How to Budget for Your Gap Year
Taking a gap year to explore and enjoy the world is an unforgettable experience, and one there’s no way to put a price on. Unfortunately, most of the things you’ll want to do while on that gap year do come at a cost, from transportation and lodging to visiting the sites that make travel worthwhile.
Proper planning before you head out can help make budgeting your gap year easier and more enjoyable. The last thing you want is to be months into your adventure and realize it’s all ending early because you didn’t plan ahead. We’ve put together some ways to help you make sure this doesn’t happen.
Consider Your Living Arrangements
If you are truly going nomadic for your gap year and will be on the road nonstop, then there is no reason to be paying rent. Make sure your lease will expire as close to the time you depart as possible, and consider approaching your landlord to ask to opt out of the arrangement if the dates don’t coincide well. If you have a relative or friend’s house where you can store your belongings not coming with you, that’s the ideal setup. But, if not, storage units cost mere fractions of what you’d pay in rent to keep your apartment.
If you will be coming and going from a home base during your gap year, consider downsizing to as small and affordable an apartment as you can. Chances are, even if you need to leave much of your stuff in a storage unit for the year, the rent of a small studio and the storage locker’s price combined will still be lower than the rent of a larger apartment.
Stay Connected On the Cheap
These days, even when we’re out and about, we stay closely connected to friends and family via social media, email, and texts – but we need an Internet connection to do most of these. To combat the expense of this, try to utilize as much free Wi-Fi as possible. If you’re traveling on a train, use the free Wi-Fi Internet access while you’re aboard and in stations. If you’re traveling via airplane, try to use the Wi-Fi in the airport, as it’s typically free, instead of the Wi-Fi in flight, to avoid an added expense.
Consider Alternative Destinations
If you want to see Medieval European castles or cathedrals, you don’t have to head for expensive cities like London or Paris. Instead, consider destinations emerging as tourist-friendly hotspots, such as Croatia. If you want a taste of Asian culture, but Beijing and Tokyo are off the list, consider countries growing in popularity with backpackers and upscale travelers alike, such as Vietnam. Consider visiting major cities on day trips, and staying in smaller towns an hour or two outside of pricey metropolises.
Pre-Pay When Possible
If you can buy in advance, you’re more likely to save money. This is true for everything from train tickets and lodging to theater and museum tickets. Look for open-ended tickets that allow you to take multiple train trips, or flexible plane tickets that can be used when you want (space available). And make sure to buy multi-use passes for commuting around a city. If you are going to take more than two or three trips on local busses, trams, or subway lines, it is highly likely that a day or even a week-long pass will be cheaper than paying for each trip individually.
Check Your Budget Often
Checking your budget means more than checking your bank account balance. When you think about budgeting gap year finances, you need to think about how much you have spent thus far during your travels, what you have spent it on, and how that is going to work as your gap year continues. Take the time to break down your expenses at least once a month, and if you find any one area is taking too much, such as entertainment, food and drink, or transportation, focus your efforts on trimming expenditures there. You can always cut back once you know where the issues lie, whether it means longer stays and less travel, cheaper meals, and so on.
Find the Free Stuff
Most cities have plenty of great things to do that don’t cost a penny. You can often visit churches or other sacred spaces that are rich in history and art without paying anything. Parks, major city streets, and historic districts can all be strolled and enjoyed at no cost. If you like the outdoors, look for hiking and other opportunities that are free or only for a small fee. Camping can also save cash, but make sure you know the area before you pitch a tent for the night, as some places aren’t safe to camp or require you have a permit.
Taking a gap year to experience things you wouldn’t in a classroom or office environment is a great experience. Plan ahead to make sure you’ve got your finances in order so you can enjoy this experience with as little stress as possible.