How to Save Money for Your Travels

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The most obvious way to earn money for your gap year is to get a job. You might be surprised to learn how quickly you can earn enough to have a dream gap year, particularly if you’re living at home and your outgoings are low.

Depending on how long you’ve got before you leave for your gap year, you could take one or even two full-time jobs and stash the money away. Thanks to the minimum wage, even with expenses you should be able to save £100 a week from one job.

If you have longer to raise the money – if you are planning your trip while still at uni or school, perhaps – there is less pressure. For example, if you have ten months to raise £1,500 it could be raised through a £4 per hour job working 37.5 hours each month, less than ten hours a week or just two evenings a week in a pub. At £5 per hour, the £1,500 could be raised by working 30 hours a month or seven and a half hours a week – that’s just one day at the weekend.

Andy’s story

‘I worked in McDonalds for just over a year to fund my world trip, aiming for a target of £4,000, and here I am… living proof that even on McDonalds’ wages, you too can go around the world! I’ve got to admit, you will find saving hard if you also enjoy a good night out with your mates on a Friday! But stay focused, remember what you are saving for and the money will keep stacking up. If I can do it, anyone can do it!”

Our users say

“Work hard, get a second job, become a social recluse, make sandwiches for your lunch. Remember every pound you spend now could be going towards the trip of a lifetime. Keep the faith and it will push you through the most boring, mundane and horrible jobs the world has to offer; it’s all worth it in the end” – Martin Garrett.

Breakin’ it down

If you got a job in McDonalds earning £4 an hour and you worked an eight-hour shift, this would earn you £32. Just doing the job every Saturday for two years would earn you:

£32 per week x 104 weeks = £3,328. Your tax, national insurance etc. would take about 25% of this, leaving you with around £2,500 if you saved every penny.

If you decided to work full-time at McDonalds after your exams until after Christmas (six months’ work) and then head off travelling for six months from January to June you could earn:

£32 per day x five days = £160 per week = £640 per month = £3,840 in six months (or £4,600 for an average six-day week, which a lot of gappers do, working every shift available… after all, you have a great incentive!). Minus tax this puts you at around £3,000.

Broken down like this, it doesn’t look too bad after all. You can also see how people do actually afford their travel gap years.

Types of job

Look in the local paper, job centre, students’ union, temping agencies like Manpower and so on for vacancies. Likely jobs could include bar work, waiting, cleaning, admin and clerical duties, factory work, shop assistant, care work, the list goes on and on. Don’t be afraid to get you hands dirty – it’ll all be worth it in the end. And don’t worry if you haven’t had a job before, everyone has to start somewhere.

Saving money for your travels

Saving is easy once you put your mind to it. The only thing is that you need to think about it in the right way.

It is very easy in the last six months before you head off to buy two CDs that you won’t listen to once you are back, a pair of jeans (that you don’t really need), go to the cinema once and have two McDonalds meals. Easy, right? Total cost: £75. Now, check out that list again. Would you swap it all for (the same price):

A month staying in a beach hut on one of the most amazing beaches in the world? Doing the world’s biggest bungee jump – twice! A full three month rail pass on the most scenic railway in the world?

You see, it’s those little vices and compulsive buys (smoking @ £20/week, beers @ £10/week, crisps and chocolate @ £3/week, clothes @ £10/week) that you need to get to grips with. Give up smoking and within six months you’ve saved enough for a return flight to South Africa! Stop buying CDs and clothes you don’t need and within six months you’ll have saved enough for all your travel kit!

Let’s take it to extremes though: meet a young lady who, for the purposes of this article, we’re going to call Holly Handbags. Holly is not a particularly privileged girl; well bred of course, but no trust funds and Daddy hasn’t bought her a Porsche even once. She’s worked for what she’s got, but what she’s got is mainly handbags. And shoes. Lots of shoes.

To be precise she owns 73 pairs of shoes and approximately 100 handbags. When pressed she averaged the cost at £60 per pair of shoes and £50 per handbag. We did the sums. Then we did them again to make sure. Look away now if you’re currently scrabbling around to find the cash for your gap year, or if you’re generally of a nervous disposition. Yup, the shoes and handbags came to a grand total of £9380!

