap years are expensive, so you want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

Develop your job skills while you earn cash for your year out

If you do decide to get a job to pay for your gap year, think about how that job will help you in the long run. The tasks you are required to do may be monotonous, but chances are they will help you in more ways than you think. An office job, for example, may help you to develop skills that will be useful in your future job hunting, such as computer literacy, communication skills, teamworking and the ability to prioritise your workload. You may find a company willing to take you on for a few months, perhaps as maternity cover. Registering with a temp agency may also help you find short-term positions. You may find routine secretarial, clerical or administrative work more interesting if you’re in a different office every week.

If factory work is more your thing, think about how it could boost your CV in the long term and how you could make the most of it. For instance, the practical, hands-on work experience you would gain through factory work could come in handy down the line if you want a management job in manufacturing, and you may be able to earn a higher rate of pay if you are willing to work unsociable hours, such as night shifts. Similarly, doing some bar work could be helpful later on if you decide to pursue a career in the hospitality and leisure industry. It also develops customer service and communication skills, which are required in many different jobs. The same goes for work in a restaurant, which may also bring in tips to supplement your pay.

Remember to keep a log of all the experience you gain while working to fund your gap year; many employers are impressed by candidates who have taken the initiative and developed their skills through part-time work.

Borrowing to cover the cost of your gap year travels

Your bank is unlikely to give you a loan to go travelling but if you have a job offer for your return this may make your plans look more viable. Some parents are willing to lend funds to enable their offspring to travel. If you take advantage of this offer, make sure you agree the terms for repaying them from the outset. Be wary about funding your trip on your credit card.

Fundraising to pay for your year abroad after graduating

If you’re considering a gap year project, don’t be put off by the expense. Fundraising for the trip may be daunting, but your gap year organisation should give you ideas and support, and the organisational and marketing skills you develop in the process will look great on your CV.

If you are going to work for a good cause while you are overseas, you could fundraise by asking family, friends and other contacts to sponsor you or to donate cash to support your project. If you have a job lined up to go to afterwards, you may be able to persuade your prospective employer to support your efforts, depending on the nature of your venture and how it fits in with the company’s brand and ethos. The same goes for local companies or any other organisations that you have some connection with.

Many volunteers offer their sponsors a presentation about their project on their return. This is a great way of thanking them, and gives you a chance to practise public speaking.