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How to fund a gap year

Whether you’re going it alone or plan on taking advantage of a grant or scholarship, read on to discover a few of the best ways to save for the gap year abroad and tips for once you’re on the road.

A gap year can be a truly rewarding experience that looks great on your CV. The only downside is that a ticket to explore the world usually doesn’t come cheap. In fact, it can be difficult to even know where to start when it comes to saving for your gap year travels. This article can offer some guidance on how to financially make an international gap year happen.

How much does a gap year cost?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to how much a gap year costs. Your total spend will depend on a number of factors, including which part of the world you’re travelling to, what kind of accommodation you pick, how long you’re abroad and how much exploring you plan on doing while you’re there. Costs can also vary significantly depending on whether you opt into a gap year programme or choose to head out on your own.

It’s possible to keep the total cost of your gap year around the £1,000 mark, although you’d have to be pretty thrifty to pull it off. More luxurious trips can easily cost upwards of £5,000, so think carefully about setting a realistic budget that you can stick to in the long-term.

Planning and budgeting

You might already have a destination country in mind, in which case this should form the basis of your research. Alternatively, set a limit for how much you’d like to spend and let that dictate your decision about where to go.

When it comes to planning, a great place to start is creating a spreadsheet or table detailing roughly how much you plan to spend in the following areas:

●  Travel to and from your destination country

●  Travel around the local area

●  Accommodation

●  Food

●  Leisure activities

●  Travel insurance

Regardless of where you’re travelling to, it’s recommended to save a little more than you expect to spend in case of an emergency. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself short of cash somewhere unfamiliar and far from home, so always plan to carry a small amount more than you think you’ll need. 

It’s also worth letting friends and family know how they can send you some extra money if you need it. An app like PagoFX offers low-fee international transfers with security of a high-street bank and gives you the best possible value when it comes to moving money overseas.

How to pay for your gap year

Once you’ve got a clear idea of where you’re going and how much your trip is going to cost, it’s time to start thinking about how to raise the cash. There are a number of different ways to go about saving for a gap year, whether through self-funding or by applying for a charitable grant or scholarship.

Option 1: Self-funding

Working abroad

One of the best ways to fund a gap year is to pick up some part time work in your destination country. This could be anything from bar work to helping out at a local school. You’ll even benefit from a little extra work experience – a valuable asset that can be used to support job and university applications once you arrive home. However, it is important to ensure you have the correct visas to work in the country you’re staying in.

Even if you do choose to work while you’re abroad, you’ll need to save enough for those initial travel costs, as well as giving yourself some cash to live on while you wait for your first paycheck. You should also consider the amount of time it may take you to secure work when you arrive. Luckily there are plenty of organisations out there designed to match you up with a gap year job before you set off, so be sure to check out what kind of opportunities are available to you.

Setting up a savings account

Setting up a savings account ahead of your year abroad is a great way to raise cash while learning some valuable lessons in money management. There are plenty of easy-access savings accounts out there that offer impressive rates of interest, so you can sit back and watch your savings pot grow even when you’re not actively adding to it. 

Consider asking for donations to your savings pot in place of Christmas and birthday gifts, or put aside a little extra cash by way of a part time job. Calculating how much you need to save over how many months will give you a clear idea of the kind of cash you need to be adding on a regular basis.

Cutting out unnecessary spending

Believe it or not, gap year students can make some serious savings just by cutting down on unnecessary purchases. Something as small as cancelling a couple of monthly subscriptions or skipping your barista-made coffee each morning can make for some much-needed extra cash in your pocket by the time you leave. 

You could even try using a budgeting app. Many have been designed specifically to help you cut down your spending without having to sacrifice the things you most enjoy.

Fundraising

Fundraising is another worthwhile activity that’s both financially beneficial and can look great on your CV. The key to getting everyone behind you is to do something a little different to the norm – think hosting a sponsored games night or asking for donations to spend an afternoon on a bouncy castle. The wackier the better.

Once you’ve decided on your fundraising idea, don’t be shy about spreading the word on social media or even in the local press. You might be surprised by just how quickly the total builds up when you attract attention with a unique and exciting event.

Option 2: Trusts, grants and charities

Volunteering abroad is one of the most valuable things you can do in your gap year – there are a lot of charities and organisations that might just be willing to give you some financial support along the way.

If you’re planning on fitting in some kind of charity work while you’re away, it’s worthwhile getting in touch with local organisations – such as clubs, schools and colleges – and letting them know your plans. Some of these organisations have budgets in place to put towards grants and scholarships, so don’t be afraid to reach out and see what kind of help might be available to you.

Established in 1979, the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust will give a grant to one student per year embarking on an overseas gap year. The Joicey Trust also supports those in the Northumberland and Tyne & Wear area, whilst the Lord Mayor’s 800th Anniversary Trust is based in London.

Funding once you are abroad

You’ve planned, you’ve saved, and now you’re on your way. Making sure you know how to get more money quickly or pay bills in an emergency can give you the added peace-of-mind you need to enjoy your gap year. PagoFX by Santander is an easy and low-cost way to keep on top of your payments while travelling. Available as a smartphone app for iOS or Android, and also via PagoFX.com, it’s by your side to offer fast payments with the real-time exchange rate (a similar rate to the one you’ll find on Google, Reuters or Bloomberg) with no additional mark-up, and low, transparent fees. You’ll always know exactly how much you’re sending, how much your recipient gets and what it’ll cost before you press send. Our articles on dealing with emergencies abroad can provide a useful guide for if you run into challenges; and supporting friends and family abroad shares ideas of how your parents and friends can stay connected.

Whether you’re looking to take a self-funded gap year or are interested in learning more about the grants and scholarships on offer, the most important thing is to plan ahead and be realistic with the budget you set. Anyone who’s spent a gap year abroad is sure to agree that a few months of careful saving is well worth it for the experience of a lifetime.