We’re not here to criticise; each to their own and all that, but we did get to wondering where she could have gone and what she could have done if she’d used supermarket carrier bags instead of designer leather goods. Well here goes:

Item: One round-the-world ticket
Description: UK -> Nairobi, overland to Jo’burg -> Cape Town -> Sydney -> Christchurch -> Auckland -> LA -> NY -> UK
Cost: £1030

Item: Six months worldwide insurance cover
Description: Recommended cover, additional adventure sports package required
Cost: £155.33

Item: Food budget
Description: £5 a day for 120 days
Cost: £600

Item: Accommodation budget
Description: £8 a day for 120 days
Cost: £960

Item: Transport budget
Description: £5 a day for 120 days
Cost: £600

Item: A 61-day overland tour from Nairobi to Jo’burg
Description: Departs Nairobi 26/04/05, arrives Jo’burg 25/6/05
Cost: £660 + £343 kitty

Item: Kruger National Park
Description: Two days and one night, with fancy bungalow accommodation
Cost: £54

Item: World’s biggest bungy
Description: 217m from the Bloukrans Bridge
Cost: £15

Item: Shoes!
Description: Nice designer ones from Cape Town, not too extravagant though…
Cost: £35-60

Item: Tour of Sydney Harbour
Description: Opera House, Harbour Bridge, ferry
Cost: £9

Item: Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
Description: Views of the harbour like nowhere else
Cost: £69

Item: Parabungy
Description: Bungy jump from a parachute 150m up in Cairns
Cost: £80

Item: 3.5 day Red Centre tour
Description: Tour of Rainbow Valley, King’s Canyon, Uluru and Kata Tjuta
Cost: £149

Item: An ‘Awesome Foursome’ combo
Description: New Zealand – includes high-wire bungy, rafting, jet boating and helicopter ride
Cost: £172

Item: Ski pass
Description: 8 of 10 days in Queenstown, NZ
Cost: £170

Item: Vertigo Climb
Description: Climb Auckland’s Sky Tower
Cost: £55

Item: Tour some of America’s national parks
Description: Ten-day tour, including the Mojave Desert, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and loads more
Cost: £624

Item: Shoes!
Description: A pair of Jimmy Choo Satin and Tulle slingbacks from Saks, 5th Avenue, NYC
Cost: £302

Item: Total
Description: Six amazing months
Cost: £6102.83

Item: Spare Cash
Description: For kit, adventure sports insurance, partying, luxuries, shoes, emergencies, impulses, handbags and burning to keep warm
Cost: £3277.17

So maybe this is an extreme (and fairly rough) example, but the point is that saving becomes a lot easier if you equate each unnecessary purchase with something for your gap year. Tempted by random spending impulses when you know full well there are targets to be met and pennies to be saved? Try using this handy little chart. Cut it out if you like, keep it with your cash and cards.

I’m about to buy

A can of coke
Cost: 50p

So now I can’t afford

A day pass to Chobe NP, Botswana*

I’m about to buy

Entrance to a club
Cost: £7

So now I can’t afford

A week in a Vietnamese beach bungalow

I’m about to buy…

A takeaway
Cost: £9

So now I can’t afford

Three hours of whale watching

I’m about to buy…

Cost: £15

So now I can’t afford

The world’s highest bungy

I’m about to buy

A night down your local
Cost: £25

So now I can’t afford

A night down Khao San Road you’ll smile about when you’re 90 and your bus fare to the islands

I’m about to buy

A new top
Cost: £30

So now I can’t afford

Three-day lift pass in Queenstown, NZ

I’m about to buy

A pair of jeans
Cost: £50

So now I can’t afford

A day rafting the Zambezi

I’m about to buy

A Playstation
Cost: £100

So now I can’t afford

A tandem skydive in Australia or 12 months travel in Fiji

*Chobe has some of the densest populations of some of the worlds coolest animals if you’re interested

You see? It really does make it much easier when you think of it like that. Do I want 330ml of carbonated beverage, or do I want to spend a day watching lions, antelope and huge herds of elephant? Where would I rather spend my beer money? Down the local with the miserable old men or in Crazy trong’s Beach Bar, surrounded by bikini-clad women/bronzed beach gods (delete as applicable)?

The choice is simple.

Saving Money: When Things Don’t Go To Plan

Rachel Bell writes

‘OK, so I’m no travel guru. Yet. But I do know something about saving money and organising yourself for a gap year.

During my gap year, I planned to travel for approximately five months. I wanted to go to Africa, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India and Nepal. Both my parents have travelled a lot, as has my sister, so I wanted to see as much as I could while I had the chance.

I was working seven days a week: Monday to Friday at an Adventure Travel company, then at a hotel on Saturday and Sunday. I was really lucky, because my full-time job meant that I had unlimited resources on every country and was constantly surrounded by people who had worldwide knowledge. It was those people who gave me loads of traveling hints and tips, and they psyched me up for my trip. I also got a staff discount on a really cool Karrimor backpack!

Being poor all the time is no fun, but it has to be said that you get used to it, and if you’ve never had a full-time job before, you don’t miss money you have never had. This is of great benefit in your gap year, because you hopefully understand how far money can go. Think about it, while you were at school or college it is very unlikely you were working much – most people get by with a few babysitting jobs – and yet you funded all those parties, maybe you paid to drive a car, and you basically managed to have a decent social life. With that in mind, by making a budget of what you need to spend every week and how much you want to earn by a certain date, you are halfway to earning the money you need for whatever you plan to do. And let’s face it, everything costs!

If you’re going to do any travelling, it’s worth finding out how much an average day costs wherever you may be going.

Further research can be done in’s country sections, and with books like Lonely Planet, which give price guidelines on things like an average meal and accommodation (decide how low you’ll realistically go for accommodation).

You may not realise it, but living at home is brilliant. You get three meals a day, a comfortable bed, and (unless they are sick of you already) lots of caring attention from the parents. If you plan on earning money in your gap year and are still staying at home, you may have to pay rent, but believe me, what your parents ask is very probably a total bargain for food and board. My advice is to appreciate it while you can – one of my friends paid rent while on her gap year, but the money went into savings which then went towards her University accommodation, which I thought was a really good idea. My point is, never again will you live rent-free or live so cheaply. In time, there will be other commitments that will take your time and money from you, so use it to your advantage. Realise that as soon as you start work the majority of your cash can be saved, and not spent on things you have to pay for (because everyone knows that’s no fun).

This is where motivation comes in. Your gap year is a unique chance for you to get out there and do something special that you have always wanted to do, because you will inevitably wind up with financial complications and other commitments that will tie you down. Now’s the time to concentrate on that dream – and that means saving your money. There will always be temptations. You just have to be realistic – do you really need those shoes? That jacket? That car even? Earning money will feel good, but you need to keep thinking: would you rather look good on a Friday night, or save the money and spend another few nights in a Thailand beach hut?! If you have to think about that, then you really shouldn’t bother, sorry.

Even though your exams are your priority, you should, ideally, have done substantial research in to how you want to spend your gap year before it officially starts. And no, it doesn’t start in September! A major problem with gap years is that they are very time pressured, and you don’t realise just how pressured they are until you’re three months into them and still haven’t decided what you’re going to do. I should know. Try and start saving in summer, because I know so many people – myself included – who have extravagant summers and then September comes and the first few months’ wages have to pay off debts!

Ironically for me, my full-time job at the travel company was a major factor in my sudden change of plans. My ticket was booked (Australia, New Zealand, overlanding most of South East Asia, Sri Lanka and then overland again to India and Nepal) but very soon after it arrived in the post, I was told there wasn’t enough work for me and made redundant. I still had my weekend job at the hotel, but that wasn’t going to earn me anything close to what I would have earned from my full-time job. The harsh fact was that my budget relied on me working at the travel company for at least another two months, and I simply wouldn’t be able to fund work-free travel for the five months I’d be away.

This, combined with the realisation that I was going round the world completely alone (my friends backed out of our shared travel plans: some people are all talk!) and way too fast for my liking (because I was greedy and wanted to see as much as I could in the short space of time I had allowed), led me to cancel my ticket and put the refunded money (although I lost out on the insurance refund) into the high-interest account I had opened a few months earlier (every serious saver should have one of these accounts).

I made the decision that I would save the money and keep contributing towards it until I could travel with more time, on a trip I was totally happy with, rather than spending it on a substitute which, yes, I’d enjoy, but which wouldn’t compare to my original trip.

In a way I regret not working abroad the last few months of my gap year, or quickly sorting myself out on a placement, but my long term plan was, I felt, very logical: I know I will travel at some point, and now I have fat savings waiting for me!

My final words are these – no gap year is a waste. I wanted to travel, booked my ticket, bought my bag… but it didn’t work out, and while I wish I could tell you about some of the exotic places I’ve been, I have saved a lot of money, am still saving, and it’s all going towards something I really want to do. As time goes on I’m still learning about different places I want to go, so I definitely won’t be unprepared. It’s worked out in a way, because being at university I have met my ideal travel buddy and she is as committed as me. My gap year wasn’t wasted: it’s all about having a positive attitude!’

